Monday, May 30, 2016

"Burn the Witch" by Radiohead

One of the more insightful songs sounding a warning to culture these days is “Burn the Witch” by Radiohead. It deals with the dangers and horrors of group-think in all of its forms. And it is striking a chord, or at least generating a lot of conversation. Even though the song was reportedly being written since way back in 2005, it lends itself to several current hot topics: immigration, Trump, etc. But, it is also easy to see that these topics—and the general anxieties driving them have been brewing since September 2001.

But the topic and the song are so relevant because group think is a universal problem, independent of the political side one embraces. And this problem is stronger today than it has ever been in human history. Perhaps that is why this song is so much more powerful released today than it would have been ten years ago, before the prevalence of social media. Because the internet has worsened group think exponentially.

“Tolerant,” liberal-minded people are likely quick to think this song is only condemning the ultraconservative, religious people who judge people for being “wrong.” But today the “tolerant” people are just as likely to be judgmental. In the music video, the “outsider” taking notes and possibly questioning the village’s practices could just as easily be an objective observer questioning such a thing as gender confusion. The liberal side of the spectrum is just as likely to crucify someone for questioning that.

And, for some reason the impersonal nature of internet interaction causes people to spout off hatred in ways that they would never ever consider doing in person. The old adage “think before you speak” applies ten-fold to internet interaction.

Here are the lyrics by Radiohead. They are a bit hard to make out:

Stay in the shadows
Cheer at the gallows
This is a round up

This is a low flying panic attack
Sing a song on the jukebox that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live

Red crosses on wooden doors
And if you float you burn
Loose talk around tables
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers

This is a low flying panic attack
Sing the song of sixpence that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live
We know where you live

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