They Can't All Be Walter Williams -- Part One
By L. Neil Smith
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
I was born the same year as commercial TV, although it wasn't until I was in First Grade that my family actually bought one of the infernal devices. Before that, we amused ourselves with the infernal device of an earlier age, radio.
What I recall about radio from the late 40s and early 50s begins with the music of that era. (I'm not "waxing" nostalgic: Bill Haley and Elvis did the world a favor by putting Patti Page and Hugo Winterhalter out of our misery.) It includes morning musical variety -- Arthur Godfrey and Don MacNeil -- that anticipated late-night TV talk shows, and "prime time" offerings of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor, Paul Whiteman, and others. I'm not forgetting drama: The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Inner Sanctum, and The FBI in Peace and War. Gunsmoke began on radio, starring William Conrad.
There were soap operas, too, but I'm repressing them.
Radio and I go back a long way in another respect. For a year, starting at age 13, in connection with a Boy Scout project, I panel-engineered the weekly remote broadcast of Protestant church services at an overseas air force base.
Old time radio and the first 40 years of TV had a lot in common. After a nationally-broadcast show, folks would come to school or work the next day and talk over what they'd heard or seen with everybody else, who'd heard or seen the same thing. It's said that during commercials for I Love Lucy, water pressure plummeted across the nation as millions of Americans all got up and went to the bathroom at the same time. Some even profess to miss that kind of hydraulic togetherness (which came to a well-deserved end at the start of the cable era). I'm not one of them; I remember all too well a time when, in most of the country, there was only one channel, and you had to watch I Love Lucy.
And I never did love Lucy.
In these post-Mass Man days, TV and radio are individuated. We have cable and satellites to thank for that, along with the demise of Top 40. Anyone who knows me knows I listen to talk radio. That wasn't always the case: when the inappropriately sainted Alan Berg was holding forth, I avoided it. He wasn't just a socialist, incapable of thinking his way out of a wet paper bag, he believed that being ugly to callers constituted entertainment. He was killed by a neofascist even stupider than he was, but it was bound to happen sooner or later, if only at the hands of some litle old lady he'd gratuitously pissed off.
My opinion of talk radio received no immediate correction at the other end of Denver's political spectrum. KOA's Mike Rosen was -- and remains today -- an intellectually dishonest hysteric (and admitted "baseball socialist") whose habitual reaction to being trapped in an inconsistency is to retort, "That was then, this is now." Devoid of any observable creativity or imagination, when presented with new possiblities or conditions, he is flounderingly incapable of adapting. Like Alan Berg, he beats up on his callers and the guests that he assumes his listeners will disapprove of. Unlike Berg he doesn't have the excuse all "liberals" have, that, at some fundamental level, they're mentally ill.
Looking back, I'm only grateful that I never had a chance to hear Don Imus until I'd had a chance to experience fully-evolved Homo sapiens on the radio first.
I altered my view on talk radio when I heard Rush Limbaugh dealing with listeners' opinions he disagreed with. He didn't yell or insult his callers. I've written a lot about the Man from Cape Girardeau, much of it negative, and doubtless will again. I disagree with him half the time (as any Libertarian will) but it's a different half than I'm used to. I almost invariably like other Limbaugh listeners I meet; most of them are more radical and principled than he is. As an occasional songwriter who began with political parodies in high school, I love what he does with music, and it should never be forgotten how he rallied opposition to Bozo and Evita when we might otherwise have been overwhelmed.
Another great voice is that of Ken Hamblin, Harley-riding "Black Avenger", former civil rights worker, news photographer and -- ironically -- admirer of Alan Berg. Son of a West Indian immigrant, who grew up in New York, Detroit, and the 87nd Airborne, Ken lives near Denver, whence emanate his daily radio broadcast and syndicated newspaper column. What he avenges is the plantation mentality of those who call themselves liberals and the debilitating effect on his race of programs like affirmative action. His foes are politicians who, in his view, use the inner cities to breed Democratic voters. You'd better believe the parasites he calls "quota blacks" hate him back in, er ... spades. Ever a progressive fellow, he can be heard in real time on internet radio at http://www.hamblin.com/.
Lately I've been listening to G. Gordon Liddy. His education is similar to mine; his concerns for logic and the niceties of language are fresh air after Limbaugh's malapropisms and dogmatic attitudes. The "Darth Vader of the Nixon Administration" is a kindly "gentleman of the old school" who reminds me of Bob LeFevre. At the same time, he manifests a well-informed appreciation for weapons, and for every aspect of the fair sex, that produces, among other things, his "Stacked & Packed Calendar" (a dozen quality photographs of his more attractive female fans, scantily-clad, and wielding a variety of lethal hardware) enabling him to "offend Pattie Schroeder and Sarah Brady at the same time".
To Be Continued ...
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L. Neil Smith's award-winning The Probability Broach opens a window onto a Libertarian civilization. More of his books (see The Webley Page: http://www.lneilsmith.org//) are available at bookstores everywhere, at http://www.amazon.com, at Laissez Faire Books, (800) 326-0996, or Frugal Muse Bookstore, (608) 833-8668. Neil will speak at the AZLP annual convention in Phoenix, 4/19/97.
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