TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT April 1995

AMERICAN MYTHS

Talk Radio

BEFORE THERE WAS CYBERSPACE, there was the logosphere—as Gaston Bachelard dubbed the world-enveloping “ionized layer” of the babble transmitted on the radio. For the early century’s avant-garde, radio promised a new common language, a unified consciousness, Whitman’s Body Electric: it was the “immensification of space. . . . No longer visible and framable the stage becomes universal and cosmic” (F. T. Marinetti). If it were possible to broadcast music, some reasoned, why not refined sensations of taste? “People will drink water and think they are drinking wine” (Velimir Khlebnikov).

As sound, radio plugs directly into the brain—hence the common schizophrenic fantasy of radio-controlled implants. But radio also defines a far-flung community. An adolescent during the cacophonous post–World War I radio boom—when raucous hucksters and, later, aggressive motormouths like Walter Winchell and

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