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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Posts Tagged ‘Pete Seeger’

Veterans Day: Thank the slaves who let you shop and spew

Posted by James McPherson on November 11, 2008

Appropriately for today, the 90th anniversary of the ended of the supposed “war to end all wars,” CNN has has a story about American World War II vets who were held in a Nazi slave camp, and then forced by their own government to keep quiet about it for more than 60 years.

Meanwhile, at the same time this morning, the second story on Fox News Web site is titled, “GOP Rep. Claims Obama wants ‘Nazi’-Like Security Force.” That’s the sort of hyperbole that gives Fox its good reputation among thinkers, of course, but also the kind of language used all too frequently by operatives of all political stripes for whom “Nazi” is a favorite fallback term for anyone who disagrees with them.

Most importantly, though, that is the kind of language that throughout American history men, and increasing numbers of women (remember when conservatives opposed letting women be killed in battle?), have fought and died to protect. Even though after 9/11 some “patriots” suggested that critics of the nation should just shut up, and President Bush suggested shopping as a way the non-soldiers among us could fight terrorism, most of us recognize that free speech is among the most important gifts our military protects.

Unfortunately presidents are all too willing to call upon that military to engage in stupid misadventures abroad. Those in the military then sacrifice so that others can shop and spew nonsense. In the words of Carl Sandburg, “And They Obey.” Today, let’s thank them. Better yet, let’s revitalize our efforts to reduce the likelihood that in the future we’ll be remembering new waves of them after their deaths.

Below, see a Pete Seeger medley of American war songs, and a video of Bruce Springsteen doing a live version of Seeger’s “Bring Them Home“:

Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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.

Posted in Media literacy, Music, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »