Week 10: On “Power to the People”

As an electronic engineering student who has learned some relevant technology of the radio, like the amplifier circuits or the modulation process, I find it very fascinating to see radio’s role in social-historical stage. Its power to transform the mass is unprecedented. “…it (the act of listening to the leader) made the crowd into the people”, Dawson says. This summarizes how radio influenced the political behavior of the crowd. Radio created a sense of belonging to a greater community–the nation–that to some extent transcended the hierarchy. Both the elites and the poor could listen to a speech at the same time or hum with a popular song played on the radio, be it samba or tango. The people could also defy the authority by rejecting the official radio programs with didactic propaganda or music with ulterior intention, which would be much harder had the defiance been face-to-face. More importantly, with shared information and sentiments, the crowd could be united over a large region to become a power that shook the decision of the authority. We see convincing incidents in all three countries mentioned in this chapter, the release of Perón from jail being one of the most impressive.

Hence it’s plain to see that for political leaders wielding radio well meant turning the power of the people in them. However it’s not so easy to accomplish. The reason is that people are not always fools. They may be fooled once but not all times. No matter how rhetoric and moving you are on the radio, the people will ultimately look for the actual changes in their lives. Wage increase, healthcare, suffrage, etc., people’s support lasted with the realization of those promises. Therefore the principle of a beloved leader was not so much changed with the use of radio; you still need to cater to people’s needs. Cárdenas couldn’t force villagers to listen to XFX by gluing the dials, but could receive thousands of telegrams expressing support when he nationalized the oil industry. Similarly, I believe that Evita’s long-lived esteem was not determined by how humble and magnanimous she portrayed herself in the speech, but what she actually did especially with FEP.

Read 2 comments

  1. I also found it very fascinating how powerful the radio was and still is to a certain extent today. Although every social class did listen to the government speeches, music, etc., it is still very much biased. This can in some cases be very dangerous, since its influential capability can shape the way people think.

  2. I like your analysis of the radio. I particularly like how you give the public agency in deciding whether to agree with the radio’s output or to create a counter-culture in which they defy mass produced assumptions and counter it with their own. We can definitely see this play out in politics as it is in music.

Leave a Reply