28. Manufactured Outrage by Moralists Elicits a Dose of Comic Karma
As outrage grew about John Lennon’s comment that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus“, he explained that the statement was taken out of context. He was actually ridiculing the notion that a group of musicians were being worshipped. In a series of press conferences, he denied that he was comparing himself to Christ, and apologized. Neither explanations nor repeated apologies calmed the furor. Protests were held, threats were made, editorials called for the band’s deportation, the Ku Klux Klan jumped in and began to picket Beatles concerts, and some radio stations ceased to play their songs. Some stations went further and organized “Beatles bonfires” – public burnings of the band’s records.
One such was KLUE, in Longview, Texas, which invited listeners to burn the band’s records and other symbols of their popularity on August 13th, 1966. Beatles’ LPs and merchandise were burned, amidst imprecations and predictions made that lightning would strike the group for their blasphemy. Attendees included a KKK Grand Dragon, who nailed a Beatles record to a wooden cross. In that time and place, a KKK Grand Dragon’s participation was positive PR for the radio station rather than negative. However, whatever PR benefit was gleaned by KLUE did not last long. In a display of karma, rather than lightning striking the Beatles, the very next day lightning struck that station’s transmission tower. It knocked out KLUE’s news editor and knocked the station off the air for quite some time.