Tag Archives: Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield For What It’s Worth. Surprise Intent of Stills’ Lyrics against tender snowflake paranoid violence.

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Stephen Arthur Stills of 1960s Buffalo Springfield fame penned “For What Its Worth”. Recall that he’s Canadian and that, in pre-1982 Canada, “justices of the Peace had the authority to impose a six-month jail term on anyone carrying a handgun.” [[I’ve been corrected for that in the comments. Seems he’s American. Which only reinforces my commentary here.]] The song “For What Its Worth” has always been taken as a protest, anti-gun jingo. But it’s not. One might think from a glance of the Wikipedia article that Stills might be on the protest side of things:

“In November 1966, Stills composed his landmark song, “For What It’s Worth”, after police actions against the crowds of young people who had gathered on the Sunset Strip to protest the closing of a nightclub called Pandora’s Box (contrary to later retellings by Stills, he was not present for the riot; rather, Buffalo Springfield was playing an engagement in San Francisco at the time).”

I was born in 1960 and so I was only a little kid when this came out. What did I know about anything? But I met a USMC guy the other day, perhaps 10 years older than me, who was a teenager at the time. He thinks it’s one of the best songs ever. No peacenik, he. Perhaps a fisking of the words is in order, as this will help tender snowflakes see that the ones they hold to be their gurus, such as Stills, weren’t the tender snowflakes people thought they were. Perhaps Stills was a bit adrift at the time, but he still carried some values of reason and civility from earlier baby boomer times.

In brief, it seems this song praises police action against out of control paranoid hippie rioters who cross over the line with violence and gunfire and need rightly to be “taken away” as the song says. Perhaps Stills, still going strong, might even say that he disagrees with my assessment, but he’s the one who wrote the lyrics. Whatever he intended then or now doesn’t matter so much as what the words actually say. I like what he wrote. I like it a lot.

BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD: “For What Its Worth”

There’s something happening here. [A violent riot in reaction to the closing of a night club.]

What it is ain’t exactly clear. [Stills is not automatically on the side of the rioters, is he? No. He’s calling for reason, for analysis. Good for him.]

There’s a man with a gun over there, [We don’t know who this is yet, whether a law enforcement officer or someone in the crowd. But for him, the presence of a gun from any source is not something he wants to see, though it may be necessary. The examination of the circumstances for the gun is the point of the song.]

Telling me I got to beware. [This sounds like an encouragement of paranoia from the guy with the gun, who is being annoyed with a reasonable assessment of the situation by Stills. The encouragement of paranoia is ideological manipulation which Stills disagrees with, and says so:]

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound? [He’s reprimanding the protesters (“the hippie flower tender snowflake children”), telling them to stop, as, apparently, they are O.K. not only with the brandishing of a gun but with the firing of a gun (the “sound”), thus calling them out as actually being violent bullies.]

Everybody look what’s going down. [He can’t believe that what he was expecting to be a peaceful protest almost seems —  could it be? — to be pre-planned violence? He says it frankly:]

There’s battle lines being drawn. [This is a soliloquy falling on deaf ears, but he keeps going, perhaps thinking he will do some good for someone.]
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. [He goes for the jugular, attacking Marxist dialectical ideology, whereby everyone is wrong, some less than others, but with violence for all being the only way to force any disparity into a leveled out utopia.]

Young people speaking their minds, [The Marxist Antithesis]

Getting so much resistance from behind. [The Marxist Thesis]

It’s time we stop, “Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.” [Stills is frantic. But no one cares. The violence is intended to grow.]

What a field-day for the heat:
A thousand people in the street,
Singing songs and carrying signs,
Mostly saying, “Hooray for our side!” [He’s not saying that the police action is wrong. He is pointing out that the self-congratulatory signs are shallow ideology promoting might makes right on the part of the protesters. Mindless tender snowflakes are with all of their violence from hell.]

It’s s time we stop, “Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.” [Then, after trying to get the attention of the protesters once again, he offers this overview of what’s happening:]

Paranoia strikes deep.
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid. [Stills analysis is that Marxist dialectic violence comes from the frustration of cowardice, fear, with its lockstep reaction.]

You step out of line, they come and take you away. [O.K. This clinches this interpretation. The shooting of the gun is stepping out of line, and that makes for the justified reaction of law enforcement.]

We better stop, “Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down. [Stills is stomping his feet now in a tantrum, though well justified. Basically, he’s frustrated with the tender snowflake bullies and continues to attempt to have them use a bit of reason. But, no, they won’t do it as this violence is what they always wanted from the beginning. I agree with the USMC guy I met the other day: great song! Good for Stephen Arthur Stills.]

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