Top 10 Michael Jackson Songs or Passages from William Appleman Williams’ The Tragedy of American Diplomacy

In the interest of writing a thoughtful piece during a slow news week, Jim Jividen mashed up (and ranked) the work of William Appleman Williams and Michael Jackson.


It’s a short week, so putting together a sports piece is challenging. I’m uncertain of the potential for click thrus of a close reading of Aldon Smith’s 5.5 sacks from Monday. I’m also looking for ways to incorporate my interest in reality competition into this venue (the preliminary episodes of the music competition shows are now portraying the contestants as if they’re seeking asylum. Please don’t make me go back to America. I sell stamps in one of our decaying cities. Let me stay forever in your beautiful country of X Factor.)

In the end, of course, I decided to use this week to discuss the following:

William Appleman Williams’s The Tragedy of American Diplomacy is the most influential work to come out of the “Wisconsin school” of American historical interpretation; his narrative of United States as empire is the pivotal work done in New Left historiography. A couple of years ago you may have caught the re-release in honor of its 50th anniversary. Williams’s view that essentially, while imperialist,  the American establishment has largely been motivated by a genuine belief that American global economic and military domination was good for the world – that the US was building the globe’s first beneficent empire was considered radical, dangerous, and sympathetic to communism when it was first published (and that was by the liberals like Arthur Schlesinger), but now seems overly generous in light of the past two and a half decades of expansionist hegemony. It’s worth noting that the thesis of US as empire was considered incendiary when published in 1959, but barely more than a year later the outgoing Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, coined the term “military industrial complex” in his farewell address,  warning that the amount of potential profit to be made by the defense industry would make war economically desirable to corporate America in future generations. Read that speech sometime; if Obama gave that speech he would be burned in effigy on Fox News and said to not understand what it means to be American.

Michael Jackson, on the other hand, was the King of Pop.

Here are the Top 10 Michael Jackson songs or passages from The Tragedy of American Diplomacy.

10. “I’ll Be There”
-An upset in its relatively low ranking, partially owing to my disinclination to like kid singers, partially because there’s a law of diminishing returns with this song and I just have heard it as many times as I need to.  Other songs I don’t dislike but I’ve just heard as often as I ever need to: “Imagine”, “Stand by Me”, “My Prerogative.”  Okay – that last one’s not true; I could go for some Bobby Brown right now.  It’s the way that I want to live.

9. “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”
-Disco Michael is historically underrated – and Don’t Stop had cowbell, the most magnificent of all the bovine instruments.

8. History is a mirror in which, if we are honest enough, we can see ourselves as we are as well as the way we would like to be.

7. It is only by abandoning the cliches that we can even define the tragedy. When we have done that, we will no longer be acquiescing in the deadly inertia of the past…realism goes nowhere unless it starts at home.

6. “Rock With You”
-When you consider “Don’t Stop”… and not quite on this list but still sweetassdancetastic “Workin’ Day and Night,” my vote goes to Off the Wall as best Jackson album.

5. “Smooth Criminal”
-Is this song on my IPhone? Yes. Was it there before I decided to write this piece and thought that it would be a good bit to rhetorically ask if this song was on my IPhone? Yes. I want to know if Annie is going to be okay and I’m unashamed to admit it. Bad‘s underappreciated (turning 25 this week, I’m going to watch what I assume will be a not particularly penetrating special on…let’s say ABC… in celebration). I underappreciated it – at the time it was just snowed under by all of the hype; Michael was the biggest star in the world in 1987, to a level that’s hard to communicate in a contemporary culture where everyone’s entertainment options are so personalized; Thriller was just so ridiculously massive that the expectations for the follow couldn’t possibly be met. They weren’t met, but “Smooth Criminal” and “Dirty Diana” would be on my list of 20 best MJ tracks. So, by the way, speaking of underappreciated Jackson tracks, would be “State of Shock” which is a song you absolutely do not know if you are under the age of 30 unless maybe Kelly Clarkson remade it with Jason Aldean, who, I assume, did not have to quit his post as guy who sings while wearing a hat when his recent marital indiscretion was revealed.

4. Here is a primary source of America’s troubles in its economic relations with the rest of the world. For in expanding its own economic system throughout much of the world, America has made it very difficult for other nations to retain any economic independence…American corporations exercise very extensive authority, and even commanding power in the political economy of {developing} nations. Unfortunately, there is an even more troublesome factor in the economic aspect of American foreign policy. That is the firm conviction, even dogmatic belief, that America’s domestic well-being depends upon sustained, ever-increasing overseas economic expansion. Here is a convergence of economic practice with intellectual analysis and emotional involvement that creates a dangerous propensity to define the essentials of American welfare in terms of activities outside the United States. Chamone. (looks like that one turned into sort of a mash up).

3. “Who’s Lovin’ You”
-This contradicts my previous claim to dislike songs by children, as the Jackson 5 version of this Smoky Robinson song was released like 40 years ago when Michael was 11 – but my predisposition toward disliking this kind of thing should be testament to how ridiculously great it is. Michael Jackson was a prodigy. Like Jodie Foster (Happy 50th Birthday) and Alexander the Great.

2. {The belief in required overseas expansion} is dangerous for two reasons. First, it leads to an indifference toward, or a neglect of, internal developments…And second, this strong tendency to externalize the sources or causes of good things leads naturally enough to an even greater inclination to explain the lack of good life by blaming it on foreign individuals, groups, and nations. This kind of externalizing evil serves not only to antagonize the outsiders, but further intensify the American determination to make them over in the proper manner or simply push them out of the way.

1. “Billie Jean”
I’m sure Professor Williams would concur.

I’m 83-75-2. Here are the picks.
Iowa St +1 WVA
Rutgers +2 Pitt
Indiana +5.5 Purdue
Alabama -31.5 Auburn
NMex +3.5 Col St

Jags +3 Tenn
SD+1 Balt
StL +2.5 Ari

TB +1.5 Atl


Photo–Flickr/Abi Skipp

About Jim Jividen

Jim Jividen (@JimJividen) is a lawyer, a professionally produced playwright, a game show winner, and the owner of a 2009 Honda Accord on which he diligently makes payments. He can distinguish among dozens of different suplex variants and may be occasionally read at his two non-revenue producing blogs, Basically Gherkins and What if Steamboat Beat Hogan? Jim’s been a college instructor since the top of 2004 and is currently working in the mist as a Course Mentor for Western Governors University.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    Sweet. As someone with a PhD in diplomatic history, I find this very entertaining. There is not nearly enough quoting of old school diplomatic historians anymore, in my humble opionion.

    Do you take requests? Combine Elvis with Walter LaFeber’s _New Empire_, or Mariah Carey with something by Walter Graebner.

Speak Your Mind