Home | About | Donate

A Forgotten Political Milestone in TV History


A Forgotten Political Milestone in TV History

Peter Dreier

I'm shocked that the media overlooked this important milestone in American musical and political history. Fifty years ago today (February 25, 1968) Pete Seeger sang the controversial anti-war song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour show on CBS.


All these years and this country is still waist deep in illegal wars with a monster at the helm. We could sure use another Pete Seeger, right now.


I bet I saw this back in '68 as I always watched that show. I know that I was too young to get to message, however. We should remember that peace has always been controversial in our war-loving country and that our best soldier–Gen. Smedley Butler showed us uncontrovertibly why. Here is to Pete and all of those who sang your songs and the myriad they inspired. Peace, not profit.


When some Senators and Congressmen failed to applaud the dotard’s speech and were accused of treason, can you imagine what would happen to people like Tom, Dick and Pete performing in this day and age?


Either they would be completely ignored by the media or painted as Russian agents. They would be attacked by both the right and the “left” of the Overton window, who both in the end want war.


I too saw that episode. It wasnt surprising, then, when the show was unceremoniously dumped. If you get a chance, pick up a copy of “Dangerously Funny,” an account of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour from beginning to end. Those were the days, my friend.


Thank you so much for this video Peter Dreier! The BIG FOOLS are still saying “Push on!”


Thank you, Professor Dreier and Common Dreams, for remembering Pete Seeger on this special day. I remember that Smothers Brothers performance very well. It serves as a reminder of a better, more hopeful time. It also reveals how good television once was.


What is interesting is that just two days after Pete Seeger’s appearance on The Smothers Brothers, Walter Cronkite gave his editorial on the Vietnam war, following his trip there in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, stating that in his opinion it was time for the US to withdraw.

I looked this up, expecting to find that Cronkite’s editorial preceded Seeger’s appearance. It did not.

However, as both events were broadcast on the same network, CBS, I wonder if the network knew in advance that Cronkite was going to make his remarks about US involvement in Vietnam, and assuming the impact that that assessment by “the most trusted man in America” would have on viewers, CBS figured that the Smothers Brothers could let fly with Seeger knowing that his allegorical protest song wouldn’t be as damning as Cronkite’s editorial.


I have an Murican flag I made in 2nd grade of construction paper. My Mom had it professionally framed. The blues are now faded to almost black.

I now have it in my man-cave, and right below it, I have the lyrics to Seeger’s "What Did you Learn In School Today?. Just a bit of pasted together folk ‘art’.

What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that Washington never told a lie
I learned that soldiers seldom die
I learned that everybody’s free
And that’s what the teacher said to me.

I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes

I learned our country must be strong
It’s always right and never wrong
Our leaders are the finest men
And we elect them again and again

I learned that war is not so bad
I learned about the great ones we have had
We fought in Germany and in France
And someday I might get my chance


My how times have changed! Fifty years ago he was banned by network TV for being too leftist, and now it’s probably the only way he could get on! How hypocritical.


You must be forgetting the 24/7 conservative network called FoxNews.


I remember this broadcast very well. I remember being a bit shocked at the naked racism portrayed in the soldier’s song from the War in the Philippines (I’m also a bit shocked to realize it was half a century ago). And I remember the dawning realization as “Big Muddy” unfolded what Pete Seeger was really singing about.


Remembering the Troubadour of Peace and Labor!