Protest music and societal fragmentation

Music, say some sociologists, is just one manifestation of a more fundamental trend. Opposition to the Iraq war, which commands strong majorities in the polls, has not produced mass marches on the Pentagon or shut down college campuses.

The reasons are varied, including the lack of a military draft and much lower casualty figures than were suffered in Southeast Asia 40 years ago. But another big factor is the fragmented nature of how Americans live and communicate — with no clearer example than how we listen to music.

Back in the 60’s there were comparatively few radio stations, and they tended to play all kinds of music. A rock station would play the Supremes followed by The Rolling Stones, then maybe Roger Miller. Except for some public radio, that kind of mixing of genres hardly happens any more. So, while there’s some excellent protest music out there, maybe it’s just not getting heard because people don’t know about it (unless maybe they happen to see it on their iTunes recommendations.)

This kind of fragmentation is occurring in the society at large too. Maybe that’s another reason it’s hard to sustain mass movements. Things move on Internet time now and we’re all multi-tasking and switching activities. Thus, a sustained focus on political goals is difficult to encourage and maintain by advocacy groups, and that includes the antiwar movement.

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