Unification News for August 2001

Book Review - Vulgarians at the Gate

by Zella Steward Forster

I recently saw a TV interview with Jane Meadows and Bill Allen—wife & son of entertainer Steve Allen. They were discussing Steve Allen's last book... "Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio". I recently found it at the bookstore.

It was fascinating. I always liked Steve Allen but I never realized that he had become so greatly respected—not just as an author but as the conscience of Hollywood. Apparently, at various points in his career, he did some very unpopular things—including speaking out against organized crime... something that caused his family to live under armed guard for awhile because of death threats.

In one part of this book are the words to some songs that are currently popular with today's youth. The words that these kids listen to repeatedly with their headphones.... words that we don't hear. Apparently, the companies that produce these recordings release watered-down versions for release to the radio stations. That is what *we* hear. As bad as those may seem the actual tapes/CD's are often much worse. The producers will not write the words to the songs on the tape/CD jackets for just that reason.

At one point in the interview Jane Meadows talked about her childhood in China. Her parents were employed by the American Consulate. She said that with all of the dialects in China it was very difficult for the Russians to introduce Communism into their culture. She asked if anyone knew how it was finally done. She said they did it through the popular music. It was a striking example of the power of words when tied to music and heard over & over again

In the past Steve Allen has used the example placing a lobster in a pot of cold water. When the water is gradually brought to a boil the lobster doesn't realize what is happening until it is too late. He explains that our society has slowly shifted its values in terms of what is okay to put on the radio or on TV and that we haven't responded because it has been such a gradual process. It is only recently that this shift in standards has become a drastic enough contrast to the entertainment of our youth for people to start to react.

There were many examples sighted of people writing letters—speaking-up against programming choices or advertisers and changes being made—not government intervention—responsible citizenship/self regulation. He gives long lists of addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, & websites for many cable channels, TV stations, radio stations, even internet sights... 10 years of research. He said that most people don't think that they have any power to effect that kind of change and even if they do think about it they don't know who to contact or where to begin. He gives us that information in this book.

It was a lot to think about. Jane Meadows urged everyone to feel free to pass these lists around to encourage people to speak-up. I thought is was worth sharing.

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