The Great Disco Conspiracy

The mirror-ball plots


I have an article in The New Inquiry today about disco, conspiracies—you know, stuff like that. Here's an excerpt:

Or hey, it could always be ZOG.
Hed Arzi

If you asked the grumblers to come up with a conspiracy theory to explain the music's rise, they might say its secret agenda was to stifle people's political consciousness, a version of Abbie Hoffman's complaint that disco was "Elegant. Ruling class…Music not exactly designed to promote community or kindle the passion for social change." They might denounce it as a scheme to undermine black radio, à la the critic Greg Tate's angry joke that disco could be called DisCOINTELPRO.

Most likely, they'd attack it as a plot against rock's gritty authenticity, a kind of mind control at work on the dance floor. Steve Dahl—the Chicago DJ behind the infamous Disco Demolition Night of 1979, when disco-hating rockers blew up a bunch of dance records in a baseball stadium—called disco a "disease" whose victims "walk around like zombies." In "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," a largely fabricated report in New York magazine that was the basis for the movie Saturday Night Fever, Nick Cohn described disco as an "automaton chugging" while "impassive" dancers went through the required motions. It wouldn't have taken too much work to turn that sort of rhetoric into a full-fledged Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario.

Today, by contrast, we get Jamie Kastner's The Secret Disco Revolution, a documentary/mockumentary hybrid from 2012. In this telling, "beneath disco's carefully vapid veneer, its true aim [was] the mass liberation of gays, blacks, and women from the clutches of a conservative, rock-dominated world." The narrator informs us that "a revolution of this scale required revolutionary masterminds," though "we can only speculate as to their actual identity."

You can read the rest here.