Right-Wing Pirates: Hateful but Rare

The events of the last month in the United States should leave no question that a fascist, white-supermacist element is on the resurgence here. Spurred on by nationalist and hate-denialist sites like Breitbart, the Daily Caller, and other notable right-wing media conglomerates such as News Corp. (FOX News), Sinclair, and Salem, this despicable ideology has its own well-developed media ecosystem now.
Although much of this media-behavior’s out in the open presently, it’s cropped up throughout our history on broadcast stations that, by law, should not exist. I’ve written about some of these here, including ostansible pro-German prankster-stations during World Wars One and Two, and the curious case of Reverend Carl McIntire who, after creating a loose syndicated radio-version of the FOX News Channel in the 1950-60s, lost the licenses to his Pennsylvania radio stations in 1970.
McIntire did not take the license-revocations lightly: in 1972 he purchased a minesweeper and constructed an AM station onboard. The following year McIntire parked the boat in international waters off the coast of New Jersey and launched “Radio Free America” to continue spewing his vitriol, threatning violence against any government attempt to shut him down. The following year a federal court issued an injunction against the operation and by 1974 his pirate pulpit was well and truly sunk, despite enlisting a former FCC General Counsel as his defense lawyer (though he never faced any meaningful penalty).
On the shortwave bands, right-wing “militia” folk have also gone rogue, most notably “Major” (or “Colonel,” depending on context) Steve Anderson (no relation) of the Kentucky State Militia, who established KSMR from his Pulaski County property in early 2001, after surrending his amateur radio license to the FCC in protest of “government overreach.” KSMR was fond of saying that it was “asserting our First Amendment Rights here and are protecting them with the Second Amendment,” and to date has been the only anti-U.S. clandestine pirate station to operate from within its own borders.
The Kentucky State Militia itself was caught flat-footed by Anderson’s outbursts and its commanders ordered him to stand down; instead, Anderson renamed the station “United Patriot Radio” and upped its power. KSM commanders then relieved Anderson of his duties and membership in the militia, and parody-pirates began sprouting up making fun of the entire situation.
This only seemed to incense Anderson, who racheted up the rhetoric on UPR, including long exhortations about the importance of the Christian Identity movement, which sees white Christians as superior to all others on the planet and has been linked to the Ku Klux Xlan and Aryan Nations. He’d even hosted a small Klan rally on his property. That spurred the Anti-Defamation League to begin monitoring and recording United Patriot Radio’s transmissions.
In October of 2001, Anderson was stopped by police for reckless driving. He unloaded more than 20 rounds of rifle and pistol-fire on the deputy, who was not hit, and then fled into the woods leaving his truck behind. A search of Anderson’s property discovered not only his radio station, but lots of guns and grenades, more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition, and bomb components.
More than a year later, after his story was aired on “America’s Most Wanted,” a tip led police to an area of rural North Carolina where Anderson was apprehended. He was convicted in 2003 on multiple charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but was paroled in December 2015.
Several right-wing fundamentalist and militia-style pirates were also prevalent on the FM dial, especially during the microradio movement of the 1990s; folks like Lonnie Kobres, Rick Strawcutter, Darrell Sivik and many others openly contested FCC authority and spouted revanchist rhetoric of many flavors; some of them also were criminally persecuted for their activities.
Pirate radio is a tactical media platform that’s been utilized by people of all political stripes in the United States for nearly a century. However, now that the right-wing’s been formalized, legitimized and monetized, folks of that stripe have more access to the airwaves now than they ever did trying to speak outside the law.