Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Who We Choose to Listen To: Bright Eyes and Mike Savage

I like Bright Eyes, I really do. He’s got a tremulous voice. He’s passionate. It comes through in his music. My friend Amy played a song for Stoker and me one night. It was Bright Eyes when he was 13 and he was singing, even then, with a voice full of torment and angst. I don’t remember what he was singing about, but it was funny to hear this youngster anguishing over love or politics or some other abstract subject. Anyway, Amy is an enormous fan and I don’t mean that she’s a large girl. She’s a small chick, but her adoration for Conor is pretty intense. That’s why she had a recording of him singing when he was 13 (he might have been 15, or younger. Like 9. I can’t remember).

I bring up Bright Eyes because I just watched the
video of his performance on the Tonight Show. A few weeks ago I went to iTunes and downloaded the song “When the President Talks to God” for free. I listened to it once and haven’t since. The lyrics are cutting and it makes you think. That’s what art should do. Make us think. And political questions are important questions. I’m not against someone asking political questions.

But I’m not so sure how I feel about mixing art and politics. Or how I feel about musicians going on tour to harvest votes from the masses for the political figure they favor. And why would any of us listen to a musician or a movie star? Do they speak louder than my guts? My inclinations? If so, what does that say about me? Easily influenced? Persuaded by flash and rhetoric? They may feel that they’re speaking out against flash and rhetoric, but they’re just another part of the distorted scene.

Sometimes I listen to Mike Savage on the way home from work with Stoker. You might immediately label me a militant conservative, but this would be wrong. I listen to him because he’s clear on his views. He spares no one. Not Bush. Not Rush Limbaugh. Not liberal democrats. Not even himself, if he’s been proven wrong about something. He calls it like he sees it and he doesn’t really change from one day to the next. He doesn’t pander to the press. But I can’t listen to him for very long or else I feel like the world is full of trashy, greedy people and there’s nothing worth living for. I bring Savage up because once, recently, he pointed out the mistake people make by listening to the political opinions of celebrities. Where’s the logic in heeding the advice of Bruce Springsteen over a political expert? There are people who’ve gone to years and years of college, studied political trends and histories, worked in political administrations and seen ethical and unethical situations unfold before their eyes. And yet, we have journalists who go to Oliver Stone and ask him what he thinks about Bush’s re-election (see Rolling Stone*).

I just wanted to bring up a few issues to clarify a the following points.

1) I like Bright Eyes music. I don’t like listening to him slander the President. Even if I don’t agree with all of Bush’s policies. Even if I think he’s lied to us. Where was Bright Eyes when Bill Clinton lied? I’m sick of listening to a bunch of babies whine about politics in their music. If they think they’re not part of a certain propaganda in the press, they’re disillusioned.

2) I like Bright Eyes’ music. I think he’s taking the wrong angle in his song, though. What he should acknowledge in his music is that every individual on earth, if they practice any form of religion, believes in their cause and that God somehow supports their cause. Is everyone in the world wrong to believe that God loves them and supports their cause, loves them in spite of their mistakes? I don’t know. But Bright Eyes would probably like to believe that God loves him even when he does something awful, like when he stole candy from the convenience store as a 9-year old**.

3) Bright Eyes, if he doesn’t like it here, should go live in a country where he’d get his tongue cut off for bad mouthing the dictator he’s forced to like. Maybe he forgets that the right he has to sing about whatever he wants in this country has been protected by soldiers who, while they may be poor farm boys, still don’t feel appreciated (be it WWII veterans or soldiers in the Middle East now) when he sings a bitchy song like the one he’s pushing all over the media. Or, if you feel you must sing about your political opinions, disguise it with abstractions. Like abstract art. Like

4) I really love Saddle Creek. I don’t want anyone who reads this page to think that I support mixing politics and art, though, just because I have a link to their page on my blog. It's just as I said, I like Bright Eyes. But politics are mixed up and confusing and I don’t want to know what he thinks about Bush, Republicans or animal rights. I don’t even want to know what the people I work with think about Bush. Or Republicans.

*You may ask, “Rolling Stone?” I was on a flight to D.C., it was a fluke. I don’t really read Rolling Stone because it’s Trash.

**I made that up.


Stoker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stoker said...

See? See? (holding hands up and looking side to side with wide eyes) This is why I love this girl. What a thinker!

Good point about Clinton's lies. And I'd never thought about this before, but it's beautiful. Bush has never been put under oath before a court of law and asked what motivated his decision to go to war. He has no reason not to gloss over the truth of the situation. He SHOULD to a degree. It was his decision to make, and anybody with any amount of life-experience should know that it's good government to propagandize. That is a verb, right? But Clinton was put under oath, and made a mockery of our judicial systems, the bible, and the trust of the american people. Whatever went on in the closet isn't really my concern, and maybe it should never have gotten into the courts. But it did, and perjury is a serious offense. Propaganda is necessary. Why the double standard from the "enlightened" democrats? It's a blatant double standard, and you know how I hate double standards.

The point is, we don't have a freaking clue what is going on in the world. Everyone is just saying something, and we pick a party to believe. CNN, the White House, Art Bell... we just choose a voice to listen to. You, Nicole(and Mike Savage), make a great point that it IS silly to chose to believe what Sylvester Stalone or Michael Moore say and to assume that President Bush is an uneducated**, politically-ignorant fool. In all honesty, I can GUARANTEE that he and his cabinet have way more information about the situation in the world than any of the far-left jerks at NBC. Or damn Maynard Keenan. So why don't we all just let the leaders lead?

However, I think President Bush has some pretty crummy policy, and I think we've overstayed our welcome in Iraq. But whatever. I have a certain level of confidence that he is making good decisions. Whatever. I wash my hands of it all.

Thank you. You wrote a very thought-provoking blog today, and I admire you. Good thinking...

**Sorry. I removed this very comment because I'd spelled uneducated wrong. Which was very ironic, and needed to be changed!

Stoker said...

Sorry... Two comments in a row is bad form, and I know it. But I just went and watched the video of that ignorant, self-absorbed dip shit and my blood pressure is off the charts. I just want to lash out, and Nik's blog is the only forum that I can think of for it right now. (heavy breathing)

I'm sure that I associate on a daily basis with people who are willing to say things like this. People who believe that prayer is bullshit. People who think that being able to play 2 dissonant chords on a guitar makes a person intelligent. But they just better not ever spout this bile in my direction. Had stupid Bright Eyes been even mildly abstract in his lyricism I could have pretended he didn't sound so godless. I could have pretended it was thought-out commentary. But instead, I saw precisely how shallow his thought processes are. Ha ha ha.....

Ben said...

Hmmm, I think that art and politics have always been inseparable. While Connor's whining can really drive me insane, he is an incredible musician.

Yes, the songs mocking the fascist* good ol' boy we have for a president are definitely past their prime and have been for quite some time.

*The word fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that

* exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual
* uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition
* engages in severe economic and social regimentation
* engages in corporatism
* implements totalitarianism
Sound a bit familiar? Welcome to 1984.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a definite role for politics in art. I mean, isn't the whole idea of folklore about recording history in song/story/painting/etc? I do agree that abstractions and subtlety would be better, however. It would also be better if the artists weren't pushing their opinions as the only right ones.
There are certainly artists on both sides of the political ring, but it seems like the super-liberals get the most press. Why is that? Are they simply better self-promoters? Do they have a higher level of self-importance? (Are most artists liberals?) Really, just because someone is a decent actor or singer doesn't give them any deeper insights into right and wrong. Surely, they have no better understanding of political machinations than the average person. They simply have better access to media. People WANT to hear what popular stars think. The problem is that people also want to be like the stars - even to the point of subscribing to stars' political views. This just goes to show that our culture is one where entertainers are held in high esteem (worshipped?) while parents, teachers, and clergy are brushed aside and not taken seriously. Most people are just lazy. They want someone else to think for them. Why research, when Martin Sheen has already recorded an intelligent soundbyte on the topic? I think we're all guilty of this laziness to some degree, unfortunately. Let's write up some lyrics for a don't-listen-to-entertainers song! ha.

Don't listen to an actor,
Her views should not be factors
In the way the country runs.

Gotta find out for own,
Call your momma on the phone
Ask your leaders about guns
(and drugs and war)

You're not free
if you listen to me.
What do I know about your values?
What do I know 'bout politics?
I'm just a singer on an ablum
Makin' money, playin' licks.


Aries327 said...

Ben -- I still haven't read 1984. Sorry to disappoint. Yes, I'm a graduated Literary Studies major, but there were some books I wasn't required to read. And I have the rest of my life to read all the classics that I missed during my college years.

*Sigh* Benny, you of all people I expect to respond like you did. I love it that we disagree about things. It made the hours at Graywhale fun. I don't have a rebuttal for your comment. But talking later that night with Stoker about it, I don't mind musicians spreading political messages through their music. Michael Franti's songs are like that, but it seems like he doesn't target one person or group. His messages are broader. I like that. Bright Eyes' tactics simply alienate any one who disagrees with him. It's annoying.

Anonymous, I don't have much to say to someone who doesn't even leave me a clue about who they are. You might notice that there are others who anonymously post comments on my blog, but the majority of them leave me a trace about who they are, if I know them personally. I suspect I know you, personally, but I kind of think it's weak to not leave me your name. And if you don't want to register with blogger, you can just type your name at the end of the message. I appreciate your comment and that you read my blog, that's great, but really, "political machinations?" Who talks like that? I only know one person in the world who would say stuff like "surely" and "political machinations" in the same sentence and he knows I know who he is.

If you can't put your name with your comment, why are you commenting here? I'm just kind of tired of it. The people who matter know who you are and if your intentions are as harmless as you'd lead me to believe, you'd leave your name. Grow up.

Stoker, as usual I appreciate your insights. Even when you post twice in a row. I love it when you get riled up about something.

Stoker said...

I was in South America when we started dropping bombs on Iraq at the beginning of 2002. I remember seeing papers that had pictures of Bush on the front page, edited so that he had a moustache exactly like Hitler's. I honestly don't understand how it is that the term fascist can be applied to the president, unless you've been buying into the rhetoric of the hard left, which is ignoring the historical outcome of strongly liberal governmental policies.

Are you saying Bush's camp exalts nation and race above the individual? I guess so. Prisons. Taxes. They are for the good of society, but kind of hard on the individual. As for race, Bush doesn't try to get away with racism. However, I think that profiling based on race is legitimate. It is FAR more likely that an act of terrorism on american soil be committed by someone of middle-eastern descent than by a hispanic, african-american, or an average white guy. We're just turning a blind eye on a real threat if we can't come to grips with that fact.

Forcibly suppress political opposition?!?! What? Not happening. In fact, the most powerful way of communicating with the american public (the news media) hates Bush and pushed HARD to get him out of the White House. Luckily, the majority of voters aren't just pawns that can be so easily swayed. Kerry was an incompetent candidate without a plan.

As for the american economy and the way that it was designed, I think it's been pretty good. I have a hard time arguing with the progress that has been made due to free enterprise. Do you have a suggestion for an alternative? Strict government control of industry doesn't really make for a healthy economy (India). I know that corporate giants sometimes squash little guys, but most corporations were started by little guys who saw something better (Microsoft). The consumer controls it well enough. Let's keep the feds out of it.

Ben, have you found a better country? Why aren't you there? Why do you keep living here? America is the best the world has seen, and as long as the socialist/communist lefties don't have their way it will stay this way. Sadly, I already see it slipping away, with hardcore liberals saying things that sound like they're straight out of the Communist Manifesto and sheep buying into it. Study history. We can hope for a zero-government, zero-war eutopia, but you've got to factor in humanity. America has been the biggest success the world has seen. I don't understand spitting on it.

Conner is a whiner, I agree. Songs like his are past their prime, I agree. He's a good musican, I agree. Incredible? Let's not stretch it....