Civil Liberties

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.