Subject: [SocialistWorker.org] This is Citizen Radio
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Review: Jesse Phillippe
======== THIS IS CITIZEN RADIO ===============================================
Jesse Phillippe explains what /Citizen Radio/ has to offer the debate about
March 21, 2013
JAMIE KILSTEIN, the left-wing comedian, came through Champaign-Urbana, Ill.,
last semester to do his comedy routine at the University of Illinois for an
event hosted by the Student Secular Alliance, as a part of "International
For those who don't know him, Kilstein co-hosts /Citizen Radio/  with
political blogger/journalist Allison Kilkenny. His comedy is just what it
should be: parodies of the right wing, anecdotes about what it is to be a
genuine progressive in the U.S., and so on.
/Citizen Radio/ is an important and often humorous resource for progressive
news and analysis. The radio podcast is probably a more interesting story
than Kilstein's comedy itself, as it has hosted names such as Bill Ayers,
Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi, Chris Hayes, Amy Goodman and Glenn
Greenwald, plus musicians such as Talib Kweli and members of bands like
Anti-Flag, System of a Down and Bad Religion.
The podcast also serves as a locus of activism by covering ongoing struggles
and linking listeners to on-line petitions.
In the true spirit of the hipster/lifestyle politics generation, the hosts of
/Citizen Radio/ scream (as loud as they can, which isn't very loud) in favor
of vegetarianism and veganism. But at the same time, they openly refuse to
tell listeners to boycott stores like Wal-Mart because they're aware that it
isn't realistic for working-class people to do so in this increasingly
The constant plugs for vegetarianism and veganism can be annoying, and
they're often moralistic about it, but they also highlight the detrimental
effects of meat production on the environment, instead of simply trying to
pull the heartstrings of people's sympathy for animals.
And, of course, as all hipsters do, they make fun of hipsters--presuming,
incorrectly, that they themselves are not. But if one of the main objectives
of the show is to get as many "apathetic hipster douchebags" as they can to
get off the couch and into the streets, then it's probably one of the best
platforms to do that at the moment.
Support for working-class causes, like the Chicago Teachers Union strike, and
sympathy for working-class concerns also factor into the show.
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WHAT'S INTERESTING about Kilstein's quirky comedy isn't just that he does a
fairly good job of using this medium in a way that makes progressive politics
accessible. More importantly, college atheist groups request him to speak on
their campuses, and his views on the relationship between atheists, religion
and the left are often more politically advanced than the groups that ask him
While admittedly influenced by the self-styled "four horsemen of the New
Atheism"--Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late
Christopher Hitchens--the hosts of Citizen Radio openly reject the
Islamophobia that is characteristic of many of the statements "the horsemen"
make about the Muslim world.
Embracing the attitudes of the "four horsemen" has led some atheists and
atheist groups in the West to celebrate what they call "Draw Mohammed Day,"
in which participants draw stick figures labeled with the prophet's name in
front of local mosques and Islamic centers throughout the U.S.
It's obviously backward in a country like the U.S. where Muslims are the
targets of discrimination, repression and, all too often, violence for a
group of mostly white kids to commit such an act of blasphemy. It looks like
a provocation to violence and even an encouragement to the racists. Atheist
groups more recently changed the name of "Draw Mohammed Day" to
"International Blasphemy Day," presumably to deflect attention from their
Islamophobia or to style themselves as "equal opportunity offenders."
At the moment, /Citizen Radio/ seems to be one of the few left-wing outlets
that is more or less criticizing the abysmal Islamophobic trend in the
politics of atheism. Others include Richard Seymour in his latest /Unhitched:
The Trial of Christopher Hitchens/, Deepa Kumar in her book /Islamophobia and
the Politics of Empire/, independent journalist Austin Mackell, Terry
Eagleton, and Amarnath Amarasingam, et al., in /Religion and the New
/Citizen Radio/ is an increasingly important forum for discussion and debate
on the left. While it mostly serves as a news commentary outlet, the
discussion often reaches theoretical debates, with important implications for
the left. These, among others, are reasons why /Citizen Radio/ provides a
much-needed venue for the left.
Colton Brandaw contributed to this article.
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