So certain am I that there has only ever been one song written which included the name of former US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara in its title, I’m willing to bet a 1964 Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter on it. The reason I'm tossing the Lettera 32 into the ring as the ante is because the song in question was written in 1964, at a time when the Lettera 32 was being widely recognised as the state-of-the-art writing machinery. It's also appropriate that while Robert McNamara was fanning the flames of war in Vietnam, the Lettera 32 was the work tool for journalists covering Vietnam, such as Argentinian Ignacio Ezcurra and his friend, the Italian Oriana Fallaci. And it wasn't meant for just war correspondents. One could take a Lettera 32 on to an artic waste or a mountain top or into a vast desert and use it to the content of one’s heart. The only ultimate impediment would be human, not mechanical – one might freeze or die of a lack of oxygen or a want of water, but the typewriter would just keep on going.
It is, of course, A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission). A desultory philippic, in case anyone out there is wondering, is a random tirade. The original version was performed and recorded in
At the end of
the 1966 recording, Simon says, “Folk rock”" and, "I've lost my harmonica, Albert" - referring to Dylan's manager Albert Grossman. The version recorded in 1965, however, has Simon singing,
Either way, in there somewhere, right about learning the truth from Lenny Bruce, I’m reminded what a joke it was that in my journalism career I was lied to so often by so many people - politicians, performing artists, ponces, sportspeople - that I sometimes lie awake at night wondering whether the liars ever got to lie straight in bed. I've been lied to by experts. At the time they lied, the liars stood up and lied to me, straight-faced, without a hint of shame. Not just me, of course - I shouldn’t take it so personally. But the really, really stupid thing is, we all knew they were lying to us when they did the lying. I haven't just been Robert McNamara'd into submission, I've been Gerry Adamsed, Lech Wałęsa'd and Geoffrey Rushed, Bob Hawked, Gene Pitneyed and Ben Johnsoned. And that's a few. There’s another line in Simon’s simple song, “I knew a man his brain so small, he couldn't think of nothin' at all.” I feel a bit like that man these days. The gullible guy who wrote tens of thousands of words to readers trying to convince them that I’d been told was true. I should be made to go and smoke a pint of tea.