Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Crisler, R. (2016). This Machine Kills Fascists: Music, Speech and War. (thesis)


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor John R. Bender. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Robert J. Crisler


This thesis examines the history and persuasive power of rhetoric through the mass medium of popular music from Woody Guthrie to the modern era. It focuses on the Vietnam War era as a particularly significant and prolific era of topical (“protest”) music. Through interviews with media observers, historians and veterans of the Vietnam war, it seeks to understand the relevance of rhetorical speech in music within an overall mass media context, both within that era and extending to the present day. Through contemporaneous accounts of the intent of the songwriters and artists, an understanding is gained of the intent to communicate about the major events of the era through song. Through interviews with veterans and others, the essential question of whether or not this form of communication, and the people who operate within it, should be viewed as integral to the mass media and political context, is explored.

Adviser: John Bender