This Machine Kills Fascists

You may have heard the term "This machine kills fascists" at some point in your life. This phrase originates with American singer-songwriter Woodie Guthrie, who used it as a political slogan in the 1940s. It has, since then, appeared as a quotation in various places, including funny political t shirts.

Woody Guthrie was a folk musician. He's not as well known as certain other American folk singers. However, all of those famous songwriters were deeply influenced by Woody Guthrie. They include Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Harry Chapin, Robert Hunter, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and Jeff Tweedy. You have probably heard music by some of these people even if you have not heard their names. Harry Chapin, for example, is well-known for the song "Cat's In The Cradle", which you have almost certainly heard even

if you've never heard his name.

Woody Guthrie stands behind all of these musicians. In the 1940s, he was known for his strong opposition to fascism. Recalling that the United States was embroiled in a war with European fascists at the time, we know that Guthrie's context made it hard for him to resist political statements. At one point, he released a song called "Talking Hitler's Head Off Blues", which was a patriotic song directed against Adolf Hitler. To show his belief in the power of the political statements he made in his music, Guthrie painted the words "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitar. He was often seen performing with that guitar, with the words prominently displayed on the front.

Even outside of its original WWII context, the phrase has a certain staying power. It's only four words, and has a semi-formal tone, as of an engineer or factory worker explaining a machine that they work with. It's subtly humorous, in a dry sort of way, but carries a weight of conviction. The valence of political protest during a World War has a certain appeal because it is morally unambiguous and emotionally powerful. "This Machine Kills Fascists" lives on even in the mouths of people who have never heard of Woody Guthrie because it's simple, convicting, and has just a tinge of irony.

This phrase has inspired many spinoffs, parodies, and re-uses. For example, in the computer game Fallout New Vegas, the words "This Machine Kills Commies" are found engraved on the side of an M1 rifle. Other examples include stickers with "This Machine Kills Fascists" that can be stuck on anything as a kind of joke and homage to Guthrie. Many musicians put those stickers on their guitars or amplifiers. The phrase has found a home in many other places. You can find it on coffee mugs, miscellaneous musical memorabilia, and even funny political t shirts.

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