Monday, December 26, 2011

Blind Willie McTell News

"I will McTell you what I need you to know."
Recently, I focused on a particular portion of the life of Blind Willie McTell, in terms of the use of that portion of his life as being a suitable, if not a great, fit for the caricature of the for-profit main stream media ("McTell News").

The McTell News is owned by a very few for-profit U.S. and foreign corporations that are now called "persons" by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I also mentioned some stark effects that the McTell News has had on the MOMCOM 1% elite, as well as the effect McTell News has had on the general public, the 99% (See Stockholm Syndrome On Steroids - 2).

Today, I want to focus exclusively on that caricature of McTell News, as well as how the songwriter Bob Dylan (who wrote what some call a masterpiece, "Blind Willie McTell"), along with a certain portion the citizenry in the USA, are also represented in some degree by that caricature.

The race of those caricatured in this post is irrelevant as a source of the reason McTell News exists as it does, because that reason is not a racial characteristic.

What is relevant, as a source for the reason McTell News exists as it does, is the attitude we have toward the facts and truth of reality, and what the actual, missing news could mean to the people of America.

The heart of the story, then, is that the deeply meaningful news is all too often purposefully hidden in plain sight within our culture.

One quick, stark example is the portion of reality that Blind Willie McTell and millions of other Americans, for decade upon decade had to "agree" not to talk about in public.

During that time McTell News was play pretending that certain realities did not exist in any way that would require McTell News reporting:
"I wonder, John Lomax asked Blind Willie McTell, "I wonder if, if you know any songs about colored people havin' hard times here in the South" ... "Any complainin' songs, complainin' about the hard times and sometimes mistreatment [by] the whites? Have you got any songs that talk about that?" ... No, McTell said at once, he had no such songs, "not at the present time." Those were the songs of another era, but now "the white peoples is mighty good to the southern people, as far as I know" ... Read one way, Lomax's conversation with McTell is a tense social transcript from the Jim Crow South. Lomax, the overbearing if well intentioned white visitor, wants musical documents of poverty and racial oppression. The request may connote obliviousness on his part, as well as a condescending sympathy for blacks, but it is nevertheless rude and insulting, demanding that the singer violate basic, unspoken southern norms that should have been familiar to anyone reared in Texas. McTell knows better than to say anything against white people, let alone sing it, to a white man with even the hint of a southern accent and his wife, especially if ... a recorder is running ... McTell makes it clear that he knows songs that Lomax wants to hear ... he would never play them ... but to say as much and explain why would also violate the Jim Crow norms by making them explicit.
(Bob Dylan In America, Chap. 6, p. 173, by Sean Wilentz, emphasis added). Are there any journalistic, unspeakable, and publicly known words or ideas in America today, words or ideas that would be considered to be "unspeakably rude" by our "free press", our McTell News?

Oh YES indeed! (to be touched upon more towards the end of the post)

That is why Chapter 6 of the book, concerning the actual Blind Willie McTell, who Wilentz called "a songster", struck me well:
Blind Willie McTell
John Lomax, the archivist and collector, certainly wants what he wants, but ... McTell simply doesn't have it. The music that McTell knows best and prefers to perform carries no overt or even hidden social or political meaning. There are no old-fashioned sorrow songs about the black man's plight in his regular repertoire (and certainly not in his records, even though they are intended for the black "race record" market). His songs are up-to-date, and they are about sadness in love and gladness in love, drinking too much, benign nonsense, God, gambling, violence (much of it involving blacks attacking or killing other blacks), honoring life and death ... McTell is not a sharecropper or big-city laborer; he is a professional performer in a growing southern city. He lives within the iron structures of segregation ... and now he is making a very decent living playing music for whites as well as blacks and getting recorded commercially. For a black Atlantan in 1940, this amounted to a comparatively easy experience with white people -- while taking their money ...
(ibid, p. 175). That history shows Blind Willie McTell as the consummate caricature who is well suited (he always wore a suit and tie while performing) to symbolically represent McTell News, those who make their profits from selective news, just like Blind Willie McTell did from his use of selective music.

The book points out that Blind Willie McTell lived in a respectable neighborhood a few blocks from Martin Luther King, the father of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King would go on to become a household name in America, during the civil rights uprising in the South during the 1960's, as did Bob Dylan and rock music.

However, the path Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took was more along the ways of the true path the U.S. Constitution sets for the real free press, at least when compared with the path Blind Willie McTell took.

To illustrate the contrary path McTell News has taken, notice:
The Bush administration turned the U.S. military into a global propaganda machine ...
(Associated Press Chief Executive Tom Curley). The McTell News jumped in bed ("embedded") with the masters of war, then McTell News feigned complaints about the propaganda that McTell News itself helped produce then spread far and wide.

The Pentagon replied to McTell News' feigned complaints with a feigned study which concluded that this well bedded relationship was OK, whether in war zones abroad or on TV at home, because the Pentagon has always used the very best prophylactics (Pentagon Says Its News Media Influence is OK).

The propaganda that Blind Willie McTell conformed to was a SCAD, and was the same propaganda that Dr. King rejected, which was the notion that it was OK for the South to practice racial discrimination, segregation, lynching black men, using the "N" word, and to generally oppress some Americans because of their race.

A clear, undisputed example from James Madison gives a foundation for showing that McTell News is what it is because it is owned by, and embedded within, the warmonger corporate system:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war ... comprises and develops the germ of every other [enemy to public liberty] ... In war ... all the means of seducing the minds ... are added to those of subduing the force ... of the people.
(James Madison, emphasis added). President Madison's phrase "seducing the minds" is an older English description for what we now call propaganda or, in "nice" company, "spin".

Another case in point, out of an endless supply, is the Fukushima cover up, where the McTell News says "everything is fine, go home now, nothing to see here folks", while a scientific report says 14,000 deaths, so far, have occurred in the U.S. due to Fukushima's radioactive fallout (14,000 Deaths in U.S. Attributed to Fukushima, PDF).

One more news story, for this post, is the psychotic refusal by McTell News to deal with the millions of people who want another 9/11 Commission, but this time with an independent, scientific process.

In the USA, citizen journalists with an innate ability to use the pen, as well as the largest federal circuit court in the USA, all comment on the fundamental result of "untruthiness" at the heart of the vast American propaganda engines:
Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying. We lie to protect our privacy (“No, I don’t live around here”); to avoid hurt feelings (“Friday is my study night”); to make others feel better (“Gee you’ve gotten skinny”); to avoid recriminations (“I only lost $10 at poker”); to prevent grief (“The doc says you’re getting better”); to maintain domestic tranquility (“She’s just a friend”); to avoid social stigma (“I just haven’t met the right woman”); for career advancement (“I’m sooo lucky to have a smart boss like you”); to avoid being lonely (“I love opera”); to eliminate a rival (“He has a boyfriend”); to achieve an objective (“But I love you so much”); to defeat an objective (“I’m allergic to latex”); to make an exit (“It’s not you, it’s me”); to delay the inevitable (“The check is in the mail”); to communicate displeasure (“There’s nothing wrong”); to get someone off your back (“I’ll call you about lunch”); to escape a nudnik (“My mother’s on the other line”); to namedrop (“We go way back”); to set up a surprise party (“I need help moving the piano”); to buy time (“I’m on my way”); to keep up appearances (“We’re not talking divorce”); to avoid taking out the trash (“My back hurts”); to duck an obligation (“I’ve got a headache”); to maintain a public image (“I go to church every Sunday”); to make a point (“Ich bin ein Berliner”); to save face (“I had too much to drink”); to humor (“Correct as usual, King Friday”); to avoid embarrassment (“That wasn’t me”); to curry favor (“I’ve read all your books”); to get a clerkship (“You’re the greatest living jurist”); to save a dollar (“I gave at the office”); or to maintain innocence (“There are eight tiny reindeer on the rooftop”).

And we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk, as reflected by the popularity of plastic surgery, elevator shoes, wood veneer paneling, cubic zirconia, toupees, artificial turf and cross-dressing. Last year, Americans spent $40 billion on cosmetics — an industry devoted almost entirely to helping people deceive each other about their appearance. It doesn’t matter whether we think that such lies are despicable or cause more harm than good. An important aspect of personal autonomy is the right to shape one’s public and private persona by choosing when to tell the truth about oneself, when to conceal and when to deceive. Of course, lies are often disbelieved or discovered, and that too is part of the pull and tug of social intercourse. But it’s critical to leave such interactions in private hands, so that we can make choices about who we are. How can you develop a reputation as a straight shooter if lying is not an option?
(U.S. v. Alvarez). According to that narrative, as well as others, industrial strength lying is now as American as MOMCOM and apple pie.

Like Blind Willie McTell, the songster Bob Dylan rejected his own playing of any activist role in the 1960's type movements:
In mid-1964, he explained to critic Nat Hentoff: "Me, I don't want to write for people anymore - you know, be a spokesman. From now on, I want to write from inside me ... I'm not part of no movement ... I just can't make it with any organisation ..."
(RedPepper). Dylan eschewed movements of the genre that Dr. King participated in which led to King's assassination.

Along that same line, the public resists their civic duty to chide McTell News, sensing, perhaps by gut feeling, that the real news is not so "good" ("so you listen to the real news, not me").

Thus, the bleep goes on as if there were no consequences for being unaware.

The next post in this series is here.

A Bob Dylan song about McTell News:


  1. "Being a racist is clearly no disqualifier for national political office. It’s just that you are not supposed to say overtly racist things, at least in public" (CounterPunch Link).

    Jim Crow is still around.

  2. The old saying: "you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time" returns. Link

  3. Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, has a piece (Fear of a Black President) which aptly explains the reality that some of the Jim Crow spirit is still a dynamic force in our society.

  4. There is an interesting article about CNN and state sponsored news: Link

  5. A government official said this about "news" provided to the press as a matter of course: (“Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? — stupid.” - Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs).