Long-time resident of West Hollywood, Cary Harrison is arguably one of the smartest people I know-and I know a lot of people. He is my go-to person to explain what’s beneath the surface of a news article or current event beyond the bias and propaganda of corporate mass media. Whether it’s investigative reporting, headline news, social commentary, world affairs or entertainment, Cary is like a Google server, always up-to-date and ready to dispense information with his unique flair and commentary.
Following his afternoon drive-time in New York City, CBS commentaries in Chicago, and syndicated daily radio features, Cary pioneered America’s first LGBT network morning show for SiriusXM. He then joined LA’s Air America, hosting a daily show (Harrison on the Edge), which developed the “Parade for World Peace”, now worldwide under the auspices of the
U.N. (Initially led by Harrison and Arun Gandhi, drawing 10,000 listeners to Hollywood).
Later, KPFK Public Radio tapped him for afternoons, and Resist Radio is his ultimate passion project. I recently sat down with Cary in His West Hollywood Studio to discuss the what, why, how, where and who of Resist Radio.
What is Resist Radio?
Imagine a super FM network of multicultural and wildly diverse voices and perspectives across college campuses, independent, and Public Radio stations, coast to coast! Radio has done absolutely nothing about our current situation – that is… until now!
When I pioneered the first ever national LGBT morning show for SiriusXM, I had always felt it possible to, for the first time ever, connect gay people from Key West to Alaska, Memphis to West Hollywood. The LGBT movement has no real founding fathers or mothers and who, still, has great examples of how to date or navigate the mainstream world? So connecting these far away voices to explore, invent, and ground a growing new culture made for fun and definitely entertaining good sense.
How did you come up with the name, Resist Radio?
A year and a half ago I was in the White House and was lucky enough to meet President Obama. Both being from Chicago, we talked Windy City for a moment, and then the President took a sudden turn. He told me I needed to take my radio world and create something powerful but still entertaining that would make a difference and speak to future generations.
Being handed marching orders by the President is a life-tilting experience. You walk away knowing you’ve been given a directive, especially from a commander-in-chief who can both read and write and inspire millions.
Enter the timely and powerful #Resist March that replaced LA’s Gay Pride last year. I had a single coffee with the LA Resist March founder, Brian Pendleton, who by half a cup, converted me from FlashForward Radio to ResistRadio. He’s a man of deep integrity and I admired his challenge. When the universe hands you a slam-dunk obvious alliteration… like Resist Radio…you look back up and wink.
Why radio at a time when mass media is fast-evolving while attention spans are getting shorter every year and audiences want visual stimulation with their information?
Excellent question! Just last year, listening across Public Radio stations reached an all-time high of 37.4 million and NPR’s even going to expand its news operations – and I mean bigly. These FM signals break through car windshields and entertain and enlighten millions of daily commuters. Then there’s the Podcasts …. heard by over 4 million listeners every week. Think about it: that’s a 47% increase compared to just a year ago. That said, there really is no such thing anymore as just Radio. Everything is media and it’s brilliantly accessible, depending on your device.
We are in the perfect position to enjoy both traditional and digital media simultaneously. No ears are left behind. And there’ll be massive video input, blazing social media and long-form stories from our networked college stations and various communities across the nation.
You have been a long-time host and contributor with KPFK and Pacifica Radio. How did this latest collaboration come about?
We all respect each other greatly and Pacifica and KPFK are the real deal when it comes to freedom of speech and serving the public. It was this network’s airing of George Carlin that ended up as a major Supreme Court case in 1978 (“The seven dirty words“ case) which has positively allowed everyone from Howard Stern to TV’s Modern Family to enjoy their own signature freedom of expression.
KPFK and I spent a lot of time together during the Bernie campaign and the Obama challenge seemed too juicy not to share with them. Plus, for our .edu factor, they possess possibly the largest historical recordings in the world, from never before heard Dr. Martin Luther King talks to Bette Davis talking about early women’s rights.
The upshot is a prime time slot and a mutual goal of making the future a better place on a bed of humor, satire, and appropriate gravitas.
What are your objectives with this show?
When I was on Air America, here in Los Angeles (Progressive Talk AM 1150), and our objective was to showcase Al Franken which ultimately and successfully got him into the Senate. His recent resignation not connected. The other mission was to get Rachel Maddow on MSNBC alongside Keith Olberman. Another win.
Ralph Nader recently challenged me to come up with a mechanism to provide “adult education clinics”… where we could transmit the basic civic tools of how to contact your Congressperson, how to vote, getting your city council to make smart choices, grassroots political successes, and general navigation of this gigantic Game Show in which we all find ourselves as unwitting contestants. To stitch together our wildly diverse voices, cultures, races, and perspectives. To provide a platform for millions to connect and have each other‘s backs.
Talk radio disproportionally leans Right. Why does this dynamic exist?
I’ve been asked that before because it’s such a good question. What the right does very well is entertain. They are cocky, bold, and brutish. The left only has a sliver of broadcast real estate, despite the ridiculous myth of the liberal media. Think about it – out of 800 channels, you get a single channel called MSNBC and a five minute sketch on SNL. There it is – the liberal media. On radio, it is perilously nonexistent in a sea of crackling preachers and bloviating Limbaugh wannabes. It’s like being chained to the center of Mr. Ringling’s Big Top.
The left knows it has mere moments to get out massive pieces of information and ends up doing frantic data feeds to desperately get out information, like a French Underground agent broadcasting from the back room of the Hofbräuhaus. This is not a way to successfully connect with people who are hurting.
Let’s face it; more people got their hard news from Jon Stuart on Comedy Central than all the news networks combined. Intelligence, humor, and satire make even the most wretched information diet delicious. It’s appalling and magnificent at the same time and I vote yes for that warm and approachable technique.
What is at stake for liberals and progressives right now in real-time?
That a goobersmoocher like Roy Moore could pedophile his way up the GOP ladder – in broad daylight – is metaphor enough to quickly answer that question. President pussygrabber and his cabal of crooks and liars, hell-bent on stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, is the stuff of Dickens or Joseph Goebbels – I’m not exactly sure which at this point.
Food, water, and shelter are in the crosshairs. We have never seen such a chasm between rich and poor since the days of the Pharaoh. There are tens of millions of smart, decent, wonderful people who yearn for a balanced civil society and their voices have been shut out from both politics and mass media. It is time for us to own our balls and stand up for that which we believe in.
Can public radio make a big difference in the 2018 Congressional Elections? Any predictions?
Public radio cannot endorse candidates or run election advertising. It is our job to see that suppressed voices rise to the surface – that is the nature of journalism: to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Since the public owns the airwaves, the public is entitled full and unfettered access to all perspectives, points of view, and solutions, now or soon to be discovered.
I can predict a great and possible future as we recently saw with the unsuccessful GOP move to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act. It was Timmy and Mildred and Steve, and Jason, Jennifer, Jared, Josh, and Jonah who chucked political hand grenade into the somnambulistic salad that is Capitol Hill. A mere 15% of the public – into action – defeated one of the most cynical and cruel plans concoctable by these greedy and gropey poltroons.
Some say that the Democratic Party leans too much toward the center. What do you think?
Actually, center right is where they decidedly sit. The major shift occurred under Bill Clinton, one of the greatest politicians in our US history. With a long awaited balanced budget came compromises well beyond what seems now to be recoverable. I like to use the analogy of Germany. Ex-Nazis and historically some of the roughest, toughest bastards ever to occupy a continent. If these historically-noted hardasses can offer each other the finest in universal healthcare – with state-of-the-art medicine, wellness, even meditation centers, how do we explain our system – especially since we were never bombed to smithereens?
The Swiss, not known for their humor, offer impeccable first world medicine to every one of their citizens. If a country with such little emotional sensitivity can provide such tenderness to its own people, it invites something more than minor discussion.
Who is your audience in terms of demographic?
Resist Radio is focused on bringing young listeners back into radio where they will be connected with millions in a like community. We will always have the 50+ crowd. It is the under 50 crowd who is left with inhospitable air and water, melting glaciers, and a hell of a lot of heavy lifting down the road. The older folks can retire to some sort of New Zealand safe haven; the millennials above and below, are left holding an empty elephants scrotum.
We will be going into underserved neighborhoods and communities who have never been invited or welcomed into the public radio landscape. In my world, this is Hotel Earth and everyone gets a room!
How is Resist Radio funded?
In the spirit of public radio, we must be self-supporting through contributions and angels. There are great deals of moving parts with an already proven successful endgame. The interconnection of hundreds of stations with this entertaining and empowering educational initiative is the future for the generations to take over and improve. Our national media training program has already got our deep commitment to skillful competence.
We would love everyone to join us and become a “donor-producer“ and fuel this nonviolent, heartfelt positive resistance.
How is RR different than other progressive shows?
My goal, apart from pushing for great radio, is to teach the generations who will be taking over. The difference between propaganda and fake news and real news is hideously muddied at the moment. How to source and vet information, fact check, and pierce the cloud of Orwellian-Huxleyian media madness is a listener tool that can never be taken away.
Are any topics out of the question?
It’s funny; everything really boils down to the 3 G’s: green, ganja, and gay. These three G’s incorporate everything from medicine and sociology to environment and civil liberties. But, yes – we will not be covering what the Kardashians ate for dinner.
You have interviewed some of the leading voices of our time. Who would you like to interview that you haven’t done so already?
I regret that I never got to interview Leonard Nimoy before he passed. And I still want Julie Andrews to sing me to sleep.
It’s funny; I get starstruck at the wrong people. I can tell dirty jokes with Al Pacino but I would be fumbling over the correct berry fork at brunch with Stephen Hawking. Hearty yucks with Liza Minnelli, yet completely tongue-tied with Noam Chomsky. I guess I’m actually discovering a fetish – Smart is hot.
I would still love to interview John Williams, an incredible musical inspiration. Also, Don Trump (but I’m not on FOXNews so don’t have a scintilla of a chance). Boring deep into that dark psyche would be an orgy of insanity and chaos – Game of Thrones meets South Park.
Is there anyone that you would not interview on your show?
I have been faced with that dilemma many times in the past. Should you give equal democratic voice to neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and Breitbarters? For me, the answer is yes. In journalism, no subject affecting the public is taboo; no truth too forbidden. It’s one thing to simply hand them the microphone and let them rattle on from the dull misfires of their brain stems; it’s another to reverse-engineer their thinking on the public stage. Remarkably, when dissected and challenged, the ensuing burlesque is akin to a drunken carnival worker waking up next to a collie. Nothing more than that. Besides, a nice death threat reminds you that your email is still working.
I did a live on air debate with a fundamentalist “God hates fags“ enthusiast in which I bet him $100 he couldn’t find the word “homosexual“ in the Bible. It is definitively not printed – even one time – and the spluttering, wheezing, and tail-chasing was the kind of public reveal that brought laserlike clarity to a long-held incorrect myth. And no, he did not cough up his hundred bucks – doubly destroying the truth quotient – or TQ, as we like to call it.
What three personal facts about you can you share that you believe makes the show unique?
Hmmm. I was spawned from the Mayflower and Abe Lincoln on my mother’s side and signers of the Declaration and Constitution on the other. I like to think the Founding Daddies are peering down (or up) at me with their spiritual tasers, zapping me into doing something half decent in this life Seems democratizing radio and creating a broad voice for multiculturalism, inclusion, and free-flowing information ought to be the new Red, White, and Blue.
Why would someone who doesn’t listen to talk radio tune-in for your show?
There’s a good reason they don’t tune into current talk radio and I don’t blame them. ResistRadio is authentic, pithy, perspicacious, and polyamorous. And any other P’s I can think of. It’s slickly produced high-quality intelligent good clean radio fun. If you don’t walk away overstimulated, you simply weren’t listening.
Please visit www.resistradio.org for more information.