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‘They Own The Media’: New Van Morrison song amplifies antisemitic trope

Legendary singer-songwriter Van Morrison released a new song on streaming platforms Thursday whose title espouses a classic antisemitic trope.

The lyrics of the song, “They Own The Media,” never indicate who the pronoun in its title refers to. But Morrison, a two-time Grammy winner, was also accused of antisemitism for the 2005 track “They Sold Me Out,” and throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been trafficking in conspiracy theories that frequently overlap with Jew-hatred.

The album raised eyebrows in March when its song list was revealed, including titles such as “Why Are You On Facebook,” “Big Lie,” and “Stop Bitching, Do Something.” On the website Stereogum, writer Tom Breihan called out “They Own the Media,” saying “it sure seems to be an antisemitic trope.”

“Maybe it’s satire,” Breihan wrote. “Maybe the “they” of the title doesn’t refer to any specific group of people. But when you consider that this man just went on a months-long COVID-denial tantrum, we have every right to be suspicious about this one.”

And on the website, Bonnie Stiernberg noted that “even if it’s not relying on old antisemitic stereotypes, the idea that any singular group of people ‘owns the media’ is a dangerous myth.”

Over the last year, Morrison, 75, has railed against stay-at-home orders, releasing a number of songs protesting coronavirus restrictions and calling social distancing pseudoscience. A native of Belfast, he accused the government of the United Kingdom of “taking our freedom.”

In “They Own The Media,” he sings, “They control the narrative / they perpetuate the myth / Keep on telling you lies / telling you ignorance is bliss.”

Morrison — whose 1968 album “Astral Weeks” was ranked the 60th greatest album of all-time by Rolling Stone — denied back in 2005 that “They Sold Me Out,” in which he sings in first-person from the perspective of Jesus, was antisemitic. That song includes the lyrics: “For a few shekels more, they didn’t even think twice / For a few shekels more, another minute in the spotlight.” Morrison later said the song was about the plight of the artist in society.

The concept of Jews controlling the media dates back to the antisemitic text the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was first published in 1903. It was promoted by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who said in 1933 that “The Zionist Protocols are as up-to-date today as they were the day they were first published.”

The new album, “Latest Record Project: Vol. 1,” is Morrison’s 42nd. It is scheduled to be released in full on May 7.

The full lyrics of “They Own the Media” are below.

They tell us that ignorance is bliss
I guess for those that control the media it is
They own the media they control
The stories we are told
You ever try to go against them, you will be ignored
Because they control
They control
They control the narrative they perpetuate the myth
Keep on telling you lies, telling you ignorance is bliss
Leave it all and you’ll never get, never get wise
To the truth
Cuz they control
Everything you do
Everything you do
Everything you do
Everything you do

They control the narrative
They perpetuate the myth
Keep on selling you lies
Tell you ignorance is bliss
Believe it all and you’ll never get the truth
Never get wise
Wise to their lies
To their lies
They control the media
They control the media
They control the media
They control the media

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