The government is “waging naked class war,” says the Guardian’s Owen Hatherley. Can leftwing pop music avert catastrophe?
Making vaguely alternative pop music is, it seems, all but impossible without indefinite subsidy, an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat to call your own. Yes, these young titans of the left need the state to make them edgy and countercultural. And there can be no better use for taxpayers’ money than indulging would-be pop stars while they become “class conscious” and find themselves, musically. However long it takes.
If what these educators want sounds a bit like grooming, a little predatory, that’s because it is.
The problem is that adversarial role-play, like that of leftist academics Furr and Garelick, has little to do with reason, refutation or how the world actually is. It does, however, have a great deal to do with how those concerned wish to seem. In order to maintain a self-image of heroic radicalism - and in order to justify funding, influence and status - great leaps of imagination or paranoia may be required. Hence the goal posts of persecution tend to move and new and rarer forms of exploitation and injustice have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untutored eye. Thus, the rebel academic tends towards extremism, intolerance and absurdity, not because the mainstream of society is becoming more racist, prejudiced, patriarchal or oppressive – but precisely because it isn’t.
San Francisco’s radical nudists are remarkably needy. Your children must, simply must, see their genitals.
Imagine you’re out shopping with the kids in tow and having to weave your way through large groups of unattractive men waving their tackle at you. One doesn’t have to have “unrealistic issues of body shame” to find the exhibitionism tiresome or inappropriate. And the denials of any sexual aspect are also unconvincing, especially given that so many of the participants are enthusiasts of fetish clubs and websites catering to people who like public sex and scandalising others, and for whom the whole point is to have an audience, whether titillated or repelled. It’s rather like how the people at last year’s ‘protest’ claimed they just wanted to be left alone - while squealing for attention on a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection.
George Monbiot encounters the exotic underclass. Things go badly wrong.
Maybe George wrote the article to show us how difficult it is to be virtuous, indeed heroic, at least as he conceives such things. I suspect, though, that any moral lesson is quite different from the one intended. You see, George believes in sharing, by which of course he means taking other people’s stuff. Yet he’s remarkably unprepared for that favour being returned. Say, by two burly chaps with neck tattoos and ill-tempered dogs. And as these burly chaps were members of a “marginalised group,” and therefore righteous by default, George was expecting noble savages. Alas, ‘twas not to be.
As a lover of white truffles, a stereotypically upper class food, the rapper [Jay-Z] is bolstering a new kind of black identity.
That glorious caption is the work of a subeditor, but it’s perfectly attuned to the deep political musings of the article’s author, Ms Kieran Yates, who tells us:
Jay-Z has shelled out an eye-watering €15,000 on three kilos of white truffles on a recent holiday to Italy.
Before asking the question pressing heavily on no-one’s mind.
What does this extravagant detail say about the Jay-Z brand?
And then answering it, excitedly and with tremendous gravitas:
The term [bling] has always been political… This new kind of spending goes a long way to help his brand while bolstering a new kind of black identity.
There we go.
This “new kind of spending” - buying overpriced fungus - is much more radical than buying Rolex watches, ostentatious cars or cases of Cristal champagne. It’s a thrilling development in “black identity.”
Food has always been an issue in working class communities, and one of the first things you learn when you are finally allowed consumer power is that food that you once thought was off limits is in fact accessible. Jay-Z understands the cultural capital of food, and with his purchase he is showing the world that taste is not for the white elite to dictate.
Note the words allowed and dictate. And indeed white elite. Ms Yates, an English Literature graduate, has evidently learned to regurgitate the kind of airy, tendentious guff her lecturers expected.
What Jay-Z is in effect saying is that the world of decadent foodstuffs is not off limits – not to him, or to hip-hop culture. Assumptions are slowly being challenged.
See, radical and profound. One Guardian commenter helpfully distils the intellectual heft of this mighty opus:
BLACK MAN EATS TRUFFLES.
The fanciful pseudo-politics of “urban” music and rap paraphernalia are a Guardian staple, obviously, being as they are so daring and transgressive. Readers may recall Lanre Bakare, the recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, who tried to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among the insightful thinkers offered as guides was the well-heeled Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins, of whom, Mr Bakare said,
Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment,” making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.
In a later column, Mr Bakare urged us to believe that graffiti is deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Behaviour that our Guardianista would presumably find aggravating and costly to undo if done to him and his belongings should nonetheless be done to others because, well, it’s so edgy and countercultural. And let’s not forget Adam Harper’s apparent belief that “bobbing in time to the wacky syncopated beats and pitch-shifted vocals of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor” is some kind of radical act, especially when done within fifty yards of a police officer. Wacky, syncopated beats having only been discovered in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
I gather some of my readers are Bond enthusiasts. In which case, and with the new film looming, this audio documentary on the various Bond scores - and the long-running dispute over who wrote what - may be of interest. It’s an hour long but stay with it. There’s
plenty of period ephemera and some amusing revelations.
Belgian performance artists nail some culture into us.
Sweat is a performance piece by Peter De Cupere, choreographed by Jan Fabre, in which five narcissists spend fourteen minutes rolling about and jumping up and down - naked, obviously - while attempting to fill their transparent plastic overalls with all manner of body odour. “The intention,” we’re told, “is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distil it. The concrete of the sweat is sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat.” Yes, you can smell the sweat. If that’s not a good night out, I don’t know what is.
When being callous and vindictive is a badge of feminist virtue.
Male readers should note that - according to Amanda, her admirers and the ladies at Feministing - you have, and can have, no legitimate feelings on the subject of abortion, even if the images above were of something – or someone – you helped create. Except, that is, for the nasty, misogynist, controlling feelings that Amanda and her peers will assign to you, based solely on your gender.
Dr St John’s more recent and even more ambitious project is Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. For the heathens among you who don’t already subscribe, and for whom the terms noisecore and bloghouse are just strange and scary words, the Dancecult journal is “a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship on the shifting terrain of electronic dance music cultures (EDMCs) worldwide.” Its concerns are of course numerous and deep. Current gems include Media Studies lecturer Dr Hillegonda Rietveld’s Disco’s Revenge: House Music’s Nomadic Memory, an article rendered lofty by obligatory references to Deleuze, Guattari and de Sade, and which “addresses the role of house music as a nomadic archival institution,” one that is “keeping disco alive through a rhizomic assemblage of its affective memory in the third record of the DJ mix.” Some of you will, I’m sure, feel a strong urge to contribute, thereby helping to expand the boundaries of human knowledge on matters of great and pressing import.
“Passive overeating” is a global pandemic, so Guardianistas want the state to stop us eating.
Setting aside the surreal wording and overt authoritarianism, there’s something vaguely unpleasant about a group of richer people – say, left-leaning doctors, columnists and academics - demanding constraints and punitive taxes on proletarian food. Taxes and constraints that would leave themselves largely unaffected.
Guardian hearts Occupier. Said Occupier hearts smashing other people’s stuff.
Prior to smashing windows and hitting police officers with 8 foot long steel pipes, the Occupiers had gathered at an anarchist book fair, where leaflets and workshops promised a softer, fairer, fluffier world. (“Indigenous solidarity event with Native Resistance Network.” “Equal rights for all species.” “Children welcome!”) In this temple of warrior poets and ostentatious empathy, the “activist and educator” Cindy Milstein cooed over Occupy’s “direct democracy and cooperation”: “This compelling and quirky, beautiful and at times messy experimentation has cracked open a window on history, affording us a rare chance to grow these uprisings into the new landscape of a caring, ecological, and egalitarian society.” Occupy, says Milstein, is all about “facilitating a conversation in hopes of better strategizing toward increasingly expansive forms of freedom.” Its participants, we learn, are “non-hierarchical and anti-oppression.” See, it’s all fluff and twinkles. It’s just that some of the twinklers like to wear masks and balaclavas – the universal symbol of friendliness and caring - while trying to shatter glass onto Starbucks customers.
Bettina Camilla Vestergaard creates “an uninhibited space for creative thought and action.” Radical grass-tearing ensues.
Decenter was, we’re told, a place for artists who longed to escape “the choking effects of the market,” and who wished to air their “radical and uncompromising thoughts,” thereby creating “a more humanely oriented society.” You see, these precious flowers are choked by the market, implying as it does a reciprocal arrangement with the rube footing the bill. A parasitic relationship, in which the taxpayer has no say and is essentially irrelevant, is much more liberating.
The Guardian pines for radical pop stars who “threaten” the establishment. Like the peacenik who bankrolled the IRA.
Lennon also found time to lend his pop star gravitas to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, a Trotskyist cult apparently financed by those moral colossi Muammar al-Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, and which entranced such artistic luminaries as Corin and Vanessa Redgrave. The WRP’s ambitions included socialist revolution, the overthrow of private property and the replacement of the police by a “workers militia.” Imagine that. And hey, who wouldn’t feel threatened by a millionaire pop star sprawled on his peace bed high above Manhattan, singing a hymn to global totalitarianism and a world with “no possessions,” while his sidekick Yoko collected fur coats?
Zoe Williams denounces charity fundraiser and spits at people who don’t have “normal salaries.”
Normal salaries won’t of course cut much ice at an Ark Gala, where ticket sales alone raise millions of pounds. Even Zoe, whose former school sends well-heeled little socialists on trips to Rome, Morocco and Barbados, would be out of her league. Still, Zoe’s personal resentments are the important thing and these “obscenely” rich people should stop “creating inequality” while giving money away. Given time, the orphans of Romania will doubtless learn to do without while sharing in Ms Williams’ moral satisfaction.