1966 | Folk
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“Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep. -- It starts when you're always afraid. -- You step out of line, the man come and take you away.”
- Written by Stephen Stills, the song peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Not written as an anti-war song it was inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots of November '66, a series of counterculture clashes between police and young people in Hollywood, California.
- The song has erroneously been said to be about the Kent State shootings despite predating the event by years.
THE HOT TAKES
Isn't it funny, how blind people can become when they are consumed by fighting for their cause? Stop and think with me for a moment: How many times have you seen photos of ridiculously foolish signs held by protesters? A handful? Several? A few hundred? It depends on how much you expose yourself to such things, I suppose, but I hope you catch my point: Emotions lead reason, sometimes kicking and screaming. People get "caught up" in ideological or political movements, "Signing songs and carrying signs; Mostly saying, "Hooray for our side!"" Should we all take a moment to stop, assess the situation, reason things out? Or should we usher in the next wave of authoritarians, paving the way with our dumb blood? The question answers itself, but how slowly we humans seem to learn. If you take the advice of this song--if you stop, and listen--I think you eventually have to get to libertarianism. Let your mind be changed, and I don't see any other end point for the honest seeker of truth. Read history, read economics, and think things through. Congratulations, you're an anarchist!
Written about curfew protests on the Sunset Strip in 1966, this song has come to be seen more broadly as an anti-war anthem. It has been popular for so long because I think it really captures what a protest can be like. The chorus, “It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound Everybody look what's going down.” Has always been a little disturbing to me. I’ve always pictured it as a speaker in the protest beginning to speak and then being interrupted by violence from state agents. During the Church Committee Hearings, that laid so much of The States tactics and violations of rights bare, it was learned that J. Edgar Hoover would actually put agent provocateurs into the crowds of anti-war protesters to try to incite them to violence and thereby give the state a justifiable reason to suppress them, and make the public afraid. He also would place agents on college campuses to spread rumors about anti-war protestors that would make their lives hell. There was even record of an FBI agent bragging that he broke up the marriage of a young couple by starting a rumor of infidelity. This is The State. These are it’s tactics. The laws it makes are only about controlling you, and not policing itself. We, the dissenters must see through their tactics and remain defiant.
So it would appear I misunderstood what this song was about for a very long time. It's interesting to put the lyrics into a historic perspective that seems so obvious once you see it. The song stands as a tale of watching the authoritarianism inherent in government slowly creep into the world around you. The lyrics implore you to pay attention to those people off in the corner of your eyes with guns. We know them as police. The songs history stems from loitering & curfew laws being created in Hollywood to stem the young people out and about during the 60's counterculture. Libertarians might find the entire situation interesting since in a private property based society you would have real recourse but since we all own the streets we have to tell some of the owners they don't get to use their property as they see fit, but that's another story. The core of this number truly is to pay attention to what's going on around you. The state will creep in to control you wherever you let it. I wish the boomers had been better at the task because clearly they stopped little and government over-reach is knee deep in my prostate.