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"It was a book that was put together for people who didn't read."

Interview: Guitar Army Author John Sinclair (Part Two)

This is part two of my interview with John Sinclair, author of the book Guitar Army which was re-released by Process on May 1, 2007. If you haven't already, please read part one of this interview with John Sinclair.

If only you were 20 now with the current technology that now exists.

Yeah, I always say if we had the internet in the sixties we would have taken over the world. They could do that now. I just saw the most encouraging story yesterday in the New York Times. The people in charge of coding the DVDs to keep you from copying them, their lawyers sent out a stern warning to these people about disseminating this information on the internet, that it was not to be done. So they revolted and now this code is everywhere.

One of our writer's just wrote about the story last week.

Look at what Move On did. You see, part of getting a culture to not make things happen is making them believe it can't happen. In the academic world, all the people who went to college since the Reagan and CIA era started in 1980, or even before that, have been taught that history is dead. That there is a new world order and this is the way it's going to be. Then they have this massive wiretapping and this kind of stuff, and you're supposed to feel like you can't do anything.

So a lot of people feel that way, but there's still a lot of stuff going on but they don't give it the same weight as they do the other stuff. I'll give you an example. I used to go to this thing in Boston called MassCann. It's sponsored by Massachusetts Normal Cann – Cann is short for cannabis. It's a huge legalization rally. It was huge because the FM station endorsed it and it was their major promotion of the year, because all these guys could harken back to the day when you could say these things publicly. Well the EEA and the state police and all these people came to the station, because they were getting 80,000 kids at Boston. And they said, 'We really wish that you wouldn't do this.' And they said, 'Are you crazy? This is our most popular event. It's working for us commercially.'

But when they would have it they would have the counter-rally down the street, the people who supported the laws against marijuana, and even though there were 80,000 people at the other [MassCann] event, the coverage would be fair and balanced. So they would show somebody here, and then they would have an equal amount of time from the counter rally and there were maybe 50 people there. It was totally bizarre. Wayne Kramer was talking to me the other day about going to this thing in Washington against the war, 300,000 people there. You don't get any sense there is that kind of opposition.

You never got the sense that the Democrats could win a congressional election. Now that they have, you don't get any sense of the tremendous change taking place, even in the last two years of the Bush administration. Nor did you get a full report on the impact of having all your branches of government lined up in a row and how ugly that is. The President, the Supreme Court, both the Senate and the House, there was no checks and balances. It was all the same party, which was all set in motion by a vote of the Supreme Court against the vote total — don't count the votes — against Al Gore. We're not going to count the votes. So for six years they had this power, especially after the 2002 congressional election. We had four years of, I call it fascism. I read some books about history and they said when all the forces in the media are all lined up together, that's what the definition of fascism is.

Anyway, you have this false veneer of news. It's not really news; it's propaganda. Roger Ailes was the guy who was Ronald Reagan's ad man. Roger Ailes is now the head of Fox News, the same guy who had the doves released when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated; he's the same guy who told the Iranians to hold the hostages until the inauguration ceremony. This is the guy who runs Fox News. And then you don't have any continuity and you don't have any history anymore. Now we're reaping the effects of these kinds of policies. People don't have idea what's going on or what happened, not only in the past but not even now. My favorite is 18 months after 9/11, 72% of Americans believed Ṣaddam Ḥussein was responsible for the attack. Three out of four Americans believed that. This guy was nowhere in the picture. They all watched it on television and this guy was nowhere in the picture. The guys who did this hated him. He wasn't their boy at all.

Do you think the fear from 9/11 was a catalyst that caused people to allow new measures to restrict personal freedoms like the Patriot Act?

There're all these conspiracy theories, you know. I don't know enough about it, but you hear it's the CIA. They've done all kinds of rotten things all over the world, they could have done this. I don't know. Is it possible Al Qaeda or the guys in Al Qaeda were contracted by the CIA? I don't know, or the Russians were in Afghanistan, and the Taliban, and the Islamic Freedom Fighters. Saddam Hussein was our ally for ten years against Iran. Even today you don't see this. It isn't part of the story.

So, what's the story? We used to back this guy and then he didn't agree with us so we took his country. We threw him out of office. We executed him. We put in some puppets. They aren't working out, so we've precipitated a civil war. When I read the story, that's what I see.

It's all about how they spin the story. We got a little bit away from my original question – which was about the fear in this country and the limiting of our freedoms.

It's the fear of 'the bomb.' That's why were dropping all these bombs on Afghanistan. What happened was a terrible thing, but what are we getting from this? Do they feel better that we're dropping all these bombs on people who didn't do it, or these people in Iraq that didn't do anything to us?

That's what I hate. You don't hear anybody say we should get out of the war because it's ugly and it's immoral and it's awful. [They're not saying] we aren't gangsters; we aren't thugs. Nobody says that. They say we aren't winning so we better cut our losses. What are we going to win? What were we going to win in the first place? The right for Halliburton to get these big contracts? We sell them the bombers, the bombs, and the fuel. They drop the bombs, and then we sell them new ones. It's a pretty good deal for these companies. These are the people who have also controlled our foreign policy since World War II. And the whole oil thing is so everyone can have their big cars.

So we can pay $3.00 a gallon for gas?

$3.00 would be a cheap gallon. I paid $3.48.

Up in Michigan? Is it that much?

Yeah, up in Michigan. It's working for somebody, but it's not working for me.

I guess what it comes down to is I feel the same way now as I did back then about all this stuff. Back then I was young and we'd take LSD and we thought 'people just don't know.' And I thought we'd turn them on to these ideas. We could have a different kind of world where people loved each other and got along. Things could be solved by cooperation – pretty good ideas. I'm still behind them.

They are good ideas still today.

The part I don't relate to is we got so pissed off, and then we got reactionary. Some relied on violence and it wasn't really a solution, it was just reactionary. We just got so angry. I mean, hippies with guns is not really a good idea, as it turns it out.

And again – you're getting the same arguments today with violence and hip-hop music and how it's translating.

Oh yeah. The movies, I don't know. They got this whole culture of ugliness. There's this Korean kid who shot these people [Virginia Tech Shootings] and he's made a movie of himself. Except the people he shot won't be able to get up and collect their paychecks.

And all the pontification, they all were asking 'how did this kid go wrong?' He watched the wrong movies.

But don't you think part of it is when the media puts it in terms of records – largest mass killing to date – and glorifies the act?

That's the way they compete with the violent movies, is by having violent crime. I don't watch TV. But if you do watch an evening of TV, as I have done on occasion in my life, you see more violence and ugliness concentrated into four or five hours than I've seen in my whole life of 65 years. You can't show tender love scenes of people having sexual congress, that would be wrong and that would be immoral, but to blow your face off – that's entertainment.

It's disturbing. Isn't it?

You can only do this kind of stuff for so long and then you start paying for it. And we're paying for a lot of this stuff now, but they still don't get it. They don't understand why the Arabs and Muslims are upset. 'Why are they so upset with us? We're nice people.' The CIA has been working for us since they threw over Mossadegh in 1954. If we don't give them the history, they can't understand why what's happening is happening.

Look at Europe, they remember Hitler because they had him right there – in their face. There were some people who really liked him. He represented their views on Jews and other people, but they remember what happened. So they look at this they see what it is. There is no love for America, no love at all. Plus there is no respect. They all think we're idiots.

Maybe that's a good reason for your book to be coming back out. Maybe the youth will read it and be inspired to change things.

It was definitely written for kids, that's the other thing. It was a book that was put together for people who didn't read. It wasn't written as a book, you know. It's a collection of columns for the underground papers.

One of the things I like about it is it shows the progression. And the thing I like about coming out and doing these interviews is I get a chance to say what really happened. There's this whole mythology about what really happened, and in particular my role in it. They say 'Well, how did you get the MC5 to support your political agenda?' I say we both stumbled into it. We had no agenda beyond rock 'n' roll, dope, and fuckin' in the streets. It's a paean to the slogan. And then it goes through the MC5 playing the shows and the people liking it, but the police didn't. So then it progresses and you tend to see how it happened.

And all the small steps that happened along the way?

Right, and you get my final conclusion on how it all worked.

John Sinclair is currently touring, reading from the pages of Guitar Army: Rock & Revolution With the MC5 and the White Panther Party and signing books. He will be in New York for the next couple of weeks. If you are in the area, stop by the following locations.

May 9 – 8:00 pm Yippie Museum Café, New York, NY
May 12 – Vox Pop, New York, NY
May 13 – 7:00 pm Jimmy's Restaurant, New York, NY (John Sinclair and Friends)
May 14 – 7:30 pm Bowery Poetry Club, New York, NY

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