Interesting thought from Glenn Reynolds at TCS Daily:

The 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death has passed, and news reports have stressed his continuing influence on music, culture, and race relations. But those reports have missed Elvis’s greatest achievement: as a cultural immune response to totalitarianism….

Hitler was aided by a new technological innovation: the radio. Nazism’s totalitarian sibling, communism, spread largely by print and took decades to gain a foothold. But radio allowed Hitler to manipulate emotions wholesale, in a way that had never been possible before. And the masses – starved for entertainment and desperate for catharsis, and a sense of purpose – ate it up.

But now it’s all different, and Elvis deserves a lot of the credit. Oh, there were big stars before Elvis: Bing Crosby’s appeal is now nearly forgotten, but it was once huge, and Frank Sinatra was, in a way, a sort of proto-rock star. But after Elvis, the world was different.

Hitler used the tools provided by new technology. But Elvis owned them: radio, television, movies, it didn’t matter: he conquered them all. And the changes that he brought about helped to topple totalitarian regimes, and make new ones less likely, for he left behind a changed culture that short-circuited the mechanisms that Hitler had used to secure power – and the mechanisms that other regimes used to maintain it.

Read the whole thing: The King of Anti-Fascism

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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One Response to

  1. Ocham says:

    Interesting. The film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Happened_Here exploits this idea quite well. It nicely contrasts the culture of the American forces, who listen to Glen Miller-type swing music, with the German-occupied population, who have to listen to awful military-band type music which is terribly earnest and dull.

    And:

    “At the very end of the tour [of the municipal museum in Nuremberg], in the dark depths of the museum’s bunker, beyond displays of 500 lb. bombs and fire-fighting equipment, and past two dimly-lit installations playing, in turn, Goebbels’ last radio address rallying Nurembergers to the defense of their homeland and Eisenhower’s speech announcing the end of the war, stood a brightly illuminated war-era radio playing sunny American dance music. It was as if all the broody, dark culture of Nuremberg, with its climatic orgy of death, gave way suddenly to America’s gifts of bubble gum, the jitter-bug, and joy. Western civilization is saved; long live Benny Goodman! Long live cheese! (Shurkin, M. “Drawing a Line in the Cheese”)”

    Admittedly, the jitter-bug, nor Benny Goodman nor Count Basie, is Elvis. But the point is the same. I grew up in England after WWII and actually the music on the radio then was very much military band type music (England embraced the total war culture in the 40′s much better than the Germans – according to Speer, German factories were still making lipstick right up until the end, whereas we stopped everything as soon as the war started and were melting down railings to make Spitfires from the word go). My parents’ generation felt that Elvis was a complete insult to everything they had fought for.

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