Thursday, June 01, 2006

Who'd Be the Wiser?

Who'd Be the Wiser?

Who'd Be the Wiser? (2000)

There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.
--President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

Imagine my surprise to learn the musicologists at the National Review, after an exhausting critical study, have come up with a list of the "The 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs." Even more surprising was that Heritage Foundation Heart-throbs like Sammy Hager and The Nuge were inexplicably left off the roster. I had some quibbles with a few of the selections -- like "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders settling in at #13. Even admitting that drug addict and radio wingnut Rush Limbaugh ripped off the bass line for his show's theme, I always thought that song was about the loss of pastoral beauty to urban blight. I lived in Ohio for several years, and Akron is more tire alley than English garden. But article author John J. Miller describes the song as propagating "a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning and a conservative’s dissatisfaction with rapid change." Who knew?

But I'm most amused to learn the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" topped the shuffle in Fox News listener's iPods. I wonder what Pete Townsend would say about this development. Let's dial into his diary and find out:

"Won't Get Fooled Again" has been listed in the UK Independent Newspaper as the number one song with -- as I understand it -- the political message most often misunderstood -- in this case the message is said to be 'conservative', a word that may mean different things in the UK and USA.

Of course the song has no party-allied political message at all. It is not precisely a song that decries revolution -- it suggests that we will indeed fight in the streets -- but that revolution, like all action can have results we cannot predict. Don't expect to see what you expect to see. Expect nothing and you might gain everything.

The song was meant to let politicians and revolutionaries alike know that what lay in the centre of my life was not for sale, and could not be co-opted into any obvious cause.

But why trust the author? Surely one can always appeal to a "higher father" -- like a conservative political reporter who writes books with subtitles like "How Multiculturalism Has Undermined America's Assimilation Ethic." Uh-oh. He sounds like one of them deconstructing French critics.

So maybe a line-by-line explication is in order. Let's undertake a deep image study of the Who's masterpiece to see why conservatives gyrate their artificial hips to it with sugarplum visions of Hannity and Coulter filling their wallets heads.

"Won't Get Fooled Again"


We'll be fighting in the streets

A clear reference to street fighting after the Florida election results in 2000:

We'd rather hang than be dimpled...

[Photo by Declan McCullagh]

With our children at our feet

An allusion to the hoopla preceding the hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts:

Justice isn't blind -- it's color-coordinated.

[Photo seen on BartCop]

And the morals that they worship will be gone

This passage baffles scholars since Rovian Republicans never had morals in the first place. However, the line could be a reference to this ancient idol:

I'm feeling a little wired...

[Image seen at Hans Kellner Dot Com]

And the men who spurred us on


Cap, I said I wanted UNsweetened tea!!

[Photo seen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library]

Sit in judgment of all wrong

I'm thinking:

I'm against racism, although as a fiscal policy...

[Image seen at]

They decide and the shotgun sings the song


How is it for close action, boys?

[Photo seen at The Chief Source]


I'll tip my hat to the new constitution

Critics are confused by this passage. Bush essentially ignored and openly shredded the Constitution during his tenure. This could be an obscure reference to His Royal Highness' fondness for "signing statements":

I'm the Decider.  I've decided to cross my fingers...

[Photo seen on the Daily University Star]

Take a bow for the new revolution

Perhaps Pete was thinking of this still of Bush pretending to look for WMDs hidden like Easter eggs around the Oval Office:

Uuuuhhh, that pretzel's comin' back up...

[Photo seen on BBC News]

Smile and grin at the change all around

Too easy:

I have blow in my nose, uh, I mean have to blow my nose...

[Photo seen on G4 Forums]

Pick up my guitar and play

Oh!! Me!! Me!! I know, professor!!!:

Ooooh, my yellowcake rose of Texas...

[Photo seen on]

Just like yesterday

A postmodernist signifier to pop culture in the form of 70's radio fodder:

The day the presidency died?

Image seen on BlueChipReview]

Then I'll get on my knees and pray

Wait. Something's coming through from the other side:

Hey, God.  You're breakin' up...

[Photo seen on Low Culture]

We don't get fooled again

The overall controlling metaphor of how conservatives feel about everyone else:

Is our citizens fooled?

[Photo seen on my own blog]


The change, it had to come

Literary history suggests this is a motif of transformation:

Abby Normal?

[Image seen on The Heretik]

We knew it all along

Could this be a historical citation to a far-sighted sage?:

The public's against it. The military's overextended. There's no place else to go.

[Cartoon by Steve Benson]

We were liberated from the fold, that's all

Perhaps a veiled reference to the conservative power base:

Baaaabara's boy...

[Image seen on YELLOWCAKEWALK]

And the world looks just the same

A line commenting on the cyclic nature of history:

Are you sure you don't want to ask for directions?

[Cartoon by Daryl Cagle. Seen at Scum on the Top]

And history ain't changed

Perhaps a subplot for a Faulknerian family tragedy:

Wouldn't be prudent to tell the truth...

[Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow. Seen on Bad Attitudes.]

'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

Opinions vary, but "banners" could be a metaphor meaning the ethical standards held high by leaders during the previous war:

I am not a...decider...

[Image seen on virtualmatter]



I'll move myself and my family aside

A genealogical mention:

Cretin family / Oi Oi Oi Oi...

[Image seen on The Biggest Secret Forum]

If we happen to be left half alive

An innocence to experience saga:

I wanna be the decider...

[Photo seen on Listmaker]

I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky

"Papers" obviously refers to old copies of The Wall Street Journal. The "smile" comes from psychedelic dreams of capital gains tax cuts.

Although my boss won't be paying any taxes...

[Image seen on Americans for Shared Sacrifice]

For I know that the hypnotized never lie

Another classic made into a Movie-of-the-Week:

You will ignore...ignore...

[Image seen on Internet Weekly Report]

Do ya?

A sophisticated pun on "Dub-ya"?:

A better breed of bumper sticker...

[Image from "M -- The Moron" by way of Betty Bowers]

There's nothing in the street

A conscious imitation with classical underpinnings:

I want the world and I want it now...

[Photo seen on Reality Hiphop]

Looks any different to me

A deliberate nod to the Old Masters:

Where's Billy Graham when you need him?

[Photo by Declan McCullagh]

And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye

Another allusion to a seminal work:

We've always been at war with Iraq...

[Image seen at]

And the party on the left

A character study:

Our core values of freedom and opportunity are ascendant around the globe.

[Image seen on Politics in the Zeros]

Is now the party on the right

Another character study:

Time to feed...

["What Do Zell Miller and Goya Have in Common." Seen on MTAA-RR]

And the beards have all grown longer overnight

Perhaps a Robert Bly "Iron John" kind of thing:

If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right.

[Photo seen on MetaFilter]




C'mon. Admit it. You were waiting for this line:

Theirs is a party of self-absorption and selfishness.

[Photo seen on]

Meet the new boss

The climax of the piece.

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.

Same as the old boss

A non-surprise ending.

Talk about your last throes...

[Image seen on]

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