James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Folk music, storytelling and the Bush administration’s “935 lies”

Posted by James McPherson on May 27, 2008

Utah Phillips is gone and another of my favorite songwriter/storytellers, Rosalie Sorrels, is a mostly retired 74-year-old great-grandmother. Of course there are other folk singers and storytellers, some much better known than those two. Pete Seeger just turned 89, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down much. A combination of government malfeasance, coffeehouses and assorted free thinkers and semi-hippies of all ages probably will assure the survival of the genre. But it’s doubtful that any will characterize the West or the labor movement–How many today knows what a Wobbly is?–in the same way as Utah or Rosalie

We need their ilk. Slaves, civil Rights leaders and others have long known that when you’re singing it’s more difficult to be fearful. And politics is one of those things–maybe the main thing–made for the saying, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” So in memory of Utah Phillips, in a music video you won’t see on MTV (come to think of it, that now includes pretty much any video), here is a link to comic Harry Shearer’s “935 Lies,” based on the Center for Public Integrity’s Iraq War Card project.

That project documented 935 false statements about Iraq from George Bush  and seven other top administration officials in the two years following September 11, 2001. “Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses,” note the authors of the project.

Shearer is best known for his work on The Simpsons, This is Spinal Tap, Saturday Night Live, For Your Consideration and A Mighty Wind.

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6 Responses to “Folk music, storytelling and the Bush administration’s “935 lies””

  1. Chuck said

    There are still a good many of us folk singers out there, but the coffee houses are often empty. Either that or the folks are so busy on wifi that th music is just wallpaper. Utah Phillips will be missed.

    935 Lies looks like a link I should follow. Thanks.

  2. […] Presidency.” In fact, either Obama or McCain would have difficulty catching up with the lies of the current president, who seems bound to one day end up on this ignoble list. Tagged with: […]

  3. […] shield, and of course the Bush administration strives to never avoid exaggeration, unless outright lying might work better. But Europeans also have little to fear from Iran, since the European Union is […]

  4. […] By bringing enough attention to the issue, and investigating the Bush administration’s false claims in a way that they failed to do before the Iraq War began, the media might bring enough pressure […]

  5. […] to engage in,” because the Bush administration was far more interested in figuring out how to falsely tie Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks. Unfortunately for the Bushies, Afghanistan is where 9/11 mastermind Osama […]

  6. […] hyperbole to be silly and simplistic. I’d rank Richard Nixon, Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, among others, as much nastier, though I’m also willing to admit that […]

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