Watching The Wall

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As has happened with other individuals who have prominently challenged pro-authoritarian and pro-war narratives pushed by major politicians and media figures, marquee musician Roger Waters has ended up the target of a campaign to tar him as antisemitic. The campaign even includes an effort to prevent Waters from performing his music across the world.

A large component of the argument for Waters being antisemitic and for prohibiting him from performing his music is that at times in concerts he dresses in an outfit similar to what some German National Socialist (Nazi) officials wore in the mid-twentieth century. This argument is absurd because anyone with basic familiarity with Waters understands that he is wearing the outfit as part of a performance that is intended to attack authoritarianism, including the Nazi variety.

Years back, Waters, who was then in the band Pink Floyd, arranged for a movie to be made that used songs of the band’s album The Wall. That movie, Pink Floyd: The Wall, was released in theaters in 1982. In the film, Bob Geldof plays the primary character as an adult, donning at one point clothing similar to the outfit Waters has been criticized for wearing at concerts.

Here are three political themes that the movie strongly conveys. First, war is horrid, an activity terribly destructive to both the physical world and the psyches of affected individuals. Second, education can be a form of indoctrination that strips lively, independent thought from students. Third, beware of authoritarians and their supporters who will attack people categorized as outside norms the authoritarians set.

The Wall, directed by Alan Parker, is a very well made movie. Sometimes, I think it is the best movie ever made. But, it is hard to directly compare The Wall, considering its distinctions including the absence of regular dialogue, to most films. At Rotten Tomatoes it scores an 89 percent “fresh” rating from viewers.

It is a travesty that people are misrepresenting the political messages of The Wall — whether in concerts, the film, or the album — in an effort to smear Waters. On the bright side, maybe these efforts of wild swingers of the “antisemite” label will encourage more people to watch the movie Pink Floyd: The Wall. That should lead to some good for the world.

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