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Resistance Radio on mobile. Photo: J. Waits

Resistance Radio: Mesmerizing Dystopian Pirate Radio

Over the weekend I stumbled across Resistance Radio and was immediately obsessed with the nostalgic music, rebellious DJs and the geeky radio details. The website reads,

The year is 1962. America stands divided and controlled by the Greater Nazi Reich in the East and the Japanese Pacific States in the West. Seventeen years after the Allied Powers lost World War II, people in this America are living in fear and oppression. But between these opposing political parties lies a lawless “neutral zone,” where a fledgling “Resistance” movement struggles to fight back.

Hijacking the airwaves, a secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive. Using music to hearten the spirits of the hopeless, they play bootleg songs that are performed and played in makeshift studios with obsolete equipment.

Being on-air is dangerous, yet the desire to reach the resigned is somethings these DJs can’t resist.”

When I tuned in on my laptop, I heard a loop of staticky broadcasts, featuring DJs and music. However, it’s even more fun when accessing the site on mobile, as you can spin the dial of a transistor radio in order to tune in to DJs on four different stations. Between the stations, listen carefully for creepy numbers stations (perhaps with secret codes for the resistance) and for a station transmitting a message in Morse Code.

Ostensibly it’s part of a much larger advertising campaign for the Amazon television show The Man in the High Castle, but it lives on its own as a collection of fictional pirate radio broadcasts.

DJs speak from their secret bunkers, describing a warn-torn dystopian America, ruled by Japan in the west and by the Nazis in the east. In this alternate depiction of 1962, religious assembly has been outlawed by the Nazis and a swastika is draped on the Statue of Liberty. One DJ opines, “always subversive, rarely lucrative, Resistance Radio” and another describes, “this rotting carcass of what used to be the United States.”

Between the banter there’s 1960s-style music done by contemporary artists, some of whom performed at SXSW in Austin this week as part of the promotional blitz for the series and for the accompanying album. I was super jealous of those who were able to pop by Resistance Radio HQ at SXSW, as there was a faux radio station on site, complete with on-air sign and vintage equipment and ephemera (see some pix on Instagram). Trolling around some more, I was doubly jealous of the lucky folks who were sent Resistance Radio promotional items, including a vinyl record and a DIY record player.

In an odd twist, some folks who have come upon the #ResistanceRadio hashtag on social media, erroneously thought that it was a real radio station. Even more bizarre, some people perceive it to be a direct attack on Donald Trump, even though the site and broadcasts are clearly fictional, set in another era (1962) and are protesting a Nazi regime. A message on the website’s audio loop also describes it as being part of the Amazon series.

I’m not sure if radio nerds were specifically targeted for this campaign, but I’m all in and it definitely makes me more intrigued about Man in the High Castle, particularly if they have some pirate radio stations as part of the story line.

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