sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

October 3, 2016

#Deplorables Please Follow Jello’s Instructions

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:46 pm

Over at a hipster deplorable altRight publication called Taki, Steve Sailer updated his following of the exploits of the rootless cosmopolitans:

Hillary was hanging out in Steven Spielberg’s guesthouse in the Hamptons, going to fund-raisers with the Rothschilds, and emerging mostly to denounce the “alt-right.”

In the same essay he attempts to create a mystique around himself and his comrades:

If you can remember back four decades, it might strike you that the alt-right phenomenon of 2016 is basically political punk rock: loud, abrasive, hostile, white, back to basics, and fun.

His description of Punk is rather self-serving because the whiteness of the genre is not prescriptive.  Even though it originated in New York and London, the appeal of Punk Rock knows no borders.  From the altRight point of view it’s not descriptive either because so many key personalities were Jewish and the altRight doesn’t necessarily consider Jews white.

I have to admit, it’s tempting to think of Trump as a political three-chord wonder.  He can be funny, he knows how to please his fan base, but has no clue how to appeal to anyone else.  He’s decidedly low-brow: no, he’s not going to cram for the next debate.  Yet neither he nor his altRight champions are Punk rock because abrasiveness is necessary but not sufficient for this rock-n-roll subgenre. Malcolm McLaren didn’t invent rudeness after all.

I once wrote about Andrew Breitbart as a Punk Rock situationist, and James Parker’s essay Donald Trump, Sex Pistol is more to my liking:

Donald Trump is not Igor Stravinsky. And although, yes, he boasted about the size of his ding-dong in the middle of a televised debate (kick in that screen!), he’s not a Sex Pistol either. Nonetheless, with his followers—about whom one should not generalize, except to say that most of them would rather be waterboarded than sit through an episode of Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!—he has co-created a space in American politics that is uniquely transgressive, volatile, carnivalesque, and (from a certain angle) punk rock.

This is an interesting argument, but I’m afraid Parker is giving too much credit to #EmperorHiroCheeto and his flock.  Trump is reality TV, not Punk.  There isn’t a hint of ironic distance between Trump’s performance at campaign events and Trumpkins’ expectations. More about it later.

In response to these two pieces Mark Judge noted that when it comes to women altRight is very much anti-Punk:

Women aspire to be—and are—journalists, doctors, musicians and scientists, and it is anything but punk to deny them these roles. Punk has always been about more than just giving offense—it has been about the ability to “become what you are.” That phrase was once sung by punk-inspired musician Juliana Hatfield, who came to music in the 1970s, when a babysitter introduced her to the great Los Angeles punk band X. The lead singer for X is Exene Cervenka, a poet and political conservative who recently moved to Texas because California has become “a liberal oppressive police state.” Punk music would be far less rich had Exene done what Gavin McInnes advises—stayed home and had children. Ditto the women in the punk bands Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. Of course, it’s also possible to be a working female musician and have a family.

One last point is worth noting. One of the most infamous moments in punk history was the live 1976 interview the Sex Pistols did with British journalist Bill Grundy. The Pistols cussed on the show, dropping S-bombs and F-bombs, and the appearance became a sensation. Most rock and roll fans know the story, citing it as a flashpoint of punk nihilism, but few remember what actually set the band off. In the Pistols’ entourage was a nineteen-year-old woman named Siouxsie Sioux, who told Grundy, an established, middle-aged man who goaded the Pistols throughout the entire interview, that she’d “always wanted to meet you.” Grundy replied they could “meet after” the show. The Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones called Grundy a “dirty old sod” and a “dirty bastard” and a “f***ing rotter.” Siouxsie Sioux would go on to become one of the most talented and accomplished songwriters to come out of the punk movement.

So a pivotal punk rock moment was not about louche rebellion and senseless anarchy, but defending a talented woman, an artist, against a leering old man with views about women that belong in another age. Trump and the Alt-Right should get that story right, and think about its implications, before calling themselves punk.

Trump and Trumpkins are wholly at odds with what every Punk rocker knows about gender.  In Punk Rock, wearing a tiara is an ironic statement and Melania Trump is the very bimbo stereotype against which the young women rebelled. Yet for Donald Trump crowning a beauty queen is a life’s achievement, especially if he gets to humiliate her in the process.

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The Donuld’s aesthetic sensibility, or whatever passes for it, is as un-Punk as it gets.  The man made a name for himself erecting unironically flashy skyscrapers.  Not only did he built the costly monstrosities, it turns out he was wholly unappreciative of an effort to make anything artistic out of them — he failed to buy Andy Warhol’s paintings of his marquee property. Andy Warhol’s!  The only people who don’t know that the Trumpster has crappy taste are Russian mobsters and Donald Trump.

This excess earnestness does not stop with gold-plated nurseries; it is characteristic of the entire Trump public life.  While it’s true that, as Parker points out, Trump creates a carnivalesque atmosphere at his rallies, I think it’s wrong to reduce them to mere performance.  Sure, to Parker it’s a spectacle, to white college grads who will probably cast the decisive votes in this election it’s a spectacle, but for the participants it’s not.  They actually believe that Mexico will pay for the wall and that Trump “fulfill every single wish and every single promise”:

Punk rock brought egalitarianism and can-do attitude — equality between the bands and the audience and the DIY ethic. Trumpkins have idol worship, and their idol lives in the above-mentioned opulent towers and manufactures his ties in China.  They might live on the margins of the society, masturbating to Anime in their mothers’ basements, but altRight internet memes are financed by a near-billionaire.  Generally, their creative energy is what you’d think it is and what it’s always been: their darling frog Pepe is the work of a Hillary voter.

Sailer recalls that early Punks, we are talking 1970’s-early 80’s, wore swastikas.  That much is true.  Why they did so is well-known: they attempted to shock and to create a picture of human depravity.  And how did that end?

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Siouxsie Sioux (center) was a first-rate moron in her first youth. The singer’s shtick was to piss off WWII vets.  One of the main reasons I don’t really enjoy her song Israel is because, as my husband likes to say, that was her doing community service

Nazis across the Atlantic saw an opportunity. UK’s National Front started recruiting from the punk scene, neoNazis adopted the hard mod look of shaved heads and leather boots.  The American scene was always less political, but in Southern California neo-Nazis showed up at the shows and beat up people.  That’s why Rock Against Racism festivals became necessary, Siouxsie Sioux wrote “Israel”, Jello Biafra wrote “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and every European squat has the graphic of a stick figure throwing swastika into a garbage can.  Nazi chic is most certainly out.

By the early 90’s Nazi Punks, or, in contemporary lore, #Deplorables, were run out of the Punk scene.  They still exist, though, ghettoized into their own subcultures.  Far from legitimizing Nazism, Punks first embracing and then rejecting the Fascist paraphernalia became that dreaded (for the altRight, anyway) moment in history of the West when profanity, for which Punks never apologized, came to be viewed as a mild transgression and racism, for which they atoned, became the ultimate taboo.

There is something Punk rock in some Trump’s supporters’ embrace of the term deplorables levied on them by Hillary Clinton.  It’s the elevation of the depraved and the perverse pleasure taken in the process.  On substance, however, altRight ideology has been explicitly rejected.

What is not at all rock-n-roll in spirit is pretending that Hillary’s attack on Trumpkins is somehow anti-working class or not grounded in substance. No, the deplorables are real, and while they are certainly less than “half” of Trump’s constituency, they clearly command an outsize influenced.  To insist otherwise is either dishonest or manipulative.

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A common meme of the Don gassing an altRigh nemesis, a Jewish one in this case.

One can pretend that the AltRight is simply having “trolly fun” – I believe this is Milo Yiannopoulos’s description. But if they are merely posting memes of their political opponents in gas chambers to get a rise out of us, how come their friends espouse alleged black genetic inferiority and Holocaust denial?

And even if it is just “trolly fun”? Every society has taboos, every society has villains. Our greatest villains are the Nazis.  I’m very comfortable with organizing our society this way. Yes, Hitler was the most evil person to ever walk this earth (I know about Stalin and Mao).  I would like for our country to remain the outpost for individual rights, something that is anathema to Nazism.

I noticed people on social media added the word “deplorable” to their profiles. I don’t believe most of them are neoNazis; I believe they are wrong in doing so.  Dislike for the Democratic nominee is one thing, embrace of racial supremacy is another.  For a “normie”, which is what me and you are to altRight, to call himself a deplorable is to give legitimacy to them: see we, ordinary Americans, don’t mind at all being lumped together with David Duke and Alex Jones.  In this case David and Alex become so much more acceptable. The fact is, ordinary voters are being played, and they are being played not by Hillary but by Eric Trump and the white nationalists who wasted no time distributing deplorable memes.

Part of altRight’s pitch to conservatives is that liberals don’t make a distinction between conservatives and neoNazis, that to them we are all the same.  Unfortunately, to a large extent this is true.  However, simply because the left is bigoted, doesn’t mean that we need to act out their fantasy of evil racist conservatives.  Their name-calling should not force anyone to join the KKK.  We are more disciplined, more measured, more thoughtful, more moral than that.  (Did I say “moral”? According to altRight I’m “virtue signaling”.  Or maybe I’m just a cunning Jewess.) It’s up to us to run Trumpkins out of the conservative movement and the Republican Party — just like punk rockers did thirty years ago.

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August 26, 2012

Russian Grrrls Need Better Friends

Filed under: feminism, music, politics, Russia — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 7:27 pm

UPDATE: Welcome Legal Insurrection readers!  many thanks to Professor Jacobson for linking.

In my previous post about Pussy Riot I wondered what was the point of being a Riot Grrrl in Russia.  Since then three of the women, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were sentenced to two-year prison terms for their performance of a “punk prayer” at the church of Christ the Savior during which they asked the Virgin Mary to rid the country of Putin and accused the Patriarch of Moscow of selling out.  They were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility.  Hooliganism I can see, but religious hatred?  And by the way, similar activities in London earn one an 18 pound fine, which, admittedly, is a bit low, but at least the case wasn’t dismissed.

Russian Punk rock

Pussy Riot incarcerated

Russia was never a wholly Christian country.  Although it was officially converted by Prince Vladimir of Kiev in the end of the 10th century, the population of its vast stretches retained pagan traditions and believes.  The last Russian Tzar employed a shaman to help his sickly son.  The Soviet regime with its veneration of leaders, the official party line illustrated on every wall and, of course, the destruction of churches had many signs of idolatry.  The post-Soviet revival of Orthodox Christianity is largely superficial.  According to nationmaster.com Russia is at the bottom of church attendance with only 2% of population surveyed claiming to attend church at least once a week (the survey puts the world average at 26.2%).  I suspect the attendance among the minority non-Orthodox denominations is much higher.  Pussy Riot’s performance at the altar was about as much an affront to the spirituality of an average Russian as Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut was an affront to womanly dignity of an average American feminist.

That’s not to say that the Pussy Riot verdict is unpopular. I keep reading that Russians are up in arms about it, and some certainly are, but I get an impression that the authors who file the stories talk to their [classic] liberal friends who, like me, feel that the punishment is disproportionate.  On the other hand, a poll conducted a few days before the verdict showed that 44% of Russians found the judicial process “objective and unbiased” and 17% believed the outcome was handed down by the upper echelons of the government.  Just 6% said they feel sorry for the women.  I don’t know how reliable this kind of polling is in Russia, but if it is correct, then any expectation that the martyred women will stir up pro-freedom sentiment among Russians is bunk.

From what I can tell looking at Russian media, the polling is probably on the mark.  Pravda.ru embedded an editorial, for instance, lauding the sentence and assuring its readers that the young women are a part of some sort of a conspiracy, which is totally obvious because an incarcerated Jew expressed his sympathy, and surely somebody is behind the music collective.  That a free-thinking citizen might want to protest her government doesn’t occur to Pravda.ru editorialist who, while finding conspiracies right and left, doesn’t seem to think that Putin would interfered with the judicial process.  Of course you might say that one does not expect any other reaction from Pravda.  But it’s rather typical; and here is another one, accusing “liberals” of trading the country for Pussy Riot.  This kind of writing gets the overwhelming support of readers.

Ordinary Russians view the Orthodox church as an extension of state power, which it is — the Patriarch of the church is a Kremlin puppet.  The disproportional punishment is a confirmation of state power, and people respect it, including those in the opposition.  Not the [classic] liberal opposition, but the more numerous nationalist kind who dream of a dictator more “hardboiled” than Putin supported by the state church.  To them Russian Orthodoxy is a component of national identity.  (Not that there is something necessarily wrong with it; I suspect to the members of Pussy Riot who profess to belong to the Church, it is also an ethnic identity issue.)

The history of Russian Orthodoxy is rich with Holy Fools such, the Yurodivy, who behaved in a deliberately unconventional and provocative manner to draw attention to hypocrisy and abuses of power.  A number of them became saints.

The Soul of the People

Mikhail Nesterov “The Soul of the People,” 1914-16. Yurodiviy is in the upper third/left third of the canvasses.

yurodiviy

And check this out, this is the Ukrainian women’s group Femen getting arrested for imitating yurodiviys in their anti-Putin protest in front of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in December 2011.

Pussy Riot, as far as I know, didn’t draw a connection between themselves and yurodivy.  Instead, they spoke about punk rock which, though not the riot grrrls kind (again, as far as I know), has a long history in Russia.  Perhaps there is a reason why it fits Russia so well.

Petr Pavlensky

Pussy Riot supporter Petr Pavlensky. That had to hurt

When Russians see the likes of Madonna posturing on behalf of Pussy Riot, they only get inflamed.  They know weakness when they see it.  They know she doesn’t matter and that she doesn’t care much about the fate of the three women. And we all know that celebrities suck up to Putin when convenient.

The international expression of popular support has been underwhelming.  Dozens of people showed up in front of Russian embassies in a handful of Western cities.  Mark Judge noted that seminal Punk zine Maximum Rock-n-Roll is disinterested.  And curiously the pro-Pussy Riot protesters in Washington were most definitely not punks.  Truth is, punks don’t care.  You’d think they’d be up in arms if three of their own get so unfairly prosecuted by a tyrant — for doing what punks do, but the show of force simply wasn’t there.  Compare the pitiful attendance of the pro-Pussy Riot demonstration to the multi-month #Occupy camp outs.  Could it be that the discontents of the Russian women are much more real than the little issues of the Western punks, and that makes the kids here uncomfortable?

And what good are the Western feminists who may pay some sort of lip service to Pussy Riot, rarely, but at the end will turn out to vote for the man who promised Putin to be more flexible in his second term.  Because, as we all know, Obama will, like, have free Women’s Studies classes for all.

Democratic star

American feminist hero Sandra Fluke couldn’t find her way to Target Pharmacy to buy $10 worth of contraception to last her a month. We are talking serious people and serious issues here.

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, rock-n-roll was the forbidden fruit.  It stood for freedom, and people who listened to it were into liberties of all kinds, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free markets.  But in the West “youth” subcultures proliferated with the growth of welfare state because government dependency allowed the masses to lead bohemian lifestyles.  Punks might talk of freedom of expression, but nobody cares much about the brave women in Russia who dared to speak truth to power.  When they leave their prison cells a year and a half from now, they should look for better friends in the West.

February 7, 2012

Somebody Please Explain To This Blogger What is the Point of Being a Riot Grrrl in Russia

Filed under: feminism, Russia, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:14 pm

In the West Grrrls get to behave like men — play loud music, make suggestive gestures on stage, so on.  They get to fancy themselves feminist revolutionaries and keep distance from the second wave party-poppers.

There isn’t much in the way of an authentic feminist movement in Russia.  In the Soviet time, women and men alike were required to participate in mock elections, so at the time real elections took place in the early 1990s, nobody was outraged by the site of both both sexes heading to the voting booths.  Broad majorities of Russian women worked hard outside the house.  It was true through Russian history, and because in the Soviet period specifically it was virtually impossible for an ordinary Russian man to support his family, wives and mothers were all not-so-gainfully employed.  Although housewifery was a distant dream, women typically controlled the purse strings.

soviet women

Babushkas and physical labor: a typical Soviet city scene of the 70s and 80s. The soberer sex performing grueling tasks, often jobs rejected by men, was a fact of our lives. In the height of Perestroika Russian press lamented the fact that Soviet society treated its women so poorly, but when I talk about it to my American neighbors, many are wowed

An American woman can distinguish herself as a sex-positive feminist, but in Russia all women are expected to be “sex-positive”.   On one hand, because of the low life expectancy for men, the men to women ratio in Russia is the lowest in the world; Russian women put enormous effort to get and keep a mate.  On the other hand, Russia was never really a thoroughly Christian country.  Nominally it was Christian, of course, but its vast stretches were never properly converted, and the priests allowed peasantry to carry on with their pagan beliefs and traditions.  Russian peasant societies were patriarchal, to be sure, and the straying female was risking her reputation.  Communal bonds turned obsolete in late 19th century when with abolition of serfdom and industrialization women and men alike flocked to the cities.  About a quarter of births in the late Russian Empire were out of wedlock.

Soviets were shy to talk about sex.  In the late 80’s a middle age matron proclaimed on national television: “There is no sex in our country [only love]”, but the millions of abortions performed each year tell a different story.  Towards the late 80’s public culture became sexualized.  I wrote about sex and politics in Russia before.  In fact, groups like Femen or, in the article linked above, Pussy Riot are not doing anything radically different from Putin, style-wise.

When asked about their musical influences and ideology, Pussy Riot explained:

The difference is that Bikini Kill [a Riot Grrrl ban, -ed.] performed at specific music venues, while we hold unsanctioned concerts. [Enormous artistic difference, of course.  Pussy Riot must be learning from Femen, — ed.] On the whole, Riot Grrrl was closely linked to Western cultural institutions, whose equivalents don’t exist in Russia.

Why do revolutionaries always have to sound like bores?  Anyhow, musically Pussy Riot is a standard example of the genre (NSFW, particularly around Russian-speaking co-workers):

The translatable portion of the song demands a Russian Tahrir, and concerned commentators certainly fear that that is where events in Moscow might be heading.

The Moscow Times article points out that Pussy Riot got a lot of comments on their YouTube video, and they did.  The more recent gushing comments are in English.  Most of the earlier remarks are the irate, typically America-hating viewers, and the band trying to outdo each other in their use of profanities (Russians consider their profanities high art).  Few point out that the video is too produced for Punk., and I agree.

Russian nationalists long resented their countrymen adopting Western ways.  The nationalists are mostly wrong, but not when it comes to Pussy Riot.  Maybe there is a point of being a Riot Grrrl in Russia, it’s just that it comes across as inauthentic.  One of the viewers checked out the band’s November 2011 interview and noted that he sees two cultured girls from good families.  Where is the hard core?  I get the impression that the ladies are copying Punk because it’s cool, but their ideology is not reality-checked.

The ladies claim to be lefties, and in America Riot Grrrls are lefties.  But ideologically the Russian left is different.  In fact, it’s naturally aligned with the American conservatism — pro-individual liberty, free market, pro-Israel and is opposed to tyranies.  Riot Grrrls and other anarchist-affiliated Western subcultures want handouts and are “anti-war”.

In a country where dissidents are punished it certainly takes guts to be in Pussy Riot.  The masks might be a bit too much given that since they’ve been arrested the police obviously knows who they are.  In that 2011 video interview they claim that their phones are bugged.  I don’t question the girls’ courage, I question their relevance.  Russia is a patriarchal country where men don’t fare very well, and where women have a lot to be upset about.  One reason Russian women are eager to marry foreigners is because Western men treat them better.  Anyhwo, Riot Grrrls seem to ring hollow for Russia… unless the true goal is to increase the prospects of marriage to a Western man.

June 8, 2011

Situationist Conservative

On the eve of 2010 elections Zombie urged fellow hippies to reclaim their counter-culture freedom-loving anti-establishment roots and embrace the Tea Party movement.  As I was reading the essay I practically wanted to scream: “Hippies?!  But some of the most visible figures within the conservative movement today are so punk rock!  What I mean by punk is not pierced nostrils and ripped leather ( hence the lower case “p”).  What I mean is a rebellious spirit, forcefulness, an unapologetic attitude,  a live- in-the-moment mind-set and a creativity associated with the best that Punk ever produced.  It’s Situationism which by the end of Obama’s first (and likely only) term went conservative.

Greil Marcus, who is supposed to be one of the more important critics of pop culture, wrote a rather long-winded book about punk.  Academics love to site it, hipsters strategically place it on coffee tables and even read it from time to time.  Thankfully, the book is sufficiently non-linear, so one can open it at any place, read a few pages, and be done with the chapter.  Despite the annoying habit of bringing up Herbert Marcuse on a whim, and despite the fact that everybody in the book is always “negating” something, Marcus managed to make some insightful points.  He claims, for instance, that since Sex Pistols, Punks were Situationists.

So what’s Situationism?  From what I gather, defining Situationism is against the rules because post-Modernism strives to describe instead of defining.  Since I don’t have a definition to rip off, I’ll have to try my hand at it.   Situationism is pretty much what it sounds like: An art movement blended into a political movement in which people perform theatrical stunts with an aim to further revolutionary consciousnesses.  “Situations” have to be entertaining because boredom is counterrevolutionary; they may be rude, crude, surreal and spontaneous.  BBC’s The Mighty Boosh got it well in this parody (only about a half of it is relevant to my post, but all of it is funny):

Original Situationists were Marxist and anarchists.  Punk is a bit more complicated.  Before there was Punk Rock, there was Garage Rock, American as apple pie with its can-do/DIY/small business credo.  The 70s New York scene with bands like The Ramones and New York Dolls and Velvet Underground was another precursor of Punk.  The bands weren’t explicitly political, and some musicians were/became fairly conservative.  Malcolm McLaren took the ideas across the Pond and turned them into a socialist mega-act with a safety pin on top.  Mark Steyn once pointed out that  “no future” UK punk flourished in pre-Thatcherite economy, and I have to add that when Margaret Thatcher straightened things out a bit, Brits started churning out cute little dance tunes. Greil Marcus made an interesting remark on the British society of the late 70s in re Punks wearing swastikas:

It meant, history books to the contrary, that fascism won the Second World War: that contemporary Britain was a welfare-state parody of fascism, where people had no freedom to make their own lives — where, worse, no one had any desire. (it’s on p. 118, go check it out yourself!)

Wow!  Did I mistakenly grab my Goldberg tome from the bookshelf?  After all, Jello Biafra did say “Zen fascists will control you”, though he took his words back later.  No way!  Marcus must be telling us that the nominally capitalist United Kingdom is no anarcho-communist paradise where everybody gets to, like, play all day.

But I digress.  Who are Situationist Conservatives?  Andrew Breitbart does it best.  Heck, he’s probably not only the best Situationist Conservative, but best Situationist ever.  Watch him force union protesters to fold up their signs:

That’s a pretty good “negation” if you ask me.  Spontaneous, aggressive and exciting.  Jello Biafra, take notes.  Breitbart never fails to entertain, like in his stunt in which he gets Wisconsin doctors issuing fraudulent wavers to protesters to sign off on his “walker pneumonia”.

When Breitbart took over (h/t King Shamus) Anthony Weiner’s press conference and demanded an apology, the audience was taken aback.  I remember driving to pick up my daughter from pre-school and listening to Hannity who promised to carry the press conference live at the top of the hour.  When I picked her up and turned on the radio, Breitbart had the mike.  Surreal.  Mr. Breitbart outdid himself.

Breitbart’s targets are as stated — big government, big labor, big Hollywood and with them miscellaneous “liberal” special interests.  Some of those special interests happened to be black groups or organizations fronted by black individuals, which makes us, upper middle class white people, a bit uncomfortable.  But rocking the bourgeoisie is very punk.  Besides, everyone’s a bigot:

Back in the day, Punks perfected the art of outrage by lacing their sentences with profanities and naming bands after unmentionable parts of human anatomy.  The shock value of obscenity had since been reduced; the new taboo is race.  Combating racism is a noble enterprise, no questions about it.  But in the polite circles things get a bit silly.  We sensor our speech, for instance, to remove potential references to race or ethnicity, but references to ethnicity are different from racism.  We are not comfortable mentioning anything that might be deemed stereotypical about blacks, Hispanics or Muslims, although the later is not technically a race.  The Situational Conservative challenges our false pities that make any honest discussion of race relations a taboo.

Greg Gutfeld is technically a Libertarian, but he’s on Fox, and I’m not going to let a silly detail ruin my argument (or at least the title of this post).  Gutfeld, who was Punk Rock in high school, turned the tables on self-proclaimed champions of tolerance with his announcement that he plans to open a gay bar next to the Ground Zero mosque.  It’s an act of the same nature as Sex Pistols attempting to play “God Save the Queen” on Queen’s jubilee or Jello Biafra running for San Francisco Mayor on a clown platform.

Gutfeld’s gesture is refreshing and creative.  In 2000 Punk Rock zine Maximum Rock’n’Roll urged its readers to vote for Nader because, apparently, there was no real difference between Bush and Gore, and if anything, a Republican President will be good for Punk because lefties are sure to be outraged and will express it creatively.  I’m not going to talk about how much sense it all makes.  Yet Punk didn’t do particularly well in the Bush years.  Punks updated the 70s graphics, but had nothing to say about the changing world they inhibited, namely, they were mute about the threat of radical Islam.  In 1977 it was “God save the queen for Fascist regime” in 2002 “BushHitler”.  Same idea, a bit less nuance.  Enter Greg Gutfeld.  Gutfeld has the combination of intellectual curiosity, creativity and guts that make him a dream-come-true Situationist.  He challenged the Left to own up to the ideals of gay liberation while forcing a discussion of Islam.

Last but not least there are the Acorn tapes by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles.  In their most infamous videos the two dressed up as some sort of surreal pimp and a prostitute and brought a powerful union to its knees.  James O’Keefe managed to get himself arrested on at least one occasion, so he lives dangerously.  What more is to be said?  Maybe that James O’Keefe has a history with Situationism, e.g. Lucky Charms video:

In this semi-improvised film O’Keefe and his partners in crime highlight the ridiculous blend of bureaucracy and political correctness that flourishes on American campuses.  Hypersensitivities about race are on show again.  The video is hilarious and surreal.  It was obviously a gutsy endeavor for a university student.  Is a Crass fan capable of producing an equally exiting video?  Maybe — if he is willing to seriously engage a taboo issue.

Because Situationism has to involve some sort of a gesture, conservatives who are merely funny do not qualify.  Somebody like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh trade in words, and talk is the medium in which conservatives traditionally excelled.  Both of them are hilarious, both clearly enjoy toying with our level of comfort, including challenging what can and can not be said about race, but what they are not Situationists because they are not theatrical.  Glenn Beck, on the other hand, appeared on a book cover wearing East German uniform.

That’s more like it.

Where do Breitbart, Gutfeld and O’Keefe get Situationism?  Well, I don’t read minds.  Gutfeld is a self-conscious surrealist.  O’Keefe is obviously influenced by Michael Moore, and Moore, of course, is a Punk rock darling.  Conservatives today read and learn from Saul Alinsky, and Alinsky was quite a situationist himself.  What’s more important, I think, is that all three figures I mentioned came of age when Punk Rock was ubiquitous.

There is one more thing.  Marcus connects UK Punks to Situationists because, he says, McLaren and company were consciously into Dada.  That’s not very convincing.  Since, however, Lipstick Traces is practically a required reading for American hipsters who can calibrate their level of sobriety to read a few pages here and there, arty kids today are into Situationism.  But American hipsters also say that they grew up in sleepy suburbs where young people had to make their own fun.  Perhaps boredom is not counterrevolutionary, it’s un-American.  And maybe McLaren’s true achievement is subverting an authentic American sensibility.  Why is it that we think of bottom up DIY movement as Liberal?

Another question: Is punk our zeitgeist?  Maybe Conservatives are Situationists because Situationism is everywhere.  If so, left wing Punk more or less played itself out.  Gilman Street is safe for teens, and we’ve graduated to corporate sponsored Punk rock marching bands.  By now hipsters are reduced to, as The Mighty Boosh put it, compiling “scrapbook of favorite punks”.  And in any event, when did a Punk turn away a line of Conservative protesters?  Or brought down a powerful special interest group?  Liberal protesters are typically seen doing something embarrassing in front of adoring cameras.  We are invited to believe that they are charming in their geekyness.

protest

The fun is contagious! That's what it means to be creative and spontaneous. I mean you walk down the street in DC, and all of a sudden there is a foursome of 50% corpulent women doing can-can in flip-flops and singing real loud. And it's for a cause! The only problem is that they are too young for Code Pink.

Conservatives, on the other hand, are doing something dangerous, exciting and revolutionary.  It helps, of course, to have something substantive to say because in and of itself Situationism is only a form.

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