Oct 3, 2006

Imagine no BS [LINK]

So there's a new documentary out about how the FBI kept a file on John Lennon during his residence in New York during the early '70s, and how the government tried to have him deported based on a 1968 drug charge. It all seems so ridiculous in hindsight, as exemplified by Ty Burr's dismissive piece in the Boston Globe. After all, how could anyone perceive the wonderful man who wrote "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" as a threat? (To be fair, most people didn't hear "Sometime in New York City," Lennon's wretched 1972 album that brimmed with radical political agitprop. He actually wrote an ode to Angela Davis!)

The fact is that Lennon allied himself closely with groups who devoted themselves to violent political upheaval, and were thus richly deserving of FBI surveillance. People don't realize that the Black Panthers were effectively a criminal gang, involved in murder, extortion, narcotics, and prostitution, mainly in their hometown of Oakland. Consider that Lennon's pal Bobby Seale once punished a subordinate's failure to meet an editorial deadline by having her stripped and flogged. (Now there's a management practice the Boston Globe might consider adopting)

That's the very first thing that popped to mind when reading this review. When complaining of the FBI's misbehavior during the 1960s, you would typically start by noting its COINTELPRO program used to harass and neutralize the Black Panthers. Now it's Lennon. You don't hear much about the Black Panthers any more. Could it be that people read Hugh Pearson's book, The Shadow of the Panther, which detailed the group's pathologies? Or can we only relate to the misfortunes of celebrities these days?

UPDATE: a letter to the Globe also takes Lennon to task, making the same point as Elvis Costello: "Was it a millionaire who said imagine no possessions?"

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