Veterans

This Week's Culture War: Arguing About a Creedence Clearwater Revival Song

When the band plays "Fortunate Son," they point the cannon at...

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At first it looked like the designated controversy from the Concert for Valor, a Veterans Day show held on the National Mall and broadcast on HBO, was going to be that Eminem spent his set cussing like…well, like Eminem. But that debate faded pretty quickly, perhaps because it was hard to imagine that many old soldiers watching at home were gasping that they never heard language like that in the Army. Instead we're now arguing about the fact that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown played Creedence Clearwater Revival's resentful anthem "Fortunate Son," a Vietnam-era jeremiad against the people who send Americans into wars their own kids won't fight.

I can't embed Tuesday's performance, but you can watch it here. If you'd rather listen to the original, here you go:

That part of the set list pissed off some hawks, who seem to think the trio should have saved it for some antiwar holiday—I dunno, Armistice Day or something. The Weekly Standard's Ethan Epstein complained that the song is "an anti-war screed, taking shots at 'the red white and blue.'" The actual lyric is a bit different: "Some folks are born made to wave the flag/Ooh, they're red, white, and blue/And when the band plays 'Hail to the Chief'/They point the cannon at you." Epstein has evidently confused people who wrap themselves in the flag with the flag itself.

A better description of the song's theme comes from Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis, who asks: "Is there anything that more accurately portrays the reality of who fought in Vietnam, who sent them there, and who was able to get away with not fighting there?" If the authorities ever create a holiday to honor the people who declare wars, I suppose the song might be a disrespectful choice for it, but there's nothing there that sneers at the people who actually fought. (The guy who wrote the track certainly doesn't think so.)

"Fortunate Son" was undeniably opposed to the Vietnam War. It's also a song whose sentiments a lot of Vietnam veterans would endorse. Of course there's also a lot of vets who wouldn't endorse it, but that's just as true of any pro-war ditty that might meet The Weekly Standard's approval. Wars are controversial, not just among the general public but among the people who fight them. (According to a Washington Post poll released earlier this year, half the veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars now say the invasion of Iraq wasn't worth it.) As with wars, so with music: Some people in the audience reportedly jeered during the performance, but the crowd in the video looks pretty happy.

Some of them even waved the flag. I kind of wish the band had played "Hail to the Chief," just to see what would have happened.

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117 responses to “This Week's Culture War: Arguing About a Creedence Clearwater Revival Song

  1. Apparently the right is in a contest with the left when it comes to finding excuses to be offended.

  2. Suppose the gave a Kultur War and nobody came?

    1. God would still know.

      1. Okay, how about this. Why don’t we all get together and have an armistice in the Kultur War?

        1. Hail Lucifer! Prince of Darkness!

          1. Think I misplaced my comment.

            1. You’ve overplayed your hand Satan.

                1. Idle hands spend time at the genitals, and we know how much god hates that.

  3. I could note Credence’s hypocrisy. But I won’t. It was forty fucking years ago. Why should I give a shit about a forty year old culture war?

    Why can’t everyone give the whole Kulture War a rest?

    1. Because if you disarm unilaterally, the other side will win.

      1. We cannot allow a mine shaft victim complex gap!

    2. Honoring war veterans is part of the culture war.

      1. No, it isn’t. But throwing a stinkfit about a song that came out before I was a night out and a couple of drinks for my parents probably is.

    3. Considering two of CCR’s members were drafted during the Vietnam War, how exactly is the song hypocrisy?

      1. Well, you get the fact that the song’s author’s service amounted to a weekend-a-month designed to keep him out of Vietnam. Now add to that the fact that the author himself called it “my confrontation with Richard Nixon,”. Now add to that the fact that Richard Nixon, for all of his faults (and they were myriad), refused an exemption he was entitled to as a Quaker.

        So, you have a song about those awful hypocrites who avail themselves of privilege, written by a guy who did just that, targeting a guy who didn’t.

        You don’t see the hypocrisy there?

        But, again, who cares? This is crap that happened before I, and probably a lot of people here, were even born.

        1. So if Fogerty is attacked by a rapist, but manages to fight them off and escape after only being assaulted, it’s hipocritcal for Fogerty to complain about the rapist since the rapist didn’t actually succeed in raping him?

          1. If Fogerty was attacked by a rapist and escaped because he happened to have a gun, he would be a hypocrite to later write a song about how hypocritical it is for only those who are lucky enough to own guns are able to escape rape, yes.

            You can’t comment on other people’s hypocrisy when you are guilty of the same. You can, but it makes you a bigger hypocrite for doing it.

            1. You’re confusing the art with the artist. I don’t have to endorse underage rape to admit I enjoyed Chinatown.

        2. So, you have a song about those awful hypocrites who avail themselves of privilege

          But it’s not about them. It’s about the people who couldn’t avail themselves of privilege. Just because Fogerty did manage to stay out of Vietnam doesn’t mean he can’t feel sympathy for those who couldn’t.

          It would be like getting pissed of that USA For Africa went out to dinner after recording We Are The World.

          1. Except, as I said, it was Fogerty himself who called it “my confrontation with Richard Nixon”. So, yeah, it is about the hypocrites who avail themselves of privilege. And Fogerty comes a lot closer than Nixon does to that description.

            That’s not to say I’m defending Nixon. I don’t like the guy. But, this is the mirror image of a guy like Bill Kristol calling those who served cowards.

    4. The only way the Kultur Wars will fade into background noise is if the whole victim complex thing gets spread to everyone.

      If everyone is a victim, no one is.

      So, whether they realize it or not, the SoCons who are now using the Proggie playbook are actually, in my mind, doing the right thing. The Proggies aren’t going to quit all on their own, or ever, so we just have to dilute and devalue the Victim Card. Just like has been happening to the Race Card.

      1. So, I guess libertarians get to play the last of the oppressors?

        1. I wanna be a victim! Stop othering me!

      2. So Socon oppression is okay, because they’re only being ironically oppressive.

        I smell John’s socks.

        1. Yes Dragon, any concern for or willingness to stand up for a group means you are really part of that group. We get it. You have convinced us. Rights are only for people that we like and never for people that we don’t.

          It is guilt by association all the way down.

        2. I almost wish I would ever meet you in person so you would see how fucking laughable your fantasy that I am some kind of SOCON actually is. It is absolutely the funniest thing that happens on here. You honestly must think that no one could ever understand the position of or defend any group unless they were a part of that group. It is just amazing.

        3. So Socon oppression is okay

          The whole collectivist “victim” thing stinks on ice, regardless.

          However, the proggy left will never give it up. The only options we have are:

          The proggy left continues to use it to advance their agenda and annoy the shit out of everyone, or

          Everyone jumps on the bandwagon so the wheels fall off and it just stops meaning anything.

          Of the two sucktastic options, I think the latter sucks less.

  4. First, I think it is one of the best rock songs ever written. I love CCR and think Fogerty was a genius.

    Second, the right is dead wrong about it not being a valid anti-war song AT THE TIME. It was written during the draft. The government really did come and grab people who minding their own business and send them to Vietnam. And people who were rich enough to run off to Canada or connected enough to join the National Guard avoided going in large numbers.

    Now, does that mean every person or even the majority of people who went to Vietnam were too poor to avoid it? Fuck no. A lot of people who could have avoided it didn’t because they felt it was the right thing to do. And not everyone who couldn’t avoid it had a high draft number. Some people lucked out by the draw.

    The fact remains, it was a war fought primarily by draftees and one which the rich and connected could avoid if they wanted to. The fact that many or really even most people who fought over there could have ducked out but choose not to doesn’t change that fact and doesn’t make the song any less valid.

    The problem is we no longer have a draft. No one was ever sent overseas in this war who didn’t volunteer knowing that they could be. So the song doesn’t work as anti-war song anymore. Whatever the sins of this war, sending unwilling people who were not rich enough or connected enough to duck out of it is not one of them.

    1. Correct, and no typos. Who the fuck are you, and what have you done with John? 😉

      1. The government really did come and grab people who minding their own business

        It’s John.

    2. When I was in the Marines (mid 80’s) there were a lot of staff NCO’s who had served in Vietnam and they would all tell you how great it was to no longer have a draft.

      They all sympathized with guys who had basically been kidnapped and forced to fight. None of them held it against the draftees.

      1. My father volunteered for the Marines before Vietnam and was sent there. His view of Vietnam was that it wasn’t much of a war but it was the only one they had.

        Over a million people served in Vietnam. No single narrative tells the entire story. Tens of thousands of people volunteered to go and again for multiple tours. Others really were effectively kidnapped and should have never been sent there and had no aptitude to do what they were sent to do. And plenty of others were every variation in between.

        And yeah, no one who has any sense and any knowledge of the modern military and war thinks the draft is anything but a stupid idea to only be done in times of complete desperation.

    3. Except that many of these people joined the military because there were few other decent options for them.

      1. Bullshit. That is just completely untrue. The people who served in Vietnam were better educated and had more successful lives as a group by any objective measure than those of their age group who didn’t.

        The idea that people joined up to go to Vietnam because they had no other choice is just a complete Marxist fabrication.

        America was a rich country in the 1960s. No one was starving or living in boxes. The idea that even a poor person in 1966 would view going to fight in a war as bloody and harsh as Vietnam as a better option than staying where they were all things being equal is just not true.

        1. Caveat – I was not alive in 1966.

          But given American history, the Jim Crow laws weren’t formally ended until 1965, and continued informally for a LONG time afterward. The “Freedom Summer” was in 1964. So I don’t think 1966 America was the halcyon paradise you envision. Who exactly was “rich” in America at this time?

          And where do you get the stat that people who served in Vietnam had “more successful lives” than those who didn’t? Even if that were true, you would be measuring their outcome AFTER serving, not before. Maybe they all took advantage of the GI Bill, I don’t know. Where is any data showing that those who served in Vietnam were in a better position BEFORE going to war than those who did not?

          1. Sure. But that doesn’t mean they joined because they had no other choice. It just means that joining turned out well for them. It didn’t turn out so well for 59,000 or whatever other people who got killed over there. And when you joined you didn’t know which group you were going to be a part of. So it is hard to see why anyone would have joined and risked death because they thought the GI bill might be cool.

    4. So the song doesn’t work as anti-war song anymore.

      Bullshit. The lyrics may not fit our existing situation to a T, but the target of the song is, as the post points out to you, the DECLARERS of war.

      The song is basically a FUCK YOU to declarers of war. The fact that some of the veterans are also declarers of war is too fucking bad.

      1. The problem is that you can’t say “fuck you to the declarers of war” if you volunteer knowing you can be sent.

        The other problem is that the song says Fuck you to the people who declare war because they end up sending people who never wanted to be there and are stuck with the burden of fighting it because the people who declare it won’t.

        That fuck you doesn’t work with a volunteer army. No one in the military today is there because they were not a fortunate son. They are there because they want to be. So the song is a very interesting time capsule into a nasty little fight amongst the baby boom and not a good anti-war song beyond that.

        1. The problem is that you can’t say “fuck you to the declarers of war” if you volunteer knowing you can be sent.

          Which is why I don’t want to honor any of these enablers. As I said, such honors are part of the culture war.

          But the fact is so many people are misled into thinking our wars are just: “According to a Washington Post poll released earlier this year, half the veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars now say the invasion of Iraq wasn’t worth it.”

          Whether you’re drafted or you’re misled into volunteering, the unjustifiable war is still unjustifiable. So in my mind a volunteer soldier very much CAN say fuck you to the declarers of war. You can argue that volunteering means blind, unquestioning allegiance, but that doesn’t let the TOP MEN off the hook.

          1. But the fact is so many people are misled into thinking our wars are just:

            That or perhaps reasonable people can disagree about such things. But hey, thinking that way is hard. So go right ahead and continue to think everyone who disagrees with you is suffering from a false consciousness. Life is easier that way.

            1. Your target should be the veterans who feel that way, which is why I quoted the poll. But it’s easier for your superiority complex to attribute the opinion solely to me.

              1. You are the one with the superiority complex not me. I am not the one who thinks that everyone who went over there went there because they were fooled or suffer from some form of false consciousness that I am apparently immune from. You are the one who thinks that.

                I think people made rational decisions for their own reasons.

          2. And trust me when I tell you that few if anyone who actually went gives a flying fuck whether you or anyone else who didn’t’ go honor them or not. Such honors are done for the benefit of people who give them not for the people who receive them.

            No one who actually went gives a fuck what people who didn’t go think. They just don’t and never will. It is not why people do such things. Real people go for their own reasons and for reasons known to others who do. It is only in the movies that people go to war in hopes of getting a parade when they return home.

            1. Right , John. Recruitment advertising and propaganda has no effect whatsoever. That’s why all governments have abandoned such efforts.

              1. I know the actual people who went as opposed to the ones who live in your head. Life just doesn’t work that way. People are not as stupid as you apparently think they are.

  5. They should have just hired Sabaton to play a two hour set. Google them to see what I mean.

    “Fortunate Son” was quite appropriate to the occasion and nicely subversive of all the Washington DC bullshit, and it’s worth noting that John Fogerty was a veteran and clearly wrote it from that perspective.

    1. Fogerty served in the reserves and was one of the connected people that avoided the war that the song is talking about.

      As a personal statement, the song is a bit hypocritical. But so what? To me that is just an ad homonym attack. The author’s personal position doesn’t mean the larger point isn’t valid.

      I think the song is great but also very limited to its time. It is the only song from the 1960s that dealt with the uncomfortable truth that the people who were back in the US both promoting and protesting the war were generally the ones who due to personal circumstances were able to avoid fighting it.

      That song points out the hypocrisy of both sides in that regard. The song has three verses. Two of them are about patriotic types who send other people off to die. But the middle verse is about rich people. That verse doesn’t say anything about their opinion on the war, only that they are rich and get over because of it. That verse is aimed squarely at the college kids who were well off enough to get a deferment and whose entire sacrifice related to the war was going to party and get laid at some anti-war rallies.

      Its great stuff. But all specific to that time and that generation.

      1. an ad homonym attack

        Don’t. Ever. Change.

        1. Okay, hominem or however the fuck you spell it. You know what I mean. Fuck Latin phrases inserted into English for no good reason.

          1. Fuck Latin phrases inserted into English for no good reason.

            Well, that about eliminates the 1st years of Law and Med school.

          2. De gustibus non est disputandum. Amirite?

            1. Well, that about eliminates 75 percent of H ‘n R (HRque?) comments.

            2. we missa da bus, we catcha the nexta busa

              /Johnny Dangerously latin

              1. Viaduct? Via no chicken?

          3. Fuck Latin phrases inserted into English for no good reason.

            IOW, “fuck what I just did”.

            1. I just use and misuse the language. I don’t get to control it.

      2. I think my father must have been the most principled draft dodger ever. He refused to take an educational deferment on principal (he thought it was class based and racist) and put off college for a few years and instead went to Mississippi to do civil rights stuff and go dancing with black people. He didn’t know what his draft number was until the day he died and just refused to cooperate.

        1. My neighbor left college to join the Marines as an enlisted soldier. He did so after a friend of his was killed over there. He didn’t support the war but felt guilty sending other people to fight it. So he joined up much like your father.

          There were a lot of people like that. I hate the way the Left slanders the Vietnam generation who did fight over there as mindless war mongers or hapless victims.

          1. I think you misunderstood a bit. He never enlisted, and was very much against the war, but refused the easy ways of avoiding the draft that were available to him.

            1. Yeah. I noticed that. My mistake.

      3. I think the song is great but also very limited to its time.

        I disagree. There is certainly a zeitgheist about it but, it will always be true that Fortunate Sons will have the choice to fight wars and pay taxes while others don’t.

        1. Except that when you don’t have a draft, everyone fortunate or not gets to choose if they fight the war.

          To say otherwise is to treat people who volunteer for the military as victims. Bullshit. They are not victims. They volunteered knowing the consequences and did so by their own free will. So they can’t complain if they don’t like the wars they are sent to fight like someone who is drafted can.

          1. The only real injustice that can be claimed is that our wonderful government schools don’t spend at least a class (call it “civics”, I know, crazy idea) teaching about how the government actually works, not the rosy-eyed upper-middle-class “put a sign on your front lawn and vote every 4 years” view.

            You might spend e.g. a week on how enlistment works, what it means to enlist, your protections and obligations under the UCMJ, how the chain of command works, how often people have been deployed without a declaration of war, etc. Maybe even do a mock ASVAB. Have a recruiter attend and allow the students to ask questions.

            The military recruitment and enlistment process doesn’t “victimize” anybody but there is a nonzero subset of people who are too stupid and/or naive to understand what’s going on and I think recruiters like to keep the messy details hidden.

            Honestly, you could probably just have a class whose sole purpose is to drill into every student’s head “read and understand every word of a document before you sign it, and if you don’t understand even the slightest aspect of it, don’t sign it.” That would probably be better and wouldn’t even be specific to the military.

  6. The song is anti-war.

    To the hawkish right, to be anti-war is to be anti-soldier. Because not wanting to send soldiers into meaningless wars to get killed is disrespecting them.

    Therefore, Fortunate Son is an anti-soldier song.

    1. Its really an anti-draft and anti-crony song.

      1. Yes. The song is intimately tied to the 60’s and the Vietnam war. I still listen to it, but it will always be about the 60’s and the Vietnam war.

    2. To the hawkish right, to be anti-war is to be anti-soldier. Because not wanting to send soldiers into meaningless wars to get killed is disrespecting them.

      A lot of that (and the veneration of veterans in general) is the result of cultural backlash against the kind of people who made up the anti-war movement in the ’60s. It also played a role in the spawning of the neoconservative movement.

  7. So was Reagan a commie for using Born in the USA as his campaign anthem?

    Fuck I hate these manufactured outrages.

    1. Reagan probably was. It would actually explain a lot.

        1. Yes, he was a burly, hairy man who went by the name Commissar Smirnoff in certain circles during the 80s.

          It finally all makes sense.

  8. No holiday for people who start wars? What is February 16th for?

  9. Alice Cooper on musicians and politics:

    “I call it treason against rock ‘n’ roll because rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics. … When I was a kid and my parents started talking about politics, I’d run to my room and put on the Rolling Stones as loud as I could. So when I see all these rock stars up there talking politics, it makes me sick.”

    Of course, he gave us this

      1. Excellent! (Except for the ‘roided up dude on guitar)

    1. Alice Cooper is the shit. He’s a committed Christian and, I think, somewhat conservative personally. But you wouldn’t know it unless you really sought out the information. He does talk about religion and quitting drinking sometimes, but it’s pretty rare. I really appreciate that in an artist.

      1. I listen to his radio show once and awhile. He never, ever brings up any politics and just likes to discuss music and personal stories about his experiences. It’s great to see a performer who really loves and focuses on what he does.

    2. “I call it treason against rock ‘n’ roll because rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics.

      Another way in which MTV ruined everything.

      1. I think rock got in bed with politics long before MTV.

      2. It even ruined MTV.

  10. Their bigger crime was with all the “good” bands at their disposal they closed with Marshall Mathers. Who I have nothing against, but in no way should he be closing anywhere.

    1. So… what you’re saying is you’d have done it differently if you’d had your…

      (?_?)
      ( ?_?)??-?
      (??_?)

      rathers.

      1. Yeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

  11. Twitchy was earnestly outraged at this. Twitchy, which complains endlessly about feminists pushing culture war bullshit, was simply shocked that this was allowed to happen, with no sense of irony.

    1. Twitchy can be pretty terrible.

    2. Twitchy was founded by Michelle Malkin for God’s sake. Even though she sold it awhile back it’s still clearly in one trench of the Kulturkampf.

        1. Is it as full of fail as Conservapedia?

          1. The content itself is terrible, but not Conservapedia bad. But when you add in the idiotic, occasionally racist (especially when it comes to police issues) commenters, it gets far worse.

  12. Ya know, I’m still kinda pissed at Artie Shaw, too! Goddam commie!

    1. Bah! He was a virtual hero compared to that Joplin fellow.

      1. Don’t get me started on Copland!

  13. If kulture warriors try to take CCR away, we’ll fight to the death.

    1. We’ll still have the Eagles.

      1. Jesus, man, can you change the station? I’ve had a rough night, and I hate the fucking Eagles, man.

        1. Fuck you man! You don’t like my fucking music, get your own fucking blog!

  14. Why can’t everyone give the whole Kulture War a rest?

    And let the terrorists PROGZ win? What are you, some kind of covert Frenchie surrender monkey saboteur?

    1. Well, given this is an anti-draft song, didn’t the progz win that forty-one years ago?

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  16. “who seem to think the trio should have saved it for some antiwar holiday”

    Creedence, Clearwater, and his cousin Revival.

    Anyway, who gives a shit? All I care about is if they paid for a stupid concert with my tax dollars.

    1. I do too. It was totally stupid. That little event cost a fortune in extra police and traffic control and such. And for what? So a few celebrities can get free publicity?

      If they wanted to put on a free concert, get someone to donate their land or stadium to do it on.

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  18. Interesting facts: 3/4 of US soldiers in Vietnam were volunteers. During WW2, 2/3 were draftees.

    http://www.lzcenter.com/Myths and Facts.html

    1. That figure is a bit deceiving. A lot of people volunteered figuring they were going to be drafted anyway.

      That figure does show that it is a complete slander to say the people who served in Vietnam were all there because they were too poor to avoid it. That just wasn’t true.

      1. My dad joined in ’63, knowing there was a good chance Vietnam would get ugly. He joined to avoid being drafted and to get his choice of MOS.

        Since he was into electronics and radio, he joined the Signal Corps. As it turns out it was good for him he never went to Vietnam, since that was the second most dangerous occupational group next to Infantry.

        1. I have a second cousin who did signals in the Air Force. He ended up doing signal intelligence all over the jungles of Vietnam. Some real crazy shit. Since everything he did was classified secret squirrel stuff, he was never officially in Vietnam. According to every unclassified record, he spent the war in Japan.

          Have to love the absurdity of the military.

    2. I wish people would make the effort to know more actual history rather than bullshit myths. The World War II army was by a lot of objective measures much worse than the Vietnam era one. They were so desparate for people in World War II they took all sorts of criminals and horrible people. There were hundreds of rapes and serious crimes committed by US soldiers in Europe.

      The government did things like going to sanitariums and offering the newly developed antibiotics to syphilis victims in return for them joining. The ranks were filled with all sorts of criminals who dind’t want to be there and continued their lives of crime once in the military.

      The criminal element was a minority element but is was a significant element and a much larger one than it was in Vietnam. Yet most people view the Vietnam Army as some kind of collection of ghetto dwellers dragged in chains to fight in the jungle and the World War II military as an Army of Tom Hanks and John Wayne clones.

      1. Come on, there were also Matt Damons.

  19. This song was part of the fourth ‘Die Hard’ movie. From that moment on it became a song about sexy old guys.

  20. Probably in poor taste.

    But then the people who put on the concert for valor generally don’t like the actual people who exist inside the uniform the other 364 days of the year. So generally if you can’t even put on a tasteful concert on the one day of the year that you are socially obligated to pretend to like them…..

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