Friday, 24 August 2012

Elitism In The Hobby

Elitism? In Our Hobby? Surely not?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "Elite" thus:

"noun: a group of people considered to be superior in a particular society or organization: the country’s educated elite"

I prefer The Free Dictionary's definition:

"The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favoured treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources."

I hate elitist attitudes and snobbery of all kinds and it seems it exists in our hobby too. While such attitudes are often considered par for the course in some amateur radio circles, I was surprised to find it tucked away in a little corner of our hobby. Those with common sense will know that there is good and bad in all walks of life, but we are probably all guilty of it to some degree. We're all human and have opinions, but when these have a detrimental effect on the hobby and particularly to newcomers, something needs to be said. We should stand up against bullies and those who feel they are somehow superior to others.

An antipodean DX forum recently made sweeping statements about the SkywavesDX FM forum and its members, pointing some rather unsavoury fingers, accusing the membership of being parochial and making "excessive noise" in forum posts. OK, we have our niche interests and foibles, but, as polite as the tone of the message seemed when first read, it clearly dug deeply into the running of the group and the personalities of some members, leaving a very bitter taste in the mouth.

The person in question (I am unsure if he is a co-owner or moderator) who made this cruel attack, skilfully worded the post so it came across as a well-meaning message, yet it was highly critical of those lesser mortals who struggled to receive anything 'even half-decent' (ooops. snobbery there perhaps?). It also suggested that these barbarians were holding back the real enthusiasts. This is not the first time this person has been highly critical of Skywaves.

We have to ask the question, was SkywavesDX really deserving of this assessment? Well, whether it was or not, it was just plain wrong to have made such a post in the first instance. What right does he have to be so judgmental? He is one of the main faces of this forum, yet he is obviously unable to see the damage he is doing to it. This person has caused such a stir in the world of broadcast DXing lately that he has actually succeeded in deterring newcomers to the hobby and even making those established give it up and sell their equipment it would seem (there is documented evidence of this) and actually forced a member to close down his radio blog. This man has done nothing other than to alienate himself from everybody in our hobby, especially those who are not in the same privileged position as himself. He actually stated that DXers who didn't have high end receivers and towering aerial arrays should not be taken seriously and should leave the hobby.

The same man even suggested starting a European FM DX forum for beginners so they could be kept away from their established superior DX forum.

My feelings about this are so strong that I felt that this matter could not be swept under the carpet. Normally one could laugh off such snobbery, but it became clear that this bickering was having quite a detrimental effect on the hobby and some of its aficionados.

Who am I to speak out? Well, I have always been one of those people who speaks his mind and I admit that I don't always do it tactfully. I don't have the 'gift of the gab', but I will shout loudly if I feel something is unfair. Most of us have hobbies of one form or another. Some of us like to follow our local football team, others follow their favourite TV soaps or pop groups. These are all interests, no matter how big or small, but the fact is that they are almost always more fun when you share them with others. There is nothing to be gained from withholding information and there are huge benefits when you pass on useful and helpful information to others. Sadly, there will always be those highly competitive members who want to keep everything to themselves. Of course, they are perfectly entitled to do so if they wish, but what a shame that is. Personally, I find these people rather greedy and obnoxious.

The great thing about our radio hobby is that we all start off on an equal playing field. A good friend and fellow DXer occasionally reminds me that propagation is simply an act of nature over which we have no control. We are at its mercy and there is no telling what it will do and who it will affect next. It can be very localised or affect large areas. It has predictable and unpredictable qualities and it these are accessible to all of us. The idea of attaching elitism to something so unpredictable is just ridiculous. Compare to fishing for instance: Do you stand a better chance if you have a bigger rod and some prime bait? Of course not. That doesn't tell you where the fish are. Even smaller rods can pull in a bigger catch than that guy with the huge rod. It's just about being in the right place at the right time. Anybody can catch the big one. It's a bit like a game of hide and seek.

One of the greatest gifts in this hobby is the ability to help newcomers and I would urge all those who share our fascinating hobby to do just that: Offer useful tips and guidelines; Share your experiences; Alert others to DX events whenever possible. You can do this individually or in your club or society. Why on earth would anybody in their right mind want to cast certain members of the DX community aside and tell them are not be welcomed if they don't achieve certain minimum distances in their logbooks or they have less than 15 elements on a tower, which must be at a minimum height of 40 metres? (It's true. It's been stated!) There is nothing wrong with trying to raise standards, but don't leave those less fortunate out in the cold.

So far, I have avoided mentioning names and I really do not wish to 'out' the culprits, but I will mention names if this gross unfairness continues.


  1. Australia's highest scoring cricketer, Sir Donald Bradnam was reviled by his peers because of his autocratic administrative style.

  2. I think it's always been the case Jack. Many well-known people appear amiable in the public domain, but behind the scenes, well, it can be a different story. I can think of several celebrities like this. There are exceptions, thankfully.