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Rocking the Vote By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 07, 2004


"WE DON’T HAVE TO HAVE THIS MADMAN run our country anymore,” shouted rock singer Conor Oberst from the Philadelphia stage he shared last Friday night with John Fogerty, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen at the kickoff of the Vote for Change Tour.

Vote for Change is a group of musicians and bands that, in agreement with and coordinated by MoveOnPAC.org (the political action committee of the radical group MoveOn.org), scheduled concerts in several key election “battleground” states October 1-8, 2004, in an effort to influence the November national presidential election.

 

Vote for Change is engineered to raise money for the leftwing tax-exempt 527 group America Coming Together (ACT) that will be spent mostly on a get-out-the-vote effort to defeat President George W. Bush. The musicians involved also intend to use tour appearances as occasions to speak out against President Bush’s re-election both during concerts and in local media interviews at each stop.

 

Among the best known of the 41 musicians and bands involved with Vote for Change are Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Mellencamp and the Dixie Chicks. All these artists in the past have been involved in political activism or political controversy. Less famous performers, like Oberst’s band Bright Eyes, can win fans and a sprinkling of stardust from sharing this stage with the likes of Springsteen.

 

“The ad hoc artists’ group organizing the tour…does not explicitly endorse [Democratic presidential candidate Senator John F.] Kerry,” reported Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. “Instead, in a statement…the group describes itself as ‘a loose coalition of musicians brought together by a single idea – the need to make a change in the direction of the country.’” This is merely an IRS cover. Vote for Change is a 527 political committee organized by supporters of Kerry who are not allowed by law to say so. It’s a thinly veiled loophole in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.

 

Vote for Change scheduled multiple concerts by its musician activists in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida.

 

The latest campaign finance law was supposedly enacted to prevent millionaires from having undue influence on elections. The law limited direct campaign contributions to politicians to $2,000 per politician per election cycle. Vote for Change and its connection to the 527 organization ACT clearly circumvents the spirit, if not the letter, of this law intended to make politics cleaner and more egalitarian. It allows these celebrity millionaire musicians like Bruce Springsteen, in effect, to donate millions of dollars to defeat an incumbent President. This gives them an undemocratic, oversized role in selecting America’s leader.

 

Vote for Change also enables the ultra-wealthy few who control ACT potentially to control how hundreds of millions of dollars will be used politically to sway an American presidential election.

 

ACT’s biggest ideological backer is eccentric billionaire and international financial manipulator George Soros, who has written that he believes the U.S. is too powerful in the world and seeks to defeat President Bush as a way of weakening the United States.

 

What do these rock musicians believe?  Who are they? And why should their political views carry more weight than the drunk sitting at the end of your local saloon’s bar? We all recognize that if either President Bush or Senator John F. Kerry were handed a guitar or microphone, neither could perform as star musicians.

 

If any of these Vote for Change musicians somehow became President, it seems equally obvious that he or she would lack the talent and experience to govern this country. Almost all are school dropouts who have devoted their lives and study to their music, and who are embarrassingly ignorant about history, politics, economics and international relations.

 

“If you are listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you are a bigger moron than they are,” said rock star Alice Cooper a month ago.

 

The stars of Vote for Change are masters at performing music, swaying crowds and attracting certain kinds of fans. Like a popular TV show whose real purpose is to deliver an audience to those who pay for commercials, these musicians are offering themselves as bait to deliver their fans to Democrats eager to harvest their money and votes.

 

Are the Vote for Change stars exhibiting courage by taking this political stand? Only minimally. They live in a music industry run by liberal executives in New York City and Los Angeles. The fans who buy their music are typically rebellious adolescents or city dwellers who either do not vote at all or are Democrats.

 

The dominant TV media outlets that promote today’s pop-rock music are MTV or VH1, cable music channels owned by Viacom, a corporation so far to the left in its ideology that this column coined the term “Viacommies” to describe its executives. In 2001 Viacom executives Tom Freston, head of MTV, and Les Moonves, head of CBS, traveled to Havana to dine with, praise and embrace Cuba’s Communist dictator Fidel Castro.

 

A recording artist in the music industry who dared to support the Republican Party or President Bush would be courageous. After Alice Cooper ridiculed the Democratic partisanship of the Vote for Change stars, he was bullied into retracting almost everything he said.

 

The closest thing to conservatism in the dominant left-dominated media culture is country music, run largely from Nashville. When the Dixie Chicks ridiculed President Bush in front of a foreign audience in London (apparently not expecting that American audiences might find out they had attacked their own country), they were dropped from several influential country music radio stations’ airplay lists. But their videos continue to be played on Country Music Television (CMT), owned by Viacom. And the dominant leftwing press continues to promote them, especially during their Vote for Change tour appearances.

 

Fans have become accustomed to rock musicians coming together for Politically-Correct causes, from curing AIDS to opposing South Africa’s Apartheid. Such concerts began in 1979 with an anti-nuclear power concert by MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) that, like today’s Vote for Change tour 25 years later, featured Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Jackson Browne.

 

But until this year, such rock concerts were done for social causes, not partisan politics engineered to elect a particular political party. A cause such as opposing racism can be noble, non-partisan and bring people together. Partisanship is polarizing and splits people apart.

 

Instead of the old idealism, the partisanship of Vote for Change merely backs Democratic Party politicians who want to regain political power and control over the public treasury.  

 

For many of the longtime left-activist musicians touring for Vote for Change, the aim of defeating Republican President Bush and electing Democrat John Kerry is a mask. This mask hides a far more ideological leftwing agenda that would attract few fans.

 

What follows are a few snapshots of Vote for Change musicians with their masks off. This is the real face of these ardent John Kerry supporters. In fact, it is the same real face of the puppet masters who behind the scenes now control the Democratic Party and the policies a President Kerry would impose.

 

Bonnie Raitt -- like Jackson Browne and Senator John Kerry – supported the Soviet-backed, Cuban-backed Sandinista dictatorship in Nicaragua during the 1980s. She performed at a concert to raise funds for the radical Christic Institute, which supported the Sandinistas and spread blood libels against the United States military in Latin America.

 

Bonnie Raitt is the daughter of Quaker and left-activist singer in Broadway musicals and Hollywood, John Raitt. Her web site promotes the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an organization with friendly ties to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Her site also urges visitors to support School of the Americas Watch (SAW), a leftwing organization devoted to shutting down the U.S. military training facility where Latin American nations’ police and military have for many decades learned how to defeat Communist insurgency, terrorists and guerrillas funded, trained and armed by Communist Cuba.

 

In March 1999 Bonnie Raitt was in Havana, Cuba to play at the Karl Marx Theatre along with a few other American musicians, including Peter Buck of R.E.M., another Vote for Change band that in 2004 was working with Raitt to defeat President George W. Bush. In Havana Raitt met with and embraced Castro, unperturbed by this Marxist mass murderer’s history of atrocities, e.g., routinely imprisoning, torturing and executing gays merely for being homosexual.

 

On the Karl Marx stage in Havana Bonnie Raitt sang a new song she had composed in Fidel Castro’s honor titled “Cuba Is Way Too Cool!”  Among its lyrics: “It’s just a happy little island!” and “Big bad wolf [a reference to the United States] you look the fool!”

 

At the same time Bonnie Raitt was in Havana, so was journalist David Corn, now Washington correspondent for the far-left magazine The Nation. Corn witnessed Raitt telling Cuban “journalists” that it was “good to be here while Cuba is still not so under the influence of the West.” Corn heard her perform her song about how “cool” this Marxist prison island was.

 

“But in Cuba,” wrote Corn, “life has gotten less cool for free-thinkers.”  He noted that Castro had only a month before Raitt sang imposed “a harsh anti-sedition law” that could send any Cuban to prison for 20 years for disseminating “subversive” information.

 

Only weeks prior to Raitt singing her love song to Castro, noted Corn, four dissidents had been sentenced to prison for the crime of “publishing a critique of the 1997 Cuban Communist Party platform.”  During the two months before Raitt’s concert, wrote Corn, “at least 17 independent journalists were arrested. In Havana these days, police are everywhere….sending a signal: We are watching.”

 

“Should I have been surprised,” wrote Corn, “that the American musicians I spoke with backstage were unaware that the island was in the middle of a severe government clampdown?”

 

Another 2004 Vote for Change musician with Raitt in Havana five years ago was Peter Buck, born in 1956 in Berkeley, California, the guitarist of the group R.E.M. The lyric that endeared R.E.M. to leftwing record executives, and that encouraged millions of young people to question their faith in God, is “That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.” It is little wonder that such a group would oppose a religious President like George W. Bush.

 

R.E.M.’s lead singer Michael Stipe was one of the judges of a contest by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund [the tax-exempt 527 entity of far-left 501(c)(4) MoveOn.org], along with Al Franken, Michael Moore, Katrina Vanden Heuvel of the leftwing The Nation Magazine, Democratic hatchet-man James Carville, singer Eddie Vedder of R.E.M.’s fellow Vote for Change band Pearl Jam, and other political lefties, to select the best anti-President Bush videos. Stipe sits on the advisory board of the left-slanted, youth-oriented voter registration drive called Rock the Vote.

 

Stipe has been a signer of political ads in the New York Times expressing support for Mumia Abu Jamal, a radical African-American convict serving a life sentence for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer.  Among his many co-signers are latter-day Leninist folksinger Pete Seeger, former Communist Party USA national candidate Angela Davis, and Noam Chomsky.

 

R.E.M. invited the fashionably radical academic cult figure Noam Chomsky, a linguistics scholar from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to tour with the band and open their concerts with a political speech. (Chomsky declined.)

 

Bonnie Raitt also came under the spell of the Chomsky cult. She and a former producer for the Rolling Stones in 1996 were, according to one report, putting together an album “with high-profile rockers pounding out rhythms to back [Noam] Chomsky’s lyrics.”

 

Another Chomskyite coven among the musicians of Vote for Change is Seattle grunge band Pearl Jam. Its tours have featured an illegal 75-watt “pirate” radio station set up to transmit at concert stops. This station broadcasts selections from its albums. “In between cuts,” wrote journalist K. Lloyd Billingsley in Heterodoxy, “a male monotone voice oozing vulgar Marxism droned on about manipulation of the media, the evils of corporations, and the sins of America generally. The recorded voice belonged to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky, the linguistic theorist and hard-core leftist whose career has bizarrely branched into the music business.”

 

Pearl Jam uses its media platform to promote hard-left ideology. The band recently contributed its song “Down” for use in the film documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, based on the views of Marxist historian Zinn. The band’s web site glorifies Zinn as well as the Leni Riefenstahl of the left filmmaker Michael Moore, the Chomskyite publication Z Magazine, the leftwing network Air America Radio and many other websites and publications of the radical left. The Pearl Jam web site also promotes Vote for Change and the tour dates for member groups.

 

Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Seversen III in 1964 in Evanston, Illinois) supported Ralph Nader in 2000. Vedder in 2004 is supporting Democrat presidential candidate Senator John F. Kerry, whose voting record according to the highly-regarded National Journal is to the left of all 99 other members of the United States Senate. “Right now, it’s a different situation,” Vedder told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s hard to talk about remodeling the house when the basement is on fire.”

 

“This is the fourth presidential election which Pearl Jam has engaged in as a band,” said Vedder, “and we feel it’s the most important one of our lifetime.”

 

During an April 2003 concert in Denver, Colorado Vedder impaled a mask of President Bush on a microphone stand after verbally attacking the President in its hate song “Bushleaguer” from the group’s latest album Riot Act.

 

“He really did have George Bush’s head on a stick and was waving it in the air,” concert-goer Kim Mueller told The Rocky Mountain News, “then slammed it to the ground and stepped on it.”

 

What Vedder performed was a ritualized simulated assassination of President Bush, carried out in a hypnotically suggestive way in front of an audience some of whose members probably had been mentally impaired by illicit drug use.

 

“It was like he decapitated someone in a primal ritual,” said another member of the audience Keith Zimmerman, “and stuck their head on a stick.”

 

Bruce Springsteen’s friend since childhood and Vote for Change tour E Street Band member “Little Steven” Van Zandt is another Chomsky acolyte. “Chomsky struck me as a man with an amazing mind,” wrote Van Zandt. “I got all his books.”

 

Van Zandt, from those books and conversations with foreign Marxists, concluded that the United States is behind a holocaust of global oppression, imperialism and genocide that produces horrors like those of Nazi Germany. This loony left view that the United States is the successor to Nazi Germany comes directly from Chomsky’s fever-swamp writings.

 

Van Zandt, who persuaded Springsteen to perform on the Artists United Against Apartheid song “Sun City,” is a radical who regards himself as “a citizen of the world” with an “urgent need to see myself through the eyes of a non-American.”

 

Van Zandt traveled to Marxist Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua with fellow leftwing musician Jackson Browne and had a chat with the wife of Sandinista ruler Daniel Ortega. She assured Van Zandt that, although “Fidel Castro was a big hero to the whole hemisphere,” she and her Sandinista comrades were not Communists. “If she had said yes it wouldn’t have thrown me,” wrote Van Zandt. “I’d studied the subject enough to know everybody defined their own brand of communism differently.”

 

Van Zandt helped shape Springsteen’s view of the Sandinistas. The Castro-backed, Soviet-supported Sandinistas were opposed by Nicaraguan freedom fighters known as the Contras.

 

In 1990 Springsteen did a fundraiser for the far-left Christic Institute, which created and spread pro-Sandinista propaganda that accused the Contras of murder and claimed that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was flooding America’s inner cities with cocaine to raise money for the Contras.

 

Bruce Frederick Springsteen was born in 1949 in Freehold, New Jersey, the first child of Irish-American bus driver Douglas Springsteen and his Italian-American wife Adele Zirilli.

 

“I didn’t grow up in a very political household,” Springsteen told Jann Wenner in a 2004 Rolling Stone interview, recalling that when he was in grade school his mother told him: “We’re Democrats, ‘cause Democrats are for the working people.”

 

(The Democratic Party, now the party of the wealthy, has also been the party of the slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and Bull Connor. It continues to be the party that uses racial polarization to win votes.)

 

“I was politicized by the Sixties,” Springsteen told Wenner. But a more revealing version of how high school dropout Springsteen was radicalized comes from Dave Marsh in his 1987 biography Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s.

 

“Springsteen grew up in a classically anti-intellectual environment,” wrote Marsh. “When he signed his first record contract, he claimed the only two books he’d read were The Godfather and Tony Scaduto’s biography of Bob Dylan. But after [Springsteen’s manager and producer] Brandeis-educated Jon Landau gave Bruce a couple of pushes in the right direction, the singer responded with the voraciousness of the born autodidact.”

 

Landau, writes Marsh, “grew up around the Boston folk music scene.” It is easy to guess the politics of this scene in one of America’s most liberal cities. Springsteen was intellectually seduced by Landau, an anti-Vietnam War activist who stuffed the young musician’s uneducated head with ideas from the left, not from the right direction.

 

The young Springsteen in 1975 was simultaneously on the covers of Time and Newsweek. He was being marketed as the next Bob Dylan. Dylan was enamored with Dust Bowl folksinger Woody Guthrie (writer of “This Land is Your Land”), described by Marsh as “a Marxist disillusioned with the America of fable.” Springsteen soon identified himself with Guthrie, too.

 

Springsteen’s mind was marinated in left-wing social commentary such as the class warfare novel The Grapes of Wrath and its movie version starring radical Jane Fonda’s liberal father Henry. 

 

Springsteen also began studying History of the United States by Henry Steele Commager and Allen Nevins, two New Deal left-liberals who depicted the United States as a land shaped by racial bigotry and class warfare. This, added to the experience of touring in Europe, warped his perception to the left. 

 

“I’m thirty-one now and I just started to read the history of the United States,” he told a cheering audience in Paris, according to Marsh. “I started to learn about how things got to be the way they are today, how you end up a victim without even knowing it. And how people get old and just die after not having hardly a day’s satisfaction or peace of mind in their lives. I was lucky, too, because I met this guy [Landau], when I was in my middle twenties, who said you should watch this or you should read this. And most people, where I come from, never have someone try and help them in that way.”

 

Landau was selfishly molding and radicalizing the naïve but charismatic Springsteen, who “grew up in this house where there was never any books,” not to give the singer a well-rounded education, but to twist Springsteen into a tool he could use to advance and bankroll Landau’s own ideology.

 

Landau encouraged Springsteen to get involved with social activism. Landau, for example, introduced the musician to Bob Muller, who like 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry had been an activist in the radical group Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).  Springsteen’s best known song, “Born in the U.S.A.,” is written from the negative viewpoint of such a Vietnam veteran. When conservative columnist George Will persuaded President Ronald Reagan to praise the 1984 song as pro-American, Springsteen denied it and distanced himself from Will and Reagan.

 

Springsteen over the years has contributed his talents to raise funds for food banks, protest factory closings, support labor unions, promote the radical pro-Marxist Christic Institute, bring attention to the Human Rights Now tour of Amnesty International and many other concerns. In 2004 he has moved from idealism and crusades to naked political partisanship, using his talents to elect self-aggrandizing Democrat politicians and defeat Republicans.

 

The same kinds of snapshots could be provided for most of the other musicians on the Vote for Change campaign trail trying to elect John F. Kerry. What motivates them? Left-wing ideology is the worldview all of them share.

 

If the John Kerry they support had gotten his way as a politician, the nuclear freeze and cuts in U.S. weaponry he supported would have kept the Soviet Union alive and well.

 

Kerry actively supported the Fidel Castro-backed Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua and took steps to aid Marxist insurgents elsewhere in Latin America. No wonder Castro-loving Bonnie Raitt and Sandinista supporters Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen want to make Kerry president.

 

And Kerry’s anti-war efforts – by encouraging the enemy and undermining U.S. morale – added thousands of dead American soldier names to that black wall memorial in Washington, D.C. and helped bring about a Communist victory in Vietnam.

 

But these and other Vote for Change musicians might also have selfish or personal motives. In a left-ruled entertainment business, how many of these performers are doing this tour for the career opportunities and publicity it might produce?  How many young performers like Oberst, 24, see it as a jump-start for their careers? How many aging musicians, like John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival fame, see it as a way to revive a fading career or to remind people that they are still alive?

 

How many were afraid to say “No” when asked to climb onto this Kerry bandwagon by record executives with power over their careers or by influential fellow artists? Were some afraid of being branded as anti-Democrat or pro-Bush in a business where the bosses, award-givers and media gatekeepers are almost all liberal Democrats? 

 

MoveOn.org has been fund-raising by marketing CDs with cuts by many popular artists, many of whom were doubtless approached with the intimidating question: “You want to give us one of your songs, don’t you?”

 

After Pete Townshend of The Who refused to donate the right to use his song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in Fahrenheit 9-11, the film’s maker Michael Moore petulantly trashed him in the media, falsely accusing the English musician of supporting the there-unpopular war in Iraq. What might the similarly self-righteous left-wingers at MoveOn.org do to any artist who refused to donate a valuable piece of copyrighted music to them?

 

On a personal level, how many musicians and movie actors become activists and political partisans to justify and find relevance in their stardom, wealth and lives?

 

After the boredom of playing the same old song for the thousandth time to cheering 14-year-olds, these performers must feel a new self-importance and excitement at the possibility of personally persuading the key voters who depose one president and elect another – and at having President Kerry know this.


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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