An expose of the culture of agitation, and the reasons why.
In a previous article, "Agitator's Guide to Jamming" , I outlined some of the most common jamming and agitation techniques, which I had been exposed to in my local area from a technical perspective, and pretty much explained the "How's" of agitation. In this companion piece, I will take a closer look at the human side of the "sport" of agitation, and attempt to explore the "Who's" and "Why's. At first glance, it would be tempting to take a broad brush and to paint the actions of these people simply as destructive, anti-social, or especially childish and immature behavior. While that would probably be a fairly accurate general assessment in a great many cases, it doesn't tell the whole story. In reality, there were a few semi-justifiable exceptions to this general rule.
Back in the early 70's, some of the people I knew, who dabbled in the "art" of agitation, did so with a certain amount of wit and creativity. They were actually somewhat proud of their "craft", in much the same way as a graffiti artist is proud of theirs. These early agitators rarely engaged in simple, random acts of intentional interference, just for interference sake. Rather, their acts took on a form more along the lines of a deliberate, premeditated, and selective payback to a particularly arrogant individual(s) who felt it was their God given right to involve themselves in the lives of other people (especially us younger kids). In a strange sort of convoluted mix of a Robin Hood meets David and Goliath philosophy, these insurgent-like agitators anonymously took up the cause of defending the weak against the tyranny of the overbearing Channel Master - types, who many times ruled with an iron fist, and took the hobby WAY too seriously. Disrupting normal daily communications wasn't the primary mission for these agitators. Rather, the goal was to inspire anger and angst within the specified target. Or to disrupt the blissful harmony of those who had wronged them (or their friends) in the past, while doing it in such a way as to be somewhat entertaining to anyone else who happened to be listening, but not directly involved. The more unglued and angry the target became, the more the agitators would dig in. Interestingly enough, the targets of most of these agitators were very easy to anger. I guess anger is an emotion which is never far away for someone who is normally an arrogant control freak. At least one target became so upset, that he threw his mic across the room, while another kicked his dog. The agitators would annoy either a particular person, or a whole channel group depending on the individual circumstances. Typically these types of agitators were technically adept, and had above normal equipment at their disposal, including high power amplifiers and a bevy of audio gadgets, sound effects, and voice impersonations. With all of this equipment and knowhow at their disposal, these agitators tended to be very effective.
Another variation of this "breed" of agitator was not so much interested in enacting revenge against any one group or person. Instead, they were more interested in simply showing off for a somewhat captive audience and keeping the attention of the other people on the channel focused on them, rather than on the usual daily small talk. Instead of jamming the channel, they were more interested in erecting a big "look at me" beacon. This type of agitator was most likely driven by an urge to make up for a lack of parental or peer attention as a kid, by seeking out the very public, albeit mostly negative, attention from other people on the CB radio. These guys would normally disguise their voices, and portray themselves as some sort of controversial "character" looking to provoke a reaction. Common examples included: "gay guys", "nazi's", space aliens, popular cartoon characters, mentally challenged people, Bible thumpers etc. To those who were not directly affected by these agitators, it was often humorous and entertaining to listen to their "acts". As opposed to a true jammer, who tried to prevent conversations, this type of agitator would try to engage and interact with the people on the channel, but it had to be on his terms. Usually he put himself in the position where the people had little choice but to acknowledge him. The best defense against this sort of agitator was to try to ignore them. But this was not always practical, as the agitator usually had enough of a signal that he was stronger than most and was not easy to key over. Although, this type of agitator preferred interaction with the people on the channel, it was not uncommon for the method of agitation to revert to simple jamming, if the agitator couldn't get their desired reaction from the audience.
Yet another variation of the "attention getter"-type of agitator, is what I like to call the "psychological" agitator. This particular type of agitator will listen to a particular group of (usually obnoxious) people for a period of time and determine what issues/equipment/operating styles etc. they like and don't like, and then he will deliberately lampoon or sarcastically berate those same things in casual conversation. He will get into the heads of these people and skillfully press the psychological buttons of those insecure and easily angered people in order to get a rise out of them, which was usually not a difficult thing to do. Like a cat with a new toy, the psychological agitator will yank the chains of those who bite the hook until he tires of them and moves on to other prey. And while the target group will usually circle the wagons and rally around each other to battle the agitator, they don't realize that they are all part of a predictable, deliberately choreographed performance designed for the agitator's (and his friends) amusement. The targets might feel that their superior strength in numbers drove the agitator away, but more likely he just grew tired of them. This type of agitator usually works best with a support group of loyal friends who will back him up when needed.
Of course, this list wouldn't be complete without including the truly depraved, sociopathic jammers, who's only real "fun" on CB was disrupting the interactivity and on-air fun of others, in much the same way as a petulant child who pops the balloons at someone else's birthday party. These agitators didn't really have a beef with any one particular person. What drives these sociopaths is an internal envy toward other people who appeared to be happier than they were. Usually they held everyone, who appeared to be having more fun than they were, in contempt. To these jammers, it was a boost to their own ego and to their own fragile image of self esteem, to be able to affect and disrupt the lives of others so easily. Disrupting others made them feel important and powerful. Often this particular type of agitator had developed their disdain for other people due to their having endured ridicule and alienation during their formative years. When school bullies would steal their lunch money, rip their books, and beat them up on a regular basis, it was enough to inspire general contempt. But being weak, unpopular, and without the means to fight back directly, limited their ability to enact any sort of revenge on the true objects of their misery. Instead, this stored anger would rise to the surface and would drive those, affected by this peer inspired low self-esteem, to act out in places where they felt a certain degree of control and could effect a reaction, thereby instilling a feeling of some sort of vindication, even if it was not extracted from the same people responsible for their original pain. They equate the popular people having fun on CB, as symbols of those who have belittled them in the past, and made their lives a living hell. On the radio, physical appearance and prowess is meaningless and virtually non-existent. On the radio, it's the guy with the strongest signal who is king. Consequently, when you are a sociopath on a mission, it's not hard to acquire the equipment to give you a fairly competitive signal. Fortunately, in the early days, there were very few of this type of agitator on the channels, which was a good thing as they were truly a dark spot on the hobby in general.
Like in the article "CB'er Personalities", where it was shown that no one was a textbook example of any one specific personality, a jammer or agitator usually didn't fall 100% into any one of the three major agitator characterizations either. Usually, anyone who would even contemplate jamming other people, had some sort of animosity toward people to begin with. The fine line between a "Sociopathic" jammer and a "Robin Hood" or "Clown" agitator, was defined mostly by the degree in which they interacted with other people when they were not agitating. Those who had active friends, participated in normal on-channel activities, and only responded to people who wronged them first, were usually in one of the first two categories. The truly demented sociopathic jammer had few friends, and didn't care who they interfered with, or whether the locals liked them or not. Making friends was not their goal. Ruining the fun for others was their primary mission on CB.
With all this in mind, let's take a look at some of the people in my local area, who were known for their agitation activities, and their most common targets.
Steve - (AKA "Rattlesnake" and "Bolt of Lightning") was probably the first "true" CB'er that I ever knew. I first met him in 1971 or early'72 when I was just beginning to get deeply involved in CB. Steve was a technically inclined person who knew his way around a soldering iron as well as the insides of most radios. But his unflattering physical appearance and less than stellar social skills often made him the butt of peer abuse throughout his childhood. Radio was his means of escape. There, he hoped he could depend on his competent electronic skills to compensate for his virtually non-existent social skills to at least develop loose friendly associations with other people. But often he would get a little too close to those who gave him the time of day, much like a puppy dog or small child who is just looking for approval. When this would happen, he would often alienate the very people he tried to befriend. When they would then openly reject him, he would grow bitter, and thus began the Jekyll and Hyde-like crusade of Steve the agitator. While keeping up the facade of friendliness one minute, Steve would then drive around in his car and either agitate or dump carriers on those people who had publically shunned him. Back in those days, there weren't many interference problems, and it didn't take the locals too long to figure out who was behind the jamming. When Steve was confronted about his activities, he would deny it, or attempt to play the victim, by trying to justify what he did as a "payback" for something that someone else did to him first. Eventually, other people started jumping on the agitation bandwagon and Steve would get blamed even if he wasn't involved. Despite his protests, I don't think anyone believed him when he said that he was not the one responsible. Steve's favorite channel for agitation was Channel 3, the local "adult" channel in the area in the early to mid 70's. On that channel, there were a few people who had an especially strong distrust of Steve. Zipper, and his brother Papa Bear, led the pack in this category. Both were arrogant, and neither had much tolerance for Steve or his on-air antics. In fact, if the slightest interference problem showed up, they'd automatically assume that Steve was somehow responsible for it. So Steve figured that if he was going to get blamed for jamming, he might as well do it. Also around this time, there was a bit of friction between the locals on Channel 3 and the hi-power guys on Channel 4. The guys on Channel 4 would bleed the Channel 3 group, and the trouble would escalate from there. Steve tried to worm his way onto Channel 4, so that he could exploit the friction between them and Channel 3 for his own benefit. But the Channel 4 guys did not take to Steve either, and ended up poking fun at him, and his feeble attempts to "run with the big dogs". So now, after facing another bout of rejection, Steve had another target to agitate. When he started trying to jam Channel 4 (A difficult thing to do when most ran high power), Steve had hoped that each channel would blame the other channel for the jamming, and then he could sit back and watch the fireworks erupt, while innocently claiming that he wasn't doing it.
Steve's normal method of jamming was simply dead keying, or playing music. When Jimmy teamed up with him, his agitation method changed to more of the "Clown" type. The two of them would ride around in Steve's car and would pass the mic back and forth while each of them would play a different "character". Unfortunately for Steve, he wasn't particularly good at disguising his voice, and he wasn't hard to recognize. In later years, Steve managed to make a home on our up-and-coming Channel 11 kid's group (Which probably started us off on the wrong foot with the ever-suspicious and paranoid adults), and would often take up the cause when we would become involved in disputes of our own. Steve eventually got away from agitation, when the problems with the "adult" channels subsided.
Jimmy - (AKA "Money Bags" and "Tree Stump") started off in CB in 1973 thanks, in no small part, to his casual friendship with Steve. Jimmy's first exposure to CB was riding around with Steve, agitating Zipper and the Channel 3 folks. Since he was unknown on the CB at that time, Steve let Jimmy do most of the talking, so as to throw suspicion off of Steve. Jimmy had so much fun playing clown for this seemingly captive audience, that he was soon looking for a CB of his own. Once he had a base, he began talking to the locals, while still agitating the Channel 3 people. But his base radio had a telltale A.C. hum on its carrier, and that eventually aroused suspicion, and people started to put two and two together. Finally, as part of the fallout from a spat with Steve, his exposure as an agitator was fully realized by the local crowd as Steve, already pissed off at Jimmy and sensing that he might be able to worm his way back into the good graces of the locals, ratted Jimmy out. But even that didn't stop him. While Jimmy's base was now "marked", he soon bought a car and outfitted it with radio gear, so that he could continue his agitation exploits while lessening the risk of further verifiable exposure. During the "on" time in his on-again, off-again association with Steve, he also took part helping Steve in agitating the Channel 4 guys, and narrowly escaped from a hot pursuit when one of them caught him and gave chase. Jimmy's favorite methods for agitation were voice impersonation and "music appreciation". His favorite "character" was a thickly, pseudo-German accented nazi called "Weiner Schnitzel", who would then poke fun and make disparaging comments at the Channel 3 locals. With "music appreciation", he would seek out the most objectionable music he could find, and then summarily broadcast it, so that the targets could learn to "appreciate" a broader variety of music. When Jimmy had finally had enough of Steve, he set his sights on agitating him. Like Steve, Jimmy eventually retired from agitating, but not long afterward he completely disappeared from radio altogether.
Greaseball - Perhaps the agitator model who first inspired Steve, Greaseball was a frequent visitor on Channel 3 in the early 70's. He was known to dump carriers on a fairly regular basis, just to disrupt communications. Unlike Steve and Jimmy, Greaseball was an older guy, and it is unknown why he did what he did. He also jammed from his base station, was eventually tracked down, and his identity revealed. But that didn't seem to slow him down too much. Fortunately, he pretty much faded from the scene by the mid 70's. Interestingly enough, 20 years later, Greaseball's grandson also got into CB and became somewhat of an agitator himself. They say the apple never falls far from the tree. So maybe there is something genetic at work here as well.....
C.A.S.H. (Carriers And Sideband Harassment) - An actual loose group of individuals who's primary mission was to provide coordinated and sophisticated agitation to selected individuals who desperately deserved it. The members of this group included Mitch, Jimmy, and myself. The group was formed around the time when we were getting continual carriers and other grief from a group from Collegeville in late 1975. While we had been unsuccessful in tracking down and identifying this elusive group, we decided that we could still give them a "payback" for the many nights of jamming that we had to endure. At that time, neither Mitch nor I was of legal driving age yet, so we had to rely on Jimmy to provide the vehicle from which we would launch our mobile agitation. But we didn't just throw carriers. We also brought along my cassette and Jimmy's reel-reel tape recorders and would play different TV theme songs, as well as recorded sound effects from an old album that I had. There were also voice impersonations. Jimmy performed his "Wiener Schnitzel" character, Mitch developed a character called the "Spam Man" based on the old (Well, not so old back then) Monty Python "Spam" skit, while I did a fairly good rendition of the howlin' prowlin' radio personality, Wolfman Jack. We made several trips to the Collegeville area, and plied our craft. Once the Collegeville situation ended, we also paid a few paybacks to the Channel 15 group and the Channel 18 group with which we were also involved in active disputes. After those situations were eventually resolved, we pretty much ended the group, although the three of us did make a few little "runs" for specific reasons later on.
Invader - Here is a classic example of a short-lived "Clown-type" agitator. Invader was just a regular guy who talked with the locals and never really got involved in any major disputes. That changed one day while he was playing around with a guitar reverb, and found that he could create a "Space Invader" alien-like sound complete with reverb and controlled feedback. Back in the 70's, echo's and reverbs were rare and they were still unique enough that it attracted attention. So with his new-found ability to call attention to himself, he just had to debut his "character" on the CB. His goal was not to interfere with people. He just wanted to show off and "wow" them with his new toy. But predictably, not too many people shared his enthusiasm, or fascination with his toy. He jumped around a few of the local channels for a few days before he eventually tired of it himself. Then, I guess, E.T. phoned home for good.
"Ben Gay" (AKA Raven) - In the early 1980's, in the wake of the original "Gay Guy" character who tormented the truckers on Channel 19, and whom we had identified a year prior, there were a few "copy-cat" agitators who tried to cash in on the anguish that the original gay guy had created with his unique schtick. "Ben Gay" was one of them. Ben Gay was a stereotypical gay guy character created by Raven, a local in the Trooper Pa. area. His modus operandi was similar to what the original gay guy used to do. He primarily agitated the truckers on 19, who were especially homophobic and who responded predictably to gay remarks, and attempts to "flirt" with them. Any agitator will tell you that the greater the reaction you get, the more you will continue, and in that respect, the truckers never disappointed. Channel 19 was also unique in that the people there would continually change as they moved into and out of the area. So there was never a shortage of new people for "Ben Gay" to perform his act for. The interesting thing was that Raven's normal voice sounded somewhat "effeminate" on its own, so it wasn't hard for him to adopt his alter ego. In fact, many wondered if he was just a little too good at playing a gay guy, and suspected that he leaned that way naturally. His antics pretty much faded by the middle 80's, and he disappeared from the radio altogether shortly thereafter.
Tim Kerper (AKA Gunslinger, Starship Enterprise) - One of the truly sociopathic agitators, Tim's main source of pleasure on the CB was causing hate and discontent among the locals, and he did so with a zeal and drive that was, quite frankly, a bit scary. Tim would throw carriers, play music, use noise toys, and goad people into arguments, by becoming vile and abusive. His language was a virtual cesspool of obscenity, and many people simply turned off their radios when he was on, rather than be subjected to his filth. Some of the locals tried to fight him back, but they just didn't understand that attention is what fed him, and the more they fought back, the more he kept it up. Like other agitators, who ran from their bases, Tim was quickly and fairly easily tracked down. But announcing his name and address only seemed to drive him harder, and there were reports of a few people, who showed up at his house to confront him, being met at the door with a shotgun. Tim was supposedly on record, at his local police department, as "mentally unstable", as he apparently had many incidents with them. Even the FCC got in on the act when Tim's agitation rose to such a level that enough complaints had been received and Uncle Charlie paid the area a visit. In all the years that I had been in radio, I had never personally witnessed an FCC raid. But this one was genuine, and it even made the local 6:00 news. But even the mighty hand of the FCC could not stop Tim for long. After he paid his (greatly reduced) fine, and a few months went by, he was back on and just as belligerent as ever, but with somewhat less of a signal. Fortunately, he eventually lost interest and faded away.
And with that, another aspect of CB life is immortalized for generations to come.........