Could Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” Be Regarded as “Hate Speech”?

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

“In the kingdom of the blind / the one-eyed man is murdered.” — Don Gordon (blacklisted American poet)

Regardless of whether the current cease-fire holds and extends its brevity long enough for Israel’s government to realize that it can no more vanquish Hamas than the United States was able to make the Viet Gong give up, the distrust between Jews and those of the Islamic religion has only solidified into volcanic permanence. As I have written before, I see no way out of this impasse: neither side wants a two-state solution.

The ever-sharpening tempers on both sides has led a significant uptick in accusations of “hate speech.” Since confrontations orchestrated by one side or the other are not likely to dwindle in the years to come, I wonder if “free speech” will soon find itself subjected to a discursive apartheid in which anything provocative or critical of another’s actions is immediately condemned as “hate speech.”

How bad might it get? Imagine that I show up at a rally in support of Israel’s massive retaliation for the massacre of over 1,000 people in early October and that I play a cassette of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” As the final stanza’s fantasy of dancing on the graves of munitions manufacturers snarls its disdain for the amorality of the global military-industry complex, how would the demonstrators not see it as directed at them? And would not the same be true if I played that same song to a crowd gathered in support of Hamas?

The song, as such, is directed toward those who assemble any large-scale weapons of destruction, whether fission-based or more conventional detonations, such as the 2,000 pound bombs “that can flatten apartment towers,” according to the New York Times, and that have been used by Israel in areas associated with the civilian population of Gaza. When a nation hits 15,000 targets in its enemy’s territory, it’s inconceivable that there will be not significant “collateral damage” and mass graves, the images of which make me realize that I deserve no better. Let me repeat: I deserve no better. Let my corpse, when “I” no longer breathe, be placed in a plastic bag and lowered next to a pile of similarly encased bodies. Nothing I have done merits any better.

Whether Netanyahu and his cohort want to be remembered as a very minor version of the late Henry Kissinger is a question he will have to answer, just as the leaders of Hamas need to reflect on whether their goals make them indistinguishable from Pol Pot’s methods of aggrandizement. The answer, I assure you, is not blowing’ in the wind.

The odd part of the world today is that I am more likely to be punished for asking questions than the people who refuse to give answers will be.



Footnote: Please note that I have treated “tempers” as a collective noun.

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