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War...What Is It Good For?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHIN’!

by Dave Marsh

Clear Channel radio network issuing a list of 150 “questionable” (i.e., banned) songs to its multitude of programmers in the wake of the terror attacks is far less remarkable than the response to it.

I don’t mean Clear Channel’s insistence that the list represents nothing more than “guidelines.” The company’s stations being among the most stupidly programmed in history, how many times a decade do you figure they play “Disco Inferno” or “Dead Man’s Curve” under any circumstances?

Two other things are what grabbed people’s attention. First, the way the list lumped together songs that might genuinely hurt or enrage somebody-Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot”–with songs that might even be healing: “Enter Sandman,” “”My City Was Gone,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Rescue Me.” If you suspect the people who program the radio are by-and-large morons, here’s proof.

Second is the ideological nature of the list. Rage Against the Machine is banned in its entirety; the only act so honored. Forbidden are “War” in either the Springsteen or Edwin Starr version, Cat Stevens’s “Peace Train,” Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” How they forgot either Pearl Jam or Bob Dylan’s version of “Masters of War” is hard to figure.

I suspect it is this political aspect of the potential ban that really fascinates. After all, it is the beginning of what we would expect in war time. And since few of us have ever lived in the U.S. in an actual war, we don’t know what to expect.

We’re not about to be given the time to figure it out, either. The reasons for the terror attack and the options for response need open debate. Instead, we have a stampede. Of the 535 members of Congress, only brave Barbara Lee of Oakland, CA refused to sign the blank check giving the Bush administration the right to tear off in any direction it wants to, using any degree of force. The barrage of propaganda that makes this seem inevitable is so ceaseless that I’d rather watch reruns of the previous nadir of Western civilization, Seinfeld.

Listening to antiwar music-or even “action” stuff like “Another Bites the Dust” or “Some Heads are Gonna Roll,” both on the list-would cause people to reflect. Which might lead to wondering why we are just going to do as we are told by the same people who created the mess that led to the attacks and the total lack of readiness for them.

That there ought to be some response to the terror bombings is entirely obvious. That our options are exclusively military, that we need to rush into who knows what kind of war against who knows what and who knows where, and surrender fundamental civil liberties in the process, without changing a single other aspect of our foreign or domestic policy, is anything but obvious-if you stop to think. We haven’t been given much chance to do that-the Clear Channel list, whether it’s put into effect or not, gives us a chance to do that.

To think thoughts that are not approved. It is this that the government and the corporations really fear about popular music. And should. CP

Dave Marsh is the editor of Rock and Rap Confidential.