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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather return their focus pop culture, examining the structure and function of protest music through the years. How do the intrinsic and instrumental protests relate? How does an “I” become a “we”? Who are “we” anyway, and what are we not going to take? What, in short, is going on?
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There just happens to have been a recent Lindsay Ellis video that covers some of this same ground:
Also, I’d like to take a moment to contrast the best protest songs of the 90s:
With the best protest song of the Obama years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwO8fYo9fBg
Also, general question to anyone: does “This Is America” count as protest music?
Funny thing about Dee Snider, since he more or less identifies as being a Long Islander (the fish-shaped sandbar that looks like it’s trying to nibble at Manhattan), the local reporters LOVE him and take pretty much any excuse to interview him. I probably see more of him now than when he was globally famous. (It used to be Billy Joel, but that generation has since retired , and Joel also generally stopped being interesting, whereas Snyder is involved in a bunch of charities…)
However, they’re always absurdly careful in how they frame his interviews, especially when it’s charity-related. Because if you recognize Long Island from recent news, it’s the place with the footage of the cops pretending to walk with a protest, stopping short so that someone bumps into one of the officers, and then proceed to throw the protester to the ground and hold him there. It’s also where Trump made his campaign speech about letting cops smack a suspect’s head into the door frame when escorting them into a squad car. The sentiment isn’t common, but it’s amusing to watch the reporters try to cut Snyder off when he’s about to talk social justice and keep his focus to the March of Dimes-type work…
Regardless, I’m surprised that there wasn’t any mention of the protest-adjacent issue that’s been making a handful of headlines: People who are suddenly appalled to learn that bands are “political,” Rage against the Machine being the most recent example, as if the band’s name refers to Freder moving the clock arms in Metropolis…and as if that movie was somehow not highly political. Given that all art embeds values in it (deliberately or unconsciously), the idea that there’s an artist (or engineer, for that matter) who ISN’T “political” is quaintly amusing. At their most “innocent,” they might just not know what positions their works are advocating.
I’m a sucker for the classics, though–especially as we approach Juneteenth–such as Lift Every Voice and Sing, whereas I’m almost completely unfamiliar with Twisted Sister and Rage against the Machine…
“Quit being so political” or “I didn’t know this was political!” is an old propaganda trick which comes back around pretty much monthly at this point. I’d say I’m surprised that the fascists still use it but they’re not really a creative bunch, pretty much by design. Next they’ll be pulling out the “I identify as an attack helicopter” canard.
This is true. I’m reminded of the preface to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where Baum goes to great lengths to assure the reader that–unlike those OTHER children’s books that won’t be named–you won’t find the tiniest bit of politics in a story about women being demeaned for leading the resistance against a charlatan who seized control of a country he immigrated to. Oh, and there’s also race-based slavery in some parts of that country. I don’t know if it’s a specific historical reference, but if that’s not political, I don’t know what is! And that ignores the details the goldbugs and other libertarians use to spin their shadow narrative of mocking government control of money and debt.