Sunday, January 11, 2009

The best song about media domination ever



Billy Bragg's "It Says Here" is probably the best song about media domination and hypocrisy ever recorded.

Whenever I hear someone singing from the "PRs are liars, journalists are purveyors of the truth" songbook, this little ditty always comes to mind. My usual rebuttal, by the way: "PR people are more honest about their dishonesty." So, there!

Bragg's early work was especially prescient; if you play his song "Help Save the Youth of America" next to Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" (both from the 80s), you pretty much get the idea that Sept. 11 was as inevitable as it was predictable.

Sample Anderson lyrics: "Here come the planes/they're American planes/made in America/smoking or non-smoking?/Ha-ha-ha-ha..."

Sample Bragg lyrics: "The cities of Europe have burned before, and they may yet burn again/and if they do you can be sure that Washington will burn with them." Hmmm...

"It Says Here" was recorded in 1984, and came out of Bragg's frustration with what he saw as a right-wing agenda in British newspapers. This song predates Fox News, but that's really what it's about, along with the media outlets that would sell us "a feature on stocking and suspenders, next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders."

Later in the song, he could be singing about the Winnipeg Sun girl: "Could it be an infringement of the freedom of the press to print pictures of women in states of undress?"

We're now well into an era where the traditionally "deep" purveyors of the news, the print media, are going under all around us as we continue to prefer getting the news for free. Right now, it's probably as good as it gets: "free news" for readers, as subsidized by the New York Times and its advertisers.

But, as papers continue to fold for lack of an online business model that works, the quality of journalism - and it's not that great now! - will continue to get worse.

As Bragg sings, "Do you ever wish that you were better informed?"

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