The Song that Fooled America (feat. Conjecture)

The Song that Fooled America (feat. Conjecture)

>>ALEX: Hey guys, I’m here, let’s get
technical. John Green, vlogbrother and author of many
bestselling books, has often says that books’ meanings belong to their readers.>>JOHN GREEN: The reading experience would
be equally rich with or without authorial intent. But sometimes, readers, or, in today’s case,
listeners, completely miss the point entirely. And there is no better example of that then
Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA.>>BRUCE: (singing)
Born down in a dead man’s town The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat to much
Till you spend half your life just covering up Born in the U.S.A. is one of musician Bruce
Springsteen’s most successful songs. It called the Billboard Hot 100 home for 17
weeks, ranked number 9 at it’s best, and the song is on the Rolling Stone’s esteemed
“500 Greatest Songs of all Time.” The eponymous album it’s on has sold over
30 million copies to date. And, not to mention, it was one of the many
songs my dad and I danced to when I was a wee little toddler, along with “Waiting
on a Sunny Day”, “Into the Fire,” and, probably the most common for us, “Pony Boy.” But Born in the U.S.A. is Bruce’s most misused
and misinterpreted song, and, arguably, one of the most misinterpreted songs of all time. Today, we’ll examine this misinterpretation
by looking at Born in the U.S.A. and its impacts on politics, popular culture, and the world.>>BRUCE: (singing)
Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A., Born in the USA
in the U.S.A.>>ALEX: The year is 1981, and writer director Paul
Schrader approaches Bruce to write a song for his upcoming movie, Light of Day. Flipping through his notebook, Bruce found
some lyrics about the Vietnam war. These lyrics were inspired by Ron Kovic, someone
Bruce met and admired after reading Ron’s book, Born on the 4th of July, a book about
a Vietnam war vet. He then combined those lyrics with the words
“Born in the U.S.A,” something he found on the cover of the Light of Day script, to
get his first draft of the song. But, soon, Bruce realized the song is too
good to give away. Sidenote here, Bruce thanks Paul Schrader
in the album notes of Born in the USA. Anywho, people think the song is all about
the greatness of America and the nationalism that comes along with that because of the
song’s title lyric, Born in the USA, repeated quietly loudly 14 times throughout the entire
song. This is no mistake, by the way, it’s meant
to aesthetically and metaphorically drown out everything else. A closer look at the lyrics shows the song,
however, reveal that isn’t actually about hyper patriotism, but about a Vietnam war
vet and blue-collar, working class America. In the first verse, the song is set up, telling
the protagonist’s experience in America. In the second verse, the protagonist describes
getting in “a little hometown jam,” something that indicates the state of the draft during
the Vietnam war. See, the Vietnam draft is particularly notable
there became more and more exemptions and special rules, like if you were doing well
in school you didn’t have to go to the military. The special rule we care about, though, is
military admittance because of violence. People who got into fights or committed crimes
were fast tracked to be admitted in the military. Thus, when Born in the USA’s protagonist
got into a fight, or hometown jam, he was hastily sent off to fight on Vietnam. Verses three to five describe the protagonist’s
experience coming back to America. Vietnam vets were famously hated once they
returned from the war. Around the time of the war, hatred of the
military began drastically increasing, with the uprise of the hippie culture and various
other liberal movements. Thus, it made sense that people who disliked
the war would dislike vets. Keep in mind, the major war the United States
was involved in before the Vietnam war was World War II, and the people who fought in
that war came back as heroes. They were the ones who defeated the Nazis,
after all. But the Vietnam vets didn’t experience the
same love. And even despite all of this, people just
didn’t pick up on the song. Some of those people include journalists. There are many examples of the media drastically
misinterpreting Born in the USA, but today, let’s look at George Will’s article, “Nothing
Like Being Born in the U.S.A.” On screen: (check out the description if you
want to see some more of them which I had to cut today for time) George, author and conservative commentator,
was invited to a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert by Max Weinberg, longtime
drummer for the E Street Band. After the show, on Thursday, September 13th,
1984, George published his thoughts on Born in the U.S.A. and Bruce, writing lines like
“There is not a smidgen of androgyny in Bruce Springsteen who, rockin around the stage
in a T-shirt and headband, resembles Robert De Niro in the combat scenes of The Deer Hunter,”
“ I have not got a clue about Springsteen’s politics, if any, but flags get waved at his
concerts while he sings songs about hard times. He is no whiner, and the recitation of the closed
factories and other problems always seemed punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation:
‘Born in the U.S.A,’” and the final line of the article “There’s still nothing quite
like being born in the U.S.A.’” George Will even left half way through the
concert. Max Weinberg, unsurprisingly, was embarrassed
from the release of the article, which Peter Ames Carlin writes about in his Bruce Springsteen
biography: “He hadn’t known that Will intended to write about the concert, let alone transform
Bruce into a character in Ayn Rand’s libertarian “Atlas Shrugged.” And while Bruce never mentioned it to him
one way or another, the drummer felt a distinct chill backstage when he got to the next show.” Just a week later, someone else misinterpreted
Born in the USA, and it wasn’t a journalist this time; it was one of the most famous politicians
in American history. To tell us more, here’s Matt from Conjecture. Hi Matt!>>MATT: Hi Alex!>>ALEX: Matt and I both huge, huge Bruce
fan, so he’s here to tell us more! Take it away!>>MATT: Thanks Alex! We’re also both really good at writing transitions… *Both Matt and Alex awkwardly stare into the camera
for a sec and it’s really funny and amazing and yea*>>MATT: …Anyway! Born in the USA has been misinterpreted by
people and critics alike, but probably the most interesting and famous instance of misinterpretation
was Ronald Reagan. So that George Will article Alex talked about
a second ago? George Will was connected to Reagan and must
have told him about it, because later on the campaign trail in 1984, Reagan said this>>RONAD REAGAN: America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of
a man so many young Americans admire. New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.>>MATT: As we’ve mentioned, that’s not what Born
in the USA was about. In fact during in an interview Bruce has even
said that the song’s narrator longs to “strip away … Reagan’s image of America.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bruce has campaigned
for Democratic party nominees Kerry, Obama, and Hillary, though he does prefer to stay
on the sidelines. According to Bruce: “The artist is supposed
to be the canary in the cage.” Later on in that same press conference, speaking
about his politics, Bruce simply said that “I have spent my life judging the distance
between American reality and the American dream.” And that is the real message, the heart behind
Born in the USA and so many of his other songs. Yes, Born in the USA does focus on the experiences
of a returning Vietnam Vet, but it’s more. It’s a saga, a protest song documenting
the struggles of the American working class. In Bruce’s words, the working class was
experiencing a “spiritual crisis, in which man is left lost. It’s like he has nothing left to tie him
into society anymore. He’s isolated from the government. Isolated from his job. Isolated from his family. … When you get to the point where nothing
makes sense.” We see this all throughout the lyrics of the
song. The protagonist is born into a town with no
prospects, a town where growing up is tough and grueling. He is whisked away from his family to fight
in a war he doesn’t want to. He comes back home and can’t find any work,
and can’t get help from his government which is supposed to help veterans. His brother then dies in the war. At the end of it all, the only things he can
see are the prison where he might wind up and the refinery that won’t employ him. After all this time, the working man has nowhere
to run and nowhere to go. The protagonist of Born in the USA is out
of options as he looks at an America where he simply doesn’t belong. An this is what makes the song so powerful: the verses describe all this, and yet what
do most of us think of when we hear this song? Like countless reviewers and even Ronald Reagan,
our instinctive reaction is pride. Because that awesome, booming, nationalistic
chorus drowns out the harsh realities experienced by Vietnam Vets and working class Americans. Of course it doesn’t matter if you’re
totally isolated and nothing makes sense, because you were Born in the USA.>>ALEX: And that is the story of the most
misinterpreted song of all time. Thanks for watching, DFTBA, and explore on.>>MALE SINGER: Why would Reagan be playing
Born in the USA?>>FEMALE SINGERS: It’s about Vietnam!>>ALEX: Giveaway! Time for a giveaway! I’m going to give away this copy of Peter
Ames Carlin’s Bruce Springsteen biography, signed by me. It’s super easy to enter, just like this video,
subscribe to both Technicality, and leave a comment down below. I’ll pick randomly, and I’ll let you guys
know the winner in the next episode. I want to make that a regular segment, anyways,
I want to give a huge thank you to Matt Mignogna, which sounds like Filet Mignon-a, for working
with me on the video, being over here on Technicality, and being an overall awesome person. We both love Bruce, a lot, obviously, so. Matt guest starred on the epic rap battles
video, and, now, along with him being here, I’m over on his YouTube channel, Conjecture. I was on a Things I Should Have Learned in
School Video, it is amazing, so, check it out, and subscribe to Conjecture while you’re
at it! Also, people who subscribe to Conjecture,
like his video, and leave a comment get an additional entry. So, more incentive! If you like what I do, or just having your
mind be blown, Matt makes truly fascinating videos. So, sub to him, sub to me, Cool Byeeeee!

100 thoughts on “The Song that Fooled America (feat. Conjecture)

  1. Awesome video
    just no offence this is very informative
    but not of any importance to someone living in Asia , but the video was great !
    doing awesome job man 🙂

  2. Thank you for the information! Whenever I see that you've posted something, I click it right away. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thank you for the information! Whenever I see that you've posted something, I click it right away. Keep up the good work!

  4. A little like Lecrae's Welcome to America! I don't listen to Lecrae much, or Springstein. But you should hear it! There are lots of similarities between those songs.

  5. This is extremely interesting to me. The crush the working middle class has to deal with is still here if not worse now more than ever (cough taxes cough paying for "benefits" that they don't even get to see). But, you know, this is YouTube. My political opinion is not warranted. Or I risk "faggotry" or "assholery". Whichever the emotionally-fueled masses choose first.

  6. I love how popular culture can teach us so much about the human condition. Your style of videos are really great and you both deserve more recognition for your educational and entertaing videos. Keep up the good work!

  7. I love your videos so much 😂 it's always really interesting and you even cited all your sources ;-; (plus I wait for the side note ♪ thing everytime 😂) are you in band or do you play any instruments?

  8. how do you come up with topics that can pull in the viewer, im more of a HAMILTON/ POKÉMON/ HARRY POTTER nerd, yet I was so intrigued by your content on this topic

  9. I wasn't even born in the USA and found this video fascinating. There are so many instances of this type of thing happening because most people only see the surface level of things. This was a good reminder to look deeper and beyond the obvious. Great work guys 🙂

  10. I started watching your channel because of your Hamilton video, and I adore your content… subscribed after one video. 10 points to Slytherin.

  11. I just got around to watching this video. I don't know why it took so long for me to actually click but totally worth it! Great Job guys!

  12. Alex!!!! I love your videos and you're practically the only one I ever watch on youtube anymore. Your videos are entertaining, knowledgeable, and just downright fun to watch. Can't wait to see who gets the book!

  13. I literally just came from your Hamilton video and it blew my mind because I am a Hamilton freak and it was amazing!

  14. Hi Alex, I just need help with one thing. In Hamilton, the song "Take a break." They talk about a comma changing the meaning of the letter that Hamilton sent to Angelica. I have tried reading many articles about this topic but I just can't get my head rapped around it. And just to let you know I don't want to enter the give away because I am not aloud to enter give aways on YouTube. Thanks for the help and the awesome videos!

  15. Alex, there was pretty big war between World War II and Vietnam, Korea 1950-1953. But awesome video, I cannot believe that my old ass self has got so caught up in a channel that someone so young is putting out, but your content is marvelous

  16. about 4:06 George Will apparently thought (or still thinks) that being American, equates to being very masculine or at least, not androgynous. weird, huh?

  17. if you find this interesting, I would suggest listening to firstly "town called malice" and secondly "Eton rifles" by the jam and basically any other of their songs.
    the most famous misinterpretation of this is when David Cameron (the former British Prime minister) said that, "the Eton rifles was his favourite song when he was at Eton" when the song itself was actually criticising the upper classes and specifically Eton. the song was written as a result of the opposition a rights to work march faced when passing Eton, as the unemployed workers (mainly minors from the mines that were closed by Margaret Thatcher) walked passed Eton (a famous school in the UK which is extremely exclusive due to the astronomical price tag to send a chold there) the pupils at he college began to shout and laugh at them and drive them away. it's very interesting and I would suggest you look up both of the songs and practically every other song by the jam if this interests you.

    love the videos by the way!

  18. So through this misinterpretation this song has become the most accurate metaphor for the USA.
    Even of shit hits the fan, even if we can prove with numbers that they aren't the greatest nation, they still stick to their pride which overpowers any doubts about the country.

    Pretty good.

  19. The meaning of the book or song belongs to the author really depends on if you actually care. Back in the day Bruce didn't care about politics once this album hit and sold millions. Well maybe he cared but he didn't voice his opinion. Back in the day old brucy was way less politically charged than he is today. His concerts were mainly about his songs or just stories about his glory days. As he got older he started to talk more about politics and religion at his concerts. So at the time the conservatives saw this great song that talked about all the hardships of the nam war but in the end you are still born in the good ole USA. I don't think conservatives didn't understand the lyrics of the song but took it as an opportunity to shine some light on the Vietnam war. Now for Bruce why would he want to piss off an entirely new fan base by telling him the chorus "Born in the USA" means America sucks. He was finally launched in the stardom and was making millions. So in the end "America wasn't fooled" but Bruce gave up his meaning of the song for stardom.

  20. Interestingly enough, the only reason Bruce was allowed to play a concert in East Berlin was due to these songs that criticised the USA!

  21. youre so confident and inspiring. i start shaking when ordering a mc donalds and your able to make videos for thousands of people. Incredible

  22. Awesome video. Nice detail with the quotes. I'm glad someone actually looks more closely at the world.

  23. Hello! I just stumbled upon your channel and I must say, I love your charisma and the way you wrap up and explain knowledge o:
    If I were to add Polish subtitles on some of your videos, would that be okay? ;w;

  24. I loved the exploration of authorial intent here. I can say I'm a smidgin guilty of doing that same thing to the song.

  25. 400th like should count for something. president Trump also (mis) used the song in his rallies before Bruce told him to cool it. not everyone gets it, it seems. He probably just likes the song for the beat anyway. By the way, I like your sign in the background, "Love you to the moon." Thanks for the video, and DFTBA!

  26. Thank you, wonderful video. You keep doing you, it will make all the difference in life. Especially when things are the hardest.

  27. TIL: many people sing songs without ever listening to the lyrics, and American school kids apparently don't get taught about the Korean War.

    Still, good video 🙂

  28. Damn, it's easy to forget just how young you are at times. When you cited being a wee little one dancing to Waiting on a Sunny Day, it reminds me both how long it's been since that song came out and how young you are. I was a wee little one getting my jam on to Born in the USA not long after it came out.

  29. Wait what? How could people misunderstand the meaning of the song? Don't they listen to the lyrics? The lyrics make the song's intentions pretty obvious.

  30. For some reason the analysis and symbolism of "Born in the USA," as what Alex explains here, is quite similar to Men at Work's "Down Under," aka Australia's Third National Anthem (after the official one "Advance Australia Fair" and the unofficial "Waltzing Matilda"):

    Both songs might sound patriotic to their countries, but are actually irony cakes.

    Aussies, please comment on my thread or something, I might have been overthinking, or maybe this Filipino/German just read it wrong, again. I still like both songs though, even for their musicality. 😀

  31. I think you are skipping Korea…btw the US has never ever had a peacetime president….we live in an imperialistic country..(even though that is not something you can say aloud) constantly warring with countries that don't go our governments way…or funding and arming opposition to overthrow leadership that isn't US gov friendly…
    One can always find an excuse to create propaganda and go to war with literally any country…US usually picks countries with resources or proxy wars… 😀

  32. The original version was a slow acoustic song. It nearly made it onto Nebraska, but the album's run time would have been too long.
    Reagan didn't ask permission to use the song. P'd Bruce off apparently 😉

  33. Hi Alex. Interesting and insightful commentary. You may be pleased to know that a commentary about 'Born in the USA' features prominently in my husband's latest book: It's about Critical Thinking. Based on your proficient level of discussion, I think you'll like it.

  34. Around the same time BITUSA was being garbled, there was a Levi’s commercial that started with the opening line of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, which is something like “Some people were born to wave the flag/ yeah, that red white and blue…”

    They cut it off there and jumped to the guitar solo while patriotic youth bounced around.

    The bridge to the song ( It ain’t me) goes like this: “ It ain’t me/ it ain’t me/ I ain’t no senator’s son
    It ain’t me/ it ain’t me/ I ain’t no fortunate son”

  35. "Born in the USA" is not the only song to be badly misinterpreted. In the same vein, there's CCR's "Fortunate Son", and on a different topic there's The Police's "Every Breath You Take".

  36. John Mellecamp's Pink Houses is also highly misinterpreted as patriotic. I still hear this song and Pink Houses blasted on July 4th…it's pretty sad actually…doesn't help that I live in the South…

  37. The word "brother", as used in this song, doesn't necessarily have the literal meaning of male sibling. More likely Bruce is referring to a brother-in-arms, a friend of the narrator and a fellow combatant who died when the North Vietnamese army laid siege to the US base in Khe Sanh over the first half of 1968. Neither side really won that battle — which I think Bruce mentions as emblematic of a pointless war that didn't resolve anything and only wasted people's lives.

  38. better do not axe ppl to like and subscribe…usually i dislike and unsubscribe after such statement, but you are so awsome i may let it slip, just hit stop before that part. again – tom scott had million subscribers and counting, and never asked once to like or subscribe.

  39. I like when kids think old songs were misinterpreted at the time long before they were born.

    Yeah kid, we actually DID realize….Vietnam was only over for a few years and everyone in the mid 80's was VERY much aware of how returning vets were treated.

    The idea of it becoming a hyper patriotic song and waving american flags was a good amount of the population in essence showing those vet the support they should have received when they returned home….

    Some people might have misinterpreted the song, but if you were alive when that song actually came out regarding the recent past they'd been a moron.

    So basically, you're looking at the morons, and thinking most people misinterpreted it, but I don't actually remember anyone thinking the lyrics were happy…the point was that transcended that and people were quite ashamed of how the left wing at the time treated those veterans.

    Hence the hyper-patriotism…

  40. Got teary eyed when the song started. Brought me back to my childhood. Nobody sings with that kind of energy and passion anymore. The boss is the boss for good reason.

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