A sick society - even in the 1950s.
A sick society – even in the 1950s.

Click on the link here for Audio Player – CBS Radio – Who Killed Michael Farmer? – April 21, 1958 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

While the latest series of random shootings in and around school campuses is relatively new, acts of senseless violence aren’t.

In the 1950s, the problem of youthful violence had sky-rocketed to epidemic proportions. Gang violence and random killings among teenagers was a relatively new phenomenon. Many thought it had something to do with Rock n’ Roll, and the slowly eroding attitudes toward sex.

But there was concern we were slipping into a state of perpetual violence in America, brought largely on by  increasing portrayals of murder, mayhem and gore on TV and movies Рand everything down to Comic Books. Many pointed the finger at Media for the breakdown of traditional values of home life.

There was also the nearly constant looming fear of atomic annihilation and the Cold War, we were a nervous and agitated society and things were just falling apart.

Whatever the cause was, the effect was much nervous hand-wringing and plaintive cries of “where did we go wrong?” Something had to be done. Well . . . .

As a way of focusing on the problem, a number of hours of TV and Radio time were devoted to exploring the problem, in the hopes of some answer, some solution to a situation rapidly spiraling out of control.

One of those programs was a Documentary produced by the venerable CBS Radio News and narrated by the legendary Edward R. Murrow. The Documentary “Who Killed Michael Farmer?” was one of the best examples of looking at a problem raging all over the country. It originally aired on April 21, 1958. Whether it successfully changed anything probably wasn’t the intention, but bringing a disturbing and frustrating subject to the forefront was.

For the next hour, you get to explore the teenage gang murder of an innocent, and the repercussions it had throughout the community.

Still, in many ways relevant – even though the situations, people and causes are more complex now. The fact remains the same – people are murdered for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the people responsible are disturbed – emotionally and socially challenged. And after the shock, grief and horror fade with time, things go back to the way they were before. It goes much-much deeper than laws – it will always be more than that.

When nothing changes – nothing changes.


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