Leaders Are Inevitable, Says Nirvana's Krist Novoselic. But They Shouldn't Suck.

courtesy Wikicommonscourtesy WikicommonsEditor's Note: On March 26, 2014, I wrote a blog post about an article that Krist Novoselic, best-known for being the bass player in the band Nirvana, published in Time. Novoselic's article was excerpted for an essay he had written for the book Let's Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste, which discusses reactions to a Celine Dion album. I chided Novoselic on the grounds that he was overly earnest, insulting the very Celine Dion fans he sought to engage, and mischaracterized as democratic the often-rigid hierarchies in bands.

Novoselic, who works closely with FairVote, a group pushing proportional voting, wrote a thoughtful reply which addresses and corrects many, if not all, of my claims. I'm happy to run that reply here. All typos are mine.

Read Novoselic's Time article here and my original blog post here.—Nick Gillespie

March 26, 2104

Dear Nick,

I make these music analogies because I am trying to make politics more accessible. And I want you to know that my piece was written for [a new, expanded edition of Carl] Wilson's book (Let's Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste) in the context of a corresponding essay. I was surprised to see it on the Time magazine site. That said, I am glad it is there though, and I am also glad you mentioned Wilson in your piece. And thank you for your kind words about me. While I did give money to [Ron] Paul, I have never contributed to Obama.

Most bands have strong leaders and some aren't necessarily a democracy. However, a band is a group of people. It's a total shame that we will never know what Kurt Cobain could have done musically on his own. Although I am confident that he would excel in any of the artistic media he is known for.

I love the Stones' Rock and Roll Circus [a 1968 television special]. There are some classic band lineups in that film. Unfortunately, a band like The Who were never the same after Keith Moon. Even the Stones had another period after Brian Jones' death. But they were quite dynamic with players such as Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, and others. I can't imagine all these players in a group didn't listen to each other. And I agree, the chiefs were Mick and Keith.

I want to make an analogy about working in political groups. Mick and Keith, Townshend, and even Kurt, were like the chairs, but they still had to listen to others in the group.

I get my perspective about political groups through my experience with them. I was chair of my county Democratic central committee for about three years. I quit at the end of 2009 and am now an independent voter (and am looking for another political group.) I am also the head of my local Grange, which does some political advocacy but is mainly a community group. I would never play a Flipper record at a Grange or Democratic Party meeting. I find that band's music sublime and beautiful. I am afraid, though, that Celine Dion fans would hear scary noise. But I don't go to meetings to hear any music really. If it were only about Celine Dion's music, I would join another group!!! So that's my answer to your point. I think I understand how musical groups work and, at the same time, this is not insulting to Dion's fans. It's more like: Different strokes for different folks.

Let me tell you why I quit the Democrats. I got tired of volunteering for a soft-money conduit. State parties and their national umbrellas exist to run money around individual campaign contribution limits. The grassroots are very weak and this is by design. States have monopolized major-party nominations while heavily regulating the workings of these supposedly private associations. I am now appealing to the libertarian to whom I am writing this letter. I too see a value in modern forms of association and you mention this in your article. My point is that there can be a synthesis of the old-fashioned political association I mention here and in my 2004 book [Of Grunge and Government], and social networking.

It is about finding the sweet spot between them. How do leaders emerge in bands? Through merit—they're the ones writing the hit songs. In traditional political associations, merit has a place also and these people become the elected leaders. In both occasions, the leaders are making things happen so they rise up.

Another reason I quit the Democrats was the Obama For America (OFA) campaign organization. Here I was schlepping for the state party and there was another group working independently. What members elected these OFA people? They were political appointees of that machine. However, OFA was a brilliant third-party success. It took off from where Howard Dean left off in 2006. OFA raised tons of money from small individual contributions while Obama's GOP opponent [John McCain] opted for the public-financing program. I don't support public financing of elections at all. So much for being a crunchy prog!!!

While I'm at it, I believe that the Citizens United ruling was good for Internet freedom and transparency in elections. At the 2012 Washington State Grange convention, I voted against a resolution calling for abolishing corporate personhood. How in the world could I ever vote for abolishing the collective voice of a group!!!

So here is where I am going with this letter to you, and where my essay in Wilson's book is coming from: Things are out of whack in our country. There is too much money in politics, resulting in too much monied influence in Congress and statehouses. If we want to restore, at least, some balance, people need to come together.

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  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I'm trying to think if the lyrics and tune of that Nirvana song, but all that comes up is "Camp Kanata."

  • Sudden||

    Wrong chat room old man. We only know Camp Anawana here.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Granada

  • gimmeasammich||

    +1 Budnick, Donkeylips, Sponge, and that one chick that I had a crush on when I was a kid

  • Muzzle of Bees||

    "It's 'I hope we never part,' now get it right or pay the price!"

  • thom||

    It's ok to eat fish because they don't have any feelings.

  • AlmightyJB||

    They do have feelings but just like birds, they only have hateful, evil feelings.

  • Pi Guy||

    If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?

  • Raymond Luxury Yach-t||

    I approve

  • Winston||

    You Know Who Else supported the Youth and wanted to eliminate the monied interests and get people together?

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    Marc Bolan?

  • GILMORE||

  • GILMORE||

  • Sudden||

    Jesus?

  • gaoxiaen||

    The Youngbloods?

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    I don't think it's ever possible to merge the grassroots and the establishment. Taking Krist's OFA example, even though the grassroots supported Obama, he was "vetted" by the establishment, and had to gain credibility in their ranks first. I don't think he would have risen up through the grassroots, and I think it's unlikely that others could do so. Maybe that's a synthesis, I don't know.

    And let's not forget the third political dynamic represented in the Rolling Stones Circus: the guys who never seem to go away. Looking at you Taj Mahal.

  • GILMORE||

    I think you are on to something here

  • Zeb||

    I suspect that any grassroots aspect of Obama is pretty much all fake. Not that lots of people didn't get excited about him on the internet adn stuff, but he was very much an establishment candidate.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Not that lots of people didn't get excited about him on the internet adn stuff, but he was very much an establishment candidate.

    If the media hadn't had a collective orgasm over him in 2004-forward, he'd still be a glorified ward heeler in Chicago. There's nothing grassroots about Obama other than the weed he smoked in college.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    It's even worse that that.

    He's the ultimate manufactured candidate, pure marketing with no there there.

  • GILMORE||

    I remember when Krist first went to law school (Oregon?) and MTV was all like, 'wut?'

    I was in college myself at the time and gave him a big thumbs up; I always had a good impression of the guy as being the person who always looked like he was having the most fun playing music. unaffected pleasure. you can still see this in those MTV Unplugged sets. he's having a ball.

  • corinamoretonpun||

    my roomate's sister makes $72 /hour on the internet . She has been without a job for eight months but last month her pay check was $12251 just working on the internet for a few hours. have a peek at this web-site.......
    http://www.Works23.us

  • Sudden||

    Does your roommate's sister work as a troll for OfA?

  • Pulseguy||

    No, she takes her clothes off and does things with bananas. If it is the Sister I'm thinking of.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You're his sister with his mom which is understandable since they're both nickle whores.

  • Spawn of Nyarlathotep||

    So, to recap, Krist Novoselic:

    - Donated to Ron Paul, but not Obama
    - Voted in favor of retaining corporate personhood
    - Thinks the Supreme Court made the correct decision in Citizens United.

    I may have to revise my opinion of rock stars' being politically correct robots. I always knew there was something I liked about the guy; more so than Cobain, who in the final years appeared to have given all of his mental faculties over to Courtney Love.

  • I can't trust my fans||

    At least he's smart enough to understand the idea of coalition-building and also that adjusting structures give you different outcomes.

    Most of the HuffPo/Millenial crowd argue something along the lines of, and I quote:

    ReTHUGlicanz are d'Evils/Moneyz in politix is baaaahd...

    Kudos to Novoselic for being truly--wait for it--indie

  • american socialist||

    The fucking worst. I give the guy 5 years before they give him a show on FoxNews. I keep getting instructed from right-wingers that we shouldn't pay attention to these movie and music elites so I'm heartened that conservatives won't heed anything this total fucking has been, member of the most overrated band in history, and guitarist whose greatest claim to fame is that he dropped his instrument on his head at the MTV video awards has to say.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    I'll bet you fucking loved him before you read this article.

  • I can't trust my fans||

    You're such a hater. The dude made some coherent arguments and all you got is ad hom? I'm tempted to redistribute your second testicle to a eunuch in in need...

  • Free Society||

    The dude made a bunch euphemisms to push his lolly-pops and gum-drops view of political government.

  • Free Society||

    His opinions being highly regarded is a pathetic state of affairs.

  • american socialist||

    They were coherent? Hmmm... Ok... Maybe they need to give him a chalkboard

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dU22QEclVQo

  • wwhorton||

    Wow, AmSoc, a spittle-flecked tirade!? Just because you found out he's not on the reservation? Are you wearing a Mao suit right now, or a black leather overcoat? I'm trying to picture the correct totalitarian chic.

  • american socialist||

    Jeans and t-shirt... It's the latest fashion in Kulak-busting.

  • flye||

    There is too much money in politics, resulting in too much monied influence in Congress and statehouses.

    Seems like a smart guy, so I'm not sure why he has this backwards. People in Congress have way too much power, and because they have this power other people will try to curry favor. Whether campaign donations, or meals, or bribes, or back seat handies, people with power will never have an empty dance card.

    So stop with the "let's get money out of politics" because that's a symptom not the disease.

  • steve baker||

    Lobbyists represent every aspects of production and consumption. They give collected voice to our collective values, and put a dollar amount on it.

    Since most people don't vote, and everyone produces and/or consumes, are they not the ultimate grassroots organizations?

  • Free Society||

    There's nothing noble about rent-seeking and seeking to use the immoral services of government against your neighbors.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Symptom not the disease"

    I agree. Take the power out of Washington and all the lobbyist would scurry home.

  • american socialist||

    Sorry... Bassist. Like I give a shit about Nirvana. Yeah bro it's like leaders come out of nowhere. I give you the deep thinking guest at Reason mag. He's a fucking genius...

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u8oT9ag631Q

  • wwhorton||

    I guess you're offended at the notion of leaders evolving organically instead of being appointed by the politburo.

    As an aside, I feel like you're the kind of person who needs to be warned of the perils of auto-erotic asphyxiation. Just don't do it, man, you've got to much to live for. Maybe.

  • Free Society||

    Most bands have strong leaders and some aren't necessarily a democracy. However, a band is a group of people.

    A voluntarily associated group. But yeah totally great analogy to political monopolies.

    I too see a value in modern forms of association and you mention this in your article. My point is that there can be a synthesis of the old-fashioned political association I mention here and in my 2004 book[...]

    It is old-fashioned, though perhaps archaic or primitive might be better terms.

    How do leaders emerge in bands? Through merit—they're the ones writing the hit songs. In traditional political associations, merit has a place also and these people become the elected leaders.

    So political monopolies of legal extortion are places that reward merit? I don't see the merit in using violence to coerce your neighbors into your forced association. We probably have different ideas about what constitutes merit I guess.

  • Free Society||

    Democracy is a system of individuals working in a group. You still have to work with others no matter who the leaders are.

    As if he were writing song lyrics, this guy just recites one euphemism after another in order to soften the lie. Democracy is a mechanism for distributing the power to extort, compel and enserf one's neighbors. And without meaning to, Krist is right in that you do have to "work with" others no matter who the leaders are. I mean he's conflating the concepts of voluntary and involuntary interaction, but that's as close as he gets to any understanding.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with the punches dude.

    www.GotzAnon.tk

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Likes others here - I'm happy to hear that a nominally far left celebrity is waking up and seeing real alternatives for what they are, but earlier this week (or was it last) we had Kardashian (sp?) telling us we should trend something on twitter for social justice and now we have this (emphasis added):

    My point is that there can be a synthesis of the old-fashioned political association I mention here and in my 2004 book [Of Grunge and Government], and social networking.

    & while I don't want to be the one idiot on the internet saying social networking isn't worth all that much - I will say there seem to be far too many people who think social networking or trending twitter hashtags are meaningful by themselves.

    OTOH - as most of those people are statists, maybe I should be thankful they see twitter topics as a success; as in doing so, it would likely decrease other, more direct/active actions.

    But to fix any problem there are four requirements:

    1. Identify the problem (correctly)
    2. Identify the solution (correctly)
    3. Implement the solution (completely & correctly)
    4. Confirm/test solution (not that this ever happens today)

    & as much as I like some of the current trends (especially Paul's national career), I haven't yet seen anything in current societal trends/thoughts which demonstrates there are enough people who can correctly identify the problem, much less enough people to fix it.

    FWIW - I wish I were wrong.

  • ||

    But to fix any problem there are four requirements:

    Which are not applicable to wicked problems.

  • wwhorton||

    I was just really impressed at how civil the reply was, and how thoughtful his position seems to be. I don't necessarily agree with what he's saying, although I do think he makes some valid points, and I'm not saying that every conclusion he draws logically follows from the evidence or reasoning he uses, but it's a pleasant surprise to see someone talking about politics in a rational, adult, civil manner. In direct contrast to a few of the regulars old and new that frequent these forums.

  • Scalerwave||

    Krist,

    Good to see that you're politically active but you should check out "The Creature From Jekyll Island" and maybe "The Money Masters". You're time could be better spent on more important issues.

    SW

  • SallyannWeithersytv||

    my roomate's step-sister makes $77 /hr on the internet . She has been unemployed for 8 months but last month her income was $18827 just working on the internet for a few hours. see page.....
    http://www.Works23.us

  • John Galt||

    Hrvat

  • ibcbet||

    I think it's unlikely that others could do so. Maybe that's a synthesis,

  • ibcbet||

    I always had a good impression of the guy as being the person who always looked like he was having the most fun playing music.

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