This machine kills fascists

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Woody Guthrie in 1943 with guitar labeled "This machine kills fascists"

"This Machine Kills Fascists" is a message that Woody Guthrie placed on his guitar in 1941,[1] which inspired many subsequent artists.

Conception[edit]

Soon after moving into a small fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Manhattan, Guthrie wrote the war song "Talking Hitler's Head Off Blues". This was printed in the Daily Worker newspaper: then "In a fit of patriotism and faith in the impact of the song, he painted on his guitar THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS."[2]

Guthrie's stance against fascism[edit]

In Guthrie's opposition to fascism, he conceptualized the ideology "as a form of economic exploitation similar to slavery," straightforwardly denouncing the fascists - particularly their leaders - as a group of gangsters who set out to 'rob the world'."[3] This recalled a protest strategy he had used "during the Great Depression, when social, political and economic inequality had been engendered by a small rich elite."[3] During that era, Guthrie had "romanticized the deeds of outlaws such as Jesse James, Pretty Boy Floyd, Calamity Jane or the Dalton Gang both as legitimate acts of social responsibility and as 'the ultimate expression of protest', thus transforming the outlaw into an archetypal partisan in a fight against those who were held responsible for the worsening social and economic conditions".[3]

In this, Guthrie cast those opposing fascism not as mere outlaws in a fascist state, but as heroes rising "in times of economic turmoil and social disintegration" to fight "a highly illegitimate criminal endeavor intended to exploit the common people."[3] Guthrie portrayed these characters as something larger than merely "dumb gangsters," while his lyricism also "externalized the inhuman element of fascism by describing its representatives as animals that were usually held in very low esteem and were associated with a range of bad character traits."[3] For example, he talked about the "Nazi Snake" that has to be countered in his song, "Talking Hitler's Head Off Blues."[3] Guthrie would declare "[a]nything human is anti Hitler" and in his song "You Better Get Ready" he has the figure of Satan declare that "Old Hell just ain't the same/Compared to Hitler, hell, I'm tame!"[3] Guthrie saw the battle against fascism as the ultimate battle of good versus evil; in a letter to "Railroad Pete" he stated "fascism and freedom are the only two sides battling...[this was the war] the world has been waiting on for twenty five million years...[which would] settle the score once and for all".[3]

Guthrie did celebrate the killing of fascists by Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko in his song "Miss Pavlichenko" which includes the lines, "You lift up your sight and down comes a hun, and more than three hundred nazidogs fell by your gun."[4]

Homage[edit]

When appearing on a Glen Campbell-hosted television show in the late 1960s Pete Seeger paid homage to Guthrie's phrase by writing "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender" on the calfskin head of his banjo as he sang "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" over images of the drawn-out war in Vietnam.[5]

In his autobiography the folksinger Donovan recalled that out of homage to Guthrie he placed the words "This machine kills" on his guitar, "thinking that fascism was already dead. My machine would kill greed and delusion."[6]

In a tribute to Guthrie, British folksinger Billy Bragg wrote the words "This Guitar Says Sorry" on his instrument in the 1970s.[7]

Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello was inspired by Guthrie to label his guitars with slogans such as "Arm The Homeless," "Sendero Luminoso," "Soul Power," and many more.[8]

It is the name of two effect pedals by TYM Guitars to raise funds for humanitarian charities.[9]

Author John Green has a "⚠ THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS" sticker on the laptop on his desk[10] in the Crash Course history video series, and refers to the famous photo and accompanying catchphrase in his 2008 novel Paper Towns. His brother, Hank Green, has a guitar that reads, in a style similar to Guthrie's guitar: "THIS MACHINE pwns n00bs". "This Machine Pwns n00bs" is also the name of one of Hank Green's albums, which was released in 2009.

Marlboro College art professor, potter, painter, and performance artist, Roberto Lugo, writes "This machine kills hate" on his potters wheel and describes why in a talk he gave to the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA).[11]

Independent rapper Busdriver released a compilation of older material in 2002 named "This Machine Kills Fashion Tips".[12]

In the music video for "Bobcaygeon" by The Tragically Hip, Rob Baker plays on a guitar with "This Machine Kills Fascists" handwritten on it after the anti-Aryan protest scene.[13]

KT Tunstall used a guitar with the slogan shown prominently while performing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2006.[14]

In Roddy Doyle's The Commitments, Outspan Foster has a sticker on his guitar saying "This Guitar Kills Fascists," put there by "his brother, an awful hippie." [15]

On the HBO series Treme, the character Harley, played by Steve Earle, plays a guitar decorated with the words “This machine floats,” presumably also a reference to the flooding following Hurricane Katrina. [16]

The Pittsburgh punk rock band Anti Flag has a song titled "This Machine Kills Fascists".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Weir, ed. (2007). Class in America [Three Volumes]: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 337. 
  2. ^ Anne E. Neimark (2002). There Ain't Nobody That Can Sing Like Me: The Life of Woody Guthrie. Atheneurn Books. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h John S. Partington (2011). The Life, Music and Thought of Woody Guthrie: A Critical Appraisal. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. 
  4. ^ Guthrie, Woody, Guthrie, Hardtravelin’ The Asch Recirdings Vol 1, Smithsonian Folkways, Washington D.C. 1998, track 8
  5. ^ Steve Martin (2007). Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. Simon and Schuster, Inc. 
  6. ^ Donovan Leitch (2007). The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man. St Martin's Griffin. p. 69. 
  7. ^ Andrew Collins (2013). Billy Bragg: Still Suitable for Miners. Ebury Publishing. 
  8. ^ Musician's Friend. "Tom Morello Guitars & Home Studio". YouTube. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  9. ^ Brennan, Tim (August 1, 2013). "This Machine Kills Fascists pedals". TYM Guitars.
  10. ^ "My Computer Just Got So Much More Awesome". John Green Tumblr. October 25, 2011.
  11. ^ This Machine Kills Hate - NCECA Blog
  12. ^ Busdriver - This Machine Kills Fashion Tips on Discogs.net
  13. ^ TheTragicallyHipVEVO (2009-06-16), The Tragically Hip - Bobcaygeon, retrieved 2017-01-17 
  14. ^ KT Tunstall - Black Horse and The Cherry Tree (Live on Jay Leno 14-June-2006) 
  15. ^ Doyle, Roddy (1987). The Commitments. 
  16. ^ Treme - After Mardi Gras