The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Public panics: before Orson Welles, there was Father Knox

That 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast is iconic, of course [1]. But so - to a now dead or dying cohort - was the name of Monsignor Ronald Knox, a radio controversialist starting in the days when BBC stood for British Broadcasting Company.

An academic, Joanna Bourke, is plugging a book - I heard her on the BBC! - and relates the story of his January 26 1926 radio piece Broadcasting From the Barricades which
took the form of a news broadcast, interrupted by music from the Savoy Hotel, describing a riot in London by a crowd of unemployed men. Trafalgar Square was overrun, the National Gallery was sacked and Big Ben was reduced to rubble by trench mortar attack. A couple of politicians were killed.

Popular - but unquantified? - consternation amongst the audience resulted.

I surmise that Knox's effort, unlike Welles', was not recorded. (I've no idea whether it was even possible to record radio programmes in 1926.) So it's been wiped from the popular imagination [2].

  1. The crucial role of Charlie McCarthy in the panic I canvassed on November 20 2002.

  2. I'm tempted to an analogy with Conan Doyle's Cottingley Fairies, but haven't the time to pursue it.

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