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If you want to meet self-declared prophet James Lloyd in person, you have to drive twenty miles up winding dirt roads deep into the Oregon mountains. But there's no real need to make the trek. With the right equipment, you can hear his message anywhere in America.
The biblical soothsayer produces a seven-hour daily radio program called Christian Media Network in a converted barn a pebble's toss from the one-room cabin he calls home. On the show Lloyd and a few like-minded collaborators warn that corporations are "fascist," the church is "in bed with the Devil," grocery stores sell "poison," media and the government are "evil," and all of these knaves are conspiring to bring about our ruin.
Lloyd also tells listeners that former United Nations chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali is the Antichrist and that he'll take the organization's helm again by next November, ushering in a nuclear apocalypse.
In the late Nineties, Lloyd's show aired on FM stations in Fresno and Pensacola. But both dropped him when angry listeners began clogging their phone lines. So five years ago he moved the show to Radio Miami International (WRMI).
The little-known local station is one of only four commercial U.S. shortwave broadcasters. All of them air a staggering mix of programs while flying beneath the radar of federal regulators. But WRMI's blend may be the most potent.
Over the past decade, CIA moles, Holocaust deniers, survivalists, white supremacists, fringe Christian sects, and an exiled president have beamed their messages from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on its transmitter all for as little as a dollar a minute.
Such groups have continued to turn to shortwave even in the Internet age because it is scantly regulated and more difficult to jam than other media. It is also able to reach remote locales without the help of local service providers and relay stations. "Shortwave remains the only form of getting directly from the station to the listener," explains WRMI owner Jeff White. "And this means one thing: When everything has gone to hell and no other medium can get in, shortwave can."
It's 3:12 a.m. when White's royal blue Thunderbird rumbles up the road to WRMI's transmitter station on the western fringe of Hialeah. It's a low-slung, cinder-block building slathered with splotchy stucco and surrounded by overflowing garbage bags.
A bear of a man, White heaves himself from the car. Then he lumbers around to the back of the building. "This is the big antenna that goes south," he says, pointing toward a series of 60-foot-tall electrical poles arranged into a massive V and connected by a curtain of wires. "It creates a directional toward Barranquilla, Colombia."
White sweeps his arm left toward another antenna, a squat three-sided tower covered with a lattice of metal. "That one," he explains, "points toward Vancouver and takes in all of North America." When atmospheric conditions are right, he adds, the signal can be heard as far away as Europe and Asia.
With that, White heads back to the front of the building and unlocks the door. Inside, the place is cluttered with gutted machinery, stray wrenches, and rusty shovels. Black and orange cables snake over the linoleum floor.
In the center of the main room is a hulking metal cabinet. "That's the primary transmitter," White explains as he punches the cobalt blue start button.
The machine rumbles into action. And White scurries around, making last-minute adjustments. Then at 4:00 a.m. he clicks a play button on a computer perched near the entrance, and the morning's programming begins.
Finally he takes a deep breath, pulls a hanky from his pocket, and mops his brow. "I have no life but this," he says later. "I've been going to bed at midnight and getting up at 2:00 a.m."
This is hardly the existence White, now age 46, envisioned when he stumbled onto shortwave as a teenager in the early Seventies. An Indianapolis native, he was fiddling with his father's tri-band radio and found himself listening spellbound to the Voice of Germany in English. "I was living in this isolated Midwest town," he explains. "You didn't really have any international contact. But shortwave brought Berlin to my living room."
Before long, he was hooked. He spent hours a day listening to South Pacific music on Radio Tahiti, and Soviet propaganda on Radio Moscow. When Richard Nixon made his 1972 China visit, White tuned in to live coverage on Radio Peking.
By the late Seventies, White had become one of those voices sought by shortwave hobbyists worldwide. A radio reporter, he produced segments about Latin America for Christian Science Monitor Radio, the BBC, and Radio Netherlands. And he became something of a celebrity. Dino Bloise, a Dominican-born Broward County resident who spends 20 to 30 hours a week listing to shortwave, named his first son after White. "Jeff was simply the first name that came to my mind because I'd heard his voice so much," Bloise explains in Spanish. "To me he was like Peter Jennings."
In the mid-Eighties, White began branching out and doing research on shortwave listenership. Then in 1989, he caught wind that Jorge Mas Canosa and his powerhouse anti-Castro group, the Cuban American National Foundation, were looking to launch a shortwave radio program. So he contacted the CANF office and offered to help find them a transmitter.