Monday, June 16, 2014

Open Letter To The U.S. Amateur Radio Community and The ARRL - Field Day, Contesting, and Emergency Communications

This is directed at amateur radio operators from the West coast to the East coast of the U.S. and the ARRL. If this makes you uncomfortable, or otherwise finds you severely upset in regards to content, no one really cares. Go complain to someone who'll play their tiny violin for you.

This author, like many others in amateur radio, got into this for the love of radio and learning the science of radio communications since it teaches a LONG list of useful, practical, and needed communications and research skills. Amateur radio can help teach mathematics, geography, culture, earth and space sciences, etc. Radio can also be a form of useful medical and mental health therapy for those with chronic illnesses who are sometimes house-bound, or otherwise can't always get out and about. Radio gives these folks a way to be part of the outside world because it is a form of human interaction.

However, a collective of many amateur operators have found that the whole emergency aspect has been over-blown, and made to be the holy grail of amateur radio, especially the yearly nationwide "Field Day" event held by the ARRL! The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has been dishonest about what Field Day really is.

Field Day is billed by the ARRL as being all about emergency communications. What a line of Bullshit! Field Day is a CONTEST and has nothing to do with practicing emergency communications skills. Field Day brings out two different crowds...the "whackers" or what we otherwise call the "whack-out and whack-off crew" who falsely think of themselves as THE experts, and also tend to look ridiculous in all of their unneeded emergency garb, coming awful close to false personation of emergency personnel.

The next crew in the emcomm "Field Day" crowd are your contesters. These are your technically adept, highly skilled, but rude and obnoxious people with zero social or conversational skills who love nothing more than making meaningless contacts where everyone is 5/9, and all you have to do is make a quick exchange of callsigns and tactical or logistical information that sounds EXACTLY like this: Operator callsign followed by operation class, and their state with their city.
THAT is NOT practicing emcomm skills, it's contesting!

The same exchange happens with Digital modes as well. Then there's always the argumant that it "exposes new amateur operators to radio", amateur operators don't need to be "exposed" to radio, they need to start using their license, whatever class they hold, to start learning the science and art of communications.

For far too long, amateur radio has been all about the boys. Amateur radio has been overrun for a long time with meatheaded, super macho - jocks, republican and libertarian conspiracy junkies who need serious psychiatric help, rich libs and neo-libs who want everyone censored if it doesn't tow the ARRL party line, and who also subscribe to the "separate but equal" and NIMBY mentalities. These are factual observations made over a period of years.

Chicago / Suburban Amateur Radio Culture as Example of Rampant Social and Political Dishonesty 

Earlier today, this very discussion about field day and emcomm vs. contesting took place on the NS9RC repeater in Chicago, Illinois between two parties who will not be named, but when the party divulging these facts set henceforth, the  "repeater trustee", Don - KK9H, openly censored the radio op on the air and said "why don't you keep your opinions to yourself, you can't say that on THIS repeater, and we don't want to hear it" Obviously, the op struck a nerve and the repeater organization can't deal with hearing the truth, and so they now call truth an opinion and tell people to be quiet. Typical liberal side-stepping from the rich, far north, suburban spoiled brats. What we have here is a good old case of "affluenza" where entitlement tries to overrun facts by using brute force to unfairly stifle meaningful and needed discussion in the amateur radio community.

Don - KK9H, is your typical one-way conduit of information type of guy who is backed by his fellow sufferers of affluenza at the North Shore Radio Club. What they do is to create a false dichotomy, and a one - way tolerance in which they'll have you around for so long as you buy their brand of bullshit and never talk about what's real in the wider amateur radio community outside of secret closed door discussions. THAT is also a DIRECT show of culpability towards intentional dishonesty and goes to a lack of upstanding collective character. This is something CFMC used to be known for.

In being communicators, is it not part of our mission to have these discussions about HOW and WHY we use communications, the issues at hand, and bring things into the light even if it's unpopular and uncomfortable? Turning your head or burying your head in the proverbial sand doesn't help anyone, nor does it go to helping any certain cause. What it does is allow community-wide problems to fester as the open, gushing wound it is. The necessary first-aid for this is to stop the bleeding, and prevent infection. This is done only by dealing with the problems instead of practicing avoidance, except when and where avoidance is used only AFTER the issues have been dealt with as a sort of preventative care.

ARRL Field Day Rules Prove Field Day To Be About Contesting

The ARRL sets up rules for all of the so - called "radio sports" they get into and offer to the amateur radio community at large. These are what we know as contests. Contests are in the factual sense, the bane of amateur radio because of the behavior on display, and because they take up significant portions of the bands, and therefore use up unnecessary bandwidth. 

ARRL Official Field Day websiteOfficial ARRL Field Day Rules for 2014. Let's see, shall we? Yes, just as suspected, the website when used in conjunction with the ARRL rules proves beyond the preponderance of the evidence that Field Day is about contesting, not the practice and art of emergency communications.

What other things are missing to make Field Day about emergency communications? For starters, there are no specific emergency drills or practice emergency scenarios involved which would facilitate the basis, need, and foundation for emergency communications "practice" to be held.

With that HUGE element missing, there can be no other steps taken to have a practice emcomm session such as Field Day.

Now, if the ARRL wanted to be factually honest, they would re-brand field day as a family friendly event to present amateur radio and all of its involved / associated sciences to families and individuals from all walks of life. Get rid of the emcomm moniker, replace it with a slower tempo, non-contest, relaxing and fun sort of experience, and it can be at least 90% guaranteed that amateur radio will see new licensees. There should be testing sessions at each moderate to large scale Field Day event so people can obtain new licenses, upgrade their current licenses, etc. 

How about having some seminars on radio basics?  Talks involving multi-media presentations about being able to hear people from all over the world right from your home or your car, your bike, and making contacts with those people. How about interactive community relationship - building experiences whereby the public can see all the different aspects of amateur radio at play, including satellite stations? 

Young people from the earliest of ages, to the young adult 20s and 30s crowds are heavily involved in computers today. We should be teaching them how to use amateur radio to set up new and innovative uses for radio in respect to computers and social networking so that when there is no cellular signals, and / or no internet, radio will have a new use. This will also give the radio community ideas for emcomm drills that can be practiced, especially in the event of cyber-terrorism. 

The advanced world has made the mistake of not properly securing various internet and computer related things, so it would be entirely possible that because our electrical systems, our water systems, our mail systems, payment and banking systems, automotive applications and various other important parts of electronic infrastructure is, for the most part, tied together by way of computers, if a cyber-terror group were to attack with any sort of strong, directed, sustained attack, amateur radio could be there as the final means of communication that cyber-criminals / cyber-terrorists wouldn't be able to screw with.
Closing Remarks

Given the points made in the above three sections, and the facts presented, the amateur radio community nationwide, and the ARRL would be well-served to be more realistic about where they belong in the scheme of our nation's emergency communications infrastructure, stop playing the immature ego games, start discussing and addressing real problems in a public and visible manner so as to be 100% transparent, and start painting an honest picture about what amateur radio is and isn't, especially in regards to Field Day and emcomm.  

Stop censoring open discussion on the air simply because it makes a few jerks uncomfortable. The jerks who are uncomfortable have the option of turning the dial, turning the radio off, or going to do something else. Pandering to uptight, over-privileged, bratty, closed-minded ignoramuses is only making things worse.

Reject racial profiling, ethnic, disabillity, sex based / orientation based, gender based, and other types of already illegal discrimination in all aspects of amateur radio. Take a stand against cliques, against political and social bullying, and take a solid stand against on-air censorship when and where there are no FCC violations committed.

Take a clear stand against amateur radio ops who have certain available technology, but attempt to limit its use to "their group". We are already seeing this happen with things like TDMA, where a few individuals who may or may not be a clique or group of some sort feel they need to "approve" of someone before they mentor them in this newest radio technology and help them learn where and how to obtain the programing software, equipment, etc. Self-policing does not mean hogging an entire technology or using it to separate other ops out of amateur radio.

Overly aggressive gate-keeping needs to stop if we are to be taken seriously as today's FCC described "existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts." and if we are to provide what the FCC mandates as "Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill."