Pirate Radio: A Review of Caribbean Rhythms

Submitted by Bodhi Bronson

There was a film at the tail end of the 80s called Pump Up The Volume about a high school kid who starts his own pirate radio station. He calls himself Happy Harry Hard-on, and he becomes very popular by being blunt and profane and pointing out the hypocrisy of the world around him, in between playing Leonard Cohen and Pixies songs. In real life, he’s just a quiet guy. Eventually, it becomes apparent that the persona he has created is in some sense more real or more important than his real life personality, because it has far more meaning to the many people that it has affected.

The pirate radio DJ in the film didn’t actually have much of a message for his listeners beyond “school sucks” and “being a teenager is hard,” although he does memorably skewer his Boomer parents for never shutting up about ¡The Sixties! Nonetheless, the image of a faceless voice going out over the airwaves and speaking forbidden truths remains a romantic one, almost an archetype. Not just a voice, but a character. As in an epic tale, he is a figure larger-than-life who is not limited in the ways that mere mortals are, who is “free in all the ways that you are not.”

I thought of this recently while listening to Bronze Age Pervert’s Caribbean Rhythms podcast, now on its 11th episode as of this writing. Since I don’t use Twitter, I wasn’t very familiar with BAP until I read his book. Like many readers, at first I didn’t get it. “Why does he hate grammar?” But there was something that made me want to keep reading, and as many other reviewers have pointed out, those who do continue on are richly rewarded. There is so much erudition and originality, delivered with such playfulness, that there is simply nothing else with which to compare it. I consider myself fairly well-read, but Bronze Age Mindset is overflowing with obscure nuggets that sent me out looking for new books and articles I had not previously heard of, on subjects I had not even thought to look into.

Then, a few months later, the BAP podcast began. As with the book, my first reaction was one of incomprehension, but also joviality. “Ok, so he’s not just going to write like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, he’s going to talk like that in real life, too. Ok, let’s see where this goes.” And where it goes is all over the place, flowing from the ancient Greek phenotype to the Habsburg empire, from the BCCI scandal to 9-11, from Angola to Argentina, from well-known writers and thinkers to obscure tomes, dropped like verbal footnotes for those of us inclined to dig and research for ourselves. (Still waiting for the episode on Marsilio Ficino’s revival of Platonism.) And all the while I’m laughing my ass off because at any moment the dense flow of knowledge might be interrupted with “Sorry, uh, they attack me just now with mind wave,” or a tale of having to shake hands with a retard while trying to get a sandwich in a Vietnamese restaurant. As with the book, there is simply nothing else with which to compare it. It elevates the podcast format to a level of art previously only seen in the radio era before television and film. This is pirate radio. While it is entertaining, it is not entertainment. If, as Chuck D once said, rap is CNN for black people, maybe BAP is the real news for white people. (And Latinas and mulattas and Japanese and BAP’s other friends.)

One of the most important qualities that BAP brings is a strong grounding in the Western classical tradition, and indeed, all of European history. His knowledge of Greece and Rome is as good or better than a professor from Intercollegiate Studies Institute, but unlike those “conservatives,” BAP is not beholden to neocon foundation money, which buys silence and complicity, forcing them to prostitute the classical tradition in order to, as BAP said, “use Thucydides to justify the Iraq war.” (Yes, Victor Davis Hanson, we’re looking at you.) There is also his knowledge and appreciation of classical music, pieces of which are scattered throughout as brief interludes, thereby introducing this high musical art to generations that have been deprived of this heritage.

In the newest episodes, which follow Mike Anton’s review of Bronze Age Mindset and the subsequent flurry of responses, BAP has been talking about the possibility that he might be doxxed. I pray this doesn’t happen, although he seems prepared and duly cautious. My hope for his continued anonymity, though, is because I want the symbol he has created to remain as powerful and pure as it is now. BAP, whoever he “really is,” has made himself into a symbol, like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. In a sense, it doesn’t matter who it is under the mask, under the persona. As Wayne explains to Robin Blake in The Dark Knight Rises, BAPman could be anybody.

What matters is the energy being sent forth and the possibilities of transformation that it can inspire. So far as I can tell, some of the pillars of BAP’s message are: strengthwisdom—in the sense of the ancient Greek sophos which meant both wisdom and practical skill—health, and vitalityMens sana in corpore sano, as the Roman poet Juvenal said, and we should note that sano is the root of “sanity”—no psychological health without physical health. BAP harks back to the best of the ancients, those whom Dante called the noble pagans, who are the spiritual fathers of Western civilization, who created the ethos that calls to us still, because it still lives as a dream, as an ideal, in the hearts and minds of men.

Bruce Wayne says that Batman could be anybody, but of course that’s not true. Only a man of discipline and will and training—and independent wealth—could be Batman. Likewise, BAP is a rare mind and talent, and probably irreplaceable. If he were to be unmasked and captured by the authorities like the pirate radio DJ in Pump Up The Volume, perhaps a swarm of others would take up his mantle, just as they already have on Twitter, imitating his writing style and aesthetics. Perhaps, just as the film ends with a chorus of voices from new pirate radio shows, a chorus of fake Slavic accents (I don’t mean to question BAP’s Russianness, I am sure it is genuine) would take over the internet airwaves, preaching Sun and Steel and Glycine to all with ears to hear and arms to lift.

(It should be pointed out that a fake accent is good OPSEC that foils voice recognition software. Somewhat akin to writing with your opposite hand to change your handwriting, as the Zodiac killer is alleged to have done in his letters.)

A chorus of the inspired would be a fitting tribute, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the original. It would be quantity in place of quality, and even if one voice should rise from among them above the others, it could only ever be a Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the original Christian Bale. So, may BAP remain anonymous forever. If someone should ask, like Robin Blake to Commissioner Gordon, “Don’t you want to know who he is?”, the proper response is: “I know who he is. He’s the BAPman.”

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