Saturday, 25 February 2012

Who Pays Whom for What?

Fifty years ago I was a thirty year old Carnegie Post Doctoral Fellow in the Department of American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. My first academic task was to create a new course on “The Mass Society” (Mass Comunication: Print, Graphics, Broadcasting, first semester; Mass Production: Industrial Design, Architecture, Urban Planning, second semester. With a lot of midnight oil studying the Frankfurter School(Paul Lazarsfeld, Leo Lowenthal, et alia), Hitler’s gift of Jewish thinkers to American Academe, I created the course the first year (1957) and taught it the next.

In the middle of the second year, Walter Annenberg, the billionaire publisher of TV Guide and The Philadelphia Inquirer, gave Penn two million dollars to found a graduate school of Communication. Faute de mieux, I became the “gofer” between Penn President Gaylord Harnwell and the U.S. academic and media communities.

The business people were enthusiastic but the J Schools were cynical and mocked me for taking dirty money. They sneered when they reminded me that journalism schools refused to stoop to William Randolph Hearst’s boodle, that pioneer of Yellow Journalism. Times had changed: young professors of communication had no moral qualms: they wanted to know what the salary levels would be!

Soon there was a test of Walter’s seriousness. I live in an experimental biracial community in Northeast Philly called Greenbelt Knoll, whose most famous inhabitant was the Reverend Leon Sullivan, most renowned for negotiating the so-called Sullivan Principles which helped Nelson Mandela free South Africa.

One Saturday morning at the community pool, he exploded: "Pat I don’t believe all that Annenberg crap about raising standards in mass communication. We Black Clergy have been conducting a Tastykake (most purchased sweet among blue collars) boycott and both the Inky and the Bulletin haven’t printed a word in all six months.”

Bright and early, Monday, I was being frisked for weapons—a first and only frisk!—before I could take the elevator to his thirteenth story eyrie, where I was dumbfounded to read a sign on his desk: I WILL SO LIVE MY LIFE AS TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER! (He had spent years in federal prison for income tax evasion. Before that he had been a thug in the 1920’s Chicago newspaper circulation wars: The Annenbergs had come East to cleanse the family name. With very little success, I might add.) Walter was stunned that an untenured assistant professor could call him crooked in his own Den! He never buckled!

Philip Morris is famous and feared for supporting Kultur—to cover its corporate cancer causing! I was surprised when Altkanzler Schroeder became a flack for Gazprom. And I flinched when Putin turned down the flow of gas to the Ukraine for its NATO aspirations! And the Czech Republic felt the Energy Lash when it even considered a U.S. defensive missile. What does Gazprom want from Weimar. And when? And Why? (Copyright. “Dumb Irish Luck: A Memoir of Serendipities”.)

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