The spoken word is a very powerful thing. That probably goes without saying (and is also probably a cliche way to begin a short blog post about shock radio), but I think that people often forget just how powerful it really is. It can command, objectify, transport, alter, move, kill, spark–just about everything that can happen in this natural world can be caused or begun by words.
In a clip from Talk Radio, Barry Champlain does something that isn’t very far from what most radio show hosts do today. He speaks directly to the audience (sometimes including himself in the congregation, sometimes not) and tells them what he thinks of them. Not only that, but Barry flat out tells them to go to hell–after all, his audience is made of “voyeuristic, perverted, hate-filled, prideful, sad little swine.” There’s no doubt that what he says is filled with his own self-pity, self-hate and disgust, but there is some insight amongst it all.
In a different clip from Pump Up The Volume, Mark Hunter also speaks directly to his radio audience in an extremely straightforward and blatantly offensive manner. Again, this is something that’s certainly both shocking and refreshing to listeners, but there’s serious insight amongst all that is said.
The insight that I’m referring to lies with the fact that “we create the experience.” That’s something that a teacher in my high school told me. He was and is, in my opinion, a crazy but amazing man, who doesn’t deal with whiny, fake, selfish people and things. He said “we create the experience” because we choose, every day, how to live our lives and how to react to things. We choose out words and our actions, and we choose how to interact with others.
Barry Champlain and Mark Hunter are definitely whiners, in a sense. However, they’re choosing to create a very real and non-invisible environment for themselves. By addressing the audience directly and saying flat-out how they feel about themselves and everyone they’ve encountered in their lives, they’re showing everyone that they’ve nothing to hide. Barry talks about how disgraceful the people of the world are for delving deeper and deeper into a social abyss of sorts; Mark talks about how if you don’t feel disturbed all of the time (living in the world that we’re all living in), then there’s something wrong with you. Both men are creating a very serious, shocking experience through words over radio.
I enjoy and appreciate what both are doing. They’re basically telling people to look at themselves and either make a choice: go higher or go lower. We’re already low enough, in a sense, so why not go higher? Why not try to start improving thing (our lives, our personalities, our mannerisms, etc.) and create better experiences for ourselves? I see no valid reason as to why anyone should go lower, so I’m definitely a believer of the more positive side of what can be found in what Barry and Mark are saying.
When an event comes along like the shooting at the Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church, an event caused by words (and shock words at that), it makes people really think about the power of words. Especially when those words directly involve popular political and social movements, which many people take extremely seriously.
I believe that Bill Moyers, among other things, speaks about what my high school teacher has always been speaking about: creating experiences. The terrible thing that the man who entered TUUC caused to happen was a strong and direct example of someone creating a very bad, negative, powerfully misguided and mislead experience. What that man chose to do may have stemmed from political beliefs, but it ultimately involves personal feelings and experiences. No matter who or what the man was or believed in (liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, devout church-goer, atheist), he chose to create a very specific experience and drag himself lower down than he already was–after the action, he ended up in jail facing major criminal charges. If he had only bettered himself and chose a different path–created a different experience–he wouldn’t be in jail and there wouldn’t be blood on his hands.
Radio talk shows, among other things, are very powerful ways to convey messages through spoken word, since they involve nothing BUT spoken word. There are no images or sound effects or background music tracks–only words and opinions. Harry, Mark and Bill, in my opinion, all seem to believe (in their own unique ways, of course) that this spoken word causes people to do different things, act different ways, create different experiences. And this is very much the truth and reality.
For the record, the way the clip from Talk Radio was shot is absolutely amazing. A continuous, full outward 360-degree camera tracking shot was a perfect way to get across the feelings Barry had inside of him–being watched from all sides, feeling judged, but also feeling like a judge himself.