Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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January 27, 2011
Under the paving stones . . .

                                               . . . . Facebook?

Journalist Taoufik Ben Brik draws an intriguing parallel, in an essay in the current Courrier International:

In January 2011, the mobile phone [/laptop] has been in Tunis what the transistor radio was in May 1968 in Paris.

[En janvier 2011, le portable aura été à Tunis ce que le transistor fut en mai 1968 à Paris.]

The above caused TiR to wonder, what exactly "was" the transistor radio in the events of 1968, in Paris and elsewhere?

We went to find out a bit about it . . . as our latest pointless excuse to surf webpages.

Thus we see in Daniel Singer's Prelude to Revolution:France in May 1968, a description of the night of May 10, 1968:
The night of the barricades was also the night of the transistor radio.

See his p. 138 and thereabouts, for his explanation of the critical importance of radio, especially non-government-owned stations, in the events of the day.

Meanwhile, Karen Moller's "On The Barricades In May 1968" describes what she saw and heard on the streets a few nights later. She mentions:
One of the students nearby had a transistor radio. He turned up the volume and we heard an interview with student leader Cohn-Bendit, popularly known as Danny the Red. He was absolutely brilliant, cunning, and ruthless. He seemed to remember everything he had ever read.

A similar account by Moller, with photos, is here.

Then there's C. Hitchens' memory of that year, as a youth in Oxford:
I’m quite serious about this: it might seem bizarre to you, but it was real enough to us. And almost every morning, my little transistor radio would wake me with seismic tidings: the black ghettos of America aflame; the mighty American army baffled in the Mekong Delta; the Portuguese empire shrinking under the pressure of guerrillas in Mozambique and Angola; the streets of Madrid and Barcelona filled again with anti-Franco protests; the students of Mexico City cut down outside the Olympic stadium. There were just not enough hours in the day.

& here's Jiří Gruša, on '68 in Prague:
In 1968 we were living in a changed situation in which the separation of the different worlds was beginning to be broken down. So far no one has mentioned one crucial point: the new media network. The Prague Spring could never have had the influence it did if it hadn't been for the transistor radio and Austrian television. Without them, the images would have simply been suppressed as they were during the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Now, however, it was no longer possible to separate the images from the people. And once the "wrong" image has been shown it is too late correct or retouch it.

Finally, Regis Debray in his "Socialism: a Life-cycle", (New Left Review, July-August 2007), steps back to offer a big picture:
'Scientific socialism' would not survive the shift from electro-mechanical transmission (rotary printing press, telegraph) to electronic broadcasting. The single party did not fit well with the telephone; it survived the wireless, but the transistor radio was the limit. The cathode tube and the silicon chip spelt wholesale crisis. Cross-border radio transmissions swept away the relics, and the live-broadcast satellite presided over the funeral.

Most of the above happen to have been written on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of 1968. Thus we are invited to contemplate, among other things, the quaint and obsolete appearance that a transistor radio may hold for us, to imagine how our current technologies might appear in 2050.