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Jacobin: Walking on the Fighting Side of Me

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Were you thinking, I really need to know what Jacobin has to say about Merle Haggard? Probably not. Unfortunately, Jacobin decided to publish a Merle Haggard obituary of sorts, by Jonah Walters. It is, without exaggeration, the worst essay I have ever seen in that publication and one of the worst essays on music I have ever read. It is essentially an exercise in Aesthetic Stalinism, arguing that Merle Haggard was a terrible person and overrated artist because he was supposedly the voice of American reaction for a half-century. This is not only wrong politically, it’s wrong musically. Let’s break it down.

The America Merle Haggard sang about was an ugly, indefensible place, a revanchist fantasy where the democratizing momentum of the 1960s never swept from sinful coastline cities into the pure heart of the middle country; where history and politics remained untroubled by the presence of non-whites; where women existed only to break hearts and be heartbroken (generally in lonesome small-town diners); and where the most working-class people could hope for was martyrdom, not liberation.

This is ridiculous and just wrong. “Where history and politics remained untroubled by the presence of non-whites.” Huh. Well, what about “Irma Jackson”? What about “Go Home”? Both are songs about interracial relationships broken up by racists. Haggard actually wanted to release “Irma Jackson” instead of “Fighting Side of Me” as the followup to “Okie from Muskogee” but the record company overruled him. Yet such facts never get in Walters’ way. Merle was not singing about black oppression per se, but I don’t think that’s a reasonable standard by which to judge the politics of a musician. Moreover, there are plenty of minor songs that at least express a certain level of solidarity with working people of other races. For instance, “The Immigrant” off Haggard’s relatively minor 1978 album I’m Always on a Mountain When a Fall (“It’s Been a Great Afternoon” was the big hit on this album) is not particularly sophisticated or a great song but it’s a song about undocumented migrants that welcomes them into the country and hopes they will come back when they are inevitably deported. Walters’ argument on Merle Haggard’s catalog is absolutely incorrect.

As for the line about women, welcome to country music. And this is of course the real problem with Walters’ article. He is dismissive of country music as an art form because he doesn’t like the politics and considers the entire genre a revanchist fantasy. More on this later. Songs about heartbreak are the centerpiece of country music songwriting, especially before 1990. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette sang about women in these terms just as much as Merle Haggard or any other supposedly sexist male artist. One feels that Walters is the type of lefty who makes an exception for Johnny Cash, but dismisses the entire genre otherwise as the music of racists and sexists.

For Haggard, working-class allegiance meant political conservatism. He shape-shifted to suit the times, but never wavered in his reactionary posture. He was a hippie-hating hawk in the sixties and seventies, a dutiful Reaganite in the eighties, and a petulant chest-pounder during the first Gulf War, when he broke a mid-career spell of semi-obscurity with a song criticizing antiwar protesters. There are precious few lyrics in his songbook worth defending.

Now this my friends is what you call a selective timeline. Among other things, I wonder why Walters doesn’t discuss the Iraq War? Actually, he does, later in the article:

But no amount of waffling could challenge the red-blooded conservatism of his some of his fans, including the contemporary country star Toby Keith, whose Iraq War–mongering sing-along “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” was inspired by Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me.”

He blames Merle Haggard for Toby Keith. Interesting. I wonder if there were any county musicians who opposed the Iraq War? Oh yeah, this guy:

A new Merle Haggard song that is critical of the media’s coverage of the war in Iraq is being rushed to thousands of radio stations around the United States.

Tom Thacker, vice president of Hag Records, says the song “That’s the News” is generating intense interest around the country from media and fans.

“We’re mailing it out as we speak,” Thacker said. “It’s going to a broad range of stations.”

“It’s another one of Merle Haggard’s social commentaries,” he said. “This time it’s kind of opposed to the tone of ‘The Fightin’ Side of Me.”‘

Quite the unreconstructed right-winger there! There are other anti-Iraq War Haggard songs as well.

At the core of Walters’ analysis is that Haggard wasn’t the right kind of political artist. By representing white populism and not engaging in fantasies of global revolution, Haggard somehow sold out the American working class, who clearly didn’t want to hear his messages as he is only one of the most popular artists in the history of recorded music.

The same year, he released “Working Man’s Blues.” This was a year in which workers’ movements all over the world demanded a more just economy, replete with better entitlements and expanded leisure time.

But according to “Working Man’s Blues,” to be a proud member of the working class was to be a dutiful employee, arriving to work on time in the morning, drinking beer in the evening, and denying the need for welfare all the while.

First, saying “workers’ movements all over the world demanded a more just economy” is both true and not true at the same time. Yes, there were uprisings at Lordstown and elsewhere through the 1970s. But that doesn’t mean that a majority of workers believed such things per se, that they felt their popular music had to represent those viewpoints if they did, or that wanting to go home and drink a beer is somehow anti-political or antithetical to their interests. As I have stated elsewhere, one problem the labor left has is that it assumes an empowered worker is a worker who is going to spend their off-hours engaged in meetings for democratic unions or anti-racist meetings. Sometimes it is. It’s also empowering to be able to go home and watch a bad CBS comedy, or have time to watch your kid’s soccer game, if that’s what you want to do. Empowerment is not “do what I think you should do.” Empowerment actually means “you have choices to do what you want to do.”

Walters clearly has not actually read anything on Haggard either, which is too bad since the literature on him is voluminous. He mentions that Haggard played for Pat Nixon’s birthday in 1973 as central to his argument that Haggard was an unreconstructed conservative. What he doesn’t do is discuss how Haggard actually responded to that event. Jefferson Cowie does detail this event, in his great book Stayin’ Alive, which Walters desperately needs to read if he wants to write about the white working-class. Haggard described it as a horrible experience. He remembered, “I felt like I was coming out for hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.” That’s the evidence Walters should be using. But instead, the actual fact of Haggard playing at this event is a sign of his unreconstructed politics in this incredibly shallow essay.

Walters then goes on to somehow blame Haggard’s nostalgic songs about the 1980s as prepping for Reagan’s election but has no evidence at all to even begin supporting this point.

The point of course is not that Merle Haggard is a progressive hero. He’s not. Merle Haggard’s core belief was that he liked money. He acted accordingly. He wrote a wide variety of songs, some of which expressed conservative fantasies, others that expressed quite progressive and nuanced politics.

But for all too large swaths of the left, dealing with the actually existing white working class and their cultural forms is far more difficult than fantasizing about the idealized white working class in their minds. See this absurdity of a paragraph:

It’s a tragedy that Haggard adopted a regressive, individualistic politics of misplaced nostalgia. In other circumstances, his life experience might have guided him toward the opposite, toward a progressive politics of collective action.

This is Jacobin magazine, a magazine hoping to spawn a new revolutionary politics. You might call it a tragedy that white people don’t generally respond to cross-racial collective action, but the point if you believe that should not be that Merle Haggard represents everything wrong with America because he didn’t write songs from the precise political perspective you personally espouse. It should be that we need to learn from Haggard’s songs to tap into tenets of white populism where the left might build a broader class-based politics. But so often on the left, talking about the white working class as they actually exist, turns into a snobbish dismissal, whether of actual people or of their cultural forms. That this essay is being published at the same time that the same magazine has published many essays supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders is quite telling. As the 2016 elections have shown, we are in a moment of an upsurge of white populism. A lot of it has supported Trump. But not all of it. Sanders has had some success among the white working class. He’s the kind of politician that can provide a real voice for white working-class people. Jacobin supports that, but seems to also lack actual white working-class voices that make these people real. It’s easy for the left to talk about the working-class from a generalized perspective. But Walters’ essay shows how quickly many leftists fall into a knee-jerk belief that the actual living breathing white working class is a political failure and thus evaluates their cultural forms from that perspective. Walters attempts to avoid this in his last paragraph:

We can defend the millions of Americans — many of them poor, rural, and neglected — who find comfort and companionship in Merle Haggard’s music without defending Haggard himself, because we understand what Haggard didn’t: together we can build a just, prosperous world for the future, rather than simply imagining one in the past.

“We understand what Haggard didn’t” is perhaps the most condescending phrase of all time. It screams of “let me tell you, poor whites, what the real and correct politics are.” It says that Haggard’s songs, or at least the few cherry-picked songs to support this essay and not the actual catalog of Merle Haggard, are actually wrong and we now know better. In union organizing training, you are taught to listen carefully to the people you are talking to and build arguments for unions based upon their concerns, not your concerns and your talking points. This is good advice. I have to feel that Jonah Walters would be a terrible organizer if that was his job because he would condescend rather than listen, spout talking points rather than consider the real desires of the people he was organizing.

Jonah Walters’ article is a failure as a piece of musical journalism. It’s a failure at understanding that art and the artist’s biography are not the same thing. It’s a failure as a history of Merle Haggard. It’s a failure as a political argument. It’s a failure at understanding anything about the white working class. It is an absolutely terrible essay and Jacobin should be ashamed to have published it. This feels more appropriate to be published with the recent anti-white working-class articles at The National Review than in a leftist publication.

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  • ThusBloggedAnderson

    Thanks for this post. It’s so abusive to erase the reality of a person in order to make him a Punch & Judy character one can beat with a stick.

    … How is the article different from Jacobin in general? Every time I clicked on one of their links, it led me to an exercise in fantasy politics of leftist purity.

    • DilbertSucks

      Yeah, I’ve found it very difficult to find much of value among contemporary Marxists. It mostly seems to be an exercise in moral posturing and self-preening and harsher denunciations of pragmatism/centrism than of the right. That recent horrendous Vox article on “liberal smugness” was likewise written by a Marxist. Considering how poorly edited it was, I was aghast to realize that guy is Vox’s First Person editor. I guess that also explains why they published that ridiculous essay by the Cinema Studies Ph.D who supports Trump.

      • Considering how poorly edited it was

        The Not-Remotely-Smug Marxist Vox editor said on Twitter the other day that over 6K words were cut from the piece before publication. And it’s still a hot mess.

        • kped

          Dear lord, as it is that thing is over 7,000 words. This clown actually wrote an additional 6K? And they were deemed not good enough, compared to the crap that got posted??? What was it, links to his youtube videos and rapping cartoon cats?

          • ColBatGuano

            Hey, he managed to write 7000 words on the current state of U.S. politics without mentioning race once. It’s sort of an accomplishment.

            • kped

              And a big part of it is about realignment! To omit race from the discussion is a thing of beauty.

      • Scott Lemieux

        That recent horrendous Vox article on “liberal smugness”

        God was that fucking terrible.

        • apogean

          Can we have an OT to discuss that article because I reaaaaally need to bitch about it.

          • tonycpsu

            My first thought upon reading that piece (well, to be honest, after reading the first thirty thousand words and skimming the rest) was “boy, I can’t wait until someone at LGM murders this thing.” But honestly, with something so self-refuting — even setting aside Vox as the venue for a treatise against anti-smugness — I’m not sure anything more than pointing and laughing is warranted.

            • apogean

              Well, there’s a style of liberal discourse that DOES have the horrible aspects of elitism and snobbery combined with ignorance that he identifies. I hate those people with a fiery passion, and I’d love to see more robust norms against that kind of behavior. Let’s leave stupid smug elitism to Republican patricians.

              So I appreciate people talking about it, and therefore was even more furious at the ten-thousand word steaming pile he excreted.

              • tonycpsu

                Snobbery, elitism, and “smugness” is one of those few behaviors in politics where “both sides do it” actually applies. I’ll put Kevin Williamson, Rod Dreher, Bill Kristol, David Brooks, and Erick von Erickson up against any starting five of smug liberals you can field.

                Do liberals point and laugh more when they have verifiable facts on their side? Perhaps, but that’s simply because we have facts on our side more often. What is one to do when Reaganomics fails every empirical test but is still cited as gospel, or when Fox News is pointing to snow in April as irrefutable evidence against anthropogenic climate change? How would the discourse be improved by treating these arguments as if they have merit?

                • apogean

                  I’m not disagreeing with any of that! I think we can be better than that, is all. So I welcome that argument when framed as self-criticism. I just think the author failed at that in every possible way.

                • apogean

                  see above for an instructive example in the dangers of indefinite pronouns

            • kped

              Check out Slate, Jamelle Bouie murdered it and tossed it’s corpse out the back door.

        • galanx

          Yes, it was, but wasn’t he saying the exact same thing that Loomis is saying here? Bitching about condescending white leftists like the author of the Jacobin article who look down on working-class white folk and their culture

    • They sometimes have some good-to-outstanding stuff from people who are leftists but not caught up in any kind of neo-orthodoxy. But they’ll also put out stuff that’s truly horrid. Not like Marxism Today or whatever that Brit publication was that did the defenses of Lukashenko and Milosevic about 10 years ago, but bad nevertheless.

      They’ve published some pieces on US political history that were quite bad.

      • Ronan

        I like some of their stuff. The magazine articles are generally better than the website posts. Their next issue is on the 1916 irish rising , which Ive ordered, and looks decent so far. I’m sure it will be selling the Jacobin party line and misrepresenting the history in larger part, but that’s built into pretty much all middle Brow magazine critiques

  • wjts

    Songs about heartbreak are the centerpiece of country music songwriting, especially before 1990.

    And that’s the problem. Good musicians don’t write songs about heartbreak.

    • ThrottleJockey

      As for the line about women, welcome to country ALL music.

      FIFY.

      • Fair enough

      • Ronan

        I was going to say the same thing. But even beyond that, romantic relationships are pretty central to human life. As is the sadness when one ends. It’s not really my cup of tea, the maudlin self pity that follows unrequited love/a break up, but it’s not an unusual human emotion
        Reminds me of a recent critique (on a salon roundtable, or something) of the song “baby it’s cold outside”, which was (rightly) claimed to be problematic. But the amount of chinstroking was quite something, I couldn’t put my finger on where I’d heard it before..but then it occurred to me that it was in Sayyid Qutb’s critique of America. The song Baby its cold outside was literally one of his central arguments for US degeneracy. So the modern left seem to be aesthetic Islamist, if anything.

        • LeeEsq

          I didn’t know that Sayyid Qutb got into a frenzy about Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Thanks for that little bit of trivia.

          A big problem is that one person’s harmless fun is another person’s evil degeneracy. For many people, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is just a fun song about seduction and for a lot of people seduction, the lowering of artificial and natural barriers by flirting and other methods, is a very important part of romance and sex. Other people can’t stand seduction because it seems morally repugnant since it doesn’t honor the concept of consent. Yes should mean yes and no should mean no and that is that. Most of us on this blog fall on the latter side but there are many people who believe in the former. This can lead to some radically different interpretations of songs.

          • galanx

            Let me guess it wasn’t the date-rape spiking of the drink part that bothered him.

            • LeeEsq

              Ask Ronan, I didn’t find out about Qutb hating the song until he pointed it out. My guess was that Qutb thought the mere thought of a single woman being able to spend time with a single man unaccompanied by any relative acting as chaperone hopelessly degenerate.

            • Ronan

              His main complaint was the church dance, women using their bodies to seduce the men, and the debauchery as the lights were turned down low. On baby it’s cold outside his main bone of contention (although it was phrased neutrally enough) was that the boy brought the girl home , then wouldn’t leave her leave without harassing her.

              • Ronan

                In the section a hot night at the church here

                https://archive.org/stream/SayyidQutb/The%20America%20I%20have%20seen#page/n12/mode/1up

                In fairness to qutb, this was just his initial semi gut reaction to the US. He expanded his critique and ideology over the years. I was only having a bit of fun, but he’s not really a clown (afaik). Some of the above is quite interesting.

                • LeeEsq

                  It seems standard bog puritanical for me. The stuff we would make fun of relentlessly if it was made by a White Christian. Since Sayyid Qutb is an Arab Muslim it seems more interesting. Egypt and the Arab world was more more socially conservative than the United States at the time Qutb visited the United States even among people less religious than Qutb. What was probably really innocuous partner dancing even back than by American standards came across as really hot to him because it was something he did not see before, especially in a religious institution, and because he thought it was a sin.

                • Ronan

                  It’s not particularly interesting as an analysis or critique, I agree, but as an insight into the mind of a man who became a quite important ideological figure it’s..at least noteworthy.
                  The passage above is bog standard Puritanism in part, but it’s also tied into an evolving larger critique of not only American society and mores, but their relationship to their religion , which he saw as superficial , a social activity devoid of any spiritual or collective sophistication , or political relevance. All that helped develop his to solution western hegemony, the politically powerful community of believers in opposition to western material strength but cultural and religious “primitivness” . Afaik anyway

                • LeeEsq

                  It seems more like Qutb could not understand Christianity and was not inquisitive enough to ask. Islam like Judaism is technically supposed to cover every aspect of your life. Christianity really isn’t. There are some Christian denominations that do try to cover everything or most of life like the more devote Evangelicals. Most denominations do give a lot of leeway though.

          • Origami Isopod

            for a lot of people seduction, the lowering of artificial and natural barriers by flirting and other methods, is a very important part of romance and sex.

            Yes, a lot of people have fucked-up notions about sexuality and romance. “Getting her drunk” used to be nothing but a joke, and I’m glad that feminists and our allies have started to call that rape.

    • Keaaukane

      Good song selection. My only complaint is that there is a different video of so sad about us showing the Who playing at the Marquee Club. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WeBTWEFn_M

      Watching Moon drum is a joy. I thought that one would have been a better pick. YMMV.

      • wjts

        I think the sound quality is better on the one I used, but you’re right: it’s always fun to watch Keith Moon play the drums.

        • Keaaukane

          Fair enough.

    • Jon Binkley

      Not to mention that two-bit hack Franz Schubert.

    • rea

      Good musicians don’t write songs about heartbreak

      They sure don’t

    • nixnutz

      I think even Billy Bragg has about six love songs for every explicit call for labor solidarity.

      • wjts

        I’m pretty sure “A Nurse’s Life is Full of Woe” counts as both.

  • wjts

    Jonah Walters has almost mastered the lost art of the MIM Movie Review:

    Guidelines for MIM reviews

    1. When MIM disapproves of a movie or song today, even in today’s politically backward conditions, it means that that work is especially backward and will only look more so if the political situation advances enough to put MIM in power. Hence, when we disapprove of something we mean to ban it upon seizure of state power. Reviewers should keep that in mind and avoid a strictly academic or review- for-its-own-sake approach. It means keeping in mind what the masses will turn to instead if we ban a particular cultural work.

    2. Reviewers should criticize all reactionary aspects of a cultural work, but they should indicate whether or not the work is progressive overall, again so the party can promote the progressive and reject the backwards.

    3. If the reviewer can suggest alterations that would redeem the cultural work in question, that is best. There is as of now a terrible shortage of revolutionary culture.

    4. The party has yet to approve a specific percentage of films and music that it believes should be banned. This will be a task of a future party congress. Judging from reviews done so far, I would guesstimate it appears that MIM would ban 95% of existing performing arts culture. To prepare for such a party congress decision, all people can undertake the same exercise. The next time in the video store, make a judgement what portion of movies can be banned with no one missing them or with society being improved. We invite public input. Send a message to [email protected] on your opinion of what percentage of movies or songs should be banned in their current form.

    5. Don’t forget to include concrete details like year produced, title, length in time, movie G-PG-R-X rating etc. in your individual reviews.

    • ThusBloggedAnderson

      oh very good.

    • Malaclypse

      Those reviews are timeless. I’ll always like Tank Girl‘s best.

      All in all “Tank Girl” is about the best culture were going to see under imperialism. The film deserves to be watched, and maybe some comrades would make fan fiction of a communist and/or lesbian Tank Girl?

      Because nothing advances the revolution like wank-fic.

      • “If I can’t wank, I don’t want to be part of your revolution!”

      • Origami Isopod

        Not all fanfic is “wank-fic.” Not all of it is sexually explicit, and some of it doesn’t focus on romantic relationships at all.

  • Murc

    I dunno, Erik. I mean, you do damn near all the things that this post decries on a regular basis. Half of your content here on LGM is telling people their politics are bad, their lifestyle choices are bad, their understanding of history is wrong, and that they should change all those things.

    This isn’t to say that you’re wrong exactly, but it seems a bit… off.

    • I think there’s a difference between a few joke posts about condiments and detailed political and historical analyses on one hand and condescending hit pieces on the other.

      • Murc

        Well, Jonah Walters clearly thinks he’s doing a detailed and political historical analyses, right?

        It seems like your beef with him essentially is that he’s, well… wrong. Wrong as a matter of facts, priors, and analyses. And where he’s not wrong he’s mendacious.

        Which is fine, because he is, but you say a lot of things that imply what he’s doing is illegitimate and would be so even if he were correct.

        And it seems like you oversimplify a lot of stuff. Like, you spend a lot of time telling people what correct politics are. You spend a lot of time dismissing peoples concerns that are very real (to them) as unworthy of being addressed, but only of being defeated.

        And it’s okay that you do that. Walters is trying to do the same thing, it’s just that he’s getting it wrong, not that the endeavor itself is.

        • ThusBloggedAnderson

          There’s wrong, which happens to all of us.

          And there’s lazy, stupid, are-you-fucking-kidding-me wrong.

        • Yankee

          It’s the marketplace of ideas, isn’t it. Buy your tacos at whatever stand looks sanitary to you.

  • Dr. Waffle

    I have a self-identified leftist friend who wrote off “white feminism” (whatever that means) because Hillary Clinton cameoed on “Broad City,” and dislikes Ta-Nehisi Coates because he’s too “bougie” (i.e. he lives in Paris and likes/writes comic books). He’d fit right in at Jacobin!

    • ThrottleJockey

      Is he black? I only ask because I’ve never heard a white person use the word bougie.

      • Dr. Waffle

        Oh, God no. He’s as white as can be. And weirdly enough, I only ever hear white leftists use that term. Which usually results in me tuning out whatever else they have to say.

        • ThrottleJockey

          White, leftists, really ? Good God I’m getting old!

      • Thom

        My white college students use that term, at least some of them do.

        • brewmn

          Once again , cultural imperialism rearing its ugly head.

      • UserGoogol

        Ironically I’m fairly sure I learned the word bougie from Ta-Nehisi Coates, but yeah I hear white people (who are rather left) using it too.

        • Patick Spens

          It wouldn’t surprise me if Coates was actually patient zero for the whole “white people using bougie” thing. That’s certainly where I heard it from.

          • nixnutz

            I learned it from a Black, Communist roommate of mine in about 1991. I don’t really use it though, I’d need a pretty specific context and certainly I’d never use it to criticize a Black person, that would be crazy presumptuous.

        • Gareth

          I first heard it on Glee, from an Hispanic character.

      • Johnny Sack

        How do you get a leftist to dance? Put a little bougie in him.

  • BGinCHI

    THIS, plus the previous post, is why I read this blog.

    Plus, almost no animal/pet pics.

    • Murc

      This blog could use more cat pictures. SEK needs to get on that.

      • Origami Isopod

        Cat pics, also dog pics, also bunny pics.

  • Ransom Stoddard

    Wow, this is really nasty. I have a hard time imagining Jacobin running such disgustingly one sided classist commentary after the death of prominent hip-hop artist.

    • Yep. Not a chance in the world.

    • ThrottleJockey

      That’s probably true. There’s a disappointing tendency among some on the left to treat Hip Hop differently then it would other genres. Call this an excess of political correctness coalition-building but it is what it is. Back when Lord had her big hit Royals, which critiqued the conspicuous consumerism expressed in hip hop, I was struck by this commentary by young black woman on feministing:

      While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist. Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? Why aren’t we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East? Why not take to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality? I’m gonna take a guess: racism.

      Now I’m a huge rap fan, and I love me Biggie and Drake and Tupac and P Diddy, and 50 Cent, etc but I’m not going to make excuses for their lyrics any more than I would make excuses for enjoying the Godfather films or Nightmare on Elm Street. I don’t expect my media to reflect my personal politics any more than I expect my sports teams to reflect my personal politics. This might be wrong for some people but I think it’s okay if we have guilty pleasures.

      • ThrottleJockey
        • Origami Isopod

          Read the comments, many of which were from Kiwis. They back up rea’s assertion here that the context of the song is New Zealand, not the United States.

      • sleepyirv

        I read something similar to this when Royals came out. I mean, Royals (which music video makes very explicit) is about white suburbia malaise post-recession while hip-hop is mainly about black wish fulfillment, so they are in natural conflict, it does not necessarily mean either underlying impulses (honesty and wish fulfillment) are wrong. Just of a different nature. It certainly doesn’t make Royals racist.

        • rea

          Bear in mind that those are a bunch of teens from New Zealand.

      • eh

        Ironic that both Country and Hip Hop (along with Soul and R&B) valorize women artists much more than just about every other style of Western popular music since the decline of vocal acts.

        • kped

          Man…if that’s the standard (Country and hip hop), then the industry is awful for women. Can anyone name another female rapper not named Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azelia? Can anyone name a current female country singer (and no, Taylor Swift does not count)? Maybe years ago your statement would be true, but today? Not even a little.

          The only genre (and that’s a loose term) that treats women in music favorable is pop music (Rihanna, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, etc).

          • Origami Isopod

            Can anyone name another female rapper not named Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azelia?

            Angel Haze.

      • Gareth

        It’s probably relevant that we have very few black people in New Zealand, and they’re from completely different cultures than African-Americans. The “gold teeth” thing is talking about annoying Americans, not black people in general. Full disclosure, I actually have a gold tooth, but for strictly medical reasons.

    • Scott Lemieux

      “Prince opposed same-sex marriage. ‘Raspberry Beret’ did nothing to advance socialism. All in all, he was a run-of-the-mill conservative.”

      • “Having achieved control over his own means of production, he could have escaped alienation and fostered solidarity among the oppressed classes, but instead he just held dance parties. He could have read Adorno, but instead he danced with Goldman.”

      • Hob

        “Did nothing to advance socialism”? You’re being far too kind; “Raspberry Beret” is obviously an anthem of bourgeois reaction.

        The first verse briefly flirts with populist resentment of the boss, Mr. McGee, but that’s just to distract you from the monstrous anti-labor sentiments of the rest of the song– as Prince goes on to praise the object of his desire for wearing a second-hand beret. In other words, why support Americans working in the beret industry when you can just pick up the cast-off berets of well-off bohemians for a few bucks? Worse, her hedonistic lifestyle is basically an excuse to disparage garment workers in general, since other than the beret she wears as little clothing as possible.

        There’s another false hint of more promising political content when the young protagonists head for Mr. Johnson’s farm. Is it to organize his laborers? If only. Perhaps they plan to do some farm work themselves? Not even. Their goal is to erase all understanding of a “barn” as a locus of collective economic activity and cultural tradition, and redefine it as simply a private source of entertainment for tourists who want to “feel like a movie star” and vapidly marvel that “the rain sounds so cool.” No wonder “the horses wonder who U are” (and by the way, did U ever stop to wonder who they are?)– this entitled consumerist outlook makes it clear that Prince’s real class identification is with Mr. McGee.

        • Awe at how good that is, or horror that you could inhabit that worldview well enough to so effectively lampoon it? Hmmm…

        • wjts

          Brilliant.

        • Hob

          It’s not perfect, I feel I could have done more with the Mr. McGee theme, maybe by suggesting that the narrator really does agree with the boss’s critique of his “leisurely” ways and that’s why he took that bicycle trip. That might help to reinforce the idea that the critic has no idea the song is about sex at all. Also I probably could have come up with some theory about how McGee isn’t just an Irish name but specifically Scots-Irish and so Prince’s character is really doing the bidding of English colonialists.

          • wjts

            Well, they’re never perfect, in large part because they tend to get fired off pretty quickly with pretty minimal proofreading and revision. And in my experience, it’s generally better to have them be shorter and less expansive than they could be but with a handful of well-developed and supported bits than it is to over-egg the pudding by padding the comment with a few extra jokes that you can’t develop as well in your head in the few minutes it takes to write one of these things.

      • slothrop

        You’ve listened to Sign ‘O’ the Times, like 90x. Hilarious. You’re an adult , now.

        Prince was too shiny, bright – the songs somewhat detectably better than Michael Jackson, or Thompson Twins, Simply Red, or Merle Haggard.

        Conservatives don’t do art. They just can’t; ergo, you are right wing.

        • Hob

          slothrop: May I ask who you’re responding to and what you’re talking about?

          • Johnny Sack

            It’s got a kind of surrealist quality to it. Really terrific in a way.

    • Origami Isopod

      Jacobin, probably not. I could see The Baffler doing it, though.

  • petesh

    Not. Getting. Out. Of. The. Boat. But thanks for the rebuttal.

  • Pseudonym

    Does Jacobin want to run all artistic endeavors by the Committee for the Promotion of Socialist Virtue and the Prevention of Capitalist Vice before allowing them to be published?

    • Mike G

      I’m eagerly awaiting his review of the North Korean documentary “Let’s Cut Our Hair In Accordance With Socialist Lifestyle”.

  • gurkle2

    This has become a pretty common thing in online criticism. The Jungle Book produced a bunch of thinkpieces on Kipling by people who a) had only the most superficial acquaintance with his work, usually to the extent of quoting “White Man’s Burden” a lot, b) assured us that because of was racist and pro-imperialist, nothing he wrote can be of any value. But there’s a lot of stuff like that.

    It’s getting harder to sell the idea that something can incorporate “problematic” ideas and still have something true to tell us. It hits us harder when we really like someone’s work (as E.L. really likes Haggard) and we recognize that the attack is superficial. But even a lot of the pushback (not in this post, but elsewhere) turns into “if you look at it from another point of view, this is really progressive.” Rather than “art doesn’t have to be progressive to teach us something true.”

    • Rather than “art doesn’t have to be progressive to teach us something true.”

      Yes.

      • Vance Maverick

        This is helpful in thinking through some stuff about Knausgaard. The way he presents himself (in My Struggle) is not exactly pleasant — a bit rightwing, a bit sexist, a bit selfish, etc. If he were criticizing these things from another standpoint, that would be valid, I suppose, but not as interesting as the actual critique in the books, which is from his own point of view. The perspective changes, because he changes, but we never stand at some Archimedean point of leverage outside himself.

        This is clearest to me in Vol. 4, a fairly self-contained story of a year when he was about 19. It’s full of adolescent sexual tension, culminating in an impressively crass locker-room boast of an episode at a music festival. Some of the people I recommended it to found it beyond the pale, and I hadn’t worked out why I didn’t.

        Demanding that he renounce himself would weaken the books.

        • Johnny Sack

          I guess you think they’re good if you’re on Book 4. So you would recommend Knausgaard’s My Struggle? I was gonna start reading it but I had no idea what to think.

          • Vance Maverick

            Yes, very much. It’s not perfect, but mostly strong and often excellent, and original in ways I’m still trying to put words to. Sheila Heti made the basic point about the absence of a privileged retrospective standpoint – it’s not life as it seems looking back from 45, rather (seemingly) life as it seemed at he was living it, with perspective supplied by moving the narrative back and forth in time.

            ETA: starting vol. 5 now….

    • petesh

      The new movie is worth discussing, I think, but I’d leave Kipling out of it (I haven’t kippled for decades). Technically, it’s extraordinary, and several of the voice-overs are brilliant, notably Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, both of whom — amazingly — are once again better heard than seen. Some of the politics, however, are deeply problematic, especially the repeated implication/statement that dumb animals all really want to be humans. Not so much racist as speciesist, I suppose, but truly childish and unnecessary. I suppose I could get into the individualistic vs communitarian overtones, but mostly I just enjoyed the spectacle.

      • Denverite

        I’m about to go see it with eleven children (in lieu of a birthday party), so provided I make it, I’ll let you know.

      • The Dark Avenger

        Look for the bare necessities
        The simple bare necessities
        Forget about your worries and your strife
        I mean the bare necessities
        Old Mother Nature’s recipes
        That brings the bare necessities of life

        Wherever I wander, wherever I roam
        I couldn’t be fonder of my big home
        The bees are buzzin’ in the tree
        To make some honey just for me
        When you look under the rocks and plants
        And take a glance at the fancy ants
        Then maybe try a few
        The bare necessities of life will come to you
        They’ll come to you!

      • I think it’s probably too silly to be worth discussing. It was fun, but Zootopia was better. I also disagree about Murray, because (1) he was reprising his role from Meatballs pretty much exactly, and (2) having him not steal every scene, physically, or having him steal the scene in a different way than usual, was distracting.

        • Denverite

          Agreed re: superiority of Zootopia. The child actor just didn’t have the chops. I’m not sure what can be done, but adults really just can’t write for kids. As is painfully aware for those of us who live with kids. The movie was very good, and technically excellent, but the kid “ruined” it for me.

          I was also a bit but off by some of the zoological inaccuracies. What were African elephants doing in India? Grey wolves? Chimps? Didn’t Gigantopithecus go extinct 100,000 years ago?

          I did think Murray was excellent. Elba, too. Can we please get the man a four movie gig as James Bond before he’s in his fifties?

          • wjts

            Didn’t Gigantopithecus go extinct 100,000 years ago?

            No. What do you think Bigfoot is?

      • ThusBloggedAnderson

        apparently new movie follows old movie, i.e. very little Kipling in it. FBOW.

        (Kipling is of course in the dictionary under “problematic,” but my dad had me memorizing his poems when I was 7.)

    • Hogan

      Orwell’s essay on Kipling (and the other stuff collected in Dickens, Dali and Others) is a nice example of that.

  • wjts

    It’s also empowering to be able to go home and watch a bad CBS comedy, or have time to watch your kid’s soccer game, if that’s what you want to do.

    The canonical formulation is, “Maybe watch a little Mork and Mindy on Channel 57, maybe kick back a cool Coors 16-ouncer”.

    • Denverite

      Boulder show, Golden beer. Maybe grab some Qdoba or something, right?

      • wjts

        Do you know what the Qdobas are doing to the soil?

        • eh

          Well played, Stuart!

          • galanx

            Real white-working-class Merle-Haggard-listening men don’t watch soccer. Cherles Murray tells me they don’t even watch football, baseball or (especially) basketball- it’s gotta be NASCAR.

  • medrawt

    I don’t read Jacobin, but this is not the first time they’ve written moronic things about great artists based on a lot of ignorance and a dollop of political conviction. Consider John Halle’s “Jazz After Politics” from two years ago, which pivots from a critique of a WashPo “Here’s Why I Don’t Like Jazz and You Shouldn’t Either” piece into one of its own, holding up jazz specifically for not being politically interesting while completely failing to signal any awareness or substantive engagement with the music as made in the last forty years … peaking with a swipe at the “ignorance” displayed by Joe Henderson recording the wrong standard from the Great American Songbook, “Without a Song.”

    Because the original lyric opens with the line “A darkie’s born.” What Halle did not know, and certainly did not find relevant when pointed out to him, was that the great (black) popular jazz singer Billy Eckstine recorded “Without A Song” and changed “darkie” to “man,” and it was certainly that recording which was known by basically any jazz instrumentalist of the next generation who recorded that number (including Sonny Rollins).

  • Thom

    In the period after the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP) were unbanned and were in negotiations, one of the leading intellectuals from the movement, a lawyer named Albie Sachs, later a member of the Constitutional Court, wrote an essay called “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom.” In it, he argued that people in the movement had to get over the idea that art was necessarily in service of politics, instead arguing for creativity in pursuit of a wider conception of freedom. One of the best lines in the essay is, “Can it be that once we join the ANC we do not make love anymore, that when the comrades go to bed they discuss the role of the white working class?” Editors at Jacobin should read this essay.

  • Bootsie

    It seems like there’s a contingent of the American left that has an aneurysm at the idea that you don’t need to be Trotsky every waking moment.

    • Origami Isopod

      Plus ça change.

      But, really, this kind of thinking isn’t limited to the left. It stands out more on the left because (a) the right controls the political discourse, and (b) the left is far more anti-authoritarian than the right.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Maybe I’ll do a separate post on this, but what offends me most is the reduction of Haggard to fewer than a dozen songs, most of them (unlike “Okie” and “Fightin'”) minor ones marginal to his legacy. In addition to stuff like “Irma Jackson,” any serious analysis of Haggard would seriously consider his great prison songs, his compassionate working-class songs like “If We Make It Through December,” the goofy environmentalist utopianism of “Rainbow Stew,” etc. etc., all of which are as important to his art is the jingoist and reactionary stuff. The real Haggard is so much more interesting than this ill-informed caricature.

  • LWA

    I’ve noticed that its pretty common for the left to have a difficult time engaging with the actual American proletariat.
    I remember back in the 70’s the best example was Norman Lear’s All In The Family.
    The liberal character, Mike Stivic, could probably expound for hours on the plight of the proletariat. Yet he lived with an actual working class prole, and hated him.

    It isn’t hypocrisy, its more a lack of engagement and interaction. I doubt there are any farmworkers or meat packing plant workers writing for Jacobin in their spare time.

    Its similar to how often white people insist on speaking on behalf of black people, rather than step back and giving the mic to actual black people to speak in their own voice.

    Rednecks, like black people, are not noble suffering victims, they have their own agency and complexity and are as prone to assholish behavior as anyone else.

    • Downpuppy

      The ability to take pride in assholish behavior is central to being a redneck, idnit?

      • Patick Spens

        Nope, but this comment is an excellent example of what LWA was talking about.

        • Downpuppy

          You may be unaware that redneck is a flat out insult that has been somewhat coopted through exaggeration.

    • Ronan

      I see it differently. I don’t think disliking your redneck roommate can be generalised to not liking “the working class.” But even beyond that, imagine there is some group called “the working class” who you can, and do, dislike . But you support policies that improve their position. This, imo, is a positive. The left these days are too hung up on “liking” demographics, supporting is better. I can dislike your lifestyle but support your right to engage in it. Dislike your values and cultural references but support your right to prosper and live a comfortable fulfilling life.

      Edit: I don’t know what the original comment had to do with the Jacobin article though, which was neither talking for the working class, or claiming they don’t have “agency” or aren’t prone to “assholish behaviour”(it seemed to be saying the opposite afaict)

    • I remember back in the 70’s the best example was Norman Lear’s All In The Family.
      The liberal character, Mike Stivic, could probably expound for hours on the plight of the proletariat. Yet he lived with an actual working class prole, and hated him.

      Er…this completely mischaracterises All in the Family.

      First, I don’t think it’s at all try that Mike hates Archie. He certainly doesn’t hate his mother in law.

      Second, Archie is pretty abusive to Mike, e.g., regularly referring to him as “Meathead”.

      Third, it seems pretty clear that a lot of the conflict is situational, rather than ideological. That is the ideological disputes are often (not always!) driven by the underlying tension of sharing a house (plus, religious and ethic differences, plus being a student thus dependent on Archie’s income, etc. etc.)

      (One of their most memorable arguments was a dispute about whether one should put one’s socks and shoes on in sock sock shoe shoe order or sock shoe sock shoe order. There were appeals to what would happen if there was a fire. It was pretty hilarious.)

      • Schadenboner

        What’s to argue about? Sock-Sock-Shoe-Shoe is the only possible way, it allows for the easiest error checking to avoid mismatch.

    • prplmnkydw

      I think there is something here. It is one thing to feel bad for, advocate for, and try and support policies that improve the conditions of the poor. It is another to live in a poor neighborhood with all the petty (or less petty) crime, bad conditions, etc. Not all of these are generated by the poor, but some are. It turns out sometimes uneducated, desperate people who grew up in crummy conditions aren’t the easiest people to get along with.

  • LeeEsq

    People who have a very ideological way of seeing the world are going to not like anything they perceive going against that ideology. It’s the secular equivalent of religious people that hate all entertainment that doesn’t preen to their religion.

    • slothrop

      Marxists aren’t ideologues, dummy, though we’re sometimes known for a rainy-day soteriological dreaminess when we watch the water drip from the rusted gutters.

      • sharculese

        #notallMarxists

      • wjts

        “Marxists aren’t ideologues, dummy,” says the dummy who claims conservatives are incapable of making art.

        • slothrop

          Gimme one. Though, I grant you the abominable need to purchase tax-cutting pols if you’ve actually made a bundle selling music.

          I’ll go Adorno on this and say that great art reveals suffering. Conservatives are sadists.

          • Gareth

            C S Lewis.

            • C. S. Lewis was most certainly a sadist: one of his unbearably smug apologetics gets quite enthusiastic about the need for the wicked to suffer eternally in Hell. Fuck him.

              • wjts

                I’m not a fan of the man’s theology or apologetics, but he was a legitimately talented and engaging writer.

                • Karen24

                  He’s one of my favorite writers even though I reject all of his politics. Also, Lucy was the best character in the Narnia books.

                • wjts

                  Lucy doesn’t even crack the Objective Top Five of Reepicheep, Jill Pole, Polly Plummer, Digory Kirke, and Puddleglum. She might be the best Pevensie, but I’m more inclined to give that title to Susan.

                • Karen24

                  Granted Reepicheep, who despite being a rodent and therefore loathsome — I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ farm, so rats and mice were never adorable to me — is still one of the greatest characters in children’s lit. Jill and the two kids from “Magician’s Nephew” I’ll agree are as good as Lucy.

              • galanx

                Disclaimer: I had a mad crush on Jill Pole from the age of eight to…now?

                Not only was Lewis a sadist, he was actually a sadist- in the sexual sense, signing his adolescent letters Philomastix (lover of the whip) and described in great detail what he wanted to do to the rounded bottoms of schoolgirls (nothing queer about old C.S.), mostly involving canes and hairbrushes.

                There’s evidence it stuck with him, as our sexual prclivities tend to do- some of his writings after the marriage to Joy Davidson; his description of watching an orientalisque play involving sadism- his brother Warnie walked out, but Jack ‘forced’ himself to sit through it (Flecker’s “Hassan”? Lewisian scholars, get on to this) saying something like “So you’ve thought you liked this all your life; well now you have to sit through it” (Wilson’s biography)

                • galanx

                  OTOH, in some of his writings he is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of eternal damnation, but kicks the can down the road by taking refuge in the “It’s a mystery; trust in the Lord’s Goodness” line.

                • wjts

                  Nothing to add to your substantive points, but I first read your comment as, “…marriage to Joy Division…” and was really confused for a second.

                • Hob

                  in some of his writings he is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of eternal damnation

                  Yeah, anyone who thinks (as Lee says above) that Lewis was happy to write off sinners as devil-food, or that he thought himself a good judge of others’ souls, hasn’t read The Great Divorce.

                  Also, what you call kicking the can down the road is what a lot of Christians call an essential component of their faith. Some things really are mysteries, if you’re that way inclined. Potato, potahto.

          • LeeEsq

            And Leftists are masochists.

            • The Dark Avenger

              Only the ones who put up with you.

          • wjts

            T.S. Eliot, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, William Makepeace Thackeray, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Vladimir Nabokov.

            • T.S. Eliot, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, William Makepeace Thackeray, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Vladimir Nabokov

              walk into a bar. …

              • Hogan

                And the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

            • The Dark Avenger

              Anti-Semite, nope, talented poet, second-rate fnovelist, hack, and romanticism for a lost era.

              • wjts

                So what? – The Waste Land alone makes him one of the 20th century greats; yes – Gulliver’s Travels is terrific; agreed; no – first-rate novelist second only to Dickens in the Victorian England Book Writing rankings; I wouldn’t go that far; and again so what? – Pale Fire alone makes him one of the 20th century greats.

                • The Dark Avenger

                  Still a reactionary Anti-Semite.

                  Gulliver’s Travels is little more than an excellent children’s book these days, the targets of his satires mostly forgotten except by graduate students in English literature,

                  Anthony Trollope was much better than Thackery.

                  Pnin is more revealing of the author, IMHO.

                • wjts

                  Still a reactionary Anti-Semite.

                  Yes, and one of the best and most influential poets of the 20th century.

                  …the targets of his satires mostly forgotten except by graduate students in English literature…

                  No one who’s been to college can fail to recognize the target of Laputa.

                  Anthony Trollope was much better than Thackery.

                  I disagree – Vanity Fair is, I think, one of the best English novels ever.

                  Pnin is more revealing of the author, IMHO.

                  I’m not particularly interested in “revealing” the author. And Pnin‘s good, but Pale Fire is great.

                • slothrop

                  What you seem to like about Eliot is everything before he became an Episcopalian knucklehead. Nabokov hated politics, but had something of an axe to grind given his connections to the royal family. Hardy is a better writer with no bourgeois pretentiousness. CS Lewis was a pedantic Christian, whose moral universe correspondingly blows. Pope was practically pre-capitalist.

                • wjts

                  What you seem to like about Eliot is everything before he became an Episcopalian knucklehead.

                  God knows he never wrote anything good after his conversion. Certainly not Four Quartets or Ash-Wednesday.

                  Nabokov hated politics, but had something of an axe to grind given his connections to the royal family.

                  So you agree he was a conservative?

                  Hardy is a better writer with no bourgeois pretentiousness.

                  As to the former, no; as to the latter, what? And even if Hardy was a better writer, it does not thereby follow that the conservative Thackeray was necessarily a bad one.

                  CS Lewis was a pedantic Christian, whose moral universe correspondingly blows.

                  I dislike his moral universe, but he was, nonetheless, an excellent and engaging writer.

                  Pope was practically pre-capitalist.

                  And a conservative.

                • The Dark Avenger

                  Laputa? Are you sure?

                  Lindalino’s rebellion against Laputa is an allegory of Ireland’s revolt against Great Britain, and Great Britain’s (meaning the Whig government’s) violent foreign and internal politics (see Jonathan Swift for his political career). The Laputans’ absurd inventions mock the Royal Society.

                  Vanity Fait is as a reed compared to the Barchester Chronicles.

                  As for Pnin, the point is that he could laugh at himself as well as others is revealed in it, and it’s hardly the attitude of a conservative. That’s what I meant by revealing.

                • wjts

                  Laputa? Are you sure?

                  Oops, you’re right – I was thinking of the Academy of Projectors in Lagado.

                  Vanity Fait is as a reed compared to the Barchester Chronicles.

                  I disagree, but the prospect of the two of us yelling “Duck Season Thackeray!” “Rabbit Season Trollope!” at one another sounds boring enough that I’m willing to call off this particular argument.

                  As for Pnin, the point is that he could laugh at himself as well as others is revealed in it, and it’s hardly the attitude of a conservative.

                  I don’t think that’s true at all. Self-importance is what precludes one from being able to laugh at oneself, and that’s not a necessary trait in conservatives (and it certainly isn’t confined to conservatives).

          • GeoX

            Yukio Mishima, Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

            • wjts

              Chesterton, also, too.

      • LeeEsq

        The more intelligent Marxists aren’t ideologues but there have been many, many people who believed in Marxism with all the simple faith of the average religious. Even the more intelligent Marxists or at least those who spend hours thinking about what Marx thought can get into some very weird thought patterns when it comes to culture. Marxism always had a puritanical streak to it and anything frivolous was liable to get looked down upon as a bourgeois deviance at best.

        The CCP didn’t put “making love is a mental disease” in their party platform without reason. Anything that might take time from the Revolution was seen as an evil distraction even if it was something as harmless as young puppy love, which is what the CCP meant by making love. It is exactly the same sort of thought pattern that led certain religions to trying to censor anything non-religious when it came to culture and entertainment. It was seen as distraction.

        Only bourgeois liberalism which places supreme importance on the individual over the group can provide for a flowering cultural scene.

        • Ronan

          “Only bourgeois liberalism which places supreme importance on the individual over the group can provide for a flowering cultural scene.”

          How is this the case? If bourgeois liberalism is a development of the past 250 years at best, are you claiming all cultural forms prior to it are negligible?

          • LeeEsq

            That was a bit of a joke. I just wanted to yank our Marxist’s chain by praising the natural the bourgeois consider the space the occupy in Marxist thought.

        • Hogan

          Which explains the pestilential cultural hellholes that were Renaissance Italy and Elizabethan/Jacobean England.

          • wjts

            “Why so glum, Horace?”

            “Well, I wanted to write a poem, but then I realized that the bourgeois liberalism that places supreme importance on the individual over the group and is therefore necessary for a flourishing cultural scene won’t be invented for something like 1600 years.”

            “Oh, that is a shame. Say, what’s a ‘poem’?”

            “That’s the real hell of it – I have no idea!”

          • Karen24

            Exactly. Also, I was a little disappointed we didn’t have a Shakespeare thread in honor of the 400th anniversary of his death and 452nd of his birth yesterday.

        • Ronan

          I’d guess it’s equally unlikely that putting “the individual over the group ” produces greater art or a more sophisticated culture

          • LeeEsq

            Its about allowing people to pursue what they like rather than forcing things upon them. When people are more free to pursue their own interests than chances of producing something of greatness is higher than chaining them up.

            • Ronan

              I’m not sure. You’d likely get the Kardashians instead of the sistine chapel

              • LeeEsq

                Point.

  • prplmnkydw

    First, nice article. I was about to send a similarly worded complaint to Jacobin.

    Second, I think a lot of people are saying “marxist” on here without really knowing much Marx, or knowing many thoughtful marxists.

    Marx is complicated and takes years to understand properly. And most people claiming to be Marxists aren’t.

    Peter Frase, who writes for Jacobin, has done some recent work, but the best Marxist voices these days are going to be your academic sorts– David Harvey, for example.

  • Peter VE

    The latest Archdruid posts ( http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/) are discussions of similar phenomena, including The Rescue Game, and Starhawking. Deny agency to all those lesser breeds/uneducated rednecks/women and swoop down with your preferred solution. In the cultivated tones on NPR, the screaming Christianist, or the German accent representing the British American trade council explaining the virtues of the TTIP, the affected partied never seem to know what’s good for them.

    • Johnny Sack

      That’s an interesting blog. I find him a bit verbose, but interesting.

    • JMV Pyro

      I got linked to that guy once, saw him link to whale.to, rambling about the collapse of society, and insisting that Obama was just like Bush. I quickly backed away.

      Perhaps someone can explain if there’s anything worth getting off the boat for.

    • Origami Isopod

      What, after all, does a Clinton presidency offer the majority of American women, other than whatever vicarious thrill they might get from having a president with a vagina?

      No, thanks.

  • Karen24

    Oh, good grief. Plenty of terrible people made great art and plenty of political art, even the stuff congenial to my side is just plain awful. (For those of you with the stomach for it, look for YouTube clips of ‘women’s music’ some time. Apparently having a uterus precludes having functioning ears.*). Bach wrote some of the best music ever written by anyone while at the same writing grovelling letters to Lutheran nobility trying to scrape for a job. As far as I know, his only political leanings were “pay me” and “I’d prefer not to work for a Catholic, but I’m willing to learn.” Wagner’s rancid politics are well-known. I still love the Brandenburg Concertos — written as the world’s best ever job application — and all of Wagner’s operas.

    Even in the case of someone whose actual work rejects everything I stand for — Tolkien’s novels, for example, praise a monarchical and patriarchal world, which apparently was what he wanted to exist — can steal teach me something, and I can still enjoy the adventure. Heck, half the fun I have with Tolkien is imagining how irritated he would get at the thought of a liberal feminist finding useful things in his works.

    *Many of the women who made this kind of dreck reject the idea that transwomen are actual women. They can be quite as reductionist as any MRA creep or Moral Majority scold.

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  • Jordan

    Why aren’t you writing for Jacobin? They should be all over you.

    • I don’t much think they like me. At least my experience with main Jacobin people on Twitter has been almost universally negative, including the founder.

      • Jordan

        Ah crap, that sucks. I like and subscribe to Jacobin, but I often think they could use a good dose of Loomis when I’m reading it. Well shit :(.

        • Earlier today, when I was complaining about this on Twitter, I said that if Jacobin wants to hire someone to write about country music and the white working class they should hire me, Bhaskar Sunkara replied and said I was “self-aggrandizing.” Whatever.

          • Denverite

            That’s a shame. I don’t always agree with you. In fact, I usually don’t. (I usually agree with Lemieux.)

            • This always entertains me since the policy differences between Scott and myself are extremely small.

            • Jordan

              Actually curious: where do you think Loomis and Lemieux disagree on what actually gets posted? Or are you talking more big picture stuff?

          • Jordan

            argh. That is a bummer.

            • I do wish I could have a regular column at a popular publication so I could use it for my topic of the week. But otherwise, it’s not really a big deal. I have more projects going on than any regular human can really handle, including myself. So I don’t really need the forum. But if there’s one thing Jacobinghazi taught me is that the publication is as insular and cliquish as anything else and I don’t really fit party lines very well. I actually would like to publish there in theory, but I’m probably not going to go through the hoops to see that happen unless they approach me.

              • Jordan

                Yeah, and all that makes tons of sense.

                It just seems like Jacobin is kind of a part of setting the stage for the new-new-left if that happens. And if it does, it would be great to have you there (in my opinion, anyways).

                Oh well, hopefully they reach out to you at some point.

                • I suspect that getting onto LGM goes pretty far.

                  Not to overstate LGM’s influence, but it’s clearly a publication that has enough visibility that it can influence the conversation. Erik has a blog + book approach, and I’m not sure that that is less influential than a Scottesque blog + Guardian + various other outlet approach.

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