1. “For What It’s Worth” (featured on) 10 Classic Rock Tracks From the End of the ’60s
2. “Expecting to Fly“
3. “On the Way Home”
Editor’s Note: Over the spring and summer of 2014 we experimented with the PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight feature, highlighting reader suggestions for great songs worth featuring. One contributor’s infectious enthusiasm and good nature won us over. He’s since expanded his music recommendations to a series of list-article-mix tapes. Now in this daily feature we’re going to start drawing from his lists (and growing an archive of them) to discuss the songs and artists included.
Updated plan for 2015: the songs from Allston’s lists will each serve as the basis for musical debates. Just as in the morning we’ll weigh one classical composer against another, in the afteroon we’ll do the same with the 20th century’s rock ‘n’ roll and other popular music genres. From now on, each Rock-Out will feature at least 2 tracks pitted head-to-head with with encouragement for dialogue about them. Each afternoon weigh in on behalf of your favorite artists, bands, and songs. Also offer your own suggestions for who should be featured next and what mix-tape lists you want to see next in Allston’s fun series. Who should be included next? What ideas do you have for music or other culture or lifestyle ideas you’d like to see discussed at PJ Lifestyle? Get in touch DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter.
Here’s Allston’s archive so far, but he’s got more list-mix-tapes in the works:
The War Music Series
- 10 Classic Songs from the World War II Era
- 10 More World War II-Era Classic Songs
- 10 Songs of the Korean War Era
- 10 Songs That Embody the Vietnam War Era
- 10 Songs That Embody the Wars of the 1980s
By Artist and Band
- 5 Terrific Tracks from Horace Silver, Jazzman Extraordinaire
- The 5 Musical Periods of the Yardbirds
- Your 6 Song Introduction to Traffic
- 5 Creative Musical Acts You Probably Haven’t Heard of But Should Know
By Decade and Era
- Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear
- 15 Classic 1970s Songs Millennials Should Know
- 15 More Classic 1970s Songs for the Millennials
- 15 More 1970s Songs Showcasing the Decade’s Wide Range
- 10 Classic Rock Tracks From the End of the ’60s
- Your 15 Song Introduction to The New Wave Punk Sound That Ended the 1970s
- 15 Early Punk And New Wave Songs Bridging the 1970s to 1980s
- 7 Spooky Halloween Tunes
- Ranking the 5 Most Excellent Bluesmen
- 10 Songs That Remind Me of Summer
- 12 Wonderful Christmas Songs
As last week’s epically embarrassing “James Taylor” fiasco demonstrated, the Western establishment acts like the Sixties never ended.
All that “peace and love,” “soixant-huitard” stuff comprised but a slender slice of the 1960s, and much of that was bogus, a cynical scam that ruined millions of lives.
“OK,” some of you have said in the comments, “but at least that decade had a hell of a soundtrack!”
Yeah, about that…
Last year I read three books that challenged the mainstream view of the 1960s.
(Herewith I’m employing the folk definition of “The Sixties” as that stretch between the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and the May 1975 fall of Saigon.)
I say “mainstream” because I haven’t entertained many illusions about what really happened during that overlong Baby Boomer idyl since I was a kid.
In the first place, I grew up “soaking in it,” in the dishwashing liquid commercial catchphrase of the era, and I hated almost every minute.
In the second, as an adult, I discerned certain disruptions in the official “peace and love” narrative.
Being a bratty pest by temperament, I’ve made a minor career out of helping debunking the myth of the selfless hippie, the noble white liberal, the enlightened radical, the powerless housewife and the era’s other stock characters.
(I’m also rather fond of rehabilitating the laughingstocks of the age.)
This year, I read three books that, to various degrees, reinforced my view that what we call The Sixties — an allegedly Edenic era that canny progressives continue to evoke when crafting 21st century policy — was a Potemkin village of the imagination, or, in the words of the narrator below, “a mass hallucination”:
The “Christmas single” phenomenon is unknown in the U.S., unless you’ve ever watched Love, Actually.
It’s sort of the “Black Friday” of the British music industry. Since so much music is sold (or, at least, used to be) during the holiday season, having the #1 song on the charts during that time gives one lucky record company a financial boost.
After Slade took the top spot in 1973 with their “Merry Xmas Everybody” — beating out “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard — “an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many [in the United Kingdom], it is part of the fabric of their childhood.”
So I doubt many American readers care that there’s a campaign to get Iron Maiden’s old chestnut “The Number of the Beast” to the top of the charts in time for Christmas, “for a laugh.”
What’s really funny (sort of) is that, during the early 1970s, such a campaign would have been denounced on the front page of every British tabloid, and remarked upon within American newspapers’ “entertainment” sections, at the very least.
Because culture-watchers would see it as yet another sign of the satanic takeover of the culture, and the world — the one I wrote about last week.
The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.
But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?
Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:
Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:
Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”
BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”
Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.
Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.
According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”
He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.
“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”
That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.
“…the stage where Johnny Rotten unveiled his baleful stare has given way to a Harry Potter section.”
The venerable St. Martins School of Art having moved to a new campus, another esteemed institution took over its old building this year:
Traditionalists grumbled that this new Foyles was altogether too slick, nowhere near as dusty and quaint as the original store.
But when discussing this doubly-historic move, the one talking point almost everyone settled on was revealing.
St. Martins School has, over the course of 150 years, produced a number of distinguished graduates.
Its sculpture department was once called “the most famous in the world.”
Yet headlines trumpeting the famous building’s transformation from respected art school to glossy media megashop were almost all variations on a single theme:
“Foyles to open new flagship bookstore on site of Sex Pistols’ first gig”
In his 1970s prime, Cat Stevens looked like Russell Brand just thinks he does.
Neither fellow is quite forlorn or angular enough to be my type, but I can certainly understand the appeal of the former, if definitely not the latter. (Ugh.)
As Dennis Miller still likes to muse sometimes on his radio show:
Can you imagine how many women were throwing themselves at Stevens back in the day?
(Except not in those words.)
Stevens has been Miller’s bete noir for a while now.
And former folk singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, came out this week and said he advocated the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So much for that “Peace Train” crap, huh, Cat? … Yeah, I could see this comin’ years ago on his old album, Tea for the Killerman. You, uh, you remember the big hit:
I’m being followed by a big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
How can I try to explain
When he do I turn away again
But it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right, I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me now
There’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world!
The hippies started small:
That guy who invented Earth Day killing his girlfriend, hiding her body in a wall and taking off for France.
(Remember: More people died in Ira Einhorn’s apartment than at Three Mile Island.)
The stupid Weathermen succeeded mostly in blowing themselves up.
Then it eventually dawned on hippies (probably during some pot-fueled rap session):
They needed to think big, like their totalitarian heroes — Mao, Che, Castro.
Forget this penny-ante nihilism and creative destruction.
Sure, the Bible might be mostly b.s., but that stuff about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was trippy:
Pestilence, War, Famine and Death.
Each time I put one of these up it acts as a sampling of what you might’ve heard on any major radio station during that particular decade. Needless to say, the genres and songs will vary. I’m deliberately trying to not be too systematic about it, save by year. Although I may at some future date post some articles on the specific genres of this time – funk, southern rock, pop, etc. If any of you think that might be a fun idea, please let me know.
I suppose it would be fair to say that in songs such as this, early on, are the roots of progressive rock. Certainly this doesn’t fit the mold of end-’60s rock.
1. Genesis – “The Knife” (1970)
I was in seventh grade, and it happened at lunch. I don’t know what we were eating — chicken nuggets, most likely.
I wasn’t aware of it right away, but already there were whispers: something happened in New York City, at the Twin Towers. Was it an accident? Or was it a malevolent act?
We’d find out later. My English teacher told us that planes had struck both lead towers of the World Trade Center. Another had hit the Pentagon. Strangely, I didn’t think anyone had died. I assumed the buildings were damaged and that they would later be repaired.
At the end of the day we were called down to an assembly and we were told that the whole thing was an accident. They gave us the usual spiel: talk to your parents; we’re here if you need us; it’s okay to cry.
I went home and turned on the news and stayed glued to it. They kept replaying the crash and the carnage: the explosions, the screaming. I was horrified.
This, of course, was no accident.
Obviously, I knew that what took place was a terrorist attack. But I couldn’t decipher the motivations.
And this led to something funny, perhaps darkly so: I recognized immediately that the Twin Towers were the two tallest buildings in New York City. So instead of viewing the attack as a Huntington-esque “clash of civilizations,” I assumed al-Qaeda wanted to destroy large buildings.
Our middle school was, I thought, the tallest building in town. Were we next?
13. She has discovered a close kinship with George Costanza.
Sure, she may come off all serious in her videos, but Lana Del Rey has a seriously good sense of humor. According to Rolling Stone, Lana Del Rey ”has a George Costanza-like plan for the future.”
“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something,” she says. “But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.” She’s surprised to learn that George tried this approach in an episode of Seinfeld. “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza! Oh my God!”
I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.
10. Joan never grew old or gave up.
At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.
Traffic was formed in 1967 by musicians Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. All had been professionally performing already; Winwood in particular had just abruptly departed the highly successful Spencer Davis Group.
Right from the word “go,” Traffic was on the US and UK charts. Although of the three popular singles they first released (Mr Fantasy), their biggest hit wasn’t really anything like what you would think of by them. Most of the band members thought it was “silly” and not like the sound they envisioned at all. They loathed the tune, refusing to ever perform the song live; Dave Mason, who wrote it and was getting intense criticism over it, quit the band in January of 1968.
1. “Hole in my Shoe” (1967)
At their very beginning, the Yardbirds were first the Metropolitan Blues Quartet, then briefly the Blue Sounds, finally settling on Yardbirds in the fall of 1963. This one band was responsible for starting the careers of three of the top 100 guitarists (Clapton #2, Page #3, Beck #5). Their original sound was all “classic” blues. Regrettably, there are no recordings of them from this time, so here’s a piece by the original artist that they played frequently, in smoky, ill-lit UK clubs.
1. The Eric Clapton Era: Howlin’ Wolf – “Smokestack Lightning” (1959)
In October of ’63, the original lead guitarist, Tony “Top” Topham resigned. You see, he was all of 16 years old, and his parents objected to him hanging around in clubs at his age (the newly named “Yardbirds” having succeeded as the house band for the Crawdaddy Club, replacing the Rolling Stones); also, he was scheduled to attend art school, so away he went. Once Topham had departed, a preciously young Clapton took over as lead guitar. Clapton was also enamored of the blues, although he took the ‘Birds in a somewhat different direction than the original “pure” sound.
10. Howdy Doody
I can hear you… “What? Are you nuts? How can you put a puppet on a list of the greatest influences on our nation’s largest, and presently most influential, generation?”
Well, ignoring the fact that Howdy Doody was not a” puppet” (he was a marionette), having Howdy Doody on the list makes perfect sense. The baby boomers are what sociologists call “a cohort group” — i.e., a group of people who share, and are bound together by, a common set of experiences during a defined period.
What was the first shared experience that the boomers – the cohort group born between 1946 and 1964 – uniquely had in common? Watching TV. And what was their earliest shared favorite television program? Howdy Doody. I rest my case.
10. Sullivan and Son
This working class comedy executive-produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley is fraught with all the non-PC ethnic and sexual humor you’d hear in a working class, Irish-Korean, middle-American bar like the one in the show. Created by Korean American actor/comedian Steve Byrne and Cheers writer Rob Long, the TBS sitcom reminds you that some jokes are still OK to crack. The stellar cast features Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and comic genius Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Christine Ebersole and Owen Benjamin, who portray the drop-dead hysterical mother-son dependent duo Carol and Owen Walsh.
Few record albums have quite the same grasp on the soul of an aging “Baby Boomer” as does the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ask “where were you when you first heard the album?” and their answer will be as detailed as would be the answer of a WW II veteran when asked where and how he first learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, or a younger person, “where were you when you first heard about the Twin Trade Towers?”
It thus comes as some shock to most “boomers” when they learn that among younger generations Sgt. Pepper’s is not held in universally high esteem.
This aging rocker recently confronted that fact on a forum popular with guitarists of all ages. The negative comments about the album certainly called for a response. But what response? Can an older person who came of age during the sixties make one that is fair and unbiased? I had to try. But first I had to think.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was, and is, to my generation, more than a record album or (later) CD. It was, and is, for many, the punctuation point that marked a major change in our society: the period at the end of the sentence that was the fifties.
To a younger audience this would have to be explained.
Are you a true child of the 1970s? See how many of these essential shoes you owned to find out!
10. Earth Shoes
Going from worst to first, I’m almost reluctant to name Earth Shoes to a list of “essential” anything because they were so completely unfortunate looking. The “negative heel technology” shoes represented one of those terrible moments when fashion tried to merge with health benefits. Anne Kalsø, a native of Denmark, invented the shoes in the 1950s. According to the Earth Shoes website:
Kalsø ‘s passion for yoga led her to study in Switzerland and eventually in Santos, Brazil. It was there, in 1957, that she observed the excellent posture of indigenous Brazilians, and the impressions left by their bare footprints as they walked through beach sand. She observed that the footprints laid were deeper in the heels than in the toes. This natural body position resonated with the thoughtful Kalsø. It echoed a formative yoga pose she knew well – Tadasana (the ‘Mountain’ pose). posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.As she herself emulated the pose of the native Brazilians, she noticed how her own posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.
Ten years later, Earth Shoes were born in Copenhagen. The company claimed that many people reported that the shoes eased chronic foot and body problems. It wasn’t until April 1st, 1970 — coinciding with the first Earth Day — that the first ”Kalsø Earth Shoes” store opened in the United States. The shoes became wildly popular, even appearing on the Tonight Show and in TIME magazine. They’re still available, by the way, in case you’re feeling nostalgic or feel the need to have your breathing passages opened.
We’ve all heard of the horrors of Cop Rock and Manimal, but after receiving a reader tip on one of their worst TV shows of all time, I did some digging and uncovered these utterly classic samples of bad television that would make great material for Joel McHale or the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
10. Bucky and Pepito (1959)
Produced by Sam Singer, “The Ed Wood of Animation,” Bucky and Pepito was a typical story of an “ambitious” white cowboy and his “lazy” (literally, they sing about it in the theme song) Mexican buddy trolling the old west on a zero budget. According to Toonopedia, “Cartoon historian Harry McCracken once said the pair ‘set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass. They were great at what they did, which was being bad.’” Thanks to Bucky and Pepito, cartoonists have debated creating a Sam Singer Award for truly bad animation.
1. Ford Mustang
Where does one even start when talking about the Ford Mustang? This car has become the embodiment of America’s love affair with speed and muscle. This iconic Ford instigated the creation of the “pony car” classification of automobiles and prompted competing car manufacturers to crank out America’s other favorite muscle cars. For Ford, the Mustang was (and continues to be) a smash hit.
The first Mustang debuted at the New York World’s Fair in April of 1964. It was originally equipped with a 260-cubic-inch (4.3L) V8 but was quickly upgraded to a 289-cubic-inch (4.7L) V8 in its first year. By 1968, the Mustang was outfitted with a 302-cubic-inch (4.9L) V8. The following year, Ford released several performance packages for the Mustang including the Boss 302, Mach 1, and Boss 429. The speed and power had arrived.
As it turns out, the decade wasn’t all bad!
Here are a few things we remember fondly from the 1970s:
1. Department Store Gift-Wrapping
As a child I was completely enchanted by the dazzling array of bows and shiny gift wrap displayed on the wall in the gift-wrapping department at the May Company department store near my home in suburban Cleveland. The ladies were expert wrappers, with perfectly creased corners and stripes that lined up at every seam. The bows and gift cards were like icing on the tops of beautiful cakes. It was like watching magic happen before my eyes to see an ordinary salad bowl transformed into a sparkly work of art piled high with ribbon and lace. These days, most stores no longer offer gift-wrapping service (though a handful still do). More often than not you’ll be directed to the wrapping paper aisle and told to fend for you ham-handed self — explaining the exponential growth of the gift bag industry.
You don’t normally think “cultural commentary” when you watch a Paul McCartney video. But, with his latest video release for the song Appreciate, the septuagenarian King of Rock continues to pull new tricks from up his sleeve. This time, a catchy song and dance number transcends the usual McCartney fantasyland, providing some smart commentary on human culture in an increasingly technological environment. In McCartney’s museum, the humans doing everyday things are the displays to be studied by a robot known as “Newman”. An artistic interpretation of left and right brain segments is displayed as McCartney walks this New Man (get it?) through the exhibit, counselling him on human behavior and how to groove. By the end of the video, even the humans are getting into the act, dropping their technological fancies in favor of dancing to the beat.
The robot itself shouldn’t come as a surprise to hardcore McCartney fans. Back in October, when he graced the cover of Rolling Stone McCartney commented on visions of a robot, possibly influenced by one of his favorite stories shared with his 10 year old daughter, Beatrice, is The Iron Giant. In press for the video’s release, McCartney commented:
“I woke up one morning with an image in my head of me standing with a large robot. I thought it might be something that could be used for the cover of my album ‘NEW,’ but instead the idea turned out to be for my music video for ‘Appreciate’. Together with the people who had done the puppetry for the worldwide hit ‘War Horse,’ we developed the robot who became Newman.”
Having developed a keen interest in filmmaking when he was still one of the Beatles, McCartney has come a long way with his films from his first directorial foray, 1967′s Magical Mystery Tour. Far from the acid-induced country bus tour, Appreciate provides an up-tempo perspective on the 21st century from the guy who, not long ago, was singing about his Ever Present Past.
Yet it isn’t Microsoft that’s keeping Macca relevant among Generation Hashtag; cultural commentary aside, McCartney still knows how to rock a beat. Dubbed a “remarkable album” by POPMatters, NEW was ranked the 4th best album of 2013 by Rolling Stone. Transcending the pop fluff that perpetuated so many of his hits in the 70′s and 80′s, McCartney has entered a new era as much motivated by experimentation as reflection.
McCartney is set to tour with Newman in Japan. Perhaps a Godzilla mashup is already in the works.
What is wrong with my children? Why won’t they let me completely immerse myself in their lives?!
Beverly Goldberg, The Goldbergs
Last week, my husband and I fell over laughing at the best line in the entire first season of ABC’s The Goldbergs. Just renewed for a second season, the autobiographical series created by Adam F. Goldberg (no relation) features, in his own words, “the orginial sMother” Beverly Goldberg, archetype of Jewish moms the world over. In his comic genius (complemented by Wendi McLendon-Covey’s masterful performance) Goldberg has managed to take a figure much-maligned over the past few decades and craft her into a clan leader who is as lovable as she is obnoxious. With her ballsy, brash bravado, Beverly is the living, breathing Jewishness in a show otherwise lacking in Jewish culture. For The Goldbergs, Jewish is not about kashrut, holidays or simchas; it is about a mother who smothers her children with equal parts love, confidence, and overprotection.
Thanks to Freud and Friedan, Jewish moms have taken a beating over the past few decades. Friedan used her own mother’s discontent with being a housewife as the impetus for her brutal criticisms of motherhood and housewifery, going so far as to describe the latter using Holocaust imagery. What Friedan failed to note early on was the antisemitic influence on her mother’s behavior. Not only was her educated mother forced to become a housewife the minute she married, she was also the victim of lifelong antisemitic prejudice. This attitude, something internalized by both mother and daughter, would later come out in brute force through Friedan’s feminist critiques of the Jewish mother. It was a position that Friedan would eventually come to regret. According to historian Joyce Antler:
…in later life [Friedan] has joined the modern aspirations of feminism with the popular emblems of her Jewish heritage, understanding that the myth of a controlling, aggressive Jewish mother has been as dangerous to the self-esteem of Jewish women (including her own) as the earlier “feminine mystique” was to all women.
The real-life Beverly Goldberg views her son’s television show as a “validation of everything she’s ever done.” I’d take her observation a step further; I believe Adam F. Goldberg’s seemingly simple, humorous portrayal of “the original sMother” is a much-needed cultural validation of the Jewish mother figure at large. Beverly Goldberg may not have the zaftig figure of her televisual predecessor Molly, but she has a zaftig heart, one that infuses the kind of family love into a sitcom setting that hasn’t existed since the Huxtables went off the air. In the midst of intense cultural debates on the value and future of motherhood, Beverly Goldberg’s intense devotion, undivided attention, and proclivity for jaws-of-life hugs are refreshing.
Happy sMother’s Day to Jewish moms around the globe. Just please remember to let your kids come up for air once in a while.
The Introduction to Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge: Starting Down the Yellow Brick Road…
Part 1: The Mask of Marxism
Part 3: Who Needs a Brain?
Part 4: Are Conservatives Cowards?
“The August 1991 coup in Moscow collapsed three days after it had started, providing the ultimate, ironic proof that nothing, not even a coup, could succeed any more in a society whose vital arteries had been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism. The main loser was the Communist Party.”
– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
Both the Democrat and Republican parties have been disinformed by Marxism. The Liberal wing of the Democrat Party has been duped into putting their faith in Marxism’s many forms (socialism, economic determinism, progressivism), while the Republican Party has legitimized Marxism as a form of party politics instead of a murderous, atheistic religion that empowers despots. The Conservative movement, by and large, is slow to recognize Marxism’s true nature, because we are a nation that has been drugged by Disinformation. Pacepa continues:
At the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia, President George W. Bush said: “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Unfortunately, even President Bush was deceived by disinformation. Putin consolidated Russia into an intelligence dictatorship, not a democracy. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Under Putin, the KGB, rechristened the FSB, is the state. Three years after Putin enthroned himself in the Kremlin, some 6,000 former officers of the KGB—that organization responsible for having slaughtered at least 20 million people in the Soviet Union alone—were running Russia’s federal and local governments.
…Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this new Russia calls up the hypothetical image of a postwar Germany being run by former Gestapo officers, who reinstate Hitler’s “Deutschland Über Alles” as national anthem, call the demise of Nazi Germany a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and invade a neighboring country, perhaps Poland, the way Hitler set off World War II?
That is the secret power of disinformation.
Pacepa share these thoughts with me mere weeks before the Ukranian revolution and secession of the Crimea to Putin’s Russia. Disinformation is wielding its power on the American homefront as well. In his critique of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, David Brooks embraces Piketty’s idea of a tax on the wealthy’s investment capital in order to create intellectual equality among the classes:
Think of how much more affordable fine art would be. Think of how much more equal the upper class would be.
His musings aren’t that far off from those of Russian intellectuals, who are “making do” with their government’s clampdown on free media and the right to protest. In exchange for their rights, these Russians whose intellectual arteries have been “calcified by disinformation” are being doted upon by their increasingly despotic government:
All sorts of entertainment is being lavished on Russia’s hipsters. Their favorite public parks have splashy, beautifully designed restaurants and clubs, comfortable biking areas and luxurious places to chill. Sanctions or not, Fedoseyev’s friends can still dine out at restaurants full of expats, take shopping trips to Milan, or buy their electronic gadgets online. Fashion Week this weekend was another party blooming with charming models and celebrities; the usual hipsters clubs, Solianka, Simachev, Oldich Dress and Drink or Strelka, felt as cuddly and crowded as ever.
To paraphrase Brooks, it would seem that the fine art is quite affordable in Russia these days. Like junkies seeking a quick fix, Russian intellectuals pursue disinformation at the expense of their freedom. Is Brooks suggesting we do the same, or have we already succumbed to the addiction? In either case, what we need to know now is: What is the antidote to disinformation?