Atlantic Monthly

June 1941

The Poison in Our System (excerpt) by Carl Joachim Friedrich

There has, however, cropped up a new device which may not be so easily dealt with. An outfit which calls itself The Almanac Music Company, Inc., has recently brought out a series of phonograph records, called ‘Songs for John Doe.’ These recordings are distributed under the innocuous appeal: ‘Sing out for Peace.’ Yet they are strictly subversive and illegal. Sung to such familiar tunes as ‘Billy Boy,’ they ridicule the American defense effort, democracy, and the army. Whether Communist or Nazi financed, their general spirit is well indicated by the following sample: —

"C for Conscription:"

"It’s C for Conscription, and C for Capitol Hill;
C for Conscription and C for Capitol Hill;
It’s C for the Congress that passed that goddamned bill."

Another song is called "Plow Under;" it’s the first one, and so I guess they liked it best. The first verse runs: —

"Remember when the AAA
Killed a million hogs a day?
Instead of hogs, it’s men today
Plow the fourth one under!

Plow under, plow under,
Plow under every fourth American boy"

And the last one: —

"Now the politicians rant,
‘A boy’s no better than a cotton plant’;
But we are here to say you can’t
Plow the fourth one under!"

The three records sell for one dollar and you are asked to ‘play them in your home, play them in your union hall, take them back to your people.’ Probably some of these songs fall under the criminal provisions of the Selective Service Act, and to that extent it is a matter for the Attorney-General. But you never can handle situations of this kind democratically by mere suppression. Unless civic groups and individuals will make a determined effort to counteract such appeals by equally effective methods, democratic morale will decline.

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