Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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"Hey, Mr. Telecom man..." ~or~ We Are the World 2.0

For those who've not heard it yet (probably most of you), there's a new song called God Save the Internet which you can read about and download for free here.

It's interesting. It's the modern equivalent of a hippie protest song, combining contemporary issues and production value with old-fashioned pissed-offedness. I'm not crazy about the song, but its message (keep the Internet unregulated) is something I agree wholeheartedly with. If the song raises public awareness of the issue, it will have done its job. Never mind the fact that the sort of people who might care already about it do.

Anyway, the song is very tongue-in-cheek, by which I mean that the lyrics are silly. It sounds as if it was written by a group over the course of a single afternoon and not revised afterward. The topics are all over the map, and the lyrics range from succinct and rhythmically elegant ("All I wanna be is free to chose where I get my music and I get my news") to the silly ("Gandhi wouldn't mess with our Internet! Bin Kingsley wouldn't mess with our Internet!") to the politically sophomoric. I'm especially troubled by this lyric:
"From the left to the right we're joining hands, our Republican brothers even joining this band."
Does anybody else read this as "See how right we are? Even some of those craaaazy Republicans agree with us!" You can't bridge a gap and while espousing an "us vs. them" mentality.

But I guess it's fitting. It's a protest song, and protest songs are famously rash and spastic. Although they have been part of American culture since before there were bras to burn, we tend to associate them with a particular time and a particular demographic. My parents' generation became legal adults in the mid-to-late '60s, and they were the first generation to experience and harness the full force of modern mass communication and entertainment media. These were the primary catalysts for the nostalgic punchline that is our concept of the '60s. Timothy Leary owed everything to Morse, Marconi, and Bell.

The hippie movement cannot be described by the word "revolution" because a revolution involves a complete change in ideals and leadership. The hippies were a bunch of idealistic kids, supercharged by camaraderie into believing that they were going to change the world. Eventually they were engulfed by Real Life. They learned to hate certain aspects of socialism and developed a fetish for owning stuff. Some of them devolved into yuppies and they all turned into their parents. The final high-water mark of that "revolution" is now sold in boxed sets by K-Tel.

This has happened in one way or another to every generation since the concept of rebellion was born.

But I digress.

All of our best-known protest songs come from my parents' generation, but all songwriters are not created equally. We only celebrate the contributions of a prolific handful. For every Arlo Guthrie or Bob Dylan or Judy Collins or Peter, Paul and Mary, there are a hundred equally angry guitar players who are lousy poets. For every Blowin' In the Wind or If I Had a Hammer, there are a hundred God Save the Internets. Maybe that was the point. God Save the Internet shares its youthful attention deficit with less-eloquent protest songs and teenage manifestos. Sure, it's disorderly, but they really mean it. Or something.

At any rate, it's slick, well-produced, and pushes all the right buttons (even if it tries to mash them all at once and hits a few extras in the process). As I said, I think they're preaching to the choir. Still, protest songs went out of style when The System remembered that political posturing halves your audience. It's been decades since we've had a popular protest song (unless you count our attempts in the mid-'90s to rebel against nothing), and maybe God Save the Internet is wrapped in the right saccharine clothing to ensure that it gets heard.
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