Culture

Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music

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“This machine kills fascists.” ― Woody Guthrie

Since the end of the Cold War, many a suspicion has been confirmed of how devious Communist operatives worked their way into our national institutions. After the fall of the USSR, for a brief time, Russian authorities were fairly forthcoming in their release of documents and secrets: Academia, Hollywood, the State Department, Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs. Among these (not generally known to most) was Sean Penn’s Blacklisted father, a Hollywood writer, which explains a great deal about his angry Liberal act, doesn’t it? Truly, the acorn fell very close to the tree indeed.

Consider Folk music.

Folk renders down to two distinct themes – “a song all about the plight of the common man,” and, “a song about how we’re all outraged, and we’ll fix all of the problems facing the common man – or else!” The former may be considered authentic, simply a chronicle of good times and bad times, a lament, if you will. The latter is a vehicle for social unrest, public dissension, rabble-rousing. Chanting crowds, with flaming torches and sharpened pitchforks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Knowing this is why Communists latched on to the art form so eagerly.

So let’s look at the sordid affair of Pete Seeger and the Folk music act “The Weavers.”

You may remember the Weavers from their 1951 song, “Wimoweh” (a later major hit by the Doo-Wop group, “The Tokens,” reprised as “the Lion Sleeps Tonight”):

Pretty tame 1950s fare, isn’t it? Well, understand the message behind the song: it’s all about Shaka Zulu, the Lion, he who fights against the forces of the white Imperialists. He sleeps yet, to someday awaken to righteously destroy the Colonizers, woe be unto them. A definite “Progressive” message embedded there.

“Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy thought there was something awfully fishy about this band and their shady past associations, so he called in the two leads, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, to make a deposition before the 1955 hearings held under the auspices of HUAC – the “House Un-American Activities Committee.” The Senator from Wisconsin wanted answers, and by God he was going to find out.

Each, in their own way, threw this back in the face of McCarthy. In the case of Hays, he simply refused to acknowledge anything, citing First Amendment rights; Seeger did answer, but prevaricated. Despite this, he broadly declared where his allegiances lay. This was exactly the kind of thing he had been deposed about – Seeger’s associations with Communist groups had been known going back to the 1930s.

Seeger’s deep Communist roots and his influence are mentioned in Richard A. Reuss’s 2000 book, American Folk Music and Left Wing Politics, 1927 – 1957:

“David Noebel, once a young minister in Billy Hames Hargis’s Christian Crusade, observed in a similar vein, The Communist infiltration into the subversion of American Music has been nothing short of phenomenal and in some areas, e.g. Folk music, their control is fast approaching the saturation point under the able leadership of Pete Seeger, SingOut!, Folkways Records, and Oak Publications Inc.’”

The “able leadership of Pete Seeger?” In other words, he was a known, active Communist subversive, dedicated to utilizing his status in the Folk music world to spread propaganda and affect the minds and opinions of Americans.

Seeger’s refusal to honestly testify ended with his indictment for Contempt of Congress. In March of 1961, he was convicted and sentenced to jail time, although his conviction was overturned on appeal.

As to the Weavers: ultimately, in 1962, and having been dogged by their known associations, they had been scheduled to be guests on the Jack Paar Show on NBC. At the last minute, the network required the band to sign a statement indicating their non-Communism. The entire band refused. End of appearance. The act broke up shortly thereafter.

Seeger continued on as the “Folkie Emeritus” of the genre until his death earlier this year, having inspired entire generations of Folk musicians to follow. Dylan, Baez, Mitchell, et al., and all their successors, who proselytize us to this day.

So the next time Billy Bob is singing folk to you about the plight of someone, be very cautious. He may well be plucking at your heart-strings, working you up to overthrow your leaders, and install a pack of Socialists in charge. For your own good, Comrade!

Kinda like today…

*****

Please join the discussion with us on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-second in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

image illustration via Wikipedia