Uniformity Can Be Fun


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April 2, 1958, Vol. III, No. 23

Uniformity Can Be Fun

By Nat Hentoff

It is a dolorous measure of the soft mediocrity of most of the executives in commercial TV that during his tenure as head of NBC, Sylvester L. “Pat” Weaver, Jr., achieved a reputation as the daring iconoclast of the industry. His battle, as he puts it, was “to build an instrument that is flexible, useful, and valuable to all interests.” It is the same Mr. Weaver who appraised Martin Mayer’s book, “Madison Avenue, U.S.A.,” in the March 29 Saturday Review and concluded with this unwittingly appalling final paragraph:

“I believe,” says Weaver, “that many thinking men and women are coming to realize the really revolutionary role that advertising and the mass media have been and are playing in our society. Since the First World War we have seen a dramatic mutation in society, still in process. The motivation for that change, to many of us, is the picture of what man can have if he will work and save and solve problems and even spend to get that world. This we call our incentive system, unique in history. Under its impact we are moving from a society of status to a truly democratic society. And such a society must have a huge area of uniformity in dress, customs, language, to allow groups within the society to intermingle without feelings of fear or inferiority. This uniformity is fortunately created through the mass media…”

…The kind of uniformity Mr. Weaver finds positive, allowing “groups within the society to intermingle,” was in distorted evidence in Albany a couple of weeks ago. The Legislature, under pressure, killed a bill to allow Orthodox Jews and Seventh Day Adventists to open their stores on Sunday in view of the fact that they observe another day of the week as their time of rest. After all, if weekday uniformity is to be regarded as an optimum condition, how much more spiritually essential is Sabbath uniformity?

Think too of the shattering damage to our “truly democratic” society if some stores were able to stay open Sundays without paying graft. What saddened me most about the Albany disgrace was that even the ablest member of the Assembly, Daniel Kelly of the West Side, who is an insurgent Democrat, yielded to the heard-fear that defeated the measure.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]