I’ve had this conversation many times over with many different people – what is the meaning of their support of an artist when that artist has “hells of lame” views on topic xyz?
The mighty Thoreau over at Unqualified Offerings has dug into the issue via 24 from a few angles over the years, though the conversations I end up having with people are largely centered around music or the occasional biopic of unsavory persons and things. It came up again recently during a conversation about the latest Che movie, a popular source of hagiography and silly mustaches.
My friends like getting my responses on shit like this because my hands get wavy and animated, resembling a Mr. Clean float drifting off course. I’d like to think I offer a unique and witty perspective as well, but that’s neither here nor there.
Here’s the real secret: the issue is ultimately inconsequential.
Cultural critiques can frame this “problem” in a number of ways. The traditional versions hold that it’s either very, very important or it’s not important at all. The creation of great (or useful, or merely neat) art is divorced from the creator’s personal shittiness. Or one’s consumption of ideologically-incorrect “torture porn” – whether it be neocon-flavored fearmongering or romantacism about the machismo of Mr. Beret above – doesn’t have much (or any) of an effect on one’s life, beliefs or actions.
I can dig both points of view to a certain degree. I am not interested in supporting, say, Skrewdriver or overtly racist musicians, but I still own a Death in June album (What Ends…, natch.) I think the Media Theory narrative of media being very, very important is somewhat self-serving and somewhat a product of ideological blindness. My general experience is that people seek out media – now more than ever – based on their beliefs, not the other way around. Those who deplore torture can look at 24 and say “This is what neocon conspirators are teaching our children and/or SCOTUS jurists” and those who are totally into it can say “Even the homosexualist pagans in Hollywood understand the importance of quasi-drownings!”
The best part of all this? The question is completely immaterial. Frivilous, even! A luxury of our modern age. A TV show neither causes extraordinary renditions and related all-inclusive packages to bad fucking places nor justifies it on a policy level where decisions are actually made. It’s a sideshow for the rest of us, part of the continuing culture war that is not particularly warlike or cultured. It’s just another way to set oneself aside in a “taste tribe.”
I can arrange my albums in ideological order and get rid of those who don’t parrot my views, or who hold particularly dumb views or insist on putting their little bumper sticker thoughts out into the world. Sure, every time I’ll ever see A Silver Mt. Zion we’re going to have that uncomfortable moment when Efrim asks the audience to yell out participatory stuffs and people say dumb things like “There’s a nazi rally on Long Island, let’s go fuck with them this weekend!” and whatnot. And Efrim will look a bit disappointed because his audience is made up of underweight lunatics who not only have never been in a fight in their entire milquetoast lives but would get beaten to shreds by the littlest skin you could find. The format is horrible if you want to say something intelligent and meaningful to a room full of strangers.
Ten minutes after this ritual the band will be playing. Will I care then? No. And neither will most of the audience, for whom the music was the reason they went in the first place. If I was interested in hearing someone parrot my views, I’d watch myself sing in the mirror. Naked.
As important as music is to me, I hope it’s never important enough that I choose band xyz because they agree with my views on the role of the State or fiat currency versus precious, precious gold. I hope someone trepans me with an awl before I hit that terrible moment, because when you slow things down a bit and actually look deep inside, most music is stupid, most lyrics are dumb, and most musicians are complete fuck-ups. Everyone wonders “how could a musical legend be broke?” and the answer is very boring: a dumb musician will be beaten by a dumb-but-cunning MBA-holding jerk 98% of the time. The other answer is that “drugs are bad for people with more money than sense” or some middle-of-the-road response about different kinds of intelligences and that musicians make poor financial analysts and vice-versa.
The ha-ha funny punchline being that interviewers often ask musicians about their views on politics and finance and yet very rarely interview political scientists about the best rock albums of a given year.* And so more bumper sticker slogans are born because soundbites are a terrible midwife and rock stars are, shockingly, intellectually average people.
Now, to pull things back a bit, if this whole back-and-forth is inconsequential, why would I refuse to support an overtly racist band, even in a small way? Because racists are assholes in a way that even the most ridiculous middle-class faux-commie retard can’t possibly match, even if both are statistically unlikely to act upon their beliefs in violent or coercive ways; a more simple truth is that while there are only a handful of decent racialist bands out there, there are many very good left-wing simpleton bands whose solutions to dozens of issues are so flatly ridiculous that it beggars belief. Living with this sad truth beats not listening to a whole lot of music.** Or listening to Rush.***
Art can teach us about life, or it can fill in the spaces of time before we finally die; whatever it is used for is what it becomes. For example, I refuse to see the last Batman movie, mostly out of a mixture of hearty disinterest and misdirected spite. I seem to have been largely wrong about the drugstore cowboy’s death making him the new Len Bias – particularly where the ugly crackdown on pain control by the DEA is concerned. But it’s a very convenient excuse because “I have no interest in that particular narrative” is not a commonly accepted dodge, whereas “I am ideologically opposed to the fallout Mr. Ledger’s death will have in justifying the Government’s War on Some Drugs” sounds like something I’m willing to fight over. Since most folk don’t share that kind of investment – thankfully, as the connection is nonsensical – folks back away slowly.
I don’t blame them.
* If you are a financial analyst or political scientist, please contact me below, because that would be a hell of a feature.
** This is why I try to avoid interviews with artists I like – I always end up disappointed in the interviewer or their idiotic responses. If I learn that they share my belief that Bush the Younger has been a disastrous piece of shit, big whoopty doo dah.
** See if you can spot the “taste tribe” mechanics at work in this easy dig!