More Fake News, And A Promise.

      8 Comments on More Fake News, And A Promise.

Well, it’s happened again.

Along the same lines of the hysterical hair on fire “they’re taking two meters away!” fake news from last summer, the latest amateur radio rumor mongering originates from the state of California. It seems that ham radio repeaters are being kicked off government-owned towers, particularly repeaters used for emergency service.

This would be very disturbing news if it were actually true. The truth is much more mild. CALFIRE, the state level fire protection authority, is evaluating every repeater site and it turns out a small number of them are not used for emergency service. In other words, they are just squatting on the tower without providing any meaningful emergency communications function. These repeater owners are being told to pay for the tower space at the market rate or get out.

It isn’t any more complicated than that. As everyone knows, it takes only one scatterbrained big mouth with a social media account to start the chain reaction. And once it gets going, it’s impossible to stop. There is never a shortage of suckers who will like and share and copy and paste without even the smallest level of critical thinking.

It smelled from the very beginning.

I suspected this was fake news. I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I didn’t have to be. The rumor appeared only on social media and obscure blogs. No authoritative amateur radio news source carried the story.

STOCK PHOTO

More than one survival/prepper blog proposed that it was really a government plot to ultimately outlaw amateur radio. Their theory, so it goes, was that amateur radio communications could not be controlled & monitored by the government so the government would just shut it down.

Other commentators proposed the government was embarrassed that multi-billion dollar public safety communications systems were being outperformed by hobbyists using cheap off the shelf equipment. To avoid looking bad, they kicked amateur radio repeaters off the towers. That the story originated in California, a state famous for political controversies, gave the suspicions additional fuel.

It takes only light scrutiny to renounce these ridiculous tin foil hat conspiracy theories. And as with the last round of viral amateur radio fake news, it got big enough to prompt a statement from the ARRL:

“By all credible and reliable accounts, the State of California has not turned its back on Amateur Radio as an emergency communication resource nor have established repeater owners been asked to remove their equipment from state-owned sites unless they pay sizeable fees…

…CAL FIRE has transferred responsibility for its communications sites to its property management department. That department has the task of evaluating each site, its condition, use, and tenants. If a repeater not known to be associated with the emergency management function of a local jurisdiction is found in a CAL FIRE vault, the default action is to move it out or subject it to commercial rental rates.

…if any affected repeater is in any way involved with local emergency or government support activity, they should ask that agency to engage with CAL FIRE concerning the repeater. If the agency makes the case, there is a good chance that the repeater will be unaffected,”

You can read the entire ARRL statement here.

A promise to Off Grid Ham readers.

I cannot and will not chase down every shred of amateur radio gossip that floats by. What I can do is promise to post articles and information that I have personally vetted and verified. Being truthful is more important than collecting clicks. I want to be known as someone whose word can be trusted.

I promise to:

  • not let a single word appear on Off Grid Ham without first being given a great deal of critical thought and editorial discretion.
  • refrain from repeating bullshit that I can’t prove.
  • treat the truth like the priceless commodity it is.
  • work hard to earn and keep my readers’ respect.

I’m really disappointed with the individuals who ran to their keyboards and didn’t question any of it because “they saw it on the internet so it must be true”. I’m even more disgusted with the bloggers and influencers who used their large platforms to spread a story they knew or should have known was suspicious on its face and required further fact finding. Had they done that, this rumor would not have spread so far. I hope they are happy with their site traffic metrics because it cost them their credibility.

8 thoughts on “More Fake News, And A Promise.

  1. randall krippner

    I ran into this item too and as soon as I saw it I thought something strange was going on and quickly found out it was a lot of nonsense. About 5 minutes with Google was all it took to find out what was really going on. If your repeater wasn’t actively involved in emergency services, you were going to have to start paying the same rental fees as everyone else. It’s astonishing how quickly that turned into “OMG they’re going to shut down amateur radio!”

    I’m used to seeing this kind of thing in the areas of health and food. It seems every other day there’s a new headline trumpeting some new utterly ridiculous claim about some “super” food or supplement or treatment or diet. Fortunately it’s fairly rare in amateur radio.

    Thanks Chris, your efforts are very much appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Chris Warren Post author

      I can’t change the world and tamp down all the BS flying around out there, but I can control what I say myself and provide radio amateurs with at least one little corner of the internet where you trust what you are being told. I’m truly embarrassed over some of the statements I’ve seen on this topic. It’s disappointing when people you respect allow themselves to be played.

      Reply
  2. J.R.

    Thank you for taking a stand for honesty and self-respect. Credibility seems to be a four letter word these days.

    Reply
    1. Chris Warren Post author

      Thanks for the support Phil. Given the credibility of most media outlets, it’s pretty clear that I’ll never make a living as a journalist unless I am willing to dump everything I’ve ever been taught about honesty.

      Reply
  3. Tom Brent

    When I first heard this news I too went to google to find out the facts. What I found initially, was that main stream media was also carrying a story stating that “All amateur radio repeaters were being banned by California and removed from public property”. These were main stream news sources life foxnews, and one CA TV station. I stopped looking after that. My time is too important to me. I did relate what I’d read to a few others who also found the same BS misconception permeating the news. I’m glad you did some digging and found the true story. What I don’t like is news from almost ANY source is now subject to questioning ……. And in this case it represents a good case of Maybe, or Maybe not. As mentioned, CA is a state with a lot of crazy laws and people. I used to live there for work. And it makes this story believable just because there are indeed a lot of nonsense laws on the books there. On the other hand, it makes no sense for any state to limit it’s capabilities of emergency communications. I’ve even attended a meeting in which a CA state emergency manager was presenting the methods used in an emergency and how amateur comms could be integrated. He only covered his ‘area’ in which CA is divided into 4 or 5 sections I think. Still, having lived there and seen first hand some of the garbage that goes on, it would not surprise me if some fool did try to get rid of the repeaters for whatever reason. Next they will say amateur radio was used in a robbery or worse and blame the whole community. That’s all it would take for the crazies to try to fix the problem with another stupid law. That’s one reason you are reading this is it not? Because we all know that something big and bad is coming?

    Reply
    1. Chris Warren Post author

      Well Tom, you’re right: Anything coming from California could be for real no matter how kooky it sounds!

      And you’re also right that the mainstream media cannot be trusted. One should not have to try so hard to find the truth, but that’s the world we live in.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply

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