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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Another bad move, GOP-style

My non-Republican cat who has agreed to pretend to be one on my behalf received this missive from the Bush campaign today. It's titled "Open Letter to the Kerry Campaign" and there is something of a chance that they might have sent it to the actual Kerry campaign, though I doubt it was really necessary.

On Thursday your campaign hosted a fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall at which Sen. Kerry said, "Every performer tonight in their own way either verbally through their music through their lyrics have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country."
I called on your campaign to release the performance that Sen. Kerry said represented the "heart and soul" of America so that all Americans could see for themselves what John Kerry thinks represents the "heart and soul" of our country.
Do most Americans in their hearts, think that calling the President a "thug" and a "killer" represents the "heart and soul" of our nation? We don't think so, but we think voters should decide for themselves by watching the celebrities John Kerry said captured the "heart and soul" of America.
Your Senior Advisor Tad Devine said that you believed that releasing musical performances "might violate copyrights and licensing agreements for the entertainers who performed and allow the Bush campaign to use the tape in commercials against Kerry and Edwards"
I have been assured that "fair use" rules of copyright would allow you to release the tapes of these musical performances to the news media under 2 U.S.C. 107. To allay the other concern you relayed to the news media, Bush-Cheney '04 pledges to refrain from using audio, video or transcripts of the event for any television, cable, satellite or radio advertising. We look forward to seeing this spirited display.


First of all, I doubt that "fair use" is really an issue here. It's more like, "not worth the time".
I like this letter, because it's particularly disingenous. If the performances were covered by fair use and were really all that inflammatory, then you can bet your house that the Bush campaign would use clips for ads. But, they know that if the voters actually saw the clips, they would laugh and carry on, not angry at all. So, instead they layer on the insinuation and hope that the horror movie maxim that what is offscreen and left to imagination is far more horrifying than anything they could put on the screen.
Personally, I hope that the Kerry campaign takes them up on their dare. It would be absolutely wonderful to show clip after clip of various artists who are beloved by Americans showing their support for John Kerry. (I wouldn't recommend Whoopie Goldberg, though. She's not funny, anymore, even though she popped off a few good ones in the day.) I don't think it's really to Bush's benefit to show a video of John Fogarty playing "Fortunate Son" to massive applause, particularly if it's accompanied with footage reminding the voters that George W. Bush was one of the fortunate sons that the song was written about.
The Republicans do get a lot of votes by riffing on people's resentments of the cool, the hip, the educated, the urban, whatever. The 60's are a particularly good place to score points--play on the resentments that the Boomers who didn't go to Woodstock or really get the benefits of free love and you get a whole new generation of Republican voters. But the GOP propaganda machine has to balance itself carefully when exploiting those resentments. You have to be able to extract them without disturbing the one part of the counter-culture that all but the most dedicated golf pants wearing weenies love--the music.
Limbaugh and O'Reilly and some others are fantastic at walking the tightrope. They use some really good rock music for their bumper music; the most famous example of course is Limbaugh's use of the Pretenders. (I heard him mention it on his show once a long time ago. It was quite revealing--he barely knew who the Pretenders were, but he was trying to fake his way through it.) They tap into the energy of rock music and then turn around and defy all of its values.
Meanwhile, NPR, which is hardly a leftist organization but has that reputation, plays good music much of the time, but it hardly kicks ass. The one exception is "This American Life", but that's not really a political show. This needs to be rectified immediately. Rock music and liberal politics are intertwined. (I can hear the gasps of those left in my generation who still believe that music should be apolitical gasping, but whatever.) I spend a good deal of time, way more than is probably healthy, immersed in the local music scene and I can tell you that conservative politics don't have a place there. Not that there's not political variation--but you're not going to hear any gung-ho attitudes about the rich, corporations or the church. Again, I live in the so-called Live Music Capital of the World and also the notorious Democratic hold-out city of Texas--this is not a coincidence.
I see absolutely no reason for Kerry not to play up the fact that he's way cooler than any monied Republican dorks. Not only should he show videos of his supporters having fun listening to rock music, it wouldn't hurt if somebody followed Bush around and played "Fortunate Son" wherever he went. (No one directly affiliated with Kerry, of course. The Dems would do well to emulate the Reps strategy of unleashing the hounds while allowing their candidate to stay above the fray.) For us relentless hipsters who can't sink to playing CCR, Sleater Kinney does a good cover of the song.
The Boomers should belong to the Democrats. I mean, John Kerry was in a rock band once. Recruit Springsteen! That'll get attention and probably alot of votes. All they have to retaliate is Pat Boone. The best thing about rock music is that it speaks to what is now the majority of Americans. Middle-aged people and younger people all have some investment in the counterculture. They're not only going to dismiss a politician for having a taste for rock music, they might show more interest.

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