March 2, 1964 Time Magazine: reflections of a different world
Winningreen Discourse A060909a
By Tom Randall
The Warren Commission Report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald had just been released. Everyone thought it was the event of the decade until it became apparent the decade was going to continue its slide — two more riot-inducing assassinations, the phony Gulf of Tonkin incident which led to the congressional resolution of the same name enabling President Johnson's troop build-up in Viet Nam precipitating the "Days of Rage" following the disastrous Democratic Convention in Chicago.
But there were other indications that it was still an optimistic age, still focused on the individual, suspicious of groups and not reliant on a looming "Big Brother" government that lurked in the wings of the future.
The magazine featured Oswald on its front cover and ran 9 pages about the assassination, the Warren Commission's findings and events surrounding them.
It devoted 31 pages to automobile advertising.
The new models had hit the showrooms the previous week and the ads sung their siren song. The late great General Motors led automakers with ten pages of ads closely followed by Ford with nine pages, Rambler with six and Chrysler with five. An upstart European maker, Volkswagen, had one extolling the virtues of its microbus which would soon became the preferred transportation — and abode — of the anti-American tie-dyed set.
Two things are most interesting about these ads. The first is that nearly 20 percent of them were Rambler ads. Rambler was a brand taken over by American Motors when the Nash auto company failed. The brand would eventually disappear altogether when American Motors also failed. Failure, even in those optimistic times, was just as much an individual right as success and liberals had not yet invented the "too big to fail" gimmick to "justify" government takeover of private companies.
The companies failed and the economy percolated right along, in good part because of John Kennedy's tax cuts. Imagine — a Democratic president cut taxes to put more money in people's pockets while increasing federal revenue.
Second, nearly all the cars pictured in the ads were convertibles and "hard-top" convertibles. The NHTSA crash dummies hadn't yet scared buyers and manufacturers away from such vehicles. True, there wasn't much in the way of rollover protection in such cars but individuals were responsible for keeping the shiny side up and the muddy side down.
In the same issue of Time, Mortimer J. Adler, director of Chicago's Institute for Philosophical Research, bemoaned, "Newspapers are beaten in the reporting of news by radio and television and radio. Thus they have become, more and more, journals of opinion."
And, the magazine added, "But the line between interpretation and advocacy is a fine one. And there are critics who contend that this year the press has not always walked that line with sure-footed skill. Part of the reason is Barry Goldwater, whose conservative Republicanism could hardly be expected to stir enthusiasm among predominantly liberal reporters."
Network TV news faces much the same situation today, as its combined ratings for June have plummeted to just under seven percent of all Americans.
Some things change. Some things stay the same.
Contact: Tom Randall