Spellbinding and Crooning: Sound Amplification, Radio, and Political Rhetoric in International Comparative Perspective, 1900–1945
Abstract

This article researches in an interdisciplinary way the relationship of sound technology and political culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. It sketches the different strategies that politicians—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Dutch prime minister Hendrikus Colijn—found for the challenges that sound amplification and radio created for their rhetoric and presentation. Taking their different political styles into account, the article demonstrates that the interconnected technologies of sound amplification and radio forced a transition from a spellbinding style based on atmosphere and pathos in a virtual environment to “political crooning” that created artificial intimacy in despatialized simultaneity. Roosevelt and Colijn created the best examples of this political crooning, while Churchill and Hitler encountered problems in this respect. Churchill’s radio successes profited from the special circumstances during the first period of World War II. Hitler’s speeches were integrated into a radio regime trying to shape, with dictatorial powers, a national socialistic community of listeners.


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