If Pete Seeger was "the most effective American Communist ever," as Howard Husock claims, then Elvis -- who died 28 years ago yesterday -- may have been, as Glenn Reynolds implies in "The King of Anti-Fascism," the most effective American anti-Communist ever. (TheFiftiesweb photo)
Red states vs. Blue states. Bush lovers vs. Bush haters. Elvis Presley vs. Pete Seeger. What was that last one? How dare we lay claim to The King for our side of the aisle? Elvis the Pelvis, the "white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel"? You've got to be kidding. But wait. Listen to Glenn Reynolds -- way ahead of the curve as usual, three years back -- on Elvis's role as keeper of the flame:
The 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death has passed, and news reports have stressed his continuing influence on music, culture, and race relations. But those reports have missed Elvis's greatest achievement: as a cultural immune response to totalitarianism . . .
After Elvis, the commercial culture of rock and roll simply occupied the mindspace that totalitarians need, and it out-competed them.
The Invisible Hand -- or should we say The Invisible Band -- at work. "But neither Presley nor the newfangled thing called rock ‘n’ roll had any explicit politics at the time," notes Howard Husock in City Journal, making the case for Pete Seeger as the well-meaning if idiotic (in the useful idiot sense) standard bearer for totalitarianism in the marketplace of cultural ideas:
The politicization of American pop dates from the 1960s, but it grew out of a patient leftist political strategy that began in the mid-1930s with the Communist Party’s 'Popular Front' effort to use popular culture to advance its cause.
One figure stands out in this enterprise: the now-86-year-old singer, songwriter, “folk music legend,” and onetime party stalwart, Pete Seeger. Given his decisive influence on the political direction of popular music, Seeger may have been the most effective American communist ever.
It took a while for the Popular Front’s strategy to get results in popular music -- and Pete Seeger was the catalyst . . . It happened in early March 1962, when the clean-cut, stripe-shirted Kingston Trio released their recording of Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Seeger’s lament about the senselessness of war and the blindness of political leaders to its folly soared to Number Four on Billboard’s easy-listening chart, and it remained on the list for seven weeks.
"The Popular Front sought to enlist Western artists and intellectuals, some of them not party members but 'fellow travelers,' to use art, literature, and music to insinuate the Marxist worldview into the broader culture," writes Husock. Amongst cultural elites, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Communism as a viable economic system may have been consigned to the dustbin of history long since, but Marxist "thinking" lives on in the shrill rhetoric of the loony left. Cindy Sheehan's "This country is not worth dying for" is only the latest -- if flagging -- flare-up of an effete fantasy that isn't going to fold without a fight. That's NOT All Right, Mama.