Tony Bennett’s 9/11 Comments

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Then, going back a generation or so, there’s Ezra Pound, who is considered the godfather of modernist poetry and who edited down a long manuscript by T.S. Eliot into what is probably the most famous and consequential poem of the twentieth century, The Waste Land. But the Idaho-born Pound was not only, in many people’s eyes (again, not mine), a great poet; he was also a major-league anti-Semite (Eliot, in comparison, was a minor-league one) and big fan of Mussolini.  He celebrated Il Duce in his poetry and, during the war, living in Italy, gave radio broadcasts in support of the Fascist regime.  After the war Pound was taken into custody by the Allies, charged with treason, found insane, and placed in a mental hospital, St. Elizabeth’s, in Washington, D.C.  There, despite having given comfort to the enemy in wartime, he received friendly visits from fellow writers of every political stripe who treated him with respect and admiration.  The single major literary controversy of the immediate postwar years concerned the presentation to Pound by the Library of Congress – at a time when he was under indictment by the Department of Justice! – of the first Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1948.  The awards panel included such luminaries as T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Robert Lowell, all of whom recommended Pound for the honor; only two of the fourteen jurors voted against Pound.  One of those two, Katherine Garrison Chapin, argued that “the traitor cannot be separated from the poet.”  Obviously Eliot and company disagreed.  Who was right?  It could be argued that there were purely aesthetic questions involved.  On the other hand, the work for which Pound won the award, the Pisan Cantos, was drenched in, and – yes – inseparable from, the same cockeyed (to put it kindly) ideas that had led him to cheer Mussolini.

Pound, of course, was a rare case in his day.  Until the Sixties, it was the exception rather than the rule for the public to be aware of the political opinions of artists and celebrities.  What were Cary Grant’s politics?  Since the Sixties revolution, however, we have been inundated by the political opinions of movie actors, rock stars, and TV hosts.  Matt Damon has a lot to say about capitalism.  Rosie O’Donnell is a Truther.  Pam Anderson is a PETA fanatic.  The Dixie Chicks caused an earthquake after 9/11 with their remarks about George W. Bush.  Roseanne seems to spend all her time these days making major pronouncements about American policy on – well, just about everything.  Make fun of Arianna Huffington if you will, but when she began to provide, in the Huffington Post, a trendy forum on which Hollywood stars are welcome to unburden their latest insights into world affairs, it was a stroke of genius.  Nowadays, it seems, pretty much everybody seems to want to know what Julia Roberts thinks of offshore drilling or what some kid from Glee thinks we should do about Iraq.

Indeed, what was remarkable about Tony Bennett’s remarks on Howard Stern was not how fatuous they were but the fact that they appear to have been coaxed out of him almost without him realizing it.  Bennett is a dope, but he’s also Old School; he’s about the music, first and last.  Unlike him, an extraordinary number of stars today lead with their politics, eager to prove that they are not just pretty faces or voices but that they have brains.  Instead they usually succeed in demonstrating the opposite.  Ultimately, of course, what’s unsettling about all this is the concern that many young people who’ve never known any other order of things will grow up unaware that fame is not necessarily a guarantee of political insight.  Indeed, in the present climate, when it can seem that every starlet is always stridently on message about something and proud of it, Tony Bennett’s confused, befuddled reaction to the firestorm over his dimwitted, impromptu 9/11 remarks was almost charming – a throwback to simpler times, when stars didn’t have political talking points and the music was the message.

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  • jacob

    Admirable article and saying what many of us would like to….

    I often wonder about those "celebrities" and watching how stupid can people be, such
    as pointed out by RUSH LIMBAUGH when O.J SIMPSON killed his wife and her
    lover and the matter of him being a "hero" was brought about, when he said that a
    HERO is somebody that puts his duty as a decent human being above his own life
    but not somebody paid millions for running with or after a ball and defnitely, most of
    these so called "celebrities" of any kind, usually do not BRAY when they open their
    mouths just because the build of their throats doesn't allow them to…..

  • Diann

    I agree that he's probably not a bad guy – just badly informed as are most other media types. It's obvious that the Left's marketing machine is much stronger than that of the Right. It doesn't take much research to learn the truth… that the West is more concerned about convicting itself than those who are screaming out for our destruction.

  • tagalog

    As a political commentator, Tony Bennett is a fine singer.

    I can see, you bet, where it would be a hard call to decide whether or not to fight Hitler. Yep, tough one. I wonder if Tony would find the question easier to answer if he were Polish or Belgian or French.

  • Flipside

    Tell me how a US expatriate who moved to Amsterdam to shove things up his butt, whose major contributions to writing include complaining about Muslims gets to rip the careers of Renaissance men like Tony Bennett and Norman Mailer?

    • Larry

      You make the common mistake of equating surface ability and facility with a particular art form with actually having more than two neurones to rub together.

      • Flipside

        You confuse potato chips with college degrees.

        • Western Canadian

          Coming from someone with the reading comprehension of an 8 year old, that is really funny. Pity it was not meant to be.

    • Chris Nichols

      Tell my why he can't? Does one need to submit a resume before they can enjoy 1st amendment protections? Of course in the minds of a fascist like you, who apologizes for fascist apologists, like Tony Bennett, and misogynists like Norman Mailer, they probably do. Since you lack some basic reading comprehension skills, he didn't rip on their careers, or their talents, in fact he complimented them. He merely pointed out that Bennett is a dopey moron who apologizes for monsters, while Mailer, is one.

      • Flipside

        Of course he’s free to run his jib, but that just makes it a bar room rant. Tony Bennett has a 70 album discography, all of it excellent. Norman Mailer has at least a 30 book bibliography, all of it sagacious and excellent. Bruce Bawer is a pisseur or articles, most of them flaccid and weak. You are a ding dong who appends isms to great American Renaissance men in order to pigeonhole them. Neither of you Stanleys get an ounce of credibility.

        • Chris Nichols

          What did I just write whack job, nothing was said about their talent, just their judgement. Mailer is actually just a hack who stabbed his wife and Bennett is a guy who signs other people's songs. So, in your little backward fantasy world, men who engage in the stupid behavior that I and the author mentioned get a pass because in your fevered brain they write good prose and have good pipes. I apply isms because they apply.

          • Flipside

            Yeah they get a pass, because they are entitled to their opinions which just happen to be correct. But Bawer raking them over is the same as Michael Moore trying to make himself look like he is taking down Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine. It's the same thing. It's some tubby wanker trying to rip on his superiors to boost his skewed gotcha journalism. And you're laughable with your feminazi rant about Mailer.

  • Sowell Disciple

    "I'm just an entertainer, m'am." – Elvis Presley's response to a reporter's query about his views on the Vietnam War.

    • ziontruth

      Great quote! For that alone he deserves to be resurrected (even though some people say he never died).

    • Oleg

      That reminds me of Brad Pitt's response to a reporter's question regarding the Chinese occupation of Tibet after Pitt appeared in the movie, "Seven Years in Tibet".
      It was something to the effect of, "I'm just an actor who appears in a movie it doesn't mean I'm an expert on the subject", I'm paraphrasing that. This was compared to Richard Gere who automatically declared himself a champion of Tibet indepence and converted to Buddhism after appearing in a similar sort of movie around the same time.

  • Larry

    it's amazing how completely stupid and brainless the people in the entertainment business are. There main talent is in the ability to become multi-millionares while laughing at their audiences that pay $10.00 to see a movie. They should keep their dumb political remarks to themselves. I recently read were a kid on a TV sit-come earns $300,000. per episode, that's $1,500,000. per week or $75,000,000. per year. Now tell me there is not something very wrong in American society.

  • mrbean

    There is a line from "The Two Towers" that excuses the babblings of old senile guys like Tony BennetT…. "His memories fade because he has seen too many winters."

  • Cristiane

    Another possible angle here is simply peer pressure or fear of the entertainment industry’s fascism toward those who do not hold to their worldview, ignorance breeding and encouraging ignorance. The media, including entertainment media, wields enormous power to make or break you especially if you are trying to make it in an industry they control. These may not really be Mr. Bennett’s honest views,
    but perhaps a gross misinterpretation about what it is he thinks most of us want to hear, and this is probably because he is bombarded with these same messages in the mass media and popular culture.

  • Amused

    The only excuse Bennet has for the remarks on 9/11 and the decision to fight the Nazis is ….subtle advancing dimentia ….otherwise his records go in the garbage can . If you're gonna say something publicly , given the exceptional platform of celebrity , then you are indeed responsible for your words [ unless of course as I stated , the mind is no longer sound ] If you folks can take someone like Sean Penn seriously for his statements , then it would be pure hypocrisy , to make exception for Bennet .
    BTW Cristiane ,Bennet is well established , and need not defer to ANYONE for ANY reason . If words have any meaning , then thge ones he spoke are exactly what was heard , and are exactly what he meant …enough of these excuses .

  • xlent

    What do you mean Bennet "is not a bad guy"?? He is either an idiot or he is a, not so closet, socialist. Neither one of those make him a good guy but then I have never "worshiped" bennet as some seem to.

  • Ghostwriter

    I think Tony Bennett was foolish and he was called on it. He may be a good singer but his comments were stupid. Hopefully,he learned his lesson and moved on.

  • tanstaafl

    Never forgive, never forget. Seems easy enough to say.

  • maturin20

    Again, it takes a lot of work to turn a non-event into an article.

  • Oleg

    I think I can forgive Tony Bennett for his comments, it does appear that he was more or less sandbagged with the question, it's not like he's gone out on a picket line championing the ground zero mosque or wining and dining with the Castro brothers. But then again he could have simply said that it was something he felt unqualified to talk about.

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