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November 15, 2004 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Secret Service investigates high school band Coalition of the Willing for performing a Bob Dylan song. Actually, for wanting to perform a Bob Dylan song. Parents freak out.
posted by swift (59 comments total)

 
(double post? maybe it was on boing boing.)

In any case Masters of War is a hard, hard song. Especially these days. No one can touch Dylan for the social commentary when the chips are down:

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead
posted by n9 at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2004


nice. so last week i heard bob dylan himself sing the song in concert. did anyone notify the secret service last tuesday? i didn't see them around. maybe they were late showing up to the gig.

or maybe people in this country are just so indoctrinated into this partisan bullshit that there is no room for even minor civil disobedience any more. thoreau is probably rolling over in his grave.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:25 PM on November 15, 2004


Damn, it's nice to read that the school principal is supporting these kids. It's a shame that I find that surprising.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2004


Lucinda Williams covered that song during her last tour, as an encore. . .Very appropos, very moving, very valid.

I hope that the Coalition of the Willing gets a huge boost out of this. Good for them!
posted by Danf at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2004


ugh, what's even scarier is that this would even be considered "civil disobedience". Chrissakes, its just a damn song!
posted by Boydrop at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2004


Well, the parents and students have every right to be offended, but I think they are taking it a little far by bringing the Secret Service into it. Indeed, as per usual, by taking it to this level, they've brought more attention to the band and to the song than either would have had otherwise. In the process, they've made their cause look kind of stupid, ignorant and bully-ish. Mission accomplished?
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:36 PM on November 15, 2004


Well, the parents and students have every right to be offended

Yeah, they like their prophets false, with the tickle-your-ear kind of offerings. Since when was opposing war leftist?
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2004


From what I recall, Dylan hasn't used the last verse in concert since the start of that early-eighties Christian kick.

[/music nerd]
posted by kaibutsu at 12:45 PM on November 15, 2004


I hope we find out the resolution to this.
posted by agregoli at 12:46 PM on November 15, 2004


I can't find it now, but Bobby Weir had at one point provided a free MP3 on-line of the version of Masters of War he did in rehearsal with Ratdog that is now on his Weir Here collection. It's a wonderfully snarling version learned and recorded shortly after the Iraq war began, as a reaction to the war. It's on my portable and gets a regular listen.
posted by mmahaffie at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2004


Even if it weren't part of a relatively well-known song, is "I hope that you die" really even a threat? I mean, sure, there's a few people that I wouldn't be sad about if something terrible happened to them, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to take any action against them myself. What a stupid, collossal waste of time and resources.
posted by majcher at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2004


When I see a song written in the second person I figure the person is either closeted (if a relationship song) or a potential assassin (if a political song). The system hasn't failed me yet. Try it!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2004


Yeah, they like their prophets false, with the tickle-your-ear kind of offerings. Since when was opposing war leftist?

They also have a right to believe in false prophets, or the big Pixie in the sky, or that tiny people live in their salt shakers. Having the right to believe something and doing something stupid (like calling the Secret Service and making them waste time and money investigating a high school talent show) are two separate issues. They still have the right to be offended.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2004


How dare those cannon fodder kids oppose the totally justified and completely really legitimate war in Iraq.

I think they should amend the Constitution to make it legal to send 15 year olds to war.
posted by fenriq at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2004


Oh, sure they have a "right to be offended." But why is it necessary to comment on that? This is just another example of bullshit-"balance": We have to make super, super sure that we don't say anything that might offend religionists and jingoists, everyone else can all go to hell.
posted by lodurr at 12:56 PM on November 15, 2004


sadly, I'm old enough to remember that this song was still powerful in 1991, during another Mesopotamian War. Dylan decided to sing it at the Grammys, still making the right people nervous.

this is his Grammy speech
:

"Well," he said, "my daddy, he didn't leave me much, you know he was a very simple man,
but what he did tell me was this, he did say, son, he said"
- there was a long pause, nervous laughter from the crowd -
"he say, you know it's possible to become so defiled in this world
that your own father and mother will abandon you and if that happens,
God will always believe in your ability to mend your ways."

posted by matteo at 1:01 PM on November 15, 2004


"These kids are being used to promote an extreme leftist a different point of view on the taxpayers' dime," Boulder resident James Lemons told KMGH.

Kids these days. Don't they know they're not supposed to have their own opinions on stuff? What the heck are we edumicatin' em these days?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:04 PM on November 15, 2004


The Coallition of the Willing are OK. But I prefer there early days as The Army of Compassion.
posted by NewBornHippy at 1:09 PM on November 15, 2004


I think they should amend the Constitution to make it legal to send 15 year olds to war.

Slow down. We still haven't amended it to take care o' them dirty gays yet.

everyone else can all go to hell

I'm beginning to think that this whole hell thing is vastly underrated. If all the fundies are going to heaven, why the fuck would I want to be there?

I agree with Joey Michaels, however. They do have the right to be offended. They have the right to complain to their local talk radio station, and, yes, even to the Secret Service. Just like the KKK has a right to march through your town on Jewish holidays.

The real problem here is that the Secret Service actually felt it was worth looking into. Right now Nixon is smiling down on us from heaven, happy that the dirty hippies are again getting their due (one more reason Hell is looking better and better.)
posted by eyeballkid at 1:10 PM on November 15, 2004


Oh, sure they have a "right to be offended." But why is it necessary to comment on that? This is just another example of bullshit-"balance": We have to make super, super sure that we don't say anything that might offend religionists and jingoists, everyone else can all go to hell.

Well, you have the right to be offended by my statement that they have the right to be offended. However, if you were to try to get my comments yanked or otherwise try and prevent me from taking advantage of my first amendment rights, you'd be drawing more attention to my comments. In much the same way, by responding in this fashion to the band, these parents and students have made the band more important than they would ever have been on their own.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:12 PM on November 15, 2004


Oh, a band. When I see "high school band," I'm thinking tubas and trombones and just trying to imagine any Dylan song.
posted by sageleaf at 1:19 PM on November 15, 2004


Wouldn't it only be civil disobedience if it were actually illegal? It's not illegal to sing a song.
posted by kenko at 1:42 PM on November 15, 2004


I say it's about time the Secret Service stepped up on this. Start with these high school kids, who, now that they got busted are acting so innocent, yeah right. But how about the infamous lefty peace-mongering guy who wrote the song -- he's been at large for decades. How the hell does he get away with it? Oh and that Lucinda Williams chick, there's a scary ass radical. Worse, I heard Pearl Jam -- a bona fide threat to the republic if ever there was one -- performed the song on Letterman last month. Investigate 'em all for that broadcast, dammit, especially ABC and its parent Disney.

And just for the record, SS man, I am playing "Masters of War" right now -- loud -- and SINGING ALONG. And so is my pet parrot. And we MEANT it. Come and get US!
posted by jellybuzz at 1:48 PM on November 15, 2004


It's not illegal to sing a song.

...yet. [/obligatory]
posted by scody at 1:55 PM on November 15, 2004


Ha ha, sageleaf, that was my reaction.
posted by Eamon at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2004


Is this just the start? This seems so 50's. It is as if we all need to pull out 'The Crucible' and give it another read.

From a Constitutional law perspective, if the school is sponsoring the activity, the students have the right to express political beliefs. I can't believe that a forty year old song at a school talent contest merits the attention of the SS.

This has a significant chilling effect on the free exchange of political ideas.
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2004


Y'know, "slippery slope" is supposed to be a fallacy and all, but this is a perfect illustration of the reality of it: The kids aren't even singing about killing the president, but as majcher said, only wishing he were dead. Big diff right there, even if singing a song someone else wrote were equivalent to announcing your own intentions.

What's next? Do we not dare to mention that George W is MORTAL and that he will one day inevitably DIE? I mean, how - Hey! Leggo!

Where are you - stop it! HEY!

LEMME GO! I didn't mean it! It just slipped out!

...heyyyy!!!!....


posted by soyjoy at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2004


It is as if we all need to pull out 'The Crucible' and give it another read.

Heck, give 'Common Sense' a once-over.
posted by wah at 2:12 PM on November 15, 2004


They should have played "War Pigs" instead.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2004


Watch what you say, and watch what you do.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:26 PM on November 15, 2004


And watch what your neighbors are doing so you can call the Feds on those pinko Commie bastards.

The United States of America: self-policing since 2004.
posted by junkbox at 2:38 PM on November 15, 2004


As encores, I believe they're going to play "Margaret on the Guillotine" by Morrisey and "Tramp the Dirt Down" by Elvis Costello.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:38 PM on November 15, 2004


Snotty kids. But, hey, it's nothing that a nightime strafing run or judicious use of a Taser can't set straight.
posted by 327.ca at 3:19 PM on November 15, 2004


Wait, so Bob Dylan is relevant again?
posted by hoborg at 3:22 PM on November 15, 2004


From a Constitutional law perspective, if the school is sponsoring the activity, the students have the right to express political beliefs.

In high school I learned the hard way that this is not necessarily so (I was on the newspaper staff). There is no such thing as free speech in high school. The law allows schools to stifle students as much as they want, just as the parent company of, say, a network tv channel can control what its various affiliates air.
posted by swift at 3:23 PM on November 15, 2004


But some students and adults who heard the band rehearse called a radio talk show Thursday morning, saying the song the band sang ended with a call for President Bush to die.

So, they're *admitting* that Bush is one of the Masters of War? Cool!
posted by interrobang at 3:26 PM on November 15, 2004




i think the singer made a very important point:

We never conveyed that Bush was the person we were talking about.

duh. isn't that kinda the crux of the issue?

if the lyrics don't even mention Bush specifically, or "the president," how can this be considered a threat?

the obvious logical conclusion, which some nimby jackasses in Boulder have confirmed, that the U.S. president = warmonger, but the song itself leaves an ambiguous subject.

it has to be embarrassing that the Secret Service took the complaint seriously. it seems like a phone call to the principal could have sufficed for an investigation.

on preview: interrobang beat me to it. much more concisely.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:47 PM on November 15, 2004


I'm thinking tubas and trombones and just trying to imagine any Dylan song.

For some odd reason, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 comes to mind.
posted by y2karl at 7:34 PM on November 15, 2004


How pathetic is US culture when the resistence music is rehashed from 30 years ago, and the young singers with influence are putting out status quo crap.

Where are the Dylans of today, fer fuck's sake?
posted by squirrel at 8:21 PM on November 15, 2004


Where are the snowdens of yesteryear?
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:46 PM on November 15, 2004


Dear god, squirrel, can you imagine if the children didn't have the defense, 'i didn't write it!'
posted by goneill at 8:55 PM on November 15, 2004


They should just co-opt Dylan's anti-war songs, like Chevrolet (or Ford, or whoever) used "Fortunate Son" to sell patriotic pickup trucks to idiots who never listen to lyrics. That way, it would lose all its meaning, just like the word "terrorism" and the word "weapons of mass destruction" has lost all meaning, and can be used any way the president wants.

I think they could spin the phrase "Masters of War" into a good thing. Like, "Hey terrorists, don't fuck with us, we're the Masters of War, bitches!"
posted by Hildago at 9:35 PM on November 15, 2004


Where are the Dylans of today, fer fuck's sake?

Here's one

They just don't get as much radio play on the Clearchannels of the world these days....
posted by anastasiav at 9:35 PM on November 15, 2004


the question you rampant pinko combo meal liberals need to ask yourself is :

What if YOU are the person the last verse is condemning?
posted by Satapher at 9:40 PM on November 15, 2004


last i heard connor oberst was the next dylan. jesus christ.

oberst fell and is now trapped inside his own bathroom mirror. he spends his time outlining impressionist poetry with his middle finger everytime his nabakov sister happens to take a steamy shower or dump.

dylan is an immortal companion of abraham and dante.
posted by Satapher at 9:55 PM on November 15, 2004


and theres trumpet all over Blonde on Blonde.

charlie mccoy would play bass guitar and trumpet simultaneously.
posted by Satapher at 10:18 PM on November 15, 2004


Swift: "There is no such thing as free speech in high school."

This is not entirely true and quite a bit defeatist. I ain't no lawyer and my j-school law classes are a little rusty, but the relevant Supreme Court cases are usually Tinker and Hazelwood. Newspapers fall under the Hazelwood standard because student publications are funded by the school and should therefore serve pedagogical purposes (as judged by the principal). There's some wiggle room for free speech, but for the most part, it's pretty bad.

We're talking about student performance here, besides the principal is supporting the kids. In Tinker the Supreme Court decided that non-disruptive expression is protected.

High school students need to be aware of their (rapidly shrinking, but still existent) free speech rights. Authoritarians have an advantage, but they absolutely do not have carte blanc to censor student expression in public schools. This is one good reason to fight the fundies in their attempts to bankrupt the public school system with goodies like the No Child Left Behind Act, since private schools have absolutely no boundaries at all in how they can censor student expression.
posted by Skwirl at 10:50 PM on November 15, 2004


Wow, this whole issue makes me feel pretty sick. It seems to me the very people who rant about the horrors of communism, and go on and on about the toppling tyrannies in the Middle East are the very same people who can't wait to pick up a phone and shop their fellow citizens to the secret services *cough* police .
posted by axon at 1:55 AM on November 16, 2004


It's not illegal to sing a song.
That's what I told them with regard to my latest album. "How to refine Uranium and smuggle it past the infidel". But did they listen. Did they buggery.

30 years old
Try 40. (written in 1963) And then start to feel very, very old.
It's weird that the song could potentially be older than some of the parents complaining about the song.
posted by seanyboy at 3:49 AM on November 16, 2004


Satapher, if that last verse were directed at me, I'd stop and take a good hard look at what I was doing to see if I deserved such invective. Navel-gazing, that's what we rampant pinko combo meal liberals do.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:14 AM on November 16, 2004


Wait, so Bob Dylan is relevant again?


...but even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked.

Dylan is god.
posted by LouReedsSon at 6:06 AM on November 16, 2004


kaibutsu: apparently mr. dylan feels it is time to start singing the last verse again, 'cause it sure as hell resonated with the crowd at the concert. after he finished the song i remmeber turning to my wife and commenting on how it was as relevant to the state of the world today as it was when it was first written.

the more the times they a'change, the more they stay the same i guess.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:56 AM on November 16, 2004


it was as relevant to the state of the world today as it was when it was first written.

i say the hearts of men have remained unchanged since the dawn of time, science has allowed and created some neat stuff, but we're still zombie assholes.
posted by Satapher at 2:17 PM on November 16, 2004


ghost, it wasnt directed at anyone... it was a funny joke, i believe in life and death, not left and right.
posted by Satapher at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2004


Jesus, that song is older than I am, and I'm older than dirt.

Satapher, you keep using the word "funny". I do not think that word means what you think it means. "We're still zombie assholes"--what a great life philosophy! I'm definitely taking all of my comedy tips from you from now on. You're a barrel of fun!
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:03 AM on November 17, 2004


prove me wrong.
posted by Satapher at 12:16 PM on November 17, 2004


Funny isn't proveable or unproveable.
posted by agregoli at 12:18 PM on November 17, 2004


You take that back!
posted by squirrel at 6:10 PM on November 17, 2004


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