(AV_167713_a) Pop Culture: Can We Really Afford it ?

good evening i’d like to welcome you all to the sixth annual institute on national affairs i hope you all continue with us for the rest of the week we’ve got a a really good week planned it’s going to be fun and i hope you enjoy it as much as as we’re enjoying bringing it to you a reminder that tomorrow at noon we’ve got an organic food sampler over at the y go over and learn a little about little about why you are what you eat also tomorrow two gentlemen from the american film institute in washington joseph dispenza at three o’clock and steve zito at eight also at 4 30 in rippey’s orchard we have a workshop on bluegrass music with three faculty members from the from iowa state on saturday a popular culture exhibit and flea market and i don’t think i can hesitate saying that this could possibly be the largest flea market ever held in the state of iowa that runs from 10 to four in the armory and then at night that afternoon from three to seven bluegrass festival a first for an iowa university and at seven o’clock a bluegrass jam session everyone’s welcome to all these events they’re all free of charge so with these things in mind i’d like to introduce jim schwartz from the journalism department at iowa state thank you lachlan good evening ladies and gentlemen it’s my pleasure to introduce to you this evening a colleague and a long time friend our institute keynoter dr david manning white as it turns out dr white is not only a friend but he’s a fellow iowan he grew up in davenport earned his bachelor’s degree at cornell college his master’s at columbia university and his doctorate at the university of iowa after teaching assignments at william mary and then bradley university dr white became research professor of journalism at boston university and then chairman of the division of journalism there which post he held for some eight years he currently is on a year’s leap of absence to engage in research and writing and then he plans to return to boston university next year as a professor in the american civilization graduate program with a joint appointment in journalism and history i suspect that dr white has been investigating and thinking about and writing about mass culture for more years than most of you have lived as a matter of fact he has been author and editor of of far more books on this topic and on other topics having to do with the mass media then i have time to recite for you and he was telling me yesterday he has at least two books in the works right now and has just signed a contract with a publisher to serve as editor of a 40 book series on the general theme of mass culture and society besides his academic background dr white has had extensive professional experience as a newspaper reporter and editor as a television commentator and as a war correspondent for one of the networks he also served during world war ii in the office of war information in washington dc and then in the psychological warfare branch in the pacific theater dr white’s resume tells me that one of his duties in connection with the psychological warfare business was the assignment of dropping newspapers on japanese military personnel is that true dave we all know how deadly newspapers are well anyway dave we’re delighted to have you on the campus and i for one am looking forward with a great deal of anticipation to your remarks on whether we can really afford pop culture dr david manning white thank you very much jim ladies and gentlemen before i get down to the main purpose of reading or hopefully not reading but talking to you about this topic i want to add a little a couple of personal notes it’s very nice to be back in iowa again i don’t get here very often i spent about the first 20 25 years of my life here their roots and as a strange dynamic of coming back to a place where you were nurtured conceived and dedicated as it were i think it was thomas wolfe who wrote a book that you can’t go home again or you can’t but i think you can and i’ve been here on the campus for good

this day and i’ve met many of the students and has given me much joy to be here it’s a strange sort of thing i was just thinking since i’ve left iowa as a newspaper man and as a teacher and moving around having lived and worked in about 62 different countries at one time or another travel and meeting different people and then when you come home again it’s sort of a cycle you know this is where you started and you think of all the things that you did and the people that you’ve met i think today is the birthday of martin luther king at least it’s being celebrated i knew him in a slight way when he was a graduate student learning his doctorate at boston university i met him and was impressed with his deep dedication even as a student before anybody had ever known about him but and like many the rest of us i was desolated and saddened the terrible thing that happened to him the violence and i’m going to talk about violence tonight too but just strangely enough and i’ll add lip for a minute or two more this is what is known in the theater see people are still coming in the butler talks to the maid for about six minutes while people come in and you know then they don’t they don’t miss any of the speech this way but that’s always for late uh goers so this is the butler talking to the maid of syndrome if you will uh there were one of my favorite iowa authors and i i i really have read many of his books i don’t think many people read him anymore and yet he should be read and i’d suspect that when it comes down to the critical analysis he will be regarded as one of our fine writers from iowa was hamlet garland that i i share a little bit in common with handling garland in this sense hamlin garland was born in wisconsin so was i he moved to iowa at a very early age so did i i was seven days old when i came back to davenport i think i hamlin was a young boy he lived in osage i believe that right professor spear uh he lived in a farm i always think of him as sort of the newt thompson or o.e rolvog in that dijon of telling of the difficulties of living on the earth and surviving but uh unlike role vogue or new thompson who are very bitter i i almost felt that in that garland saw the beauty and some of the the joys of of growing up in iowa and even the difficulty of exacting a uh living out of it and then hamlin garland moved to boston as i did uh some years ago and one day uh after he’d established himself as a writer i think it was a year that he wrote son of the middle border which is i think perhaps his best book many very good book he may have won the pulitzer prize for that book one of the books in that area that he won the pulitzer for hamlin garland came back to iowa to visit and so in a sense i feel a little bit like handling garland i’m not saying that that in any way i could carry his his his bowling uh ball bag to the to the to the game but he but i was born in wisconsin grew up in iowa went to live in boston and now another happy occasion i’m back in iowa and i’m happy to be here and very honored that mr smith and his colleagues on the committee wanted me to be the keynote speaker now that everybody’s seated the butler and the maid can go off and the principles can come on and i’ll now talk on this topic but as my friend professor schwartz said this topic is pop culture can we really afford it i assume that can you all hear me in the back everything fine all systems go all right exactly 100 years ago exactly 100 years ago mark twain and his collaborator charles dudley warner wrote a novel that is best remembered for its title the gilded age it was an accurate description of the direction that america had sadly embarked upon it was as you know the era of jim fisk and jay gould and it was a time when a shrewd entrepreneur like fisk could go in a few short years from peddling gym cracks from a wagon along the new england countryside to controlling the erie railroad what had happened to a young country with such ideals what had happened to a once frugal and

self-improving america if thomas jefferson dead not even 50 years when the gilded age emerged had visited the white house of ulysses s grant he might have been tempted to tear up the declaration of independence if indeed he did not vomit in the oval room butarus mutandus as they say along the wiia appiah where my friend professor berger spent a year so what’s new in 1973 well we perhaps we don’t have anything as sensational as the credit mobilier scandals of 1873 100 years ago but nevertheless the itt affair the bugging at the watergate and similar events would suggest that power with a capital p in all its ugly manifestations is still the name of the game along the potomac it seems to me and this is really my theme tonight that the culture that a nation develops is a culture it deserves or as walt whitman so aptly put it to have great poets we must have great audiences too what i’m saying is that a nation’s culture and specifically its popular culture cannot be understood separately from the values that that nation espouses and in the case of our country we opted for the most corrosive set of wrong values 100 years ago and never really have deviated from that course since and that is why tonight i’m asking myself as well as you if we can truly afford the totality of the popular culture that permeates our life space the all-pervasive mass media that are parts and parcel of our everyday lives now nobody likes bad news and and i i feel bad you know i feel a little bit guilty starting maybe starting this conference off in a negative way i hope you’ll forgive me and you know i believe in earlier days that the messenger who brought such tidings was killed isn’t that true i hope to get out of here and go back to boston one piece indeed our friend shakespeare warns us that quote the first bringer of unwelcome news has but a losing office and his tongue sounds ever after as a sullen bell remembered snowling a departed friend henry iv i believe let me preface my arguments to follow with a personal footnote so that you’ll understand that i have not come to this point of view lightly or without a lot of searching of what you might call my soul there was a time for example in 1957 when i could write and with all sincerity as i did in a book titled mass culture the popular arts in america and i wrote as follows quote i have i have presented a hopeful picture of our future as we go into the era of extended leisure that americans will share during the next decade or two because i see substantial amelioration in the uses of our mass media unquote in fact during the continuing debate that surrounded mass culture or popular culture i would invariably take the position which said by and large the mass media were beneficial influences on our respective lives perhaps in retrospect i was reacting strongly to the super elitism of such critics as dwight mcdonald bernard rosenberg earnest vandenhog clement greenberg many others because their ill-concealed no bless oblige to ridicule those of us who are less intellectual maybe want to take the opposite side maybe simply because it was there and as late as 1970 when i compiled a book on pop culture for the new york times i was still saying when in my conviction that we were moving in the right direction i noted at that time that more than half of the youth of this country that were of college age were indeed engaged in higher education were in colleges and i hypothesized that if education and exposure to diverse cultural experiences are the answer to raising the level of mass taste then there was reason for considerable optimism was i naive to think that in our universities and colleges there might be developing this great audience of selectivity and discernment that our friend gilbert seldi did so long envisioned but still i was hopeful i had faith i had a gut feeling that popular culture in america was developing in an immediate way and thus i could write in this book and i’ll again quote myself one can hope that the enthusiasm and interest now being cultivated on hundreds of campuses will show up in future offices on madison avenue at nbc and at united artists unquote

if i may say so in retrospect that last statement is so credulous that i apologize for you that ever read it that i ever wrote it leave it leave alone inflicting it on you i don’t want you to think that it was easy for me to turn my back on my old friends the mass media it was no easier than it would be for linus to give up that famous blanket which serves as an armor against the vicissitudes of the world about him there are many of my friends in this audiences and they know that i have been addicted to the popular arts from that day in 1922 when i went to see a matinee with rudolph valentino the four horsemen of the apocalypse rex ingram’s great picture uh starring of course rudolph valentino i i think i was addicted and and then uh until maybe until yesterday i i probably would have watched the super bowl if i hadn’t been in an airplane uh so it isn’t that i am looking uh you know with my news down at the at the popular arts or that i haven’t partaken of them i probably have watched more hours of television than anybody in this room uh anyway but so my acquaintance is and uh there’s one sitting in the front row there professor berger who you will hear on wednesday night the great authority on comics is probably wondering what what uh what has turned me off and maybe he’s figuring that i have suffered some overwhelming traumatic experience that has soured me well that’s possible but i doubt it uh i i i start to think my you know maybe i i did a sort of a self-analysis uh what was it that that that turned me off well perhaps it was the grocery that oversimplifies life that seems so endemic in popular art that made me gag like the time that jane russell confided to the american public and i quote i love god and when you get to know him you’ll find he’s a living doll or did the last measure of disillusion come just this last fall when i learned that the bone-chilling call of tarzan was a phony did you know that did you read that it’s very well i close your ears if you don’t want to try buster crab let the cat out of the bag when he was asked to demonstrate the famous tarzan yell to some college students at a seminar mr crabb who is now a 64 year old grandfather albeit very trim said he couldn’t do it now and in fact he couldn’t do it in his prime 40 years ago and neither could johnny weissmiller he had it i quote from an interview weiss miller would simply open his mouth and the studio had a recording of three men one a soprano the other baritone and the third a hog caller who yelled together and that my friends was a great trouser trademark yeah i have to admit i was crestfallen when i heard this and all i could think to myself was is nothing sacred i guess if i had to pinpoint one particular manifestation of pop cult that over the years traumatized me more than than anything else and may finally have become the symbol of everything i find repulsive in the mass media it would have to be uh this overwhelming amount this plethora of body function advertising which hits us uh you know you go through the whole day you wonder you know if you if you go through the whole day with the mass media wonder how you survive you know you feel all your parts to see if you’re still there i mean they make you feel so sick that you’ve got to run off to the drugstore and get 47 nostrums if i ever find and i mean this that cunning slob who writes the ad copy for preparation h i’ll need every vestige of restraint i possess not to throttle him right on the corner of madison avenue and 54th street he and his cohorts have played an incalculable role in infecting me with the major with a major disease of america hemorrhoids of the soul it’s an affliction that has been growing among us for the past 100 years and i submit that popular culture for the most part has been used manipulated distorted and cheapened by a materialistic philosophy that determines a nation’s well-being by its gross national product and that’s really why i’m posing this question to you to to you tonight can we really afford popular culture and i guess by now you won’t be surprised if my answer to that question is somewhat negative but frankly as i’ve traveled the length and breadth of this country as i have these past several months since i’ve been on sabbatical and doing some other things i do not discern the kind of happiness the sense of accomplishment even basic satisfactions that connotate a successful national approach to life there is a deep males in our country

you are all undoubtedly familiar with charles dickens opening famous lines and his tale of two cities where he tells us it was the best of times it was the worst of times etc all right if a gross national product that time magazine’s board of economic experts predict will reach one trillion 265 billion dollars in fiscal 1973 means this is the best of times the tragic statistics of alcoholism violent crime narcotic addiction would suggest it is also the worst of times if we are a happy society why is it among americans 15 to 24 years of age suicide is now the most common cause of death and it has been the rate increase has been alarming during the past 10 years if there is some wisdom in our age it is often so be clouded by the incredible limits of our moral hypocrisy that the wise man is too often a voice crying in the wilderness as my friend dick manoff said recently if we are not ourselves too far gone we ought to be able to discern the threat of madness twisted into the tortured patterns of national policy and in the patterns of popular response you want evidence these symptoms of our spreading madness i think you know them as well as i do but try these for openers in the last 10 years we have conducted an evil war under the guise that we are buying peace for a future generation it was a war that the french after dienfenbu knew could never possibly be won by any force of arms in their part and they wisely withdrew so while we huffed and puffed we did not blow down the little straw hut of what we euphemistically termed the other side not even when we unleashed more bombs on this little insignificant nation than we had used to bring hitler’s monstrous war machine to the surrender table and if we lost face in the classic eastern way we lost something even greater a portion of our soul every commercial on television reinforces the notion that we believe in the good life for ourselves but we deal out death to others and when we’re asked to justify this inconsistent behavior we piously prayed that we deal death to other people because we want to save them save them from what why we want to save them from international communism yet in our inconsistent behavior we americans gave 40 opinion poll points of popularity to president nixon for making friends with china and the soviet union who are i think in the big league of international communism the machinations of alice in wonderland seem the apotheosis of logic compared to what goes on in the other side of our looking glass world and again if as my friend manoff suggests we are losing our desire and ability to distinguish between form and substance ceremony in place of sincerity fantasy for fact then indeed it is far from the best of times dickens talked about an epic of belief it seems to me that we believe in very little except the material comforts that are dangled before our eyes by the pervasive advertisements that are always at the periphery of our consciousness most americans have been so acculturated to the values of a consumer society that the difference between dickens spring of hope and a winner of despair is whether the color television work is on the blink or not now let me clarify one important matter at this point in no way do i suggest or subscribe to what you might call the conspirators theory such as c wright mills discussed in his book the power elite this hypothesis which suggested that the mass media uh contrive with all their shrewd madison avenue gray flannel wit to keep the american bouboisi on a 13 year old level of intellectual curiosity the reason this doesn’t wash for me is simple why should the media moguls even bother when we’re so acquiescent and compliant without any imaginations or hidden persuader techniques i should like at this point to present a mini theory of my own which for one of a better name and i hope you won’t find this too heavy but it that this is important uh for the logic of what i’m going to say i it i need this to bolster some of these wild accusations that i’m going to make later so bear along with me this this part is fairly academic but forgive me for it i i call this for one of a better name a transactional analytic approach to popular culture i think that some of you are familiar with the work of dr eric byrne who developed the concept of transactional analysis and it’s uh it’s known to most of us either through reading his best-selling book games people play or in a simpler explanation of a series in a current bestseller by dr thomas

harris a book called i’m okay you’re okay i’m sure that some of you have read this book the underlying basis of uh burns theory was based on the great experimental work by dr wilder penfield the the mcgill university neurosurgeon whose basic uh contribution to science it seems to me the one he’ll be most remembered for verified that everything and underline the word everything everything which has been in our conscious awareness is recorded in detail and stored in the brain and is capable of being played back in the present so that means whether you like it or not what you’re hearing from me tonight is stuck there you you may want an immediate to get rid of it but close your ears if you don’t want it to be recorded it’s there in short it is not outlandish to suggest that the brain functions as a kind of high fidelity videotape recorder and as penfield also learned the feelings the emotions the feelings which are associated with past experiences also are recorded and are inextricably locked to these self-same experiences and dr byrne concluded then that these recorded experiences and the feelings associated with them are available for replay today in as vivid as form as when they happened and they provide much of the data which determined the nature of today’s transactions in other words we behaved today a good deal because of things that we that were recorded in our brains and affected our infected or affected our personalities these experiences not only can be recalled but perhaps more important they are also relived in short i not only remember how i felt i feel the same way now when it’s when it’s called up all right you say how does this apply to a transactional analysis of popular culture if we recognize that the first five years of an individual’s life are probably the most important in terms of determining his personality and this has been substantiated not only by psychiatrists like byrne and harris but in the research of psychologists uh great psychologists such as kurt lewin or jean pj then we can begin to ask ourselves what popular culture for the most part does to the budding individual each of us according to the transactional and analytic school of psychiatry has three sets of three states of personalities coexisting within us the child the adult and the parent as you know the child and the parent within us often causes conflict counterproductive behavior and the miles that so often frequently makes life less than a bowl of cherries the times when the adult in its functions alas is not often is not as often as a complex world in which we live demands you know if it’s true that the head of a state a certain i won’t mention his name but became so angry because the things weren’t going well at a conference where his uh young man uh his boy uh his envoy he got so angry that when they came home and said no it’s not going well that then the press reports this he says well we’ll just we’ll just we’ll teach him a good lesson so we’ll just bound the hell out of him for a week now that’s to me that is not adult behavior but i you know it’s that’s just an office aside and take it for what it’s worth that’s a child is saying they’re they’re not gonna play my game i’m gonna i’m gonna show him i’m gonna break his mud pie that’s what i’m gonna do the adult is as burn so aptly described it the delt within us is principally concerned with transforming stimuli into pieces of information and processing and filing that information on the base of the previous experience and the dullness differs from the parent aspect of our personality because the parent is that partner as well said don’t do this you’ll get hurt if you do this you’ll get burned you know there’s all all the things that the parents tell us and try to protect us and parent data within us is judgmental it’s in in an imitative way and seeks to enforce sets of borrowed standards and it certainly differs from the child aspect of our personality which tends to react more abruptly on the basis of pre-logical thinking and poorly differentiated started perceptions through the function of the adult aspect of our personalities we can begin at a very early age burn and harris tell us less than one year old to tell the difference between life as it is taught and demonstrated to us all apparent life as we feel it or wish it or fantasy it all of the child and life as we figure it out for ourselves which is the adult way my caveat about the mass media which provides the essence of our popular culture is that it is on a collision course with the adult aspects of our personality and if this is so as i will attempt to demonstrate and verify and with the rest of what i have to say then i say that the cost is high high enough to give me pause whether or not we truly can afford it when the transactional psychiatrist uses the concept of parent or refers to parent data

he is not restricting it to just merely to the physical parents or the actual parents of a child as dr harris so aptly points out a three-year-old who sits before a television set many hours a day is recording what he sees the programs he watches are a taught they’re a teaching concept of life and if he watches programs of violence he is recording violence on the videotape recorder of his personality to his uncritical mind this is how life is the conclusion is certain that if his parents do not express opposition by switching uh the channel uh uh then and since they too enjoy violent programs the youngster gets a double sanction the set and the folks and he assumes that violence per se isn’t so bad providing providing one collects the required amount of injustices and i’m not referring solely to fictionalized entertainment programs like gunsmoke which is on the air tonight but also to the news broadcast and telecast i question whether a young child who long before he’s learned to cope with the elementary difficulties of getting along with his immediate family is deluge with a frightening amount of incoming data even when it’s introduced by so avuncular figure as walter cronkite no one can deny that there have always been wars and atrocities but they didn’t happen almost instantly in the living room on the television set and it’s very difficult for the small child to sort out what is fact and what is fiction what no one can deny that there have always been wars and atrocities but they didn’t happen almost instantly in the living room on the television set and it’s very difficult for the small child to sort out what is fact and what is fiction what is news and what is a a movie but beyond the confusion that this constant bombardment of sensory impression makes up on the child how does he learn to delineate what is truly meaningful out of the morass and volume of mental belching and verbal garbage all of us have to face each day i’m reminded of paul simon’s song of a few years ago i’m sure you all know it the sounds of silence in which he spoke almost wistfully of people talking without listening of people who could listen to anything yet never speak and of people writing things they knew never would be read and i say to myself who listens to little children when it’s easier to plunk them down in front of the television set so that their confused little minds can be sold any piece of junk that a sponsor is willing to pay the station for the child learns violence from the mass media from the time his parents abrogate their responsibility to this modern icon called television children also learn violence alas from their own parents behavior i ran across a tragic statistic in a book called the battered child by doctors helper and camp for the university of colorado do you know that every hour of the day in this country every hour of the day five infants are seriously injured by their parents or guardians that every day two at least two children under five years of age are killed by their parents so that today the infanticide rate is greater than the combined total taken by tuberculosis whooping cough polio measles diabetes rheumatic fever penis you name it where do these parents get such aggression where do they get such hatred to batter and maim and kill a little child moreover children who are nurtured on a diet of violence may develop a sort of immunity at least on the conscious level to its presence in our society and they grow up to become what chronologically we call adults at least their bodies grow up but their psyches have not solved or resolved the need the habit if you will of being exposed and being able to swallow the acts of violence which the mass media have told them from their earliest memories was entertainment a few days after the senseless murder of robert f kennedy and just a very short time as you know

after the murder of martin luther king the noted playwright arthur beller wrote and i quote him there is violence because we have daily honored violence any half-educated man in a good suit can make his fortune by concocting a television show whose brutality is photographed in sufficiently monstrous detail who produces these shows who pays to sponsor them who is honored for acting in them are these people delinquent psychopaths slinking along our tenement streets oh no they are the pillars of society our honored men are exemplars of success and social attainment unquote and when i read such lines i can’t help thinking of such television programs as manix a very popular program’s been going on for many years and i often try to visualize whether in all the years he was president of the columbia broadcasting system and now board chairman whether dr frank stanton ever looked at this program whether he ever considered the kind of message it was giving and still gives every sunday night sunday the so-called lord’s day pontius pilate rationalized his decision at golgotha by telling himself he was only giving the people what they want and a lot of pilots in our communication media have been washing their hands of responsibility in just the same way no wonder then that playwright arthur miller could conclude we quote we must begin to feel the shame and contrition we have earned before we can begin to sensibly construct a peaceful society let alone a peaceful world a country where people cannot walk safely in their own streets has not earned the right to tell any other people how to govern itself let alone to bomb and burn that people unquote if then a child growing up in america is learning about the world outside his immediate dwelling or neighborhood from the mass media primarily television i will no longer buy that lame cop out that he might as well learn that the world is a violent place since indeed it is that’s what i call a self-fulfilling prophecy and such prophecies always tend to favor those who have something to sell and i can any longer buy that rationalization on a part of some of our media managers that when the child or that child grown into adulthood sees and hears violence that it serves as a catharsis a catharsis just as the greek tragedies did for the ancient athenian populace such casualty arguments equate escalus and the godfather but if anyone thinks that don corleone is a spiritual descendant of oedipus well we’ll have to take issue on that point on that judgment but to get back to the very young child nicholas johnson in nicholas johnson i wish i could take five minutes to say how much i love nicholas johnson and while this great man i think is he should be here but he can’t be everywhere and nick does spread the good word i first met nicholas johnson when i was finishing my doctorate at the university of iowa and i was walking with his father was a great man dr wendell johnson a very great professor and he was a friend of mine and he one day he was walking with out and i bumped i said oh professor johnson how are you and he said fine he said i want you to meet my son and this kid was 10 years old at the time and he was already six foot eight he was the biggest kid i’ve ever seen and i you know he was very polite and we walked along a little bit the next time i saw nick was two years ago at a meeting in washington i reminded him i said nick you remember when you met me you were 10 years old he didn’t remember uh anyway nicholas johnson is is a is a pretty great man and and saying what i say tonight and perhaps but says it more eloquently and and much better nicholas johnson points out that by the time the average child enters kindergarten he has already spent more hours learning about his world from television than the hours he will spend in a college classroom earning a bachelor of arts degree so that goes for you people too and the amount of aggression that child is exposed to before he is five i say will affect him for the rest of his life for as a transactional psychiatrist had demonstrated it is videotape recorded in his brain for as long as he lives and moreover as professor albert bandura of stanford university has demonstrated in years of laboratory research not with white mice but with human experimentes if people are exposed to televised aggression they not only learn aggressive patterns of behavior but they also retain them for a long period of time in his great study of television and lives of our children dr wilbur schramm wrote and i quote we are taking a needless chance with our children’s welfare by permitting them to see such a parade of violence across our picture tubes it is a chance we need not take it is a danger to which we need not expose our children any more than we need expose them to tetanus or bacteria from unpasteurized milk unquote violence is frightening to young minds who are constantly

being offered a rationalization for this violence by the media under the guise that villains create the necessity for the good chaps to readjust the tranquility of the world the simplistic dualism of bad guys versus good guys thus becomes the moral yardsticks of these burgeoning minds and it does not end with childhood i’m sorry to say nearly five years ago staff members of the christian science monitor watched 74.5 hours of evening television during the first week of the new season and during that time they recorded 354 incidents of violence including threats and 71 murders killings and suicides and i will bet anybody in this room if we were to replicate this this study of the prime time television show for this week we’d undoubtedly find the same statistics if not worse if you doubt it go see what the two movies of the week are tonight on the channels here in ames one is uh the gun the gunman with the with kirk douglas a gunman with a killer the other another one with the title is something with the killers or something of that so violence is still these are the two choices you have tonight if you didn’t come here and listen to me and maybe you wish you had i mentioned the godfather a few moments ago truly a pop cult phenomenon of our day if i may use myself as an example of the seductive quality of this enormously entertaining novel and movie you’ll least understand that i’m in the same boat as 100 million other americans when it comes to a bandwagon piece of popular art such as mario puzzo’s tour de force i read the novel about two and a half years ago during a week’s vacation on the adriatic at dubrovnik in yugoslavia i i happened you know i’d heard about the book but i’d resisted it as i also the bestsellers and there was an english couple who had the cabana next to mine and they had read it and they were getting very excited so they gave it to me and their comment is that this was a book that really gave them a picture about america well that was titillation enough for a student of public opinion to engage himself in this much talked about bestseller and parenthetically it’s amazing how i can almost rationalize my partaking of any popular culture under the guise that i’m doing personal research as you may surmise i couldn’t put the book down once i started it and yet when i finished it i asked myself in what way had it nourished or enriched my life made me wiser or more compassionate or in any way given me an inkling of how to make america a better place for my grandchildren or yours the values that come out of this novel are that we are living in a feral world of animals in any moral society where one kills or gets killed that only the weapons have changed since man emerged in his unique form millions of years ago from the k’s at last go now granted i’ll admit i’d been entertained quite graphically for a few hours but wasn’t this only a link with the violence that had become part of my child personality during the formative years of my life maybe i had to tell myself this was entertainment because i i had been conditioned to believe that such simplistic solutions to problems in a complex universe were the only ones i could tolerate or understand and insofar as i accepted and believe me while i read the godfather i readily admit that the child and me accepted and relished and enjoyed the events that mr putzo so skillfully unfolded insofar as i accepted and empathize with michael the ivy league educated heir to the godfather i think that i diminished my own sensibility at least for the moment under the rationalization that i was merely entertaining myself because i reveled in that bloodbath that constitutes the climax of the novel all right because i don’t need to be entertained every hour of my life i also read some other books during my vacation and i’m sure that some of them had a fair amount of substance concepts to ponder on realistic analyses of our human condition etc but if you put a gun to my head for the life of me i can’t remember the titles of any of those books that i read there that week that i was so engrossed with the godfather so without having you think that i’m an elitist snob i wonder how many millions of americans read only the godfather as their book of the year and if so what does this say about our taste you know of course that the movie version of the godfather in less than a year nine months to be exact has deposed gone with the wind as the all-time box office champion according to variety of a couple weeks ago the film grossed 81 and a half million dollars in the united states and canada alone since its release about nine months ago and as a picture of american society it is playing to long lines of customers in paris rome buenos aires athens and cities throughout the world and its ultimate earnings will undoubtedly top 200 million dollars easily so violence under the guise of entertainment pays off very well

in the world of popular culture and like gresham’s law it debases the good with the spurious much as i dislike the term works of popular art such as the godfather are pure kits as phony as a loaf of bread with additives that keep it fresh but whose nutritive value is zilch the great know-how of press agency and advertising has made it so easy to sell this kind of culture to the majority the great great great majority of americans and here i have to agree perhaps reluctantly but agree i must with dwight mcdonald who sees it as a debased trivial culture that voids both the deep realities because there are realities in this world things that dostoyevsky and and sherwood anderson and me in hemingway and good writers and great writers things that they dealt with sex death failure tragedy and also the simple spontaneous pleasures since the realities would be too real and the pleasure’s too lively i can’t uh i must quote you something i read on the plane coming out just in the new york times because i’m not only talking about television and and uh and movies i don’t want to single out any of them i hate them all now i’m getting the real feel i’m not playing any favorites any of you i mean nothing very few things turn me off as much as cosmopolitan magazine even go have to go by and see the titles of what they’re saying but cosmo according to a very clever article written by somebody in the times magazine yesterday uh she’s writing an article on sex manuals i mean this has become one of the big business uh professor spirit nazis said he knows that most publishers would go broke i mean david mckay would have without uh dr rubin’s uh everything you always wanted to know about sex and didn’t find out by reading this book uh would have uh would would be in a lot of trouble that was their best seller forever but the one that that she mentions that really turns me off most is that that is such kitsch it is so ugly it is so demeaning to anybody’s sensibility is cosmo’s love guide have you ever seen cosmo’s love guy that’s cosmopolitan’s love guide what’s has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and uh there this that’s it’s very clever it’s done in all soft focus there’s no hardcore talk of boring reality of commitments it’s just i’ll quote from this article just a paragraph the love guide gives such a scenario what to wear what to say what to think what not to think that it’s really the most how to do it how toish of the books almost like a book teaching you how to macrame macra make yourself a new lover all these books feel that they must reassure you in some way and talk you out of your fears or talk you out of the fears they talked you into in the first place and cosmo does it in the soothing hypnotic voice of a tv commercial quote you can even run your finger along that little cleft and don’t forget the fabulous frenum i don’t know what that means what else can you think of what else can you think of aren’t men marvelous oh that’s some cos oh i don’t even want to take that home with me a society such as ours which can devote four or five billion four or five billion hours every week of the year narcotized in front of its hundred million television sets has clearly been debauched by several generations of this sort of thing that i just mentioned and doesn’t have the strength maybe to demand anything more trivial than trivial products interlaced with violence or plural romance and as dwight mcdonald correctly says quote which came first the chicken or the egg the mass demand or its satisfaction and further titillation that’s a question as academic as it is unanswerable but the engine is still reciprocating and shows no signs of running down and that’s fairly obvious for example i thought we’d seen the last of james bond oh no that’s that great superhero of the 1960s but no according to a three-page spread in time magazine of a week or so january 8th you may have seen it we are in for another bombardment and since each of us must outdo it each of them must oh i’m sorry about that pun uh each of us each of each one of these pictures must outdo its predecessors opus 8 promises to outshine its brothers and all the ingredients that have thus far grossed 200 million dollars for producers harry saltzman and albert broccoli believe it or not that’s that’s the name of the producer albert broccoli you know the new picture is going to be called live and let die uh that’s that’s that was a novel that’s the kind of wit that that ian fleming had very witty supposed to be the most according to time the most inventive and the most potentially lucrative comic strip ever made two hours of thrilling high-powered nonsense

but by giving it a three-page spread time has pretty much made certain that its millions of higher educated high-income readers will also be enticed into the theaters along with those customers whose magazine tastes usually run to the new york enquirer or the current issue of pimp house now whether one agrees with mordecai rickler the noted canadian novelist brilliant critic who deplores ian fleming as a tasteless writer in whose fictions no englishman ever does wrong but only jews or blacks or yellowmen filled a villain’s role whether fleming is indeed guilty of this most insidious kind of xenophobic poison in his writing is not terribly important that fleming whose james bond novels have been translated into 26 different languages and have sold more than 60 million copies was a lousy writer whose sexual fantasies were boyishly smutty at best is more to the point i do you ever read fleming do you ever see the titles that he gives is the the names he gives his heroines he has a smirking penchant for heroine’s names that includes such forty and lulu’s as honey child rider and [ __ ] galore so now we’re going to have another movie and this time the villain is a american negro mr big who runs a uh heroin smuggling ring i’ll say one thing for the director of this picture guy hamilton he knows what he’s doing because he knows that the kind of product he is selling and that he must give the audience more violence of a spectacular sort than they can see on the small screen of the television set that’s how he’s going to bring him in his percept of the audience and i quote this this is out of an article from time we tell them come with us for a glorious ride but leave your brains under the seat and don’t ask too many questions because if we have to stop and explain things we’ll lose momentum unquote since a vast portion of the potential audience for all bond movies are youngsters of all ages the producers have to be sure that the picture is given not given the next rating by the classification board of the motion picture association because that would cut out all uh youngsters of who are under 18 years of age but these jaspers are real masters of the medium so they treat sex as a great big funny piece of business again quoting director hamilton quote we suggest the erotic with outrageous humor that disarms a sensor bond can’t make love on a bed everyone makes love on a bed but on a waterbed filled with fish it is so ridiculous that it has a charm of its own besides the children are more interested in the fish in the bed than the adults on the top of the bed unquote maybe you buy that i don’t if there was ever a slick piece of merchandise programmed to touch all the vulnerable visceral emotions of the grand great entertainment seeking audience it is this bond with mediocrity and banal stereotypes and yet my friends more americans will shell out two and a half to three dollars to see this hyped up junk the first week it is released nationally in five to six hundred theaters then the cumulative audience for all of shakespeare’s bernard shaw’s and eugene o’neill’s plays in the past 50 years to the most successful popular culture products helped us help to keep us in moderate to help to keep us immature child hyphen adults listen to what the new james bond uh sean uh is he’s sick of it he’s made so much money that he’s not gonna do it anymore but the new james bond is roger moore and this is what he says about his role and i quote him i often stop in the middle of a day’s work and say to myself jesus christ they’re really going to pay you for being a kid and living out your fantasies i saw another you know i don’t want to just have you think that this is an isolated movie uh in the chicago tribune yesterday while i was waiting for the plane i saw an article by gene siskel writing about the sickest movies of 1972 and he he gives you a list here i don’t know how many of them you saw i hope none of them but he points out uh that there are 72 was the year of the sick film i mean this has become very popular and uh he he looks uh looking at some of these terrible films he saw some patterns emerging most film violence is directed by men against women a disturbing number of films were released this year during in which middle-aged men tortured teenage girls the one that he put at the top of his list was a picture called the last house on the left i hope that none of you saw that that makes me sick even to read it but i’m gonna i want to tell you what what they’re inflicting on the public today after in this picture after one

teenage girl is repeatedly raped she is forced at gunpoint to urinate on herself then she is cut up and permitted to bleed to death that’s that’s a mild part i won’t reach any more other films mark of the devil that’s what the movie revive that uh still playing in chicago with the mcvickers the mcvicker theater where i once saw orson welles citizen kane and now showing this picture mark of the devil that’s a picture that you may have seen the ad for it said this picture is rated v for violence and the motion picture association got angry because they were forced to remind everyone that there is no such rating this this effort from uh is put out by hallmark releasing company a boston company i sort of say that specializes in torture films and recounted in hideous detail the witch baiting trials of the 17th century in this picture women are punctured with knives before having their tongues ripped out and mr schiskel says one feels less human just watching this sort of thing and he has a few other pictures that he mentioned port noise complaint which was pretty bad i mean the bad enough novel i thought but the movie was completely tasteless and and uh and bluebeard in which uh uh which was a picture with richard burton he must have to buy a new diamond ring for miss miss taylor because this this picture if any of you had the misfortune to see it shows women tortured by this sexual deviate the bluebeard uh and their scenes of whipping slapping punching decapitation spearing i can’t help but i hope i’ve gone a long time do you want me to can i can i have another 10 minutes does anybody feel that i’ve gone on too long can i have i because i can cut this short but i got a lot more evidence i mean maybe i’ve already convinced you i am i’m very concerned about and you know i’m saying can we afford this the so-called black exploitation movies which we have seen such a plethora of this past year i don’t know whether any of them come to ames or whether you’ve seen them but we’re getting pictures like blacula blackenstein i mean frankenstein’s got blackenstein since there was a godfather now no one in production called the black father the werewolf from watts hitman trick baby isn’t this pathetic that in an industry that is you know it’s having a lot of trouble but when you’re in trouble you go to anything that makes a buck and that’s wrong values that’s what’s sick in america it seems to me in an industry that has recently been producing hardly more than 200 pictures a year the whole industry that used to be the output of paramount mgm alone at this moment fully one-fourth of those pictures down production are on the production stage are black but not beautiful no black and violent and exploited and i agree with dean anthony brown who is head of the of howard university school of communication and also the producer of a fine television program on etv which some of you probably have seen the black journal and i quote him he says these black exploitation that’s a word neologism blaxploitation films are phenomena of self-hate look at the image of superfly going to see yourself as a drug dealer when you are oppressed is sick not only are blacks identifying with them they’re paying three dollars for this identification it’s sort of like a jew paying to get into auschwitz who sees these pictures i don’t know we don’t we don’t have all the evidence and what the effects of it are but i cannot believe you see them you like them okay let me draw the threads of this together and just a couple more points even before television began to usurp the major part of america’s leisure hours two noted sociologists paul f laserfeld and robert k merton were concerned lest this vast supply of mass communications available to most americans might not prove dysfunctional in discussing the narcotizing dysfunction of the mass media they were proceeding on an assumption that we could all agree upon namely that it is not in the best interest of a modern complex society to have large masses of the population politically apathetic and inert with newspaper circulations at an all-time high and with most americans being exposed to at least a half hour of national and international news selected either by walter cronkite chancellor or howard cray smith several times a week not to mention the local uh broadcast and telecast and news you watch we can surmise that the level of information of our population has been lifted substantially over say the level of say 50 years ago but argue doctors lazarus felden merton exposure to this flood of information may serve to narcotize rather than to energize the average reader or listener and we must add viewer as an increasing amount of time is spent in watching the

news or even with a such a documentary as many of you probably saw such as the selling of the pentagon a decreasing share of time is available for organized action the individual may read or see accounts of issues and problems and may even discuss alternative lines of action but this rather intellectualized rather remote connection with organized social action is not activated how often have you and i preend ourselves on being interested and informed and then having congratulated ourselves on our awareness proceeded to abstain from decision in action maya culpa may a culprit say as lazardfeld and merton point out i have too often taken my secondary contact with the world of political reality my viewing of meet the press and capitol cloakroom my head nodding in agreement with david brinkley or eric severoid when they come up with one of their folky aphorisms and somehow i’ve accepted these actions as a vicarious performance but there is indeed a difference between knowing about problems of the day and doing something about them when i like most of you in this audience last summer saw that little vietnamese girl running down the road her body a fire from napalm dropped accidentally on these village refugees i was sickened by the sight i i was angry my heart cried in short i was concerned i was informed my social consciousness was spotlessly clean but in the end i really did nothing about it i sent a few dollars to war relief perhaps to assuage my conscience but i didn’t do much more perhaps some of you did more but most americans are nocretized dysfunctionally by the mass media and one more point that i’d like to make and i certainly you’ve been very indulgent to listen to me for this diatribe for an hour but i couldn’t help thinking as you were well aware the trial of the accused defendants in the water case a watergate case is now taking place although the story is no longer page one and i noticed it was on page 11 or 12 of the des moines register today another singer has come along you know we have to keep the circus maximus going uh now please believe me when i say that what happened that night in washington could just as easily been the opposing party’s foray into the republican uh national headquarters i’m not bringing this matter up in a partisan way but our political morality is today so jaundiced most of the electorate is so cynical about the ethics of politicians that this descriptive despicable act had absolutely no effect in the outcome of the last presidential election because it was so easy for the average reader viewer to quickly rationalize and forget it maybe when he first learned about it maybe when you did you were indignant upset but with the narcotizing dysfunction syndrome in operation you soon went on as i did to the next eye-opener may i suggest and not facetiously that one of the reasons that the watergate affair had so little resonance was because the majority of americans cannot distinguish between reality and fictional entertainment a nation in which a program as patently amoral this is a television program i expressed the word amoral as this program mission impossible which has been one of the most popular television programs for nearly a decade this nation isn’t going to be too concerned when a group of bumbling xcia agents and what have you decide to bug the democratic national headquarters and i’ll photograph a few documents hell’s bells peter graves who was a major domo mission impossible gang he could easily pass for the leader of the watergate caper you know he looks just like a real nice businessman as a matter of fact the crime which mr e howard hunt and acknowledged he pleaded guilty and the other six who are accused that crime would even produce a a yawn on the board faces of the millions who watch mission impossible each week greys in his courts think nothing of kidnapping drugging other assorted deities as long as they can vanquish the bad guys the beginning format of this program is particularly insidious it seems to me because it suggests that someone in authority like maybe the attorney general gives the mission impossible gang an assignment but they make it perfectly clear that if they’re caught they cannot implicate the government just as in today’s paper these guys are still on the payroll and they’re and they’re being told according to washington post they plead guilty we’ll get you off