Mass Media and Politics 1938 – Present

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Follow the path of the media, their advertisers, and the people from the 1930’s to present day.  Follow changes in politics as it takes the same path to become President.

I understand all you hear about is politics, on the news, in the paper, all over the web, and around your kitchen table.  Then, there is me preaching about change in healthcare, what is important or why are we at war?

newspaper-boyIn the thirty’s they had radio and the family would gather around this tall piece of furniture, change the tubes often, and listen to the dummy Charlie McCarthy.  Over fifty million listeners and brought to you by NBC – on the Chase and Sandborn Radio Hour who would sponsor the show.

They called this type of program, a variety program.  It was Edgar Bergen, who served as the ventriloquist.  Edgar and his dummy would be the hit show during their slot, prime time on a Sunday night.

By the year 1938, it would be CBS, trying to pull in more than fifty million listeners.  They thought until they came up with something with a little more class, or culture, and pulled their host from the stage to the radio.  It would be Orson Wells, who went by H. G. Wells.  Many of the listeners were young boys who were fascinated by his voice; Orson Wells played Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  The station offered him one hour, commercial free, opposite Charlie McCarthy.

How would they draw in such a large crowd; plans began.  At first they would start with the normal listening music, (back in the thirties radio had the reputation of telling the truth, everything had to be as real as possible when Orson Wells took the mic.)  Following the Sunday listening music broadcasted from some big hotel, they told the audience, would be Orson Wells and his hour of drama.

The audience began to tune into listen to his voice, and believed everything he said – as young and old alike began chatting about this man on CBS.  The numbers weren’t growing as fast as they wanted, until October 30, 1938, when Wells began his show.  the music which came from a hotel, so they made the audience believe, would be would be interrupted by Wells who announced to his listening audience, “Ladies and Gentlemen this is the most terrifying thing I ever witnessed,” leading those listeners on by telling them he was confronted by invaders.  “There, I can see the thing’s body,” he continued.

On he went saying he saw saliva dripping from rimless lips.  Although the station told of a disclaimer about the show, few heard it.  Well’s, in one hour witnessed Martians land on earth, destroy all the armed forces, and hundreds of thousands of Americans believed everything he told them as they emptied out of theaters in NYC as panic struck, knowing the site of the landing to be so close, only over the bridge in NJ.  Yes, the station blamed for the panic, but when it was over, they said what all radio would state at the time, “The entire story and all of the incidences were factious.”

Why would I include the “War of the Worlds” with the politics of the day?  Think about it, the year was 1938 and the economy was stagnant, similar to this very day, and it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who first won office in 1933 and re-elected by a landslide in 1936.   Still the President found that he was running a country that he said in his famous words, “ill-housed, ill-c lad, and ill-nourished.  As today, he was fighting ten million people out of work, and those were the government numbers, which at the time were not completely accurate.  Many of the voters by 1938 thought they are not be on the way out of the depression.  A depression where too the stocks crashed, banks fell apart.  Some people during 1938 believed they took a few steps forward but would take more then a few backwards as the unemployment climbed.

Surprising enough we have felt the same as those in 1938, and mother nature did not help the situation when the hurricane of 1938 hit the eastern coast and caused more deaths and damage then the previous earthquake in San Francisco – which took place in 1906, even the fire in Chicago did not kill as many people as the hurricane.  Today we are seeing the same damage from storms for several years during two administrations, while those who protected us were off at war.  Thousands of lives were lost, more then any disaster in our country.

You see, even as we still try to keep food on the table, gas in the car, cloths on our backs, and keep up a good appearance the main thing destroying our country has been a war blamed on one person and his personal terrorists, without proof.  War that spread from one country to the next in the Middle East, costing America their own security.  It continues.  During the 30’s the question of war was at hand among the poor and unemployed.   It was in 1937, before Orson took to the radio, when three Americans were killed, when the Japanese fighter plane attacked an American gunboat in China.  America ignored the incident, and let the Japanese fight with China, and China lost over 200,000 people during that period.  Japanese continued fighting with China for years causing poor relations with the Japanese.

Communication throughout America was poor, news of any disaster or even a stage for war took days to reach the newspapers.  That’s when the radio included news when Orson Wells delivered the War of the Worlds, at an inappropriate time.  This is why panic struck in NYC.   By 1938 people were keeping their radio’s on for the news, to hear about the real world, and when the announcement began with the words, “A live report from the scene,” people became panicky.  Live reports began to occur on CBS when the German troops made their way onto the streets of Vienna.  Those who were living at the time probably never forgot the live report from both NBC and CBS when Adolf Hitler was speaking to the Nazi Party in Nuremberg.

I can’t imagine learning about war through the voices on a radio station, but I do understand the need to know, and it was quicker then a newspaper.

This was the time when the eye-witness report also came from the photographer, the photo was stepping up the ladder and used in reporting as an interesting way of showing the news along with the article in the newspaper. During the depression, it would be photographs that would explain to those who never understood why, what was happening outside of their personal world.    During the thirtie’s it would be new – and exciting to see even the poorest of people in a magazine called “Life.”  People grew to love “Life” because it was real things happening to real people.  Every American alive during its publication has read “Life.”

Like everything else, the media of the thirties changed America – opened eyes to what was happening around the country, and in comes the invention of the television.  Advertising stretched into Russia  at Moscows Sokolniki Park, showing American Models in fancy clothing by 1953.  It would be the Vice President of America, Richard Nixon – in 1953 who believed sharing with the Russians American ideology would give him a push toward the top seat in the White House.  When Nixon was given the assignment to open the show, he studied with Henry Kissinger, and read and listened to all he could about Russia, their language, and talked with people who met Khrushchev in the past.

Instead of side by side politics, the heads of state were broadcasting in a park on color television monitors, and those people in America still were watching black and white; at  least those with a moderate income.  During this period of time the cost of housing would rise, for the first time since the twenties.  Nixon believed the average American could afford a home at 14 thousand dollars – the first real increase in housing since homes cost about 5 thousand dollars before the depression. Homes remained at the same price until changes were made after Nixon visited Russia.  Nixon used the television and its power for his upcoming run for President against JF Kennedy.  Before he left Russia, he gave what we would now call a thirty minute address – as if he were President, while holding a bottle of Pepsi.

So the politics and advertising began to hit our own world when Nixon and Kennedy agreed to live debates on television.  This was Nixon who believed he could beat Kennedy by going live, instead, the good looking Senator who had more charm, information, and could deliver his voice to comfort the public, would win.

The economy was booming with advertising, every Tom, Dick or Harry wanted the better automobile, and their wife had to have the best clothes and most expensive shoes.  Children began to compete in school, not in sports but by wearing the best looking outfit.  The world was changing.  Small business began to evaporate when Americans began working for their State Government, with a contribution to the SSI and Medicare, they would be set for their lifetime, they believed.

Unfortunately this is when the product did not matter as much as how much of the product could be sold with advertising.  The product, known as the Brand Name on Facebook today, is sold for others to learn from different branding.  Also, after the first Television debate, and Kennedy winning each debate, Nixon no longer believed that face to face was the best way to communicate when fighting for President.  He never knew how different two people could be on television, how they would be branded.

Television took off like a rocket – and American’s loved every minute of it.  At least someone in every two family home had to have a TV on its onset, but by 1960 everyone had a television, with larger screens, and legs holding it up off the floor.  By the beginning of 1961 people began investing in color television which urged the producers to start thinking in color.  They even stated, “Brought to you in Living Color,” before the show began.  And the Today Show picked up viewers when the producer added a monkey J. Fred Muggs to a line of hosts.  Television was the world, and producers knew most Americans were watching television during their free time, instead of listening to a radio or even playing sports.  It was the new shows on television, and children begging for color.  The family began organizing their life around the tv set and the show times.

Like it is today with technology, the parents had to curb the tv for homework assignments, so rules about entertainment began to take shape.  Also, the television  has been the largest advertising instrument when it comes to telling people what is best for their family.  Today, the advertisers have everything on a schedule since the older generations are watching the most television during dinner time, and you will see all the ads possible about aches and pains, and what gives the most relief.

So here we are, we proved advertising works, people tend to purchase the brand.  Now we have more places for the political world to brand themselves – It remains strong on TV Commercials since many generations are living longer, and new technology has brought advertising to the Web, to your Kindle, to your Kindle Game Platform, asking you to pay if you don’t want to listen to the advertising.  It has brought radio into 193 countries, and you can produce the show from your home.  It advertises on your iphone, and fewer people have a land based telephone, but the political parties are still using the phone as a way to take polls.

How correct can a phone call be when speaking about a political poll these days when a large majority have only a cell phone and the numbers they keep hidden.  How does the election of 2012 differ from that of others – with the internet so strong, along with social networking, we have opinions everywhere, people giving their thoughts, telling perhaps five thousand people at one time who is the better candidate.  They don’t wait for the news at ten, or the morning paper, or listen to commercials on television, but they listen to each other.  This will make the difference when it comes to politics of the future.  As we grow and technology is the main focus of our knowledge of things to come, we will be teaching each other – both through our thoughts, and eventually in the classroom.

How will the next election take on this new advertising, my guess, if you are listening, will be to enter the learning institutions through the internet and schedule their own debate with the voting public.  Perhaps this is cheaper in the long run – today – but no one can guess at the cost of advertising on the Web four years from now.

So you took a long trip as you read this article, from the radio and how people began to believe everything they heard, to the television, and onward as we climb the ladder of technology regarding advertising and the political future of the people and their candidates for President.

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