By Nick Cardillo
I’m not really sure that you can call me an R.E.M. fan – I listen to the greatest hits for sure (“Shiny Happy People”, “Losing my Religion”, “Man on the Moon” etc.) from time to time, but I’m not a dedicated fan by any means. That hasn’t stopped me from finding their music interesting, especially when listening to the song “Radio Free Europe.” Listen to it once and it will sound incomprehensible. Listen to it again in a vain attempt to decipher its meaning, and listen to it a third time to simply find yourself nodding along to the music without even knowing why.
There is a simple reason that “Radio Free Europe” sounds as garbled as it does – lead singer Michael Stipe hadn’t finished all the lyrics by the time of recording – but, since I woke up with the song stuck in my head knowing full well we were visiting the real Radio Free Europe today, I decided to look into what those indecipherable lyrics were trying to say. The song is a cautionary measure against the power of the station, spreading more propaganda than it was messages and broadcasting more lies than hope from the United States. I wondered if my image of the institution could be colored by this revelation.
In short, it was not.
Today, handling all facets of multimedia, Radio Free Europe is an international news organisation, and touring their facilities – stealing glimpses of reporters translating stories from Arabic into English and cutting together news videos – was fascinating to me. I was in awe of the power of this free press who no doubt had given so much hope to citizens of oppressed countries for generations. Striking photographs of these people and locations lined the walls of the building and I so wanted to hear the stories that went along with these still images capturing only a second of something that I knew was much greater.
I was very soon able to hear from someone who had called Radio Free Europe an inspiration: Monika Pajerova, a student activist during the Velvet Revolution of 1989, who became one of the leading figures in the opposition. Ms. Pajerova could not have been more of an inspiration, speaking of her experiences on the front lines of protests clashing with the official police as she and other students and citizens of Prague advocated for a free government. Despite its frequency being jammed in the Czech Republic, Monika listened to Radio Free Europe and called the woman whose voice came through crackled and indecipherable in her own right as her hero.
Ms. Pajerova was excited to speak to us about American politics, too, and their impact on the global scale and, as we left, she assured us that will be our generation that makes the change we wish to see in society.
If Radio Free Europe was able to in any way foster someone as influential and inspirational as Monika Pajerova, then I’m gonna have to disagree with R.E.M.