right wing chic:from Maximumrocknroll #9, October 1983
from rebel to redneck?
It's a well-documented fact that most historical movements for social change (revolutions, countercultures, etc.) start out as progressive, but, through the course of time, regress to some degree. This can occur due to media co-optation, confrontation between the initial idealism and hard reality, the re-emergence of latent reactionary tendencies, or blatant sell-out. These changes usually happen gradually over a period of time, and are not necessarily obvious shifts to those involved in the excitement of the moment. One such example within our recent memory was the sixties counter-culture. In 1967, longhair represented rebellion, a challenge to the system, the draft, bourgeois values, the work ethic, etc. Not all longhairs were conscious and articulate about their reasons for revolt, but the majority of them were progressive in their outlook. Contrast that with the longhair a mere 8-10 years later, perhaps best exemplified by those armed Klansmen who gunned down anti-racist demonstrators in Greensboro, NC. How did things change so much from that long hair being symbolic of peace, positive change, etc., to it representing the total opposite -- support for the status quo, narrow-minded patriotism, and an obstruction to a creative, humane future?
One answer can be seen right now in the punk scene. Initially, punk, like the early hippie movement, was a reaction to the stagnation of society, a rejector of apathy, nationalism, stupid bigotry, and oppression. Their methods were different (the hippie stressed love, trust, sharing -- the punk satirically mocked the dehumanization of mankind), but the process was similar. The early hippie was bad-mouthed and beat up physically by the short-haired straights who felt threatened by change. And like the early hippie, the punk rebel, who rejected the macho, nationalistic mainstream attitudes that the degenerated longhairs had come to represent, were bad-mouthed or attacked for the threat of change they implied. But today in the punk scene, we can see gradual shifts again -- away from the initial beliefs. Whereas early on, women were very noticable in all aspects of the scene (musicians, managers, artists, writers, etc.), today they are much more of a rarity. Besides the rise of macho tendencies, we're also encountering the re-emergence of patriotic sentiment. Sometimes it's expressed in a non-rhetorical, average guy-on-the-street manner, and sometimes it's expressed in blatant, right wing Republican terms.
What follows is a recent interview that exemplifies this shift to some degree. The F.U.'S express an anti-rebel position that seems more appropriate coming from frat boys than "punks". Perhaps the whole band does not feel as strongly about this subject as John and Bob (who did most of the talking), but they made no effort to quality those views, and seemed more intent on encouraging them through their laughter. While indeed known for their lack of seriousness, their underlying conseratism became apparent upon a slight amount of probing.
So, please read on, as we present this as a way of saying "Don't be surprised" if in a few more years short hair is as much a part of the status quo and reactionary thought as longhair became. History can repeat itself, and "You Are There". Then again...
INTERVIEW BY TIM
T: You have this album called "My America" which just came out, and there's some controversy as to whether you guys are being satirical or are you for real?
J: Glad you asked that Tim. (laughter all around). Kind of figured you might say say that. No, we are basically pretty patriotic.
T: Uh huh. What's that based on?
B: This country rules!!
J: Love for McDonald's hamburgers, among other things. Coca-cola.
W: The fact that we're not in jail and not starving to death.
J: That too. And we can say what we want to.
T: Yeah, you can say what you want to. But why do you say "America Rules"? What does that mean?
B: It's the greatest country on earth. I mean, where else whould you want to be?
T: Everybody in every country says that.
B: Well, everybody in every other country doesn't know anything.
J: How come so many of them come here?
B: Yeah, how come all those immigrants come running to this country?
T: Well, it may be one of the few places for them to actually get some work.
B: Ah, see.
T: But why is there so much unemployment in their countries? Let me throw that back at you.
B: Why? Because they're too dumb to run their governments. (laughter by band members)
T: That's how you really feel? That's a pretty ignorant statement.
B: Well, I only got up to the ninth grade (more band laughter).
T: I'm glad you admit your ignorance.
J: How do you see it Tim?
T: Well, I would say that these people who come here from mostly poor Third World countries are comin' because there are no opportunities in their countries. Now why the economic structures are like that has to do with the fact that... like people in Latin America... their countries are basically within the capitalist sphere of influence and you have the multi-national corporations which go down there and establish governments that are friendly to U.S. business interests. That means cheap labor, an ability to exploit the resources in those countries. You're from New England, right? All those companies are leaving New England and setting up in those Third World countries, Korea, or wherever. They prop up these governments, which basically repress people so they can reap profits. So those countries do not get to develop their economies in any kind of balanced way. And that's how I see it. How do you see it?
J: It's all my fault. I hate myself! (band laughter).
S: We never said we necessarily liked the government or the people who run the country. We just like America. And what's wrong with that?
T: Well, he (Bob) said it "ruled", and he (John) said you're "patriotic". So, you're going beyond saying just "we like America". What's the criteria for that?
B: The good far outweighs the bad. When you go over to Canada, what happens? You cross a border, it's like, phehh, no problem. If you're in Europe, and you're trying to cross from one state to another, they strip you and stick a finger up your behind to check what you've got there (more band laughter). I mean, you can move around this country free, you can say what you want.
T: As long as no one really pays attention.
B: Oh, if they want to pay attention, fine.
J: That's another good thing. They don't pay much attention.
T: The fact is, yes, we do have 'freedom of speech' in this country, but in the past, it's been proven that once people start paying attention to you, if you're in opposition to what the government's doing, then you're in a position to be offed, or be put away, or whatever. Look at all the people who were in rebellion against the government in the sixties. A lot of them got put away, driven nuts, or killed.
B: Or they're lawyers or head G.E. right now, or something like that.
T: Some of them sold out too, right.
B: They didn't sell out. They just got wise (more band laughter).
T: Anyway, I think there's more to it than you're saying. Yes, there is freedom of speech, but what is that freedom really? Yes, people do come here from other countries, but why is it that they have to leave their countires? It's not just so superficially easy to say.
J: It's a good place to come to (band laughter).
T: And I think the whole "Rules" mentality... "San Francisco Rules", etc., where's that at?
J: It's pride.
T: Pride in what? I mean everyplace...
J: You don't have maintenance without pride (band laughter).
T: Do you think that's an admirable mentality, saying that this place or that place "Rules"? I don't think that S.F. "Rules" or Boston "Rules", or America "Rules", or Russia "Rules".
B: Well, I think that Boston Rules, but that doesn't mean that I hate every band from D.C. or anything like that.
S: Just because you think that something's the best doesn't mean something else doesn't have some good points to it too (band laugher).
T: So that's the extent of...
B: I would rather be in this country than anywhere else on earth.
T: Sure. You were born here.
B: I don't know. If I was in Paraguay sitting around...
T: Paraguayans would say they'd rather be there. That's how it works. If you go overseas, everyone is proud, in a sense, of where they're from. That's basic. You grow up somewhere, you have these cultural attachments, and you're proud of it. What I'm trying to fathom is, are you just proud, or are you arrogant here? I think there's a difference.
J: Ignoring that question, what I just want to say is what I really hate is seeing these kids who want to be 'cool punk kids in the scene'... They go out and buy this anti-Reagan t-shirt or something like that and they don't even know what's going on 10 feet in front of their face. They just do it to be cool... just jumping on the bandwagon.
T: Yes, I think there's definitely a trendy 'be political' whatever... I know what you're saying. I think that's as ignorant as the other side, which is to be trendy anti-political, and not know what you're talking about either.
J: I had those people in mind when I wrote "My America".
A FEW IMMEDIATE RESPONSES TO LAST ISSUE'S F.U.'S "MY AMERICA" REVIEW
I would like to quote issue no. 8 on the review on the F.U.'s new album "My America". First off, what gives you (Tim) the fucking right to put down a fucking great (band?) who practically started the Bostown scene! And also call them "jocks"! First off I'm friends with the F.U.'s and they're a bunch of great guys! Me and my friends hanged out with them when they played out here and they came across America just to play in your town and in mine. Just because you don't doesn't mean you have to quote it. (?!?) I'm sure if Pushead gave it a review it would have been better than yours. From what I hear from the F.U.'s they think you're a fucking conartist. They told me that you fucking used them and now Bob wants to kick your ass. And second off they're all not jocks. Just because they joke around and like strong doesn't mean they're jocks.
Please print this, I'm sure it means a lot to me and the F.U.'s. Also if any would like to reply, write: Tim Comiskey / ~~~ / Beverly Hills, CA 90212
-- -- --Dear Tim C,
What constitutes a con artist? I've heard second-hand that the F.U.'s were pissed at me following the interview because they felt they were "set up" -- that I had acted friendly to them till we got on the air. First off, yes, I was friendly beforehand, and don't feel unfriendly now either. There is a difference between disagreeing about politics and being able to like people. Secondly, I did ask them beforehand (as I do with all guests) if they would let me know what areas they wanted to cover. They were goofing around too much to care, and made no response. Finally, as you can read in the transcript (and it is even more apparent hearing the interview on tape -- MRR Radio Show #109), they were totally expecting me to ask about "My America". Perhaps they weren't used to someone aggressively persuing their offhand remarks, but that's not being a "con artist". I did term a couple of their resonses "ignorant", which is strong language, but I continue to believe that is the most appropriate adjective for the remarks in question.
As a so-called American, I fail to see your branding of Boston's F.U.'S as having "a regressive mentality better suited to fraternity jocks". Regardless of what you might call yourself Tim, we're all Americans, and thus enjoy the benefits of the American system. I'm not saying that I totally agree with our government's policies, but I do believe in the democratic system, and feel lucky to live in a country where I'm free to express my opinions in the form of my fanzine. You seem not to acknowledge this freedom, and merely take it for granted, while in other countries this freedom is repressed, and people who vocalize a contrary policy are often harshly punished. Nowadays, I see a lot of mindless anti-government acts like "A circling" because it's supposedly "cool" and what mags like yours and certain bands advocate. Boston's F.U.'S obviously realize that this isn't independent thought, and by taking on an almost reactionary stance are trying to wake kids up and at least make them appreciate this fine country of ours that gives us the most precious gift of all: freedom.
-Mike Gitter / xXx fanzine / ~~~ / Marblehead, MA 01945
-- -- --Dear Mike,
There is no doubt about the fact that we are free to speak our minds here in America (as are people in many other countries), and yes, it is a rarity. But being able to speak one's mind does not necessarily affect the system or make it democratic (doing a fanzine is not the same thing as having access to CBS or the NY Times). The fact is that we are free to speak only until we start having an impact or pose a threat of real change, and then, as history has shown, the whole weight of this very undemocratic system is brought down on us. We have democracy in name and form (as do the Russians), but the real picture is quite different.
To me, we live in a two-party dictatorship, run by either the liberal rich or the conservative rich. The Russians have a one-party dictatorship. We have a subtler system than theirs, but both rely on repression (at home, of true opposition movements -- abroad, to maintain economic domination that bring the 'people back home' a slightly higher standard of living to be bought off with); control of the media to pacify or obliterate any significant political and intellectual development; and are equally dedicated to keeping the truth of what they do in their population's name from those same people. Also, the Russian system of control is based considerably more on brute force and intimidation, while ours is much more subtle (and insidious), as it is the most technologically advanced form of manipulation ever developed -- even beyond Orwell's conceptions in "1984".
So yes, we have more of an "illusion" of freedom, yes we do have more access to consumer goods (meaning our system is better at exploitation), but frankly, I don't think most Americans would even recognize "freedom" if they stumbled upon it, and in fact, are probably petrified of it. What it boils down to, is that we live in a nicer prison than the Russians do. I don't think that's worth going to war over, and it certainly isn't worth the arrogance and national pride avocated by the F.U.'S. If their objective truly is to wake kids up, it's a pretty bizarre approach, pushing ideas emanating from the ruling class and already embraced by 90% or the brainwahsed population. No?
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