Politics & Media
Jul 06, 2018, 06:29AM

Cultural Marxism is Killing Music

It’s worse than burning Beatles’ records.

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Washington Post music critic Chris Richards has written a shameful essay.

Published on the Fourth of July, Richards’ piece addresses “The 5 Hardest Questions in Pop Music.” The questions are: Is culture appropriation ever okay? Should we listen to music against a dead artist’s wishes? Can today’s artists still sell out? How should we engage objectionable lyrics? Can we separate the art from the artist?

In the section on cultural appropriation, Richards makes the argument that musicians should self-censor themselves in deference to prevailing political orthodoxies.

If someone has ever made an argument more antithetical to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, I haven’t heard it. Richards describes a band that so loved a record by an R & B artist that they wanted to cover it. They finally decided not to: “A band of white indie rockers performing the songs of a black R & B singer? No way. It would be seen as cultural appropriation.” Richards writes, “As badly as I wanted to hear their covers they were right.”

Richards argues that cultural appropriation is wrong and should be avoided when it feels like “taking” instead of “making.” “When Justin Timberlake beatboxes, or Taylor Swift raps, or Miley Cyrus twerks to a trap beat,” he observes, “it feels like taking. Nothing is being invented other than superficial juxtaposition. On the flip side, when the Talking Heads echo African pop rhythms, or the Wu-Tang Clan channels the spiritually of Kung-Fu cinema, or Beyonce writes a country song, it feels more like making. The borrowed elements become an essential, integrated part of a new, previously unheard thing.”

He adds: “We think we know this difference when we hear it, but sometimes we don’t—so there are more questions to ask, and many of them point toward an imbalance of power.”

In other words, pop music should submit itself to the tendentious social engineering of the social justice left. That Richards can write such Frankfurt School Marxist claptrap, replete with a call for censorship, and says he’s a fan of pop music is ridiculous.

Rock ‘n’ roll has always been about freedom. From Elvis to the Beatles, Bad Brains to Radiohead, the art form that started as an erotic alternative to square America retains its power because it retains its freedom, which has grown more expansive over the decades. Rock and pop music artists are able to record songs about any topic, and record them using whatever instruments they find most compelling, and imitate any genre they want. When the music tears down racial walls and genres and populations dissolve into each other, whether it’s “taking” or “making” or just a lark, the result can be thrilling.

And if a hard rock band want to cover Michael Jackson and their version is tepid, bizarre and even sucks, better to have it than not. The alternative is staying in the box, not taking the risk, and not following your spirit and soul and passion.

When I worked in a record store in the 1980s, the group Ciccone Youth, a side project of Sonic Youth, released The Whitey Album. It featured twisted and deconstructed covers of 1980s pop songs, including Madonna’s “Into the Groove.” The Whitey Album is a white art-punk band covering a dance artist from Michigan girl who’d moved to New York and appropriated gay club fashion and black dance music.

We loved this stuff. Now our enlightened betters like Richards put it on a list of forbidden art. That is, if it ever gets recorded. Better to convince a band that a potential idea is a thought crime and they shouldn’t even attempt it. Kill the imagination in the crib.

In his book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism, James Piereson argues that since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the American right and left have changed positions. Whereas American conservatism in the 1950s was paranoid, censorious and suspicious of art, after the death of Kennedy it was the left—a left that hated America because they were unable to accept that Kennedy had been killed by a communist—that became intolerant, anti-American philistines.

Chris Richards is no different from the people who burned Beatles records.

“Liberals are killing art.” That was the conclusion of a 2014 essay by Jed Pearl in The New Republic. Pearl’s words are more disturbing today:

“Do more and more liberals find the emotions unleashed by the arts—I mean all of the arts, from poetry to painting to dance—something of an embarrassment? Are the liberal-spirited people who support a rational public policy—a social safety net, consistency and efficiency in foreign affairs, steps to reverse global warming—reluctant to embrace art’s celebration of unfettered metaphor and mystery and magic? If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said the answer was no. Now I am inclined to say the opposite. What is certain is that in our data- and metrics-obsessed era the imaginative ground without which art cannot exist is losing ground. Instead of art-as-art we have art as a comrade-in-arms to some more supposedly stable or substantial or readily comprehensible aspect of our world. Now art is always hyphenated. We have art-and-society, art-and-money, art-and-education, art-and-tourism, art-and-politics, art-and-fun. Art itself, with its ardor, its emotionalism, and its unabashed assertion of the imagination, has become an outlier, its tendency to celebrate a purposeful purposelessness found to be intimidating, if not downright frightening."

  • Hey Mark. So, "Cultural Marxism" is a term initially developed by Nazis; it's an anti Semitic conspiracy theory which is used to claim that Jews are deliberately undermining Western culture. The terms derivation and use is discussed here (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2003/cultural-marxism-catching)// Whether you mean to or not, using "cultural Marxism" is dog whistling to the far right and anti semites. You should probably avoid it if you don't want to do that.// Beyond that, rock and roll hasn't always just been about freedom. It's also been about ripping off black people—not in the sense that you're stealing music, but in the sense that certain people get paid more and get credit for innovations because of the color of their skin. Rock has also in later days, a it's become irrelevant to pop, been a rallying cry for reactionaries, Rock fans burned disco records because they were made by black and queer people. Though obviously that doesn't fit your narrative here.

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  • It would be better to make your claim without citing the expertise of the now discredited SPLC, whose latest exposure was the loss of a lawsuit to Maajid Nawaz for character defamation. $3.7 million plus an aplogy. Ouch. The SPLC now exists mainly to raise cash.https://www.thedailybeast.com/its-not-easy-to-fight-extremists-if-youre-called-one-why-the-sclc-had-to-pay-maajid-nawaz-dollar3375-million

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  • Also, the "term" cultural Marxism was coined by Trent Schroyer in his 1973 book "The Critique of Domination: The Origins and Development of Critical Theory."

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  • Did you read the SPLC article, or just jump right to ad hominem? They discuss that the right's use of the term is traced to William Lind, a white supremacist conservative author. Lind uses the term to claim that Jews are engaged in a conspiracy to undermine western culture by promoting anti racism and feminism. Mark is echoing that theory here, using the term as a shorthand to claim that the left is undermining western culture by promoting anti racism and feminism. Do you think Mark got the term from Schroyer, or is he using it in line with right wing conspiracy nonsense that draws on Lind? I think you're smart enough to know the answer there.// You can still yell at people on the left without cosigning anti Semitic nonsense, you know. It shouldn't' be that hard.

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  • I think the SPLC fucked up re Nawiz, and the apology seems like the right thing to do. That doesn't mean all their reporting is wrong or evil; they've done a lot of good work over the years, and continue to be a valuable resource.

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