Category Archives: numbers stations

GB84 – who was the real Stephen Sweet (aka ‘The Jew’)???

In David Peaces haunting, brilliant book ‘GB84’, the character of Stephen Sweet, enemy of Socialism, the Miners Strike and the free market, is portrayed as an eccentric and emotional Right-wing warrior in thrall to the UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. A peculiar figure in the book, he is both a fierce defender of Conservative values and a fragile, emotional creature with a flamboynt sense of style. He is one of the main characters in Peaces haunting account of the dispute (that went for a over a year between 1984 and 1985) between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Conservative Government of the day.

But who was Stephen Sweet – was he a fiction, a faction or a composite of several figures involved in the dispute?

It seems that Stephen Sweet was simply based on the Milionaire David Hart, an advisor to Thatcher and the National Coal Board Chief Ian MacGregor. Through his efforts to get Miners back to work, to break the picket and to establish a breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers, who did not support the NUM action. He was associated with the Thatcher family, including Mark Thatcher, and if you read the links below, you’ll find out some more about the man who is Stephen Sweet. Is it a coincidence that when you put their names together you get SweetHart??? A guide to an attempted coup in Equitorial Guinea – with some familiar names implicated. – more on the ‘Wonga’ coup – an article on a few of the key figures in the dispute including David Hart and Arthur Scargill – a fantastic book review and analysis of its content, context and meaning. Highly recommended. A socialist party review on ‘outstanding accounts’ of the Miners Strike. – media bias in the portrayal of the NUM, Miners and Police. – attempted coups in African States, with Mark Thatcher and David Hart – what happened before, during and after the strike. – a brilliant site dedicated to the work of Martin Shakeshaft who documented the stike with his camera.

Image taken courtesy of The Guardian;

The Creeps

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Please stick with me on this.

In the early 90’s there was a late night Channel Four show called ‘Manhattan Cable’, made by World of Wonder productions (WOW). It was introduced by Laurie Pike, and had RuPaul on it as a reporter. It featured clips of Public Access TV Broadcasts from the Manhattan area. There are a couple of clips that stick with me – one with a guy singing ‘Happy Birthday Filthy The Dog’ in a weird, muffled voice while spinning a camera around a dog (presumably the ‘Filthy’ the song was dedicated to). The other as a regular spot featuring a woman who would roll her eyes back and ‘channel’ the voices of the dead through her. The sound was a bit ‘hissy’ and the disturbing ‘voices’ emanating from this woman leaves quite an impression. You can check it out (in fact, you can check out some full length broadcasts of ‘Manhattan Cable’) here;

Manhattan Cable Episode 1

If I took the image away, and left the sound of that woman channelling the voices of the dead, then the effect would still be startling. It gives a feeling of unease, something that can’t quite be rationalised. I get the same feeling when I listen to clips of ‘Numbers Stations’. Its the sense that the sound is coming from a place you do not want to be at. It is the stuff of nightmares or disturbing dreams.

Numbers Stations – described as;

“… shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast voices reading streams of numbers, words, or letters (sometimes using a phonetic alphabet).

The voices that can be heard on these stations are often mechanically generated. They are in a wide variety of languages, and the voices are usually women’s, though sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used.

Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are channels of communication used to send messages to spies. This has not been publicly acknowledged by any government that may operate a numbers station, but in one case, Cuban numbers station espionage has been publicly prosecuted in a United States federal court.[1]

Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s. This increase suggests that as spy-related phenomena, they were not unique to the Cold War.

Number station characteristics vary greatly. Some follow strict schedules, whilst others may be at seemingly random times. The voices may read out numbers, letters, words, tunes or morse code. The voice reading the information may be automated or on-the-spot, it may be a young or old(er) person and may be male or female.”

(Source – Numbers Stations on Wiki)

There have been several instances of Numbers Stations being the inspiration for musicians;

Kraftwerk – Their song ‘Numbers’ (from the album ‘Computer World’) is influenced by numbers station transmissions.

Boards Of Canada – their work on a general level seems infused with the sense of unease and confusion that comes from listening to Numbers Stations transmissions. On a more specific level, the ‘Gyroscope’ track from ‘Geogaddi’ album is thought to contain a sample of a child counting provided by the Conet Project.

The ‘Conet Project’ ( a 4 cd collection of Numbers Station recording on the Irdial label, from where a lot of the recent interest in Numbers Stations has stemmed from.

Wilco – On their masterpiece ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ (the title itself is taken from a Numbers Station broadcast, which is sampled in the song ‘Poor Places’).

Pitchfork review of ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’

A Labyrinth 13 produciton all about Numbers Stations;

Achtung! Gong & Chimes Numbers Station from Labyrinth13 on Vimeo.

and then the same guys really sum up the sense of creeping dread with their ‘visual representation’ of the ‘Swedish Rhapsody’ – depending on your state of mind, it may not be advisable to view this on your own with the lights off at 3 in the morning – seriously;

Attention! Achtung! Atención! from Labyrinth13 on Vimeo.

To hear the ‘Swedish Rhapsody’ broadcast in audio only (courtesy of The Conet Project);
The Swedish Rhapsody