Skip to comments.Which global conspiracy is brainwashing the US?
Posted on 08/12/2004 3:20:58 PM PDT by MadIvan
TWO EVENTS in this traditionally politically subdued month have captured rather well how intensely politicised popular American cultural life has become in a highly-charged election year.
In New York last week, Bruce Springsteen announced that he would be entering the US presidential election fray for the first time, headlining a series of rock concerts in September and October with the explicit aim of helping to defeat President Bush in November.
The concerts will also feature such icons of popular music as REM, the Dixie Chicks, Dave Matthews and John Mellencamp. Lefty pop stars have long suffered from the delusion that if only the voters would heed their incisive lyrics, governments would fall all over the world. But Mr Springsteen is different, and his debut as a partisan activist has attracted most attention in the past week, including a signed op-ed article in The New York Times and a lengthy interview with his only obvious equal on this earth, Ted Koppel of ABC News.
Not that anyone familiar with Mr Springsteens corpus of work, from the ironic triumphalism of Born in the USA to the plangent misery of Tom Joad, would be surprised to learn that his politics incline towards the progressive end of the political spectrum. It was always unlikely that someone who made his name writing about the plight of the working man sent to fight foreign wars, only to return home to New Jersey to discover that all the jobs have gone abroad, would throw his support behind a nation-building, free-trade, pro-business sort of president such as George W. Bush.
For months now in any case John Kerry has been using one of the more recognisable Springsteen ballads as his signature theme. Unlike Ronald Reagan, who used Born in the USA in 1984 without the Bosss permission and got into legal trouble, Mr Kerry has apparently received Mr Springsteens imprimatur for the playing of No Surrender at every campaign appearance.
But unlike many of his fellow performers the Boss has, until now, refrained from suiting up and riding his suicide machine on behalf of any political candidate, presumably mostly for sound commercial reasons. It is not written in the DNA of Springsteen followers that they be paid-up Democrats. Now that he has declared his colours, nailed them firmly to his fender stratocaster, and joined all those other leftwingers, conservatives can only shake their heads and ask: et tu Bruce?
The Bosss intervention is the latest example of how unfairly stacked are the odds in the popular music contest between the two parties. It is not just that the Left has, like the Devil, all the best tunes and the best performers to sing them, though that is demonstrably true. Bill Clinton famously expropriated Fleetwood Mac in the 1990s, while all the hit singers of the 1960s were Democrats, or somewhere left of them.
In response, Mr Bush and conservative Republicans can only muster the unimaginably awful music of second-rate country and western stars such as Lee Greenwood. Mr Greenwood, mercifully unfamiliar to almost anyone outside the US, is famous for having written God Bless the USA, comfortably the worst song ever inflicted on an innocent audience.
Hank Williams Jr, a Bush favourite, can usually be relied on to rally the conservative cause, but his better tunes, such as All My Exes Live in Texas are not exactly ideal material for the political arena. And then again you can guarantee that when someone does make an overtly pro-conservative, guns-and-God-and-country kind of song, they will get the pitch all wrong. Charlie Daniels, big in the Deep South, is currently embroiled in a fight over the lyrics of his latest hit , that attacks people who wear rags on their head.
This paucity of talent in the conservative cause is not confined to America either. Even in her heyday, as I recall, the best in the form of popular entertainment Margaret Thatcher could come up with was Ken Dodd.
More important, though, than this sorry imbalance in musical taste and ability between the Left and the Right is the deeper, hidden truth it reveals. A myth continues to circulate among the media elite around the world that somehow, dark satanic forces are crimping individual expression and imposing a conservative-dominated agenda on the American people. If you listened to a substantial amount of reporting on America, you would think that loud-mouthed radio talk show hosts, corrupt religious fanatics and television news networks, such as the one owned by the parent company of this newspaper, have seized control of the national conversation.
It is not only Mr Springsteen and his fawning interlocutors in the media who both propagate and, by their own self-ascribed influence, explode that myth. This lesson was brought home by the other event of political-cultural significance this month: the release of a typically highly-acclaimed film, Jonathan Demmes remake of the bizarre 1962 classic, The Manchurian Candidate.
In John Frankenheimers original starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury in one of the most improbably effective casting combinations ever a communist conspiracy to seize the US Government was hatched when an American servicemen was captured and brainwashed, then returned to the US to seek high political office. Mr Demmes remake which stars Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, and is not released in the UK until November 5, three days after the presidential election is a pale shadow of the original but is riveting if only for its cultural-political message.
Updated for the post-Cold War era, the villains who have planted a chip inside the head of a would-be candidate are not communists, but dark figures representing the interests of a global corporation called Manchurian. In other words, the evil force in the world today is not Islamo-fascism or crazed dictators, but large American corporations, intent on maximising profits in the most nefarious ways. They hijack political systems to further their interests and start wars.
Manchurian is clearly loosely modelled on Halliburton, the energy services company that Vice-President Dick Cheney used to head. (This introduces us to another of the current favourite storylines of Hollywood scriptwriters from 24 to The Day After Tomorrow: the cunning and evil vice-president, emerged from obscurity to seize control of government from an ineffective president.)
This widely propagated conspiracist approach to politics is now largely the preserve of the Left. In the immediate post-Cold War period, conspiracy theorists used to be in the main nutty rightwingers, convinced that the federal government was after them in black helicopters. Now, intriguingly, conspiracy has become the basis for left-of-centre analysis. It was, after all, the basic proposition of Michael Moores Fahrenheit 9/11.
These two strands the mythical right-wing control of the media, and the real left-wing one cross over neatly in that film, by the way. When Walt Disney refused to distribute the movie it was widely reported around the world as evidence of the threat to civil liberties and free speech from conservative media control. This was nonsense, of course; the film was distributed widely through other studios.
Perhaps someone will make a film soon about how a coterie of ultra-liberal, left-leaning corporate executives and artistes dominate the increasingly ubiquitous and powerful global media, and use it to brainwash the American people into selecting candidates for office who share their world view.
I can see Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role as the hero who roots out the conspirators; perhaps there could be a cameo role for Clint Eastwood as a hired gun. The only question is: I wonder if Ken Dodd would be available to record the soundtrack?
Exquisitely uninformed. Hank Jr. doesn't sing 'All My Exes Live in Texas", George Strait does.
Actually, all of this has done me a favor. As more and more of the better known artists get on my nerves, I have become pregressively more adventurous in my tastes, which now tend toward artists little known enough that no one bothers to interview them.
Of course I avoid reading interviews now days, I really don't want to know.
"We'll stick a boot up your a$$- It's the American way!
And how about all the "artists" that the lefty's wish would sit down and shut up...a la Streisand --and let's see Yoko Ono electrify the base.
I understand Yoko has a new release in honor of the "French looking Candidate
I'm Elvis and I'm a conservative!
"I understand Yoko has a new release in honor of the "French looking Candidate"
You put up a link I won't click on. Which would be worse, kerrys face or yoko ono singing?
Oh, c'mon. Live dangerously...it helps if you have real media player. (It's not Yoko, it's Jo Stafford's alter ego/evil twin.)
Who writes this stuff? "All My Exes Live in Texas" was George Strait. And, isn't Hank Williams Jr. dead now? I'm pretty sure Waylon Jennings is.
It's true that conservatives have to keep their mouths shut in music. Actually in all the arts - both pseudo and more highbrow. In classical, it's really bad. We go out after rehersal and a couple of my friends and I have to really watch what we say.