Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Frank: a Very Special History Repeats Itself Edition

In 1990, Frank Zappa was guest-host for a program called Focus, produced and aired by the long-since-shuttered FNN. In the clips below, he interviews Emmy-award-winning journalist and current NPR news analyst Daniel Schorr, who discusses, among other things, his decision (in the 1970's) to publish the Pike Committee report--which detailed the CIA and FBI's various and many illegal activities at home and abroad--as well as his subsequent "resignation" from his then-employer, CBS (shades of Rathergate?!)

A bit of context, via Wikipedia:
Schorr attracted the anger of the Nixon White House. In 1971, after a dispute with White House aides, Schorr's friends, neighbors, and co-workers were questioned by the FBI about his habits. They were told that Schorr was under consideration for a high-level position in the environmental area. Schorr knew nothing about it. Later, during the Watergate hearings, it was revealed that Nixon aides had drawn up what became known as Nixon's Enemies List, and Daniel Schorr was on that list. Famously, Schorr read the list aloud on live TV, surprised to be reading his own name in that context. Schorr won Emmys for news reporting in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

Schorr provoked intense controversy in 1976 when he received and made public the contents of the secret Pike Committee report on illegal CIA and FBI activities. Called to testify before Congress, he refused to identify his source on First Amendment grounds, risking imprisonment. This did not mollify CBS executives, and Schorr ultimately resigned from his position at CBS in September 1976.

On May 14, 2006, on NPR's Weekend Edition, Schorr mentioned a meeting at the White House that took place with colleague A. M. Rosenthal and president Gerald Ford. Ford mentioned that the Rockefeller Commission had access to various CIA documents, including those referring to political assassinations. Although scolded at first for his television report by former CIA director Richard Helms, Schorr was vindicated by the text of the Pike Committee, which he obtained from an undisclosed source and leaked to The Village Voice.
I was cheered--though completely unsurprised--to learn that Schorr and Zappa were friends:
Though by no means a fan of rock music, Schorr became friends with composer Frank Zappa after the latter contacted him, asking for help with a voter-registration drive. Schorr made an appearance with Zappa on February 10, 1988, where he sang "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Summertime". Schorr delivered the eulogy on NPR after Zappa's untimely death on December 4, 1993; he professed not to understand Zappa's lengthy discourses on music theory, but he found a kindred spirit—a serious man with a commitment to free speech.
A commenter at YouTube notes: I think when Frank died the world's intelligence level must have dropped by 80%.

Thankfully, we still have Frank Zappa's astounding body of work, and it continues to inspire, amuse, provoke, and, yes, demand. "Pay attention!" it says. "Teach yourself; fight for your ideals; stop accepting mediocrity."

We're trying, Frank. We really are.

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