In the midst of our grand de-hoarding effort (Everything Must Go! preferably for cash) I came across a box full of scripts for “Truckstop Teaparty,” a radio show I used to do on WFMU. I’ve been told that people often didn’t realize there were scripts for that show, probably because I always sounded so befuddled, but in fact every word I said on-air was written out in advance. In fact, even the umm’s and uh’s were written out, in an attempt to make myself sound more “natural.” This was because I was so terrified of being on the radio that my mind went completely blank every time I went on mic. If I hadn’t had something to read, no sound would have come out of my mouth at all. So it was interesting to see what words were coming out in 1989-90-91.
Even more interesting were the hefty piles of newspaper clippings I’d saved with every show’s script. These were news stories I’d reference as I talked about “News of the Dead” or “Danger!” or any of the various other regular Truckstop Teaparty features. It’s incredible to me that newspapers—common, everyday tabloids--were ever so informative, with long, well-referenced articles about all sorts of actual news. There seemed to be a lot of stories about eroding privacy rights, the plight of homeless people, the environment, and political upheaval in other countries: Iran, Romania, Panama, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and so on. There were “first woman” stories (the first woman to lead U.S. troops in combat, the first woman minor-league umpire, etc.) and weird racism stories. There were way too many stories about accomplished, talented people dying of AIDS. There were stories about drugs, murders, serial killers, and the successful development of the first genetically engineered foods. There was a story about how the first President Bush had admitted falsifying intelligence information to win approval for the first war in Iraq. These newspaper stories were literate, well-written, and told you something, and it was kind of shocking to see how much newspapers have changed in just … well, okay, 20 years ,,, and how much everything else is still the same.
Anyway, I threw ‘em all out. The only clipping I kept was a torn bit of a longer article, the final three paragraphs of what apparently was a review of something—a book or TV show involving Nat Hentoff?—written by someone named Vince Passaro. Here’s what he wrote:
“Censorship begins in fear: fear of contradiction, fear of insult and injury, fear of confusion, paradox and despair. Hentoff points out that in many cases the censoring parties have valid objections to the material they wish to suppress. Yet he also shows that the best way to deal with ideas you don’t like is to inform yourself about them and counter them with ideas of your own—to debate, in other words. But where does a culture learn the language of debate? Currently, we willingly misuse the word to refer to the meeting of opposing political candidates in which rehearsed speeches pass as answers to predictable questions. If that’s what we call debate, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll last as a democracy.
“In fact, the great censorship of our times is the self-censorship of our reporters and editors, our writers of books, our television commentators. Why is it that the Iran-contra story had to be broken by a Lebanese weekly, although several American journalists knew of it? Why was the great menace of Iraq trumpeted far and wide, with fancy graphics and musical scores, while the arming of the menace, by us, illegally, is still only mentioned in whispers? Why is it that there is so little discussion, in an election year, of the S&L failures and a possible collapse, of greater magnitude, in commercial banking?
“Like vampires or cave-dwelling fish, we have lost the ability to live in light because no one has been shedding any. Unless you have a $40-million production budget, it’s pretty much impossible to disseminate an upsetting idea in this country; when you do, the crowds scream as if they’ve been hit with acid. Hentoff, for all his fervor, never takes the parties responsible for our condition to blame. We don’t need to be introduced to school boards in the heartland to see censorship in action; all we have to do is open our major dailies, or watch network news.”
“Major dailies”—who’s even gonna know what that means in 5 years? And yeah, I googled him. I don’t think Vince Passaro is writing book reviews for tabloid newspapers anymore, and I don’t think any future Vince Passaros are, either.
Thanks for reading my blogpost this time, and may God bless.