War, What Is It Good For?

Absolutely nothing -- unless you're Clear Channel Communications

War, brought to you by Clear ChannelWar sure is depressing. And I'm not even talking about the fact that we're slaughtering people so that Georgie B. can sleep easily at night, happy that his campaign donors' coffers will remain full. (Not that he needs much help sleeping: The New Yorker has reported how the "president" hits the pillow at 10 p.m., no problem.) I'm talking about war in the modern, 2003 sense of the word, where "in-bedded" reporters deliver rote interviews with soldiers who seem like zombies or freshmen college footballers. I'm talking about TV networks that give us vague infrared cityscapes and dust storm close-ups, instead of the tragedies that result from our "pinpoint" bombing raids. And I'm talking about an Oscar crowd that boos the one man, an admittedly hyped-up Michael Moore, who dared to speak his mind during a ridiculously cowardly awards ceremony. (When did we become a country in which you have to apologize for your dissenting opinion? I seem to recall plenty of Republicans during the Clinton years, jumping up and down and screaming that blow jobs with big-haired interns were horrendous, and no one told them to shut up.)

This new defensiveness has even seeped into the recent Beastie Boys protest song, "In a World Gone Mad." Right there, among rhymes comparing Bush to the comically vain cinematic character Zoolander, is the line, "Don't get us wrong, we love America/ But that's no reason to get hysterica." Even with its softened blows, though, the tune is way more pointed than R.E.M.'s protest attempt, "The Final Straw," in which Michael Stipe mumbles vapid lyrics like "Love cannot be called into question/ Forgiveness is the only hope I hold." Far better at encapsulating the anger and fear brought on by this conflict is Zack de la Rocha and DJ Shadow's collaboration, "March of Death," in which the former Rage Against the Machine singer spits, "The poor lined up to kill in desert slums/ For oil that burn beneath the desert sun." Also worth checking out is a cacophonous cover of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" by local drummer Scott Amendola and L.A. singer Carla Bozulich. (The song can be heard on www.protest-records.com, a Web site devoted to topical tunes and curated by Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. So far, it's got MP3s by Cat Power, Eugene Chadbourne, and the Beasties, with others by Mudhoney, the Fugs, and Ian MacKaye of Fugazi scheduled to appear soon.)

If there's anyone who deserves to be defensive, it's our friend Clear Channel Communications. As reported in the Chicago Tribune and London's Guardian, recent pro-war Rally for Peace events held in Sacramento, Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, and other cities were sponsored by CC, that insatiable corporate monster. A spokesman for Clear Channel claims the rallies are not part of some company policy, but are the idea of Philadelphia-based Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck, who's syndicated nationally by Premiere Radio Networks, a Clear Channel subsidiary (which means some of CC's stations both effected and then reported on the happenings). In a February press release, Beck explained the gatherings thusly: "These rallies are intended as a venue for reasonable, thoughtful, and prayerful people who want the opportunity to express their support for our troops." And if the radio host gets a heap of publicity while the government points to Americans cheering forthe war that wouldn't be so bad, either.

Never mind that Clear Channel's ties to the Bushes go way back. As New York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman recently pointed out, the corporation's CEO, Lowry Mays, and board member Tom Hicks were heavily involved with Utimco, the University of Texas Investment Management Co., which funneled cash to Bush-related businesses. Hicks later bought the Texas Rangers baseball team from the then-governor, pouring $14.9 million into Bush's bank account. In times like these -- when Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) is introducing legislation that would make it tougherfor media conglomerates to swallow everything in sight -- it certainly can't hurt Clear Channel to have the government on its side. Some people, it seems, stand to make a killing from this war.

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