BY SAM WHITE
The inherent leftiness of the arts and music scene is relentlessly stifling, the creative industries having become intractably connected with so-called progressive politics. Those in the industry articulate, of course, a belief in artistic freedom, but it’s a false one, as the strict confines of the like-minded collective invisibly demarcate actual artistic practice.
There’s a rejection of capitalism, while working in ways which would be literally impossible if not living in a society set free by capitalism. A herd-like embrace of all things ‘progressive’, while never asking what is being progressed toward, and if it actually lies at the front of a treadmill of nonsense. The avoidance of positive conflict and libertarian recklessness, in favour of milk-slop coffee, walled systems, and beardy-weirdy, nonthreatening acquiescence.
There’s a rejection of patriotism and the nation state, failing to understand that there are external, objectively bad nation states which don’t value artistic expression at all, rather, they torture and imprison it. There’s a rejection of the nation state in favour—in the case of anti-Brexit sentiment—of being subsumed into a larger, more bureaucratic, and demonstrably less democratic entity, failing to notice that the larger entity simply wishes to become a new kind of state in place of those it swallows. Failing to recognise that those who voted to leave the EU engaged in an authentic moment of anti-establishment rebellion.
There is guided, template-formatted, safely uncreative creativity, slowing down and congealing over time, and threatening nothing of consequence as it quietly thuds off soft, pre-approved targets. Blathering on about the environment, as if it were a religion, and not a technological quandary. Po-faced, school ma’am disapproval of anything laddish, infra-dig, or fun. Stewing motionless in the same on-message newspapers, the same on-message blogs, the same on-message satire, the same on-message message as everyone else in the insular, on-message community.
Currently, if anything notable or unexpected happens in the celebrity world, it’s because somebody gives not two shits about left-wing dogma. I sigh and tune out when Hollywood or the Grammys fawn oh-so-earnestly over Hillary Clinton. By contrast, the very best moments occur because key players are blissfully unconcerned, or unaware, that the mob dogma matters or even exists, at which point the spell is broken and we can operate, for a while at least, in total freedom, emancipated from the grey, leftist glue that sticks stiffly around everyone, restricting movement and thought. There are few established artists who are capable of such liberated autonomy, but Morrissey, John Lydon, and the now sadly deceased Mark E Smith come to mind; men who would be past caring, were it not for the fact that they never cared in the first place.
Formidable rap star Jay Z has shown support for the far-left, including Black Lives Matter and the Cuban regime, but dominant swathes of rap and hip hop—including Jay Z’s own work—are voraciously capital focused. The political philosophy which Jay-Z actually embodies and showcases through his own prominent success is (whether he admits it or not) bootstrapped aspirational capitalism.
He aligns himself with the far-left, while abiding by nothing whatsoever that it preaches. And that hints at a problem with the now mainstream left-wing activist mentality. It coerces artists and everyone else into voicing support, or at least not voicing opposition. This is done both explicitly and as part of an unconscious creep, by which the corridor of acceptable opinion narrows inch by inch until everyone is the same; unquestioning of the movement’s tenets, as their cortices submit to intellectual rigor mortis. This process is poisonously antithetical to creative freedom. Marxism doesn’t work. But as Jay-Z lives and breathes even while signalling the opposite, free markets do. Just don’t say it out loud. That grey glue really is sticky.
Jay-Z’s sometime collaborator Kanye West is an artist less confined by orthodox political scripture, and actually went as far as to pay a visit to then-president-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower, a move for which, inevitably, he took heavy criticism from the left. Perhaps Kanye intuited the potential value in a Trump term of office—amateur, chaotic and, because of these things, tantalisingly loaded with variation and opportunity. Or perhaps he just doesn’t care, and will do as he chooses. But surely, in a musician, either of these possibilities is preferable to mindless conformity.
There is inherent risk in a venture such as the Trump presidency, and it seems now that there is reputational risk if any prominent artist refuses to condemn it, or even—take a deep breath—expresses support. But when did we start expecting artists to play a conservative game? What great creative achievements have been pulled together while secured to a harness, wobbling above a safety net? What more gloriously compelling performance is there than to say fuck it, go all in, and snatch an unlikely victory, or crash and burn with panache?
And what would be the alternative to the Trump spectacle? Predictable, pedestrian, tested. Politically correct and restricted. The worst possible formula, stagnant and grey, in which for artistic expression to evolve.
It’s informative to look back at the UK rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s. They’ve been called apolitical, but from an ideological perspective, the movers and architects of that musical era took the economic liberalism of the Thatcher years and pushed it to Ecstacy-augmented, loved-up extremes. Wild-west anti-statism aims to eschew governance completely, and the rave scene embodied that spirit. It was big-bang, free of red tape, and at liberty to expand as it pleased.
It was hedonistic, naive, idealistic, and simultaneously a hyper-maximal extension of the free-market philosophy. It unilaterally deregulated the nightlife scene, disseminated its product without industry oversight through self-assembling pirate radio stations, and made ruthless land grabs in the Essex countryside. And by doing so, it upgraded the cultural landscape first in the UK, and then–in myriad offshoot forms–around the entire planet.
Can we possibly, in the near future, catch another such wave? Can a similarly open-ended, starry-eyed, money-making, boundary-pushing, on-one creative mindset emerge from our current state of politically correct stupor? If we reject the joyless priests of establishment leftism and their monotonous browbeatings, if we decentralise, then we might just have a shot.