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In memoriam to John Lennon today, on the 30th anniversary of his death, I am reminded of the parallels to Julian Assange, another champion of social justice and war protest.  John Lennon was hounded secretly and openly by the Nixon Administration and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, for Lennon's spirited opposition to the Vietnam War.  

Assange's Wikileaks airing of dirty laundry is more information-based than Lennon's advocacy, but in the end, may be no less important (and perhaps even more so when all's said and done) in retrospect.  But the persecution by the powerful, be they government or the rich elite, would appear to have significant parallels.

John Lennon vs. The Rich and Powerful
For anyone unaware of the history, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married in March 1969, and used their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton as a "Bed-In for Peace." This anti-Vietnam War event attracted worldwide media coverage, and within months, they staged a second Bed-In in Montreal, Canada, where the powerful, exceptionally influential antiwar anthem, "Give Peace a Chance" was recorded in their hotel room, sung by their invited friends and family. That song shot to stardom, and was sung that fall, 1969, by 250,000 anti-war demonstrators in Washington, DC.

Lennon knew very well the influence of his songs and message, and was the highest anti-war protest leader of his day.  "You have to be more politically aware, in a day and age like this.  It's impossible to close your eyes to it," he said.

Give Peace a Chance (1969)

Less than two years later, in 1971, Lennon and Ono moved to New York City from Britain.  Soon after arriving, he ramped up his criticism of the Vietnam War, in both song and press interviews, and became an increasingly influential figure in the United States anti-war protest movement.  

Lennon's songs clearly resonated with a generation disgusted and angered by the War (remember, as a reference, the Kent State massacre occurred the year before Lennon's arrival in New York, on May 4th, 1970), and caused consternation among the powerful supporters of the war, many of whom swore a vendetta against the dirty fucking hippy foreigner.

Imagine (1971)

(Note: a bit of this is in Italian, but it's a version I particularly like):

Threatening the Powerful: The Smear, Harassment, and Deportation Campaign
Indeed, there was such a fear that Lennon's growing popularity could endanger Richard Nixon's entire presidency that he was soon, after his arrival, aggressively harassed by the FBI and other agencies of the U.S. government (including phone taps and surveillance), smeared in the press by Nixon supporters, and increasingly criticized for not minding his own business by Republican politicians and other right wingers.  Historian Jon Weiner notes that cracker jackass Republican Senator Strom Thurmond suggested in a February 1972 memo that "deportation would be a strategic counter-measure" against Lennon.

The Nixon administration, unable to silence him in other ways, soon began a long, drawn out attempt to have him deported back to Britain.  Lennon successfully successfully fought this deportation, in part because of the steadfast support of his fans and followers.

This history is superbly captured in the documentary, The US vs. John Lennon. I recommend it to anyone -- both those interested in Lennon, as well as those concerned about the power of government to destroy, through illegal and legal means alike, opposition to war and injustice.

The US vs. John Lennon

Fast forward to the present: Julian Assange
You all know that story of Assange. Winner of Index on Censorship's magazine's 2008 "Freedom of Expression Award," his goal is to turn over the rock of secrecy that surrounds much of what governments around the world have been doing behind their citizens backs.  

I don't know if Assange's guilty of the sexual assault charges that have apparently been leveled in Sweden, but I do know that he's been subjected to one of the most concerted international "containment" efforts aimed at a private citizen in some time. I'm also ambivalent about the blunt instrument that his document dumps represent. After all, Daniel Ellsberg (who has recently praised Assange's efforts) leaked a set of documents, The Pentagon Papers, that exposed a clear, illegal effort by the United States. There is some need for secrecy in security operations and diplomacy, despite the fact that there is currently WAY too much of it among most governments.

Nonetheless, he has already exposed illegal acts by the Obama administration (e.g., the diplomatic suppression of Spain's judicial inquiry into the Bush/Cheney cabal's torture crimes -- which, in addition to their failure to prosecute said crimes is also in itself illegal according to international and American law) and embarrassed countless more.  Assange's being treated like a terrorist and a traitor by governments including the United States, who are falling all over themselves to shut his website down. The Obama admin. has already intervened to suppress free speech in a variety of venues, including the internet and financial transaction corporations (Amazon, PayPal, Visa, etc., etc.), with other "good boy" entities following fearfully behind them.

In Sum: Eerie Parallels, and Inspiring Similarities
John Lennon's FBI file was finally released, after decades of legal wrangling, in the mid-1990s. In it, were many startling and not-so-startling revelations.  Jon Wiener, one of the litigants in the Freedom of Information suits, published the results of his 14-year campaign in January 2000 book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files In it were copies of the FBI documents, including "lengthy reports by confidential informants detailing the daily lives of anti-war activists, memos to the White House, transcripts of TV shows on which Lennon appeared, and a proposal that Lennon be arrested by local police on drug charges".

I hope Julian Assange is innocent of those charges. But it sure looks like those, and the many that are coming down the pike, are trumped up efforts to silence him.  [special note: He's been denied bail, which would appear to be highly unusual for a case such as his, and particularly since he turned himself in].  

Assange's approach is not without its risks. Yes, it's possible that he could divulge secrets that might cause a loss of lives. But, in contrast, much of the furor over the release of "critical infrastructure" targets in foreign countries, as solicited by the State Dept., is a tempest in a teapot. It is a raw list, the information in which virtually any even reasonably enterprising would-be terrorist could easily find on open-sources.  

Also notable: LOTS of lives have been lost because we didn't really know what was going on.  

Anyway, Moral to the story: Fight the power, and sometimes you win.  Other lesson: Sometimes the power wins, especially if you settle into complacency, and believe the lies.  Last lesson, from PT Barnum: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Originally posted to Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:20 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

    by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:20:56 PM PST

  •  Here's to giving peace (and pizza) a chance, (6+ / 0-)

    with greater transparency in government, and concerted efforts by brave, private citizens like Lennon and Assange.

    [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

    by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:26:59 PM PST

  •  Thanks for this well written celebration of (8+ / 0-)

    John Lennon, perspective aon Asange, and a whole lot to think about, VdtBlue.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:30:11 PM PST

    •  Appreciate it, HD. I didn't really discover (5+ / 0-)

      the real power and influence of Lennon's opposition to the war until a few years back, when I happened to see "The US vs. John Lennon" documentary.  It led me to go back and look into the details, and it's amazing how terrified -- with good reason -- the Nixon Admin. was by Lennon's popular and articulate message and artistry.  Well worth viewing, if you haven't!  :)

      [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

      by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:43:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll look that up. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotasm, Vtdblue

        One nostalgic aspect of the 60s and even early 70s was that cutting edge music wasn't just entertainment but fully in resonance with policitical, social, and other changes.

        Truly revolutionary.

        I remember waiting for each and every Beatles album with passionate expectations, and never dissappointment.

        Each and every album from the first was a major upgrade of consciousness, culture, etc.

        And, if you ventured into the city and heard Bob Dylan blairing from an apartment, you could know they'd be avant garde hippies, against the war, McCarthyism, having pre-marital sex, and probably happy to welcome you and get you high if you ventured in.

        Oh the good ole days.  

        Where's my bong?

        The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by HoundDog on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 08:21:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  If only for a little Instant Karma. n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, cotasm, rogerdaddy, Vtdblue

    they sentenced me to 20 years of boredom
    for trying to change the system from within

    by wanderindiana on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:34:51 PM PST

  •  I've heard so many tributes to Lenon today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, rogerdaddy, Vtdblue

    but if he was alive today and saying the same things he said back then he would be under constant attack by the media and the Baggers.

    •  That's a fact. He was reviled by the Establishmnt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, cotasm, rogerdaddy

      for speaking out against not only their effing war, but against many other injustices of the time.  Nixon and his cronies HATED the guy.  Same type of reaction to anyone these days who bucks the Very Serious People's conventional wisdom. They smear them and try to destroy them.

      [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

      by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:48:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Across The Universe (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, cotasm, rogerdaddy, Vtdblue

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:37:32 PM PST

  •  You act like our security services are political (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    goinsouth, Vtdblue

    This is America...not the Soviet Union

    The FBI's interest in King intensified after the March on Washington in August 1963, when King delivered his "I have a dream speech," which many historians consider the most important speech of the 20th century. After the speech, an FBI memo called King the "most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country." The bureau convened a meeting of department heads to "explore how best to carry on our investigation [of King] to produce the desired results without embarrassment to the Bureau," which included "a complete analysis of the avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader.

    here

    •  Or the FBI investigation of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goinsouth, Vtdblue

      Louie Louie

      The Kingsmen’s edition was also the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but non-existent obscenity of the lyrics, an investigation that ended without prosecution

      On a historical note, the bass player in my band has the '59 Fender P-bass that was used in the recording of the Kingsmen's version.

      Afghanistan - Come for the lithium and stay for the opium.

      by BOHICA on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:47:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow, way cool about the Fender! Bet is sounds (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BOHICA, Sandino

        great, still.  J. Edgar "Pink Tutu" Hoover investigated and undermined (and sometime assassinated) anyone who represented a threat to the white male power establishment back in the day.  He was such a fucker.

        [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

        by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:51:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  In today's climate, that might not be the sort (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BOHICA, Vtdblue

        of information that one might want to share...

        ..."Ahuh wegonow" might be construed as super duper double secret decoder ring al Qaeda communication...

        "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

        by Jack K on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:54:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Ha... yeah, no shit. Pure as the driven snow... (0+ / 0-)

      which, by the way, we've got a whole lot of where I am at the moment.  ;o)

      [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

      by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:49:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wikileaks would be unneccessary if there was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, goinsouth, Vtdblue

    a functioning press.  Ellsberg had a paper of record to go to, but those days are surely over.

    •  Not sure what you mean by this unless (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nailbanger

      you are saying that Wikileaks has to serve as some sort of intermediary between the person who first gathered the information (the accusation for now being directed at Bradley Manning) and the media.  I assume that is the case, because the NYT, which published the Pentagon Papers, has also been a primary recipient of both the Afghan reports and the State Dept. cables...

      "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

      by Jack K on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:51:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is true, and still a ray of hope, but don't (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vcmvo2, Sandino, Nailbanger

        forget that the Grey Lady was also involved in suppressing stories during the Bush admin, when induced to do so for "national security" reasons by the White House.  They also failed to publish damning stories close to the 2004 election, in servile fear that they would be accused of playing politics.

        The NYTs of Ellsberg's day no longer exists -- though true as well for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles TImes... (ad infinitum)

        [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

        by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:55:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The shear volume of corruption and incompetence (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Vtdblue

        in the wikileaks cables released so far indicate a glut of stories that could have been fleshed out by traditional media a long time ago.
        Even with the leaks, there is little journalism to celebrate.
        This CBS story, CBS story for example, of the Dyncorp child prostitution story, dances around the sex slave part of the story.

      •  And Keller clears everything with the WH... (0+ / 0-)

        before publishing.

        Remember the story about warrantless wiretaps and how the esteemed NYT sat on the story until after the 2004 election, all while front-paging Judith Miller's lies?

    •  I sure hope we might recapture some of the old (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nailbanger

      role the press used to play, through unconventional media transformations. But I'm terrified that you are correct, and that it's permanent.  In which case, 1984 here we come.

      [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

      by Vtdblue on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:52:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ellsberg had a helluva time convincing the Times (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandino, adios, Nailbanger, Vtdblue

      to publish... and had it not been for Times counselJames Goodale's persuasion on the viability of a First Amendment case, they probably would have balked.

      And then, of course, the President attacked the paper and Ellsberg with both guns blazing.

      "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

      by Mogolori on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 07:53:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Love your sig, Mogolori. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mogolori

        • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
        • Madison Square Garden
        • New York City
        • October 31, 1936

        Slap it. Shoot it. Kaboot it.

        by adios on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 09:04:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's that kind of ass-kicking that Barack needs (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          adios

          to deliver in daily doses if he hopes to a second term.  One thing I know for sure -- FDR never called his supporters' pleas for fairness and justice "sanctimonious."

          That one's burning a hole in my gut.

          "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

          by Mogolori on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 09:27:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Lennon and I are in each others' FBI files. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino

    We never met, but had a stoolpigeon, Julie Mayneard, in common.

    The sections withheld from Weiner until the late '90s were ostensibly to protect her identity, but we'd long before outed her in Madison's underground newspaper, TakeOver.

    President Obama: Free The Baculum King dailykos userid 1374

    by ben masel on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 11:40:35 PM PST

  •  Interesting and informative diary. (0+ / 0-)

    Passing it along to others interested in open government.

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