Subversive Bands, Part One

The FBI is commonly considered the arm of the government most associated with defending truth and justice in America. It is held up as the standard for investigative ethics. The FBI is called upon whenever there is a question of debate in American society to derive the truth that should be accepted by all citizens.

But this is a false standard, with lots of history to raise doubt about the trustworthiness of the FBI. The Bureau has a long tradition of pursuing Americans it deems as enemies, when in fact no threat exists. The danger of giving such authority to the FBI, to act as the arbiter of American loyalty and truth, allows for innocent people to be suspected and destroyed on the whim of a government agency with it’s own human, and therefore corruptible, agenda.

imagesRecently the FBI was rushed in to conduct a last minute investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The investigation focused around allegations by Prof. Ford that Judge Kavanaugh has sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. The results of the three day investigation by the FBI resulted in many Senators claiming that they could voted to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court because the FBI had found no evidence to support the claims by Dr. Ford. Recently the depth and focus of this investigation has come into question.

But when the history of the FBI is taken into account, there is ample evidence not to trust the authority of this agency when it comes to determining the proper behavior of Americans. Indeed, the FBI has frequently targeted Americans who were different but loyal, based on a fear of anything that fell outside of the American values of white patriarchy and the white majority rule of the country.

To be considered subversive was to be different than the morals of America in the 1950’s, in many instances. Therefore the reliance on the FBI is something of a false narrative, used to justify the predetermined image of the United States as a nation led by and for white, Protestant, straight men.

An interesting area of anecdotal evidence for this is the investigation into subversive musicians that the FBI conducted over many decades.

Perhaps the most famous of these would be the investigation into John Lennon, one of the founders of the Beatles, and perhaps the greatest rock and roll musician of the Twentieth Century.

John Lennon was very vocal about his opposition to the Vietnam War, a cause that challenged the conservative moniker of the United states as the defender of freedom around the world. His activism against war, along with his many public protests, earned him an FBI tail in the 1970’s.

Documents released under a long fought Freedom of Information Act request revealed that President Nixon worried that John Lennon’s activism might affect his chances to win re-election in 1972.

Historian Jon Wiener spent 14 years trying to get the Bureau to release its files on Lennon under the Freedom of Information Act. His book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, shows that President Richard Nixon was worried that Lennon could affect his chances at being re-elected.

“The ’72 election was going to be the first in which 18-year olds had the right to vote,” Wiener told NPR in 2000. “Before that you had to be 21. Everybody knew that young people were the strongest anti-war constituency, so the question was, for Lennon, how could he use his power as a celebrity to get young people into the political process?”•

The FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service pressured Lennon to not campaign against Nixon and the Vietnam War, ultimately instigating deportation proceedings against the rock star. Lennon had little chance of winning a case against his deportation, as he was still a British citizen and had a previous conviction for marijuana possession against him. His desire to remain in the United States with his new wife Yoko Ono led Lennon to end his relationship with the Antiwar Movement, and the FBI ended it’s pressure on him.

AWtN3iuThe FBI certainly did not act in a manner consistent with a non-biased law enforcement agency when it silenced John Lennon, protecting the sitting president from criticism during an election year. The 1972 election was the first election in U.S. history when eighteen year old Americans would be allowed to vote.

Lennon’s popularity with young people was seen as a threat to the plans for continuing the war in Vietnam, and for regulating the social activism of the American people. In this way the FBI was acting to protect the white male patriarchy that we witnessed once again on display with the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Lennon may have said it best when he sang, “I read the news today/ oh boy/ about a lucky man who made the grade!”


•Ultimate Classic Rock, http://ultimateclassicrock.com/john-lennon-fbi-history/

Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

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