Pete Seeger: ‘It’s Hard for Me to Talk About the Media Without Getting Angry’

Pete Seeger singing at the Lincoln Memorial, 2009 (cc photo: Scarlatti2004)

Pete Seeger singing at the Lincoln Memorial (cc photo: Scarlatti2004)

From an April 2001 interview with Pete Seeger conducted by David Guistina of Albany public radio station WAMC (listen here, registration required):

Q: Does the media do its job?

A: Of course not. It’s hard for me to talk about the media without getting angry. Because if the United States or the world goes down in disaster, I would blame the media first of all, because the people running it are intelligent people. They know very well how evil they are. And when they say, “Oh, I’m just giving the people what they want.” Sure–so do the drug pushers.

In the second installment of the interview, Seeger talked about an appearance on the Today show that turned out to be his last:

I haven’t been asked on TV that much in recent years. I did get on the Today show once. And I knew that they wouldn’t want me to sing a certain song. So I was prepared. I arrived at 6:00, and over the intercom, the director said, “Pete, what you got for us?” And I said: “Well, I got a little banjo tune, and I got something a little more serious. It’s a funny song but it’s got a serious point.” “Well, let’s hear ’em.” So I sang the banjo tune. “Fine.” So I sang the other, called “Garbage,” which has the whole crowd going, “Garbage, garbage, garbage.”

In Mister Thompson’s factory, they’re making plastic Christmas trees
Complete with silver tinsel and a geodesic stand
The plastic’s mixed in giant vats from some conglomeration
That’s been piped from deep within the earth or strip-mined from the land
And if you question anything, they say, “Why, don’t you see?
It’s absolutely needed for the economy”

Oh, Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
Their stocks and their bonds — all garbage!
Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
What will they do when their system goes to smash
There’s no value to their cash
There’s no money to be made
But there’s a world to be repaid
Their kids will read in history books
About financiers and other crooks
And feudalism, and slavery
And nukes and all their knavery
To history’s dustbin they’re consigned
Along with many other kinds of garbage
Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!

Well, he said: “Pete, you got something a little more cheerful? This is early in the morning.”

So I sang, “Walking down death row/ I sang for three men destined for the chair….”

“Pete, do you have something else?”

“‘If the revolution comes to my country, let me remember….'”

“Well, Pete, I guess we’ll stick with ‘Garbage.'”

Well, I got to do it on the air, but I wasn’t asked back. I haven’t been on the Today show since.

Pete Seeger at Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival, 2013 (cc photo: Gus Phillippas/WFUV)

Pete Seeger at Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, 2013 (cc photo: Gus Phillippas/WFUV)

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.