Talk radio before talk radio
By Bruce Walker
Paul Harvey died on February 28, 2009 at ninety-one. Although he is irreplaceable, tens of millions of Americans, who have grown up in an era of ideological media, politicized education, and vicious entertainment, will never know what they have missed. Harvey led a life which was the American Dream. He found work which he loved his whole life. He found a woman who he loved his whole life. He created a life of cheerful work, wholesome pleasures, and lifelong faith which is what every life should be.
Anyone who listened to his program very long grasped some essential points about Harvey. He was philosophically conservative: America was a good nation; God was very real; family and neighbors were the heart of a happy life; work ought to be a labor of love; the world was full of wonders to enjoy and of stories to tell; goodwill toward men was vastly more effective than any expert scheme for making utopia.
Harvey stayed away from political battles. He would point out when Ronald Reagan said something wise, but Harvey would not take a slap at Democrats. Harvey would note examples of the silliness of modern culture, a creature on rootless Leftism, but he refrained from general attacks on the Left. Paul Harvey reported news objectively, but that meant without trying to compensate from the highly subjective mainstream media.
Paul Harvey lived in the world of radio. The clear voice, the good natured attitude towards life, the commonsense practicality of advice - - his "News and Comment" show was a combination of a friendly uncle, disarming honesty, town crier, and entertainer. Harvey, a conservative, was so warm and friendly on the air and he mixed news and entertainment with views and comments so seamlessly that no Leftist ever dreamed of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine to counter his opinions.
He was an anachronism long before he died. Paul Harvey was to mass communication what Jimmie Stewart was to film or what William F. Buckley was to punditry or Walt Disney to entertainment or Everett Dirksen to politics: a legend clearly connected to traditional, conservative values whose personality, accomplishments, and universal appeal kept the left from ever attacking him.
Harvey was not just a favorite of conservatives, he was a favorite of everyone who cherished a decent, normal, and happy life. Lifelong Democrats could listen in their homes or in their cars to Paul Harvey without getting upset. He was your neighbor, your friend, your barbershop. He had political views - - like Jimmie Stewart, Walt Disney, John Wayne, and Elvis Presley had political views - - but Paul Harvey was so much a part of American life that attacking him for what he believed was as small hearted as attacking those other icons for their love of America.
He preceded the utter politicization of American life, the decision by the Left to make language, school, art, and entertainment all part of the "political structure." Millions listened to him for some fascinating story about life, a slice of current news, or a quaint recollection of life as it once was. His voice, like the voice of Ronald Reagan, sounded like all that was good in America. He was a part of America that conservatives never wanted to lose.
We watched movies with Henry Fonda untroubled by his political views. We listened to good music indifferent to the ideology of the composer or the performers. America, to us, was not a savage battlefield of partisan and philosophical enemies but rather a land in which freedom let us all stretch a bit and treat each other as countrymen and not oppressors, victims, or bitter rivals.
Paul Harvey grew up in an age in which noble Democrats like Mike Mansfield sat in Congress and in which thoughtful Leftists like Gregory Peck made films. Harvey competed against honest liberal newscasters like David Brinkley and journalists like James Michener. Paul Harvey lived and worked in an age in which goodwill trumped malice in public life.
Harvey could succeed by hard work, honesty, and honed talent, even though he was unabashedly pro-family, pro-faith, and pro-America. The constellations under which he was born have changed radically. Battlefields pockmark our nation and our world. An ideological war begun and waged by the Left has changed modern life into a dangerous place of combat without rules of decency.
Even before his death, Paul Harvey seemed like an anachronism, a throwback to an age of neighborhoods and happy homes. There are so few like him still left. We wonder where Ronald Reagan went: like Harvey, he went to Heaven. The rest of us are left less one cheerful soul. Paul Harvey was not a warrior in some culture war. That accounts for the awkwardness that many conservatives had in seeing them as one of their own. Harvey, and men like him, simply stood for what experience has taught us is good – the essence of conservative values.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.