(This essay deals with facts particular to the so-called U.S.
Readers in other countries should consult sources in their area for region specific information)
HISTORYNot many readers will know of or recall REACT. Formed in 1962, this group blossomed and then waned in an arc roughly overlapping the popularity of Citizen Band radio in so-called north america. The late eighties saw most local teams disband as personal radio communication options (including cellular phones) became ubiquitous. But as a product of the modern western ethos, the 501c3 that was REACT did not fade into history but instead re-invented itself to salvage some shred of relevancy.
Today's REACT has painted itself a much broader mandate than seen at its birth. No longer monitoring CB channel 9 for assisting with and relaying traffic conditions and motorist problems to emergency services personnel, REACT has attached itself to government and NGO support in a diverse set of roles from disaster communications to reporting so-called criminal activity.
OUR PURPOSEI want this essay to accomplish several things.
- Provide a brief survey of current options in personal radio communication, both "legal" and Liberatory.
- Outline one perspective on their applicability to the Anarchist milieu pre and post revolution.
- Sketch out a suggested RE@CT methodology.
- Describe one possible praxis that a collective could use to implement their version of the RE@CT methodology.
PERSONAL RADIO OPTIONSThis is an unordered list of the various radio (RF) products someone can expect to encounter. (links to wikipedia)
CB or Citizen's Band Radio
FRS or Family Radio Service
GMRS or General Mobile Radio Service
MURS or Multi Use Radio Service
Amateur or Ham Radio
Commercial Band (AM/FM) Pirate Radio Transmitters are a long term investment in time but may be a tool worth adding to your group's portfolio.
Receivers: Commercial Band (AM/FM) and Scanners are useful items to have as you'll see.
With the exception of Pirate transmitters, all of these are either legal or illegal by US law depending on your license, authorization and use. The "illegality" of improperly using a radio is a Federal issue unlikely on its own to result in legal action. Posession of a legally acquired radio that you do not have license to operate is NOT a crime.
At least one member of your RE@CT should volunteer to take the Technician Class License Exam and join a local Ham Radio Club as a covert activity. This will allow them to become fully versed in current legal usage of "Ham" equipment and enable them stay abreast of talk among Statist Hams concerning their awareness of illegal radio activity in your area - they loves them some radio narcing! (REMEMBER: Ham radios do not need to see your license to function. They are simple machines.)
ACQUIRING EQUIPMENTDue primarily to cash constraints, a RE@CT team will probably want to focus on the use of a single one of the above two-way systems (CB, FRS, GMRS, MURS, or Ham). Each has their benefits with options that include private channels (still unencrypted). For cost and size reasons tho, it's likely your group will begin by equipping everyone with FRS. Again - read, understand, and discuss all the options for yourselves. There is no - nor should there be - a one size fits all implementation. That said, teams should consider having available radios that work on the other mentioned bands to safeguard your ability to interface with a different RE@CT who has adopted a competing base technology.
ANARCHISTS WITH RADIOS - Pre-RevolutionThere is no reason to consider radio communication as a tool to replace internet usage at this time. It is not a practical substitute for learning and using modern best practices for private communication via the web. Realistically, not everyone can have a radio, and while the internet is available, RE@CT teams will be concentrating on the supplemental value RF comms can play.
Two-way radio offers the option of immediate, hands-free comms between team members. "Authorities" take full advantage of radio to coordinate personnel in a way they could never accomplish with SMS or Twitter (the standard tools of the demonstrator).
- Remember that the radio waves don't just stop at the edge of a demo area. Team members can also be deployed outside the action allowing them to retweet or relay with a cool head unbothered by the physical or mental demands placed on the bloc
Finally, consider including a portable low wattage AM or FM transmitter in your arsenal to provide for broader reception of chosen messages within the body of protesters as well as being a way to get your message out as it's happening. (Yes, this equipment is the most illegal to posses and at the least you won't be getting it back.)
ANARCHISTS WITH RADIOS - Day ZeroI don't intend to prefigure your team's activities but your RE@CT will be busy in the days leading up to the revolution. Key duties may include:
- Inventorying local caches of radio equipment that can be expropriated as needed. (Think mall cops, delivery and trucking companies, individual operators expected to side with the counter-revolution, etc)
- Identifying radios that should be protected from random looters. (Think the water company, fire department, utilities, etc)
- Compiling lists of all radio transmitters in your area by frequency, identity, and location (for fixed base operations) and programming one or more scanners to monitor these channels.
- Agreeing on how best to coordinate messages between dissimilar comms systems (CB, FRS, GMRS, MURS, or Ham).
- Planning for equipment power in the event utility service is interrupted or discontinued.
- Identifying an AM/FM radio station in your area that could be expropriated and operated to provide useful information to the public at large.
That's it for now.
It's up to an individual team to flesh out these ideas for themselves. You'll find resources all over the web to help you along - and don't dismiss offhandedly the work being produced by the "prepper" community involving radio comms for their SHTF wet dreams. There are grains of good advice in there if you can stomach the hyperbole.