How CB Radio Foreshadowed the Impossibility of Online Discourse

Back in the 1970s, when truckers became American pop-culture heroes and CB radios became commonplace in Malaise Era cars, it seemed that anybody who wanted to install a transceiver under the dash could chat with other drivers for miles around. In reality, CB radios never worked so well for any kind of dependable communication, unless you installed thousands of watts (and dollars) of illegal RF amplification in your rig. I took many a caravan road trip during the 1980s with thrift-store CBs and found that you couldn’t talk for more than about 90 seconds before some troll heard your conversation and attempted to render it impossible.

Guys (it’s always guys) would sit hunched over their costly transmitters, scanning channels until they heard someone attempting to communicate, and then they’d broadcast gibberish over your conversation with the other cars in your caravan. I recorded the “Mighty Mighty Big Dog” in Southern California, back in 1988 or so, and used it as the basis for this Murilee Arraiac song. In it, we hear the Mighty Mighty Big Dog proclaiming his mastery of channels 7, 1, and 26.

Fast-forward to the last few years, and we who run the 24 Hours of Lemons Rally encourage teams to install cheap CB radios (preferably junkyard-obtained) in their cars. Surely the Mighty Mighty Big Dog and his ilk have gone on to become trolls on online news sites, no?

No! Last summer, I rigged up a Cobra CB in my Lexus LS 400, complete with pretty decent magnet-mount antenna and dash-mount external speaker, for the Rocky Mountain Breakdown Lemons Rally. While I found it possible to communicate from Pikes Peak to racers 30 miles away, it wasn’t long before some CB troll found us and began chasing the Lemons Rallyers around the dial, stepping on everyone with his mindless “UHHHHH—YEAH!” utterances and whistling. For hours. We also encouraged teams to use the Zello app to emulate CB, but would the Bandit have used a smartphone app? So, for the same reason there are no intelligent comments on news websites, CB radio cannot be counted upon for reliable highway communication.

Source: Read Full Article