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Ron Radosh

Cognitive Dissonance in the Left/Folkie World

January 10th, 2009 - 4:37 pm

Here’s some fun for the weekend, if you enjoy reading about left-wing hypocrisy. Saturday’s New York Times has two stories. The first is about the performance in the South Village in New York City by Steve Earle and his wife Allison Moorer. The folk/country duo sang at a new high class venue, The City Winery.

Two things are unique about the restaurant. Its wine-making facilities are on the premises. Annual membership is $5000, and you can make a barrel of your own custom blend for a mere $2000.  OK, the rich have a right to dine and be entertained where they choose. But Earle, as the reporter Ben Ratliff writes, is “a self-defined socialist,” yet he did “not comment on the dissonance of the evening.” He sang songs about the poor, the working-class, the oppressed and the like, all sang “in a blond wood cabaret that seems built on the air jets of Wall Street status.” And Moorer, during her set, told the audience that Barack Obama “has a vision that includes all of us and not just our rich friends.”  All of Earle’s protest songs about the people in Kentucky and Taneytown, the paper’s critic concluded, “felt very, very far away.”

It seems we’ve come a long, long way since that day in the early 40′s when Woody Guthrie walked out of the Rainbow Room on the eve of his scheduled performance, and sang in front of the NBC Building on the street for free, strumming a ballad about old John D. Rockefeller’s riches.  At least Guthrie had the courage of his convictions. We now know that Steve Earle does not.

The second story is about the death of William Zantzinger at the age of 69. In 1963 we recall, thanks to Bob Dylan’s brilliant classic song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” (he misspelled his name as Zanzinger) was convicted of manslaughter in 1963 in the death of Hattie Carroll and was sentenced to six months in prison. The paper’s Douglas Martin does a good job of writing about Zantzinger, and about the truth and embellishments by Dylan of his subject’s life.

If not for Dylan’s song, there would not have been any obituary when Zantzinger died . Dylan made his crime a parable of how race and class intersected, and how the murderer of a poor African-American working women received a token jail sentence, although Zantzinger had hit her with a cane and she died shortly after.

Mr. Zantzinger, then, is not going to be anyone’s role model. But the shocker comes later in the obituary. We learn that William Zantzinger,  who Dylan wrote in the song had “high office relations,” and was a typical member of Maryland’s racist political class who then ruled the state, was a graduate of—–hold your breath—the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Yes, folks, the same moderate lefty school that Chelsea Clinton graduated from and that the children of Barack Obama are now attending!

I somehow don’t think that Sidwell Friends has the man listed as one of their distinguished alumni, or use his name when they are trying to raise funds. I guess their Quaker education didn’t rub off on the man.

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