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Jello Biafra Speaks at Peace Rally in San Francisco

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We turn to Jello Biafra, former lead singer/songwriter for the political punk band The Dead Kennedys, renowned spoken word performer and social commentator. He took the stage at the Power to the Peaceful rally in San Francisco on Saturday. [includes rush transcript]


  • Jello Biafra, former Green Party candidate and lead singer/songwriter for the punk band The Dead Kennedys

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, we turn to Jello Biafra. Among other things, he was nominated for the Green Party presidential primary in New York state, former lead singer/songwriter for the political punk band Dead Kennedys, renowned spoken word performer and social commentator. [He] took the stage on Saturday.

JELLO BIAFRA: Thank you. The most important thing to keep in mind about this so-called upcoming invasion of Iraq to go kill Saddam Hussein and who knows how many hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in the process, is that it hasn’t happened yet. It hasn’t started yet, and we still have time to stop it.

And right now, it seems a little lonely out there. Our corporate media is saying, “Oh, America loves to go to war! Everybody in the world is behind us and wants us to go to war and rescue them from Saddam Hussein.” Well, obviously, that’s a little off the mark. The minute you go across the Canadian border, across the ocean, you find things are very different. But, point is, it feels a little lonely and almost helpless at the moment to try and actually get a message to the nuts who are running our country right now. But that’s the same thing that was happening in 1964, when another rubber-stamp, spineless Democrat congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the go-ahead to do whatever he wanted in Vietnam, and those lonely voices in the wilderness who said, “Yo, this war is wrong. This war is gonna blow up in our face, and a lot of innocent people, including American kids, are going to die,” they were put down as traitors, Communists, and we’d just been through the Cuban missile crisis, so there was a little bit of an argument for that. They were put down as freaks, peaceniks, pinkos, faggots —

HECKLER: That’s me!

JELLO BIAFRA: “That’s me,” he says. However, against incredible, seemingly insurmountable odds, with the whole military-industrial complex and the hierarchies of both the Democratic and Republican parties aiming against the American people with both barrels, the American people rose up and did stop the Vietnam War. We’ve done it once; we can do it again!

We have no choice: we must do it again to prevent what I think would probably be the biggest foreign policy mistake in any of our lifetimes, worse than Vietnam. But, again, there is still time to stop this. Support is already dwindling. Even the wicked witch of San Francisco, Senator Dianne Feinstein, came out forcefully against the invasion a couple days ago. This means it is not too late, as hopeless as it sounds, to write letters to our Congresscreatures. Hold Dianne’s feet to the fire on this one, so she doesn’t turn tail when the money looks too good.

And also, keep in mind that across Europe, most people in those countries, and even most of their leadership, including the rightwing government of France—

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now! Jello Biafra speaking at a rally of 20,000 at Golden Gate Park this past weekend in California, San Francisco. And if you’d like to get a copy of today’s program, you can call 1-800-881-2359. That’s 1-800-881-2359, as we go back now to the politician, musician, former lead singer/songwriter for the political punk band Dead Kennedys.

JELLO BIAFRA: Why this war is wrong and how important it is to pull the plug on the War On Terrorism Incorporated right now: number one, forgive the flags. I know how threatening it can feel to see the Stars and Stripes used the same way the swastika was used several decades ago, and it can be very intimidating, but not everybody with the flags in their windows and the flags on their cars is doing it for that reason. We do have freedom of speech in this country, and some of the people flying the flags are doing it in sympathy for the innocent people who were killed on September 11th, so let them have the flags.

But the way to get through, even to the people with the flags, maybe even with the flags on their SUVs, is to point out that the War On Terrorism Incorporated and the invasion of Iraq scam in the long run are piss-poor military strategy. I don’t like Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or religious fundamentalists or what the Islamic fundamentalists do to women, especially, either. I want to be safe from terrorism, too, but right now all we’re doing over there, every time we drop a bomb, every time we kill somebody, level somebody’s town and say we have no responsibility to rebuild it, we’re planting the seeds for more Osama bin Ladens, more al-Qaedas, more suicide bombers, thus making our own country and our own lives less and less and less safe. That is a textbook definition of piss-poor military strategy. That’s not what I would call homeland security, somehow. And that’s the way to get through to the people even waving the flags, who say George Bush is a wonderful guy of infinite wisdom.

My girlfriend has this stepmother back in Ohio who’s so “Rah-rah Bush Republican Party,” she’s devoted a wing of the trophy home she lives in to a Republican Party museum. Every American flag ever made, Reagan memorabilia, King George I memorabilia, Newt Gingrich’s underwear, I suppose — who knows? But even she stopped when my girlfriend said to her over the Christmas holidays, “What we’re doing in the Middle East is poor military strategy, and it’s gonna come back and literally blow up in our face.” Even that woman stopped and said, “You know, that’s a good point.” That is how to get through to people that the war on terrorism is wrong and needs to be actively opposed, before it’s expanded into Iraq.

Don’t hate the media; become the media. Not just supporting independent gatherings and festivals like this one, not just hitting the streets to send a message to George Bush and Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi that the war cannot go on, but — and not just supporting the independent and underground magazines, pirate radio, pirate TV, Democracy Now!, whatever, becoming the media means going one on one to people you know at home, at school, work, family, and if they start spouting the government party line or resigning themselves that there’s nothing we can do to stop this ridiculous war, don’t dismiss them as being unreachable — talk to 'em. Point out why it's piss-poor military strategy and maybe we ought to think — go about our stopping terrorism in a more intelligent and humane manner, so as to prevent more terrorism.

On top of that, since a lot of them are concerned about not being able to put food on the table, then point out to them it’s not the welfare cheats, the eco-terrorists, the feminists, or whatever, it’s the NAFTA treaty, fake free trade, and this privatization and selling out our government functions to private corporations. And the way each one of us can fight back as an individual, and this is the easiest thing to turn other people onto when you become the media: don’t give 'em your money. It's not that hard to not give money anymore to chain restaurants, chain box stores, chain stores in general. Put your money back into the independent stores, back into the neighborhood and back into the community. And it can be almost like a drug or getting tattooed: the more you do it, the more you want to do it.

It’s simple. The fight against corporate power, long term, is like the fight against the Vietnam War. We keep pushing, we keep turning other people onto it. In our lifetime, it can be done. Right now, priority is stopping the war. Go to everybody you know as individual members of the media. As they say in show business — we ain’t got a lot of time right now to stop this — let’s roll. Thanks for listening.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Jello Biafra speaking at the Power to the Peaceful rally in San Francisco on Saturday.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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