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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Getting to know ‘Anarchist Handbook’

Among the slew of offerings KDVS puts forth each week, month, and year is a politically named and relatively new talk show hosted by Clay Norris and Brian Moen. Together they compose “Anarchist Handbook,” a weekly forum with a taste for – let’s not simply say “anarchy” – challenging the institutional framework of the everyday.
Or as their website reads, Anarchist Handbook is about “political discussion and applying the anarchist ideology to modern society.”
Before you scoff or raise eyebrows at the lofty and, to some, radical notion, know their tenets as explained in a phone interview by Moen, a co-host and senior philosophy major on the show:
“Anarchist ideology is simply two points,” said Moen. “One, we should be extremely skeptical of all authority and skeptical of any information that they create or disseminate. And two, any institution of power, any authority that does not justify its own existence in terms of justice or fairness, should be taken down or dismantled and either replaced by one which does represent justice and fairness or not replaced at all in case whatever function it has serves no purpose in society toward justice and fairness.”
Hardly the society-burning and city-sacking some might think of. More like a dose of reason, if anything.
“We try to make [our tenets] very clear so it’s not some very authorial political speech that people can interpret in many ways,” Moen said. “Our objective on the show is to take contemporary political dialogue and evade the framework of discourse which is imposed by the prevailing institutions of society.”
In quasi-conjunction with the anti-corporate sentiment of something like Occupy, Anarchist Handbook takes on the stylization of something going against the grain. That is, one might call it an alternative of sorts with the label of constructive contrarianism.
“I think the objective of the show is to give people another voice that isn’t sponsored,” Norris, the other host and a 2009 Davis graduate, said over the phone. “A show that doesn’t have any real financial agenda other than that we want people to be more aware of their surroundings. I think most news media is just entertainment and doesn’t serve to benefit anyone’s mind or attitude. I guess our objective is to give people an alternative.”
Moen and Norris’ show was born from what they described as a natural passion for political discourse. As friends outside the show, it is not surprising that they engaged regularly in politically themed conversation. Conversations that, apparently and inevitably, led them to form Anarchist Handbook, the formal product of their genuine interest.
“I do this in my free time, too,” Norris said. “I like to have conversations with people.”
One of the reactions he looks for, he went on to note, is hearing someone learn. That “I’ve never really heard that before” moment that is so rare and satisfying.
In Moen’s case, when asked what led him to an “Anarchist”-themed show on KDVS, a far cry from what might be considered normal, he described it as a long-festering suspicion and disbelief.
“I remember even as a teenager feeling like the messages I was getting from the mainstream media had assumptions built in that I thought were wrong and represented certain interests. And then reading people who wrote about it,” Moen said, citing authors like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Authors who, in his opinion, sought to assess society outside the framework of categorization given to people by the dominant institution.
I guess one could say, then, to propose a perhaps lofty comparison, that like Chomsky and Zinn, Moen and Norris are attempting the same on the local, Davis level. That is, seeking to assess our society, both locally and globally, outside the standardized framework of the everyday.
It wasn’t always Moen’s objective, though. At first he came into KDVS, like so many, looking for a music show.
“I got involved in KDVS last year volunteering, trying to get a music show,” Moen said. “Then I decided to do a public affairs show. It was my co-host Clay’s idea … We came in and made a demo and [KDVS] accepted it. Not that KDVS advocates our views,” he added carefully. “They just thought our show was up to par.”
Anarchist Handbook has been on the air for some months now, and “it’s just getting going,” Coen said.
“We’re hoping to get really involved with local political movement,” he said. “We talk about Occupy a lot on the show. We care a lot about society being organized on the local level, so we want to try to create a discourse for the local community.”
When asked if they’ve received any backlash, Moen said “not yet,” but they hope to soon.
You can tune into Anarchist Handbook at 9 a.m. on Fridays, or pull it up on the KDVS website anytime.

JAMES O’HARA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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