Conspiracy Theories

The Day the Cops Raided KDNA

The return of the United States of Paranoia reviews.


It's been a while since I last blogged about someone reviewing my book The United States of Paranoia. No surprise there: It's been almost seven months since the thing came out, so the reviews aren't exactly cascading into my inbox these days. But this week Lorenzo Milam—a major character in my other book—published a kind piece about USofP in The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities, a.k.a. RALPH. Among other things, his article includes this entertaining story:

This image shall haunt Hit & Run forevermore.

Years ago, I was involved with a rather unruly radio station in St Louis, KDNA. We lived in the ghetto and staff and volunteers and hangers-on all worked and ate and slept in a wretched building that was jammed with retrograde broadcasting equipment, evil-smelling bathrooms, and disordered sleeping quarters that were fitted with innumerable rats, roaches, and unwashed bodies. The station broadcast a strange assortment of musics along with no end of controversial anti-establishment they're-out-to-get-you talk programs.

After a couple of years of this, one night in mid-1972, five or so huge I mean HUGE guys broke down the front door, commandeered the building, then crammed themselves in the control room along with a couple of shotguns and told the on-the-air people that if they opened the microphone they would get blown away. We had no idea who these guys were. Mafioso? Dealers? A self-appointed ghetto protection mob? Little did we suspect…

After a diligent search, they found some pot (pot being the essential ingredient of the mix in those days of those of us who were hell-bent on fighting "the system," whatever that was). Then they herded us downstairs and into what were then called "Black Marias"—and hauled us off to the pokey. (This might have been the only time in the history of American broadcasting that a radio station went dark so that the entire management, on-the-air, and volunteer staff could be booked into the hoosegow by the constabulary.)

One of the youngest volunteers, Tom Connors, later reported that as he was being fingerprinted, he was asked if his mother knew where he was at the moment. He yelled across the room, "Mom, do you know where I am right now?" "Yes, I do," she replied: she was another of the volunteers at KDNA.

And what, you might ask, does that have to do with a book on the history of conspiracy theories? You'll have to read the rest of the review to find out.

RALPH has also published an excerpt from United States of Paranoia. And as long as I'm in self-promotion mode: On April 5 I'll be giving a talk in Bethesda about the book's themes. Details are here; admission is free.

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  1. Whomever published that “kind peace” seems utterly unconcerned with trivial things like using readable fonts.

    1. I got much oversized Verdana (I think); other than being oversized (which is easy enough to correct) I don’t think it was unreadable at all.

  2. Speaking of conspiracies: Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it

    Reading down into TFA: Fifty-one percent of Americans favor retaining the Affordable Care Act with “small modifications,” while 13 percent would leave the law intact and 34 percent would repeal it.

    So, *13%* support the law — in this poll.

    1. Better than 8%! Think Progress!

  3. One of the youngest volunteers, Tom Connors, later reported that as he was being fingerprinted, he was asked if his mother knew where he was at the moment. He yelled across the room, “Mom, do you know where I am right now?” “Yes, I do,” she replied: she was another of the volunteers at KDNA.

    After an administrative crackdown on senior ditch days in high school, someone organized a “blue flu” and got parental buy in. The administration went berserk and an administrator called all the parents who had called their kids in sick to tell them they knew the kids were taking a ditch day.

    The parents in turn flipped shit on the administrators and told them to fuck off, if they called their kids in sick, their kids were out sick thankyouverymuchgoodbye!

    Parents participating in juvenile delinquency always makes me a little happy.

    1. My dad was a teacher. We would regularly skip school to go hunting or skiing.

      The world has gone totalitarian bat-shit crazy.

    2. My mom worked for the school district. There was no way I could ever take part in a ditch day. 🙁

      1. All of the seniors prior to my junior year had three sanctioned ditch days. My junior year the seniors got two and our senior year we got one, but we ended up taking a second one. Damn the man!

        1. Geezus man. That’s fucked up. If its *sanctioned* its not a ditch day. Some adults just do not understand – if you don’t like them, then fight the ditch days (at least its honest), if you support it, then turn a blind eye.

          Half the fun of doing shit like that as a kid is thinking you’re getting away with something.

  4. It’s been a while since I last blogged about someone reviewing my book

    Jesse, you wrote a book? 😉

    1. Or so he’d like you to believe ….

  5. Jesse published a book? I had not heard about that.

  6. Where is flight 370 and all of it’s passengers? We have the makings of the biggest conspiracy theory since the assassination of JFK going on right now Jesse. What are you talking about?

    1. Oh, and apparently very real conspiracies within our own government with different elements plotting against each other.

    2. I don’t know. Where is Flight 370 and all of it is passengers?

      Seriously, I get the impression it crashed into land someplace which is why they haven’t been able to find it.

      1. The scuttlebutt is, it was highjacked to serve as Iran’s, um, delivery vehicle.

    3. Where is flight 370 and all of its passengers?

      Satoshi Nakamoto has them.

      1. Nice.

        “In breaking news, the mysterious stolen-passport passengers on Flight 370 are reported to have been carrying vast amounts of Bitcoin.”

  7. Oh, and The Parallax View is overrated.

    1. The brainwashing montage is great.

  8. Jesse, as much as I enjoy your writing, I’m too much of a tightwad to buy your book. You’ve linked to numerous reviews and they’ve never convinced me to part with my cash.

    Until now. Bastard!

    1. The two Jesse books I have been reading (Rebels on the Air and Paranoia) are page turners in an old fashioned sense, unlike Dan Brown; they remind me more of Sherlock Holmes, where I don’t want to just turn the pages as fast as possible, but to read every word, and it’s strangely exhausting, so I take breaks and read other books in my pile, the last one being on Italian battleships. If Jesse had a subscription deal set up, I’d sign up and buy every book he writes, sight unseen.

      Of course, this may just be Jesse writing under a different login. YMMV.

  9. I was struck by a thought on reading the ‘reading’ from the book, presumably the conclusion. Conspiracy theories are popular because it is human nature to find patterns in randomness and hard to accept that ‘shit happens’. It’s perversely comforting to think that things are the way they are because there are some Top Men somewhere pulling strings behind the scenes to make it so rather than that there is no order or purpose, no rhyme or reason, it’s just ‘life’s a bitch and then you die’. At some level, even an evil man in charge of things is more acceptable than no one being in charge of things.

    But why is it that conspiracy theorists always see some dark conspiracy? Why not a secret cabal of international financiers and criminal masterminds hell-bent on using their nefarious powers to see to it that every orphan gets a fluffy kitten?

    My guess (hope?) would be that, just as there is some primal need to find a reason for why everything happens that makes conspiracy theories attractive, there is a primal instinct to recognize power as a bad thing and the people who have or want power as bad people. Maybe if humans are naturally conspiracy theorists in some way, the fact that they always see such conspiracies as bad things means humans are naturally libertarians in some way as well.

    1. But why is it that conspiracy theorists always see some dark conspiracy?

      They don’t, actually?the book includes a chapter on the idea of the benevolent conspiracy, a notion that’s been more popular than you might expect.

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