Bozell Column: Pete Seeger, Still ‘America’s Best-Loved Commie’

There was a serious clash of ideologies on the front page of the newspapers on January 29. The Obama media were delighted that in his State of the Union address, Obama honored Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, the personification of military heroism.

But newspapers also honored the late radical folk singer Pete Seeger, whose songs mocked the American military as idiots. Take “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and its lyric “Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards every one / When will they ever learn?”    

How do these two stories coexist? Obviously, our media elites are very skilled at smoothing over their cognitive dissonance. The reality is that Seeger fans in the Obama coalition honor our soldiers at times of maximum convenience for an unpopular president. But they’ll still sing along at the anti-war hootenanny. They love Seeger more, much more.

Obituaries touted Seeger’s long endurance in American culture, but in fact, he’d been a yellowed footnote since Nixon was elected. His last major outrage came in the fall of 1967, when CBS spiked his performance on the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” of a crude and artless protest song called “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy.” The subtitle was “And The Big Fool Says to Push On,” which at that time clearly meant President Lyndon Johnson. “It didn’t mention Johnson by name,” Seeger said, “and it didn’t have to.” After left-wing outrage, CBS surrendered and aired Seeger strumming this tune on the same show in February 1968. 

That was half a century ago. 


Former New York Daily News TV critic David Bianculli wrote an entire book called “Dangerously Funny” about the Smothers Brothers displaying their leftist “conscience” on CBS in the Sixties. He recalled the 1968 performance as a “masterful performance and a remarkable comeback by a uniquely principled and talented entertainer.” What rubbish. 

Today’s appreciations are just as sickly-sweet. “America’s Singer of Conscience,” declared the front page of USA Today. A Los Angeles Times headline proclaimed “Balladeer with a Banjo was America’s conscience.” Even The Wall Street Journal, supposed capitalist tool of Rupert Murdoch, published its music writer oozing over Seeger as “Troubadour, rabble rouser, thorn in the side of the bloated and complacent.” 

Talk about bloated and complacent. That’s what shoe-shining journalists look like as they whitewash the real history of this man. Seeger was not distinctly American or conscientious. He would accept both the Presidential Medal of the Arts from Bill Clinton in 1994 in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center, and later the Felix Varela medal, Cuba’s highest honor, from Fidel Castro in 1999. 

When it behooved him in the 1950s, he told the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was no agent of a foreign power, but refused to say if he’d belonged to the Communist Party. When communism fell, then he felt it was safe to admit he was a member of the Party. It was almost a laugh line when Seeger appeared (and sang) on “The Colbert Report” in 2012, and openly proclaimed “I was a member of the Communist Party for a few years.” 

He never really lost that affinity, though. As Michael Moynihan noted for The Daily Beast, Seeger provided “an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua.” He hailed Borge’s tome “Have You Seen a Red Curtain in My Weary Chamber?” as an “extraordinary collection of poems and prose.” It was also praised as “especially valuable” in the blurbs by the People’s Daily World, the newspaper of the Communist Party USA. 

Mark Steyn explained the media mentality as he wrote the Washington Post “hailed him [in 1994] as ‘America’s best-loved Commie’ – which I think translates as ‘Okay, so the genial old coot spent a lifetime shilling for totalitarian murderers, but only uptight Republican squares would be boorish enough to dwell on it.’” 

Instead, the newspapers ran paragraphs of Barack Obama’s statement honoring Seeger for his belief in the “power of community – to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America we knew we could be.” 

What gullible, history-denying claptrap that is. Obama speaks like a man who never heard Seeger call him a “Big Fool” for wasting America’s allegedly ignorant soldiers in Afghanistan -- heroes like Cory Remsburg.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center