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CHANGING HIS TUNE ... Mark Steyn
Steyn Online ^ | 2 May 2009 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 05/03/2009 8:15:21 AM PDT by Rummyfan

This week marks not only the first hundred days of King Barack's reign and the 30th anniversary of Mrs Thatcher's arrival in Downing Street, but also the 90th birthday of Pete Seeger. The celebrations of Mr Seeger's tenth decade are extensive. If he seems a remote figure from the pop culture back catalogue, not so fast: He played at the Obama inauguration. Which, when you think about it, is quite something.

One must congratulate the old banjo-picker on making it to four score and ten, which is a lot older than many "dissenting artists" made it to under the regimes he's admired over the years. Two years ago in The New York Sun, you'll recall, Ron Radosh had a notable scoop: Hold the front page! Stop the presses! Grizzled Leftie Icon Repudiates…

Who? Castro? Chavez? Al-Qaeda?

Whoa, let’s not rush to judgment. No, the big story was: Grizzled Leftie Icon Repudiates …Stalin.

A couple of months earlier, there'd been some documentary or other “celebrating” the “spirit” of Pete Seeger, the folkie colossus, with contributions from the usual suspects – Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, one or more Dixie Chicks, two-thirds of Peter, Paul and Mary, etc. Mr Radosh had also been interviewed but his remarks about Seeger’s lifelong support of Stalinism had not made the final cut. No surprise there. In such circumstances, the rule is to hail someone for his “activism” and “commitment” and “passion” without getting hung up on the specifics of what exactly he’s actively and passionately committing to. Giving him a Kennedy Center Honor a decade or so back, President Clinton hailed ol’ Pete as “an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them”, which is one way of putting it. You can’t help noticing, though, that it’s all the documentaries and honors ceremonies and lifetime-achievement tributes to Mr Seeger that seem to find certain things “inconvenient”. The Washington Post’s Style section, with its usual sly elan, hailed him as America’s “best-loved Commie” – which I think translates as “Okay, so the genial old coot spent a lifetime shilling for totalitarian murderers, but only uptight Republican squares would be boorish enough to dwell on it.”

Anyway, in the Sun, Mr Radosh, a former banjo pupil of the great man, did dwell on it, and a few weeks later got a letter in response. “I think you’re right,” wrote Pete. “I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in [the] USSR.” And he enclosed a new song he’d composed:

I’m singing about old Joe, cruel Joe He ruled with an iron hand He put an end to the dreams Of so many in every land He had a chance to make A brand new start for the human race Instead he set it back Right in the same nasty place I got the Big Joe Blues (Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast) I got the Big Joe Blues (Do this job, no questions asked) I got the Big Joe Blues…

It’s heartening to see that age (he’s now 88) hasn’t withered Seeger’s unerring instinct for bum rhymes (“fast/asked”). Still, Ron Radosh was thrilled that, just 54 years after the old brute’s death, a mere three-quarters of a century after the purges and show trials and whatnot, the old protest singer had finally got around to protesting Stalin, albeit somewhat evasively: He put the human race “right in the same nasty place”? Sorry, not good enough. Stalin created whole new degrees of nastiness. But, given that the guy got the two great conflicts of the 20th century wrong (in 1940, he was anti-war and singing “Wendell Wilkie and Franklin D/Both agree on killing me”), it’s a start. I can’t wait for his anti-Osama album circa 2078.

Mr Seeger has a song called “Treblinka”, because he thinks it’s important that we should “never forget”. But wouldn’t it be better if we were hip to it before it snowballed into one of those things we had to remember not to forget? Would it kill the icons of the left just for once to be on the right side at the time? America has no “best-loved Nazi” or “best-loved Fascist” or even “best-loved Republican”, but its best-loved Stalinist stooge is hailed in his dotage as a secular saint who’s spent his life “singing for peace”. He sang for “peace” when he opposed the fascistic armaments stooge Roosevelt and imperialist Britain, and he sang for “peace” when he attacked the Cold War paranoiac Truman, and he kept on singing for “peace” no matter how many millions died and millions more had to live in bondage, and, while that may seem agreeably peaceful when you’re singing “If I Had A Hammer” in Ann Arbor, it’s not if you’re on the sharp end of the deal thousands of miles away.

Explaining how Stalin had “put an end to the dreams” of a Communist utopia, Seeger told Ron Radosh that he’d underestimated “how the majority of the human race has faith in violence”. But that isn’t true, is it? Very few of us are violent. Those who order the killings are few in number, and those who carry them out aren’t significantly numerous. But those willing to string along and those too fainthearted to object and those who just want to keep their heads down and wait for things to blow over are numbered in the millions. And so are those many miles away in the plump prosperous western democracies who don’t see why this or that dictator is their problem. One can perhaps understand the great shrug of indifference to distant monsters. It’s harder, though, to forgive the contemporary urge to celebrate it as a form of “idealism”.

James Lileks, the bard of Minnesota, once offered this trenchant analysis of Pete Seeger:

‘If I Had A Hammer’? Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.

Very true. For the cost of a restricted-view seat at a Peter, Paul and Mary revival, you could buy half-a-dozen top-of-the-line hammers and have a lot more fun, even if you used them on yourself. Yet in a sense Lileks is missing the point: yes, they’re dopey nursery-school jingles, but that’s why they’re so insidious. The numbing simplicity allows them to be passed off as uncontentious unexceptionable all-purpose anthems of goodwill. Which is why you hear “This Land Is Your Land” in American grade schools, but not “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic”. The invention of the faux-childlike faux-folk song was one of the greatest forces in the infantilization of American culture. Seeger’s hymn to the “senselessness” of all war, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”, combined passivity with condescension - “When will they ever learn?” - and established the default mode of contemporary artistic “dissent”. Mr Seeger’s ongoing veneration is apparently indestructible. But at least we now know the answer to the question “When will he ever learn?”

At least half-a-century too late.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: music; radicalleft; stalin; steyn

1 posted on 05/03/2009 8:15:21 AM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: diamond6

bump


2 posted on 05/03/2009 8:19:25 AM PDT by diamond6 (Is SIDS preventable? www.Stopsidsnow.com)
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To: Rummyfan
James Lileks, the bard of Minnesota, once offered this trenchant analysis of Pete Seeger:

‘If I Had A Hammer’? Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.

Mark Steyn quoting Lileks - love it!

3 posted on 05/03/2009 8:21:35 AM PDT by Rummyfan (Iraq: it's not about Iraq anymore, it's about the USA!)
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To: Rummyfan
I hate to mention it but we were singing by the campfire at by best friend's wedding and we sung "Where have all the flowers ago?". I am the one holding the camera for this.

Earlier I sang "The Star Spangled Banner" by myself at the campfire. Most people don't know that our National Anthem has four stanzas at the third is rarely sung because it is anti British: The Complete "Star Spangled Banner"

4 posted on 05/03/2009 8:24:40 AM PDT by Stepan12 (Palin & Bolton in 2012)
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To: Rummyfan

Mark Steyn.. brilliant, as usual. thank you posting the article..

Steyn and Colter... you did need much more than that.


5 posted on 05/03/2009 8:29:04 AM PDT by Chuzzlewit
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To: Rummyfan
James Lileks, the bard of Minnesota, once offered this trenchant analysis of Pete Seeger:
‘If I Had A Hammer’? Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.
Mark Steyn quoting Lileks - love it!


"Buck-ninety" - that's the whole problem, they want hammer for free, just to "have it" miraculously.
6 posted on 05/03/2009 8:32:25 AM PDT by alecqss
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To: Rummyfan
There ya go...
Theres a 90 to 1 chance a leftist can compute the obvious..
That Joe Stalin was a murderous son of a democrat harpy..

-OR- the democrats on your family are dumber than a box of marbles (90 of them)..

7 posted on 05/03/2009 8:32:41 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: Rummyfan
...he kept on singing for “peace” no matter how many millions died and millions more had to live in bondage, and, while that may seem agreeably peaceful when you’re singing “If I Had A Hammer” in Ann Arbor, it’s not if you’re on the sharp end of the deal thousands of miles away.

In a just world, these moral midgets would have to live the consequences of that they're cheering on. Let's see how long they'd last on one of Stalin's camps. Or one of Castro's prisons.

8 posted on 05/03/2009 8:33:44 AM PDT by Noumenon (As long as I have a rifle, I STILL have a vote...)
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To: Rummyfan

Pete Seeger is dead. Don’t know the death date but you have to figure most of the voters in Illinois and especially Chicago are dead. There are more dead people on the voter registration rolls than live folks. So it is fitting to have a dead guy sing at the imposter’s inaguration.


9 posted on 05/03/2009 8:36:33 AM PDT by Pastelsbywelz (GOPSenatorialFund,PalinPac)
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To: Rummyfan

Surprised Steyn forgot to mention Old Pete’s PRO- WAR songs, like the “Good Ship Rueben James”, written AFTER Adolf rolled into Russia.


10 posted on 05/03/2009 8:41:06 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: alecqss
"Buck-ninety" - that's the whole problem, they want hammer for free, just to "have it" miraculously.

True. But since communists are forbidden to actually "own" anything, said hammer would have to be property of the State.

Pete was probably waiting in a line at a commie hammer store (without hammers, as usual) when he composed the song.

11 posted on 05/03/2009 8:51:09 AM PDT by Zman516 (socialists & muslims -- satan's useful idiots.)
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To: Rummyfan
We make a mistake to think of these leftists as well intentioned dupes. They're not. They're part of a superbly organized and funded (and quite successful) fifth column who's goal is the destruction of our nation, and indeed all of western culture.

I believe they deserve the same fate as that of Stalin's victims, and Mao Tse Tung's, and Castro's. That would be justice.

12 posted on 05/03/2009 8:53:21 AM PDT by Batrachian
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To: Rummyfan
For the cost of a restricted-view seat at a Peter, Paul and Mary revival, you could buy half-a-dozen top-of-the-line hammers and have a lot more fun, even if you used them on yourself.

BWAHAHAHA!!! Steyn!!

FMCDH(BITS)

13 posted on 05/03/2009 9:03:48 AM PDT by nothingnew (I fear for my Republic due to marxist influence in our government. Open eyes/see)
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To: Pastelsbywelz
Pete is alive and kickin'. He performed at the 0bama Inaugural Celebration

Lets not forget about this little tidbit about ol' Pete, Pre-1950, In 1936, at the age of 17, Pete Seeger joined the Young Communist League (YCL), then at the height of its popularity and influence. In 1942 he became a member of the Communist Party itself (see quotation below). He drifted away from the Party in the 1950's, but remained an unrepentant Stalinist.

14 posted on 05/03/2009 9:27:52 AM PDT by ThreePuttinDude (o)...http://threeputtindude.blogspot.com/ ...(o)
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To: Zman516
Pete was probably waiting in a line at a commie hammer store (without hammers, as usual) when he composed the song.

LOL!
15 posted on 05/03/2009 9:33:24 AM PDT by alecqss
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To: Rummyfan
Yes, they’re dopey nursery-school jingles, but that’s why they’re so insidious. The numbing simplicity allows them to be passed off as uncontentious unexceptionable all-purpose anthems of goodwill. Which is why you hear “This Land Is Your Land” in American grade schools, but not “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic”. The invention of the faux-childlike faux-folk song was one of the greatest forces in the infantilization of American culture.

Excellent point. I really lament the passing of the songs we learned in grade school in the 50s and early 60s that celebrated America - The Star Spangled Banner; The Battle Hymn of the Republic; The Marines Hymn; Anchors Aweigh; Shenandoah; Yankee Doodle; America; When Johnny Comes Marching Home; The Yellow Rose of Texas; She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain; John Henry, Steel Drivin' Man; Oh Susanna!; Camptown Races; Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair; Erie Canal

Our kids are being cheated out of so much of our heritage and particularly that which taught love of your country. PC and Pete Seeger nursery rhymes have destroyed all of. It's all part of public school efforts to teach kids all the evils of their nation.

I didn't enjoy singing all that much as a kid, but it is amazing to think how I still remember all those songs and their lyrics to this day.

16 posted on 05/03/2009 10:22:59 AM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: Rummyfan
...Seeger’s lifelong support of Stalinism had not made the final cut. No surprise there. In such circumstances, the rule is to hail someone for his “activism” and “commitment” and “passion” without getting hung up on the specifics of what exactly he’s actively and passionately committing to... The Washington Post’s Style section, with its usual sly elan, hailed him as America’s “best-loved Commie” – which I think translates as “Okay, so the genial old coot spent a lifetime shilling for totalitarian murderers, but only uptight Republican squares would be boorish enough to dwell on it.”

Here's that "double standard" again - I see a person who "celebrated Stalin" being the moral equivalent of someone who "celebrated Hitler" - as would any rational person comparing mass murderers.

The fact that "cool" people were communists (in the mind's of liberal elites) seems to make them think the rest of us see supporters of these mass murderers the same too. What idiots. Eff the Washington Post. Eff the New York Times. Stalin and Hitler were both mass murderers and the people who supported them are not just idiots or useful idiots, but ENABLERS. The New York Times helped Stalin in his free murder reign. Won a prize for it too.

17 posted on 05/03/2009 10:44:09 AM PDT by GOPJ (We sleep safe..because rough men stand ready..to visit violence on those who would do us harm-Orwell)
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To: Rummyfan

Pete Seeger = BANJO BOLSHEVIK


18 posted on 05/03/2009 10:44:21 AM PDT by y6162
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To: Rummyfan

Wow. Excellent article.


19 posted on 05/03/2009 10:51:33 AM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Rummyfan

It's all part of Obama's Retro-Left freakshow.
The Fabian Socialist as hipster. Obammunist chic.
He'd be a hit at Newport. How is he on tambourine?


20 posted on 05/03/2009 11:28:12 AM PDT by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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To: knews_hound

Steyn ping possibility


21 posted on 05/03/2009 11:20:39 PM PDT by JLS
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