Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our deceptive Government

The man on the phone told me that he was producing radio spots for airing nationwide during National Radio Month—would I, as the manager of WBAI, be interested in submitting to a brief interview for one of the spots? I said, sure, thinking this could bring us some publicity.

A few days later, he showed up with a couple of audio engineers and equipment. Our studio was in use, so we found a quiet office and—after they had recorded some ambiance (room noise)—we proceeded with the interview. "Call me Hugh," he said. I thought that was a bit odd, for he had introduced himself with another name, but if I could be "Uncle Chris" on my Saturday night program, I guess he could be Hugh.
At least I was in interesting company. I bet I wasn't the only one who
felt duped. Harry Belafonte, for instance. (Click on label to enlarge)

I had forgotten all about this when my secretary, Joan Henry, brought me my morning mail and pointed to an LP that she had unwrapped. "This looks interesting," she said. It was not only interesting, but unpleasantly surprising. I had been duped by the U.S. Army—they had the manager of a pacifist station participating in an Army recruitment radio spot! "Hugh" turned out to be Hugh Downs, whose voice had been cut in as the interviewer. Downs was quite popular at that time, having worked as a network game host, talk host, and anchor (the real thing), but this
deception brought him way down on my list. I decided to talk about this on the air and apologize to our listener-supporters for having been so naïve.

I don't know how many stations this ran on, but this was during the Vietnam era, a time when commercial media worked hard to demonstrate their patriotism. There is no way that Mr. Downs was unaware of WBAI and Pacifica, so I had to assume this was a deliberate "mistake." 

Here's how it sounded:

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