Monday, May 24, 2004


Pollution of the Airwaves

In a 1946 letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune, one of the fathers of radio, Lee De Forest (1873-1961), wrote:
What have you done with my child? He was conceived as a potent instrumentality for culture, fine music, the uplifting of America's mass intelligence. You have debased this child, you have sent him out into the streets in rags of ragtime, tatters of jive and boogie music, to collect money from all and sundry for hubba bubba and audio jitterbug. You have made of him a laughing stock of intelligence, surely a stench in the nostrils of the gods of the ionosphere; you have cut time into tiny cubelets called "spots" (more rightly stains), wherewith the occasional fine program is periodically smeared with impudent insistences to buy or try.
The stench is immeasurably more loathsome in 2004, especially when we add television's foul smells to radio's. If De Forest was shocked by ragtime, jive, boogie, and jitterbug, what would he have said about the assaults that hip-hop, heavy metal, punk, and rap make on our ears today? No wonder that John Derbyshire is driven to exclaim that "Pop culture is filth."

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