Sunday, January 15, 2017

1/15/1926 Father Knox's radio scandal

January 15, 1926.  The Reverend Ronald Knox was a man of many talends, including mystery writing.  If he is remembered today it is mostly for his Decalogue, ten rules for writing fair detective fiction.

But on this date, in less than fifteen minutes, he managed to shock a good portion of the British public and cause an amazing stink for the new BBC.  Sitting in a cramped studio behind a music shop in Edinburgh, Knox presented "Broadcasting From The Barricades,"  It began with news  of  a disturbance in Trafalgar Square, led my a Mr. Poppleberry, leader of the National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues.  Things get worse and one authority is "roasted alive" on his way to the studio, meaning that, regrettably, "he will therefore be unable to deliver his lecture to you."

It sounds so absurd it seems impossible that anyone could have fallen for the hoax (if you can even justify it with that name). But there were reports of people fainting, demands that the Navy sail up the Thames against the rioters, and so on.  To be fair, radio was still pretty new, and the Bolshevik Revolution was still fresh in people's minds.

All of this happened a decade before Orson Welles terrified some Americans with his dramatization of The War of the Worlds.  And, of course, almost a century before people started screaming about "fake news."

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