That letter from the ARRL about the purpose of ham radio was brief and felt as though there was more to read between the lines. Of course, ten of us could read that terse message and come away with at least a dozen different interpretations. Here’s mine.
For a century amateur radio has grown by the addition of those who marvel at the magic of radio with a desire to learn more about it. Our kind of communication has been practiced and perfected over decades. It’s not a new thing, despite our willingness to explore new methods to advance the way we endlessly practice the art.
The result of all that effort yielded a robust radio service capable of spanning the globe with layers of redundancy.
These capabilities are often used for pure enjoyment, but it’s also been employed in service of the public via many facets of emergency communications. Our history of standing in the gap “when all else fails” during hurricanes, floods, etc. is the stuff they used to make movies about. In fact, some believe it to be the only reason amateur radio still exists in these modern times.
The ham radio experience provides an incredibly rich environment for those who want to build, learn, and explore radio, science, technology, electronics, software, and communication techniques.
But it can also be a valuable tool for organizing militias, extremist groups, insurrectionists, terrorists, and an endless host of nefarious organizations and it’s apparent “something” like that took place during the insurrection at the Capitol buiding in Washington.
I don’t know whether this “something” was first used on that day or if there’s been a slow infiltration of our ranks by those determined to use the amateur service as their paramilitary radio network.
The crowd of right-wing groups who descended on DC that day didn’t seem to grok cameras, facial recognition, social media, smartphone location sharing, IP tracing, or even the simple fact that nothing on the Internet is “private”.
The swift identification of so many rioters and the subsequent takedown of their favorite social media sites may have started an exodus from one means of communication to another where detection is thought to be more difficult?
The possibility that the public ever equates the amateur radio service as a tool for organizing chaos surely creates sleepless nights for those in Newington and should trigger a similar response in all who care about the hobby.
For those who doubt that ham radio could be switched off in the blink of an eye, I’d suggest you study the history of World War II and its impact on the amateur radio service. Betting that could never happen again is one of the surest ways of making certain that it will.