Frank Zappa Debates Censorship on CNN’s Crossfire (1986)

Cross­fire aired on CNN from 1982 to 2005, famous­ly pit­ting lib­er­al pun­dits and spe­cial guests against their con­ser­v­a­tive coun­ter­parts. Per­haps you will remem­ber the most famous episode — the day in 2004 when Jon Stew­art paid a vis­it and demol­ished the whole premise of the show. It’s hard to top that moment. But, maybe com­ing in a close sec­ond was Frank Zap­pa’s mem­o­rable appear­ance in 1986.

On that March day, Zap­pa jumped into the fray and fought the cul­ture wars of the 1980s. His main oppo­nent was­n’t the often prick­ly con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­ta­tor Robert Novack. Instead, it was John Lofton, a right-wing colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times, who argued that gov­ern­ment should cen­sor rock lyrics deemed unfriend­ly to fam­i­lies. Zap­pa, who con­sid­ered him­self a con­ser­v­a­tive too, took umbrage and you can watch the con­ver­sa­tion unfold … and at times dete­ri­o­rate. Also don’t miss Zap­pa’s tes­ti­mo­ny before Con­gress in 1985.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Young Frank Zap­pa Plays the Bicy­cle on The Steve Allen Show (1963)

Hear the Musi­cal Evo­lu­tion of Frank Zap­pa in 401 Songs

Watch Frank Zap­pa Play Michael Nesmith on The Monkees(1967)


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Comments (4)
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  • Goran Linderoth says:

    Check this out:
    “The Stu­dio Kor­rekt Inter­ro­ga­tion with Frank Zap­pa, Stock­holm 1988 (uncut)”

  • alissa clough says:

    My moth­er saw this and remarked “Why haven’t I heard of this fel­low before? He seems like a very bright and lit­er­ate gen­tle­man. I heard he went to Jul­liard.”

    I could­n’t real­ly answer that. How could I explain…well, pret­ty much every­thing else he did?

  • Fernando says:

    I’ll nev­er under­stand why zap­pa con­sid­ered him­self as ‘prac­ti­cal con­ser­v­a­tive’. The music, his opin­ions, the con­stant irony makes him far away from con­ser­v­a­tive think­ing. I dun­no, maybe he was iron­ic say­ing that too…

  • Another Some Guy says:

    In Amer­i­ca, clas­si­cal lib­er­al­ism is the default. He is a clas­si­cal lib­er­al, defend­ing and con­serv­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. Con­ser­v­a­tive.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.