Patriotic Movies

A bit of entertainment went around on the Internet recently asking people to post a clip of the song that was at the top of the charts the week they were born. I found this interesting enough that i went digging and discovered that although i could not pin down the top song the week of my birth, i could get close enough with this clip of the Andrews Sisters, which made me reflect on the changes i’ve seen.

When i was born, we were a profoundly nationalistic but also deeply isolationist country. As the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was playing across America in July of 1941, the war in Europe had been going on for nearly two years while we sat watching. In the summer of 1941 Hitler was launching Operation Barabarossa, the Nazi march on Moscow that would ultimately be brought to a halt literally within sight of Moscow on 5 December, just two days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States finally entered the war.

What strikes me most about the Andrews Sisters clip above is the propaganda aspect. The Roosevelt administration had started a peacetime draft in preparation for war in 1940, but it needed popular support and Hollywood was eager to do its part. Buck Privates was the first of three service comedies that Abbot and Costello made before Pearl Harbor, soft core propaganda to supplement the more blatant stuff.

As a student i was taught that the Nazis, the Russians, and the Chinese bombarded their citizens with propaganda, and i knew from tuning in Radio Free Europe on my little Hallicrafters in the late fifties that we were bombarding the Soviet block, but it wasn’t until the Great Disillusionment of the sixties that i realized that we Americans were also being bombarded by our own government.

Now, of course, Herr Gauleiter Goebbels turns in his grave in envy of the heights to which Fox News has taken this fine art, and even as i write this the neocons are using to drum up support for an attack on Iran, the same specious arguments they used to justify our invasion of Iraq. Meanwhile, our Secretary of Defense has unequivocally stated that Iran is NOT building nuclear weapons, not of course that this will get in the way of our impending attack.

We certainly are living in interesting times.

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