March 21, 2007

The future....we're in it, and it's stranger than science fiction...

You may have noticed that there have been a bunch of pro-atheist books published lately. It's sick-o, but also pretty funny. The atheists are clearly in a sweaty panic. Things have not worked out as expected, and in particular, religion is not dying out.

They assumed it would, you know. They assumed that religion is something only for the uneducated, and as education and "progressive" thought spread, the old superstitions would be dropped along the road. I read lots of science fiction in my youth, and I think the only "future" where religion still had any part to play was in Frank Herbert's Dune. And even in that book it was assumed that the ruling elites were irreligious.

Well, the future is here. We're in it. And it sure isn't what was expected by SF writers. Actually, since I've digressed to the subject of of SF, I'll mention that I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of my favorite SF writers, people of my generation, have sort of "hit a wall." I used to wait six months, or a year, or maybe two, for their next book, which was usually better than the ones that went before. But lately, I wait in vain. John Crowley, Michael Swanwick, Greg Bear, Eleanor Arnason....I'm waiting, waiting to be amazed and delighted. (This is all subjective, of course. Just armchair theorizing.) I suspect, like so many people of my generation, they assumed things. They absorbed a certain world-view in their youth, and now they can't deal with the nasty fact that the future ain't what it sposed to be!

But actually none of that is what this post is about. It's really about how our local classical radio station, KDFC, has had some assumptions challenged. First, this from the SF Chronicle:

A 30-second radio ad for a book was taken off the air Wednesday by KDFC-FM, the San Francisco classical station, when it drew complaints from listeners after airing a few times.

The advertisement for "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," by Chris Hedges, published in January by Free Press, was tailored to play only in the Bay Area, to promote local appearances by the author.

"We thought the demographic for the station would jibe perfectly with the readership for the book," said Suzanne Donahue, associate publisher of Free Press, a division of New York-based Simon & Schuster."We were surprised by the vociferous response," she said by phone Thursday. "It's San Francisco, and you think of it as being open-minded, very left-leaning and a very receptive audience for the ad for the book."

In the end, the audience had a problem not with the book but with the ad copy. Written by the publisher's promotion department, it included these lines:

"In his new bestseller, Chris Hedges challenges the Christian Right and its dark ideology. He challenges their religious legitimacy and makes a compelling case that these zealots have merely found a mask for fascism in patriotism and the pages of the Bible."

When read by one of the radio station's announcers -- a voice familiar to the local audience -- these words could be mistaken for the speaker's opinion...

I love Ms. Donohue's assumption, that "open-minded" equals anti-Christian. I guess San Francisco has allowed some close-minded people to creep in. Who knew? What could be going wrong? Maybe the Roe Effect? (I'm leaving aside here the fact that I happen to BE a member of the "Christian Right," and know perfectly well that the author's thesis is crapulous nonsense.)

The other challenge thing is that our family likes KDFC. Even our kids. Charlene, more musical than I, has been a faithful listener for decades. She recently was sent a survey for hard-core listeners, and was annoyed to see that it asked what other local stations one listened to, but all the options were left-leaning. There was no option to check KSFO, our local conservative talk-radio station. She fired off a stiff note, and today received another survey.....with KSFO!

Maybe the first survey was just a mistake, but I'd guess not. Not that KDFC, or Simon & Schuster intend to offend customers, but they just assumed... Sort of like Pauline Kael, who was famously reported to have said in 1972, about Nixon's victory: "How can that be? No one I know voted for Nixon!"

Posted by John Weidner at March 21, 2007 2:21 PM
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