A new generation learned about Paul Harvey last night. Sort of.
You take an old speech, throw some romantic pictures of farmers next to it, put it on the Super Bowl, and the nation waxes poetic about Harvey. The things a good marketer can do!
Harvey was, in fact, an historic broadcaster who could create an old-fashioned image of America with his prose. He also had a dark side which, a few years after his death, might have made him toxic to someone trying to sell a pick-up truck. But it didn't.
Take this 2005 broadcast, for example:
"We didn't come this far [as a nation] because we're made of sugar candy. Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.
"And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves. So it goes with most great nation-states, which--feeling guilty about their savage pasts--eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy."
Harvey was the most-listened-to radio person in America. So it was not for nothing when in that same commentary, he lamented that the U.S. didn't use nuclear weapons in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In September 2007, he passed this joke along to listeners, Time.com reported:
This was mild stuff compared with a joke Harvey passed along to his listeners in September 2007 about an imaginary meeting of David Petraeus and Chelsea Clinton. The President's daughter asks the general if he's afraid of anything, and Harvey gives this reply: "I am afraid of three things. I am afraid of Osama, and I am afraid of Obama, and, Ms. Clinton, I am afraid of yo' mama. Heh heh heh. Paul Harvey: Good day!"
"Those of us who believe in the dignity of the person, the importance of social institutions, the need for economic freedom and limited government owe an invaluable debt of gratitude to the great broadcaster," the Action Institute's Joe Carter writes today. "We should thank God he made Paul Harvey. And pray that the Lord soon sends us another communicator as winsome and gifted in explaining the value of virtue of freedom."
Also, he didn't drive a pick-up. He drove a Cadillac.
Paul Harvey's voice is the voice of my childhood. As I watched that commercial today - many facebook farmer-friends had posted it - I thought of grilled cheese, and cold milk and my mom and dad, all of us sitting and eating lunch accompanied by that melodic voice. I don't know much about the controversy surrounding him, but I do know - and love - that voice!
I watched that commercial with mounting disgust, assuming that it was an ad for Monsanto. Thankfully it was just a harmless car commercial.
Updated Paul Harvey:
The commercial made me angry when it was on, and much of the response to it is just annoying me further. You either have people romanticizing what is a really hard life or people using it as an opportunity to complain about corporate agriculture.
But I grew up on a still-running family farm, so I'm sure I'm just bitter or something.