Roy Edroso is a national treasure, and I salute him for his tireless (seeming) efforts at monitoring right wing media and reporting on its more asinine and baffling permutations. Today, he linked a piece by John J. Miller that was, for me at least, a welcome explosion of unintentional comedy gold. For instance, Miller links a piece he wrote 8 years ago called “Shut Up and Sing”, and he neglects to mention that he wrote a piece 3 years ago about the 50 best conservative rock songs (as you can imagine, most were a stretch, though he was able to lean heavily on Rush and George Harrison bitching about his taxes). Which is it, John? Should musicians pretend to be apolitical or should they espouse political views? Well, as Roy notes, the answer is: Talk politics, but only if you say things that John J. Miller wants to hear.
(An aside: I am no hypocrite here. I object to the politics of “Stand By Your Man”, for instance, but think it’s a good song, and great for threatening to put in for people at karaoke if they won’t sing something of their own choosing.)
Ever since the 50 best conservative rock songs list came out, I’ve had occasional moments when Miller pops back on my radar, and it’s always funny. He appears to be NRO’s resident music geek, and it’s awesome, because they really have to define music geekdom downward in the land of wingnuts. We’re not talking about a group that enjoys being challenged by art or music on any level. Miller is the hep cat of the group because he has not only heard of the Sex Pistols, but apparently has actually heard their music. No doubt that sort of risk-taking behavior makes him the dangerous rebel of the NRO set, but this most recent post……well, I’m surprised they don’t faint from being around someone with such dangerous, cutting edge tastes.
This was my fourth U2 show.
While I can’t say that Miller was surprised to discover that Bono has opinions on political matters that he feels free to express, he continued to bang the drum about how it’s inappropriate for musicians to hold forth on politics when they aren’t saying things Miller wants to hear. Though it’s hard to say exactly what Miller’s problem is—he whines that U2 was playing it safe (which is so unlike the biggest rock band in the world) and then gets angry that they don’t engage in routine displays of praise for soldiers who defend democracy. He also appears to believe that U2’s members are American.
The strangest moment came during “Sunday Bloody Sunday” — dedicated to the Iranian democracy protestors. The stage was awash in green lights, a nice tribute to the Green Revolutionaries. Bono invited a man on stage. He was a Sikh, judging from the turban. He carried an American flag, which he waved as he lip-synched the words of the song. During the final verse, Bono put the microphone in his face and they sang, duet-style: “The real battle yet begun/To claim the victory Jesus won.” As they say, only in America.
Not really. I’d say that only Bono has quite that combination of absurdly huge ego and extremely earnest self-righteousness that disallows him to see how stupid he looks when he does shit like that. That said, from what I can tell, the hook for the conservative argument against celebrities expressing political opinions is that celebrities work their way up the ladder by doing apolitical entertaining things, and then when they’re famous, it goes to their head and they speak out of turn. And we are to resent them, and not notice that the giant flaw in this argument is that conservatives only object to this process if the celebrity is a liberal. If they’re conservative, they get awarded the California governorship and then the presidency.
But this argument, which was already baseless if examined for even a millisecond, holds even less water when it comes to U2. Why? Because they had the same humorless strident political stances from the get-go. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a song about the Northern Ireland slow burn civil war, and it came out in 1983, long before U2 was some blockbuster band. That album also features humorless, political songs about nuclear proliferation, the Polish solidarity movement, and apparently prostitution. It’s called War, for god’s sake. If you object to U2 taking a turn towards the earnestly political, then the time to bitch about that was not 8 years ago, but 26 years ago.
Unfortunately, U2’s popularity means that they are a “safe” band for nitwits and assholes worldwide, and the results are high comedy for those of us who like neither U2 nor the nitwits/assholes crowd. It’s hard to pick my favorite bit out of this post, but I think this one made me laugh the hardest:
At one point, he saluted Nancy Pelosi — and the response from the crowd was decidedly mixed.
I don’t know what part of this I find the funniest: That Bono thinks there’s much to gain from name-dropping the Speaker of the House, or that U2 has got an audience that’s stuffed so full of Republicans at this point that such a reference gets a mixed reaction. If I were them, I’d start asking long, hard questions of myself that I’d started to attract the tight-asses that no doubt wore khaki pants to a rock concert. Maybe Bono & Co. see their presence in their audience’s lives as a public service. From what I understand, the average price of a ticket to that show was over $200 or something like that, so this is a Big Event to most of the folks going, probably the first concert they’ve gone to in god only knows how long. I’m sure that for the occasion, there was much loosening up: Budweiser was drunk, there may have been some singing along, maybe they went home and let the little lady be on top for once that night. That U2 can provide that over-the-top excitement for their fan base is something for them to be proud of, I suppose. And yet, maybe there’s some kind of passive aggressive rebellion against the dweebs that will bother to pay that much to see them in the Nancy Pelosi reference. Maybe Bono was taking a little swipe, enjoying their discomfort a little.
Ah, who am I kidding? It’s Bono. I don’t think he has it in him to be sly.