The prophet Paul Harvey and I go way back. I first heard the silken gravel of his voice emanating from my grandfather’s radio circa 1960. Kiki, as we called our granddaddy, and his two younger children had in their spare time the peculiar* habit of barricading themselves in their rooms for hours (in my grandfather’s and aunt’s case, years) listening to AM radio (he) and Barbra Streisand records (she).
My uncle also hid in his room listening to jazz when he wasn’t working on a spy ship or at the Navy Yard, but he was the breadwinner in this close knit but distant family (They all lived together but rarely communicated with each other). In addition to the radio, Kiki also played the ukelele, sang, and yodeled. He also enjoyed an occasional half pint of whiskey he hid in his shoes.
“Hey, Kiki, what’s this?”
“Hey, what you doing in that closet? Get out of there! Don’t you tell your grandmama, you hear?
*I wish I could find a more positive adjective, but none come to mind.
Anyway, Kiki was a Joseph McCarthy conservative, and Harvey was the 1961 precursor of Fox News, i.e, a welcome antidote to the liberal bias in network news (The News and Courier, on the other hand, was about as liberal as John A Stormer). Being only 10 or so, I didn’t have a clue about politics, but even back then I detected something false in Harvey’s voice, an echo of hucksterdom, the intonation of a Snake Oil barker.
At any rate, Paul Harvey like so many things from that era – Silly Putty, dammit dolls – had faded from my memory until one of my Facebook “friends” linked via Glenn Beck what they considered an uncannily accurate prophecy Harvey had issued in 1965. You may listen to it here, if you dare, but I’m going to deconstruct the prophecy via the transcript.
The conceit here is that Harvey is impersonating Satan, the Father of Lies, in corrupting the nation by whispering abominations in the citizens’ ears.
“If I were the devil … If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness. And I’d have a third of it’s [sic] real estate, and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — Thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first — I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’”
That’s right, dear reader. Turn off the damn contraption you’re reading this on, go sell everything you own, and give it to the poor. Also, forget about binge-watching this weekend.
“To the young, I would whisper that ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is ‘square.’ And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’*”
*Whose initials now happen to be DJT and who recently has described himself as “the second coming.” Wonder what Harvey would make of the Donald.
That’s right, the Bible isn’t a myth; it’s literally true.
For example, displeased with his creation, God orders Noah to gather a male and female from every species – Aardvarks (because they don’t have cloven feat, a Middle Eastern delicacy), Bengal tigers, polar bears, etc. – and place them on an ark so they can survive a world deluge. After the flood, Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, passes out naked, is seen by his gossiping son Hamm, then is covered by sons Shem and Japheth. Noah wakes up and creates an apology for slavery when he punishes his indiscrete son and his descendants: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”
No way that’s not all literally true (even if it does call to question the God’s choice of Noah as the the progenitor of the world’s population).
Rant on, Prophet Harvey:
“And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.”
“If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames. If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions — just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.”
Now, I have to admit the drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors do seem prophetic for 1965. Maybe Harvey should have added, “I’d whisper to politicians to shift welfare dollars from the poor (we’ll always have them) to farm subsidies (where they’ll enable the idolators who worship Mammon even wealthier). So without a chance of bettering themselves, these children of poverty will turn to crime.”
“Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography — soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money. If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.”
Indeed prisons are overflowing.
The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals …”
Imprison the black cannabis user; award the manufacturers of Xanax massive tax breaks.
“If I were the devil I’d take from those, and who have, and give to those wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what do you bet? I could get whole states to promote gambling as thee way to get rich? I would caution against extremes and hard work, in Patriotism, in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure. In other words, if I were the devil I’d just keep right on doing on what he’s doing. Paul Harvey, good day.”
Which reminds me of an old joke:
Q: What’s the difference between AIDS, genital herpes, gonorrhea, and a time-share condo?
A: Gonorrhea. You can get rid of gonorrhea.