Over at Breitbart, Lisa De Pasquale has written a column about "political punks" whom, she says, actually understand how pop culture is inherently anarchic, fun, and beyond the control of P.C. masters of the left and the right:
There is a group of conservatives and libertarians – I call them political punks – who actually have cultural credibility. They appreciate mainstream culture for the power of the parable in furthering a message of liberty. They also understand that unlike the perpetually outraged on both sides, Americans don't view everything through politics. They are anti-authoritarian. They are punk. They go against the liberal culture scene and the conservative political scene. These punks are our best hope for engaging new audiences on the importance of liberty.
De Pasquale singles out four very different people as her latter-day Ramones: Fox News' Greg Gutfeld, film legend Clint Eastwood, best-selling author Ann Coulter, and Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes. She also tosses out a set of honorable mentions that includes me: "TV host Mike Rowe, musician Andrew WK, playwright David Mamet, actor James Woods, TV host Kennedy, Reason editor Nick Gillespie."
Below is her writeup of Greg Gutfeld, a serial interview guest at Reason who, just like Colt 45, works every time. Gutfeld is, in my opinion, really a pacesetter in hunting high- and low-brow for targets and delivering incredible rants filled with power, poetry, and juxtapositions that would make a surrealist's head explode. He is quite probably the only person in the world fully conversant with the discography of The Melvins and pro-torture musical stylings of Col. Allen West.
That Gutfeld has two shows on the top news network gives me hope in America's future. No, really. It means that maybe I'm not alone in embracing punks. Unlike those who didn't get the Super Bowl commercial, Gutfeld gets that mocking the Left is effective even when not vicious and obvious. One example is the fantastic show, "Portlandia." Gutfeld wrote:
"This show is not a celebration of capitalism – but an attack on the attack on capitalism. The message: if you're going to get rid of something, you better have something better to replace it with – or you're fucked."
So many ideas in Portlandia all return to one theme: the characters are lost without an idea of how to make money, or even be useful. They are mostly pleasant, nonviolent, slightly desperate in their barely concealed sense of victimhood and envy – but most of all, they are suckers to their own nonproductive whims.
And so what you have is a refreshing reversal – tax accountants, cops, cheerleaders are actually, for once, portrayed sympathetically, while hipster bike messengers aren't.
Gutfeld uses non-traditional ways to explain (Gutsplain?) liberty and free market principles that are palatable to a traditional audience, like Fox News viewers, as well as to those who are skeptical of conservatives and the political world in general.
Yeah, yeah, argue away with De Pasquale if you must. But I do think she's on to something. Certainly, she's right that the most outrageous thing a person can believe these days, whether on the right or the left, is that politics doesn't exhaust the limit of human possibilities. This is something we harp on quite a bit at Reason: the place where the most interesting things happen is far beyond politics. God, a world that is completely circumscribed by politics is more dreadful to contemplate than a truly drug-free America.
And she's right that pop culture isn't a tool or a club that you can use to beat people over the head. If only movies and TV shows and music taught the right lessons about history, economics, and gender! That's something that moron liberals and conservatives both believe in their pointed little heads. They deny the audience agency and freedom and they just don't understand that the best cultural expression is simply the artifact of our attempts to understand our place in the world at a given moment in time. It's often explicitly political but if you are constantly reducing complex art, music, film, etc., to simplistic morality tales that will program people to behave themselves and vote for your preferred candidates and causes, just take a rocket back to Russia already.
Related: When Joey Ramone died, Brian Doherty and I summarized the "P.C. Eulogizing of a Punk Rocker." A snippet:
Within hours of shuffling off his mortal coil, Joey Ramone, known for singing songs such as "Cretin Hop" and "Teenage Lobotomy," had been resurrected as Joe Hill.
Forget that the Ramones made their reputation with songs that sketched an irresistible world filled with dumb and often explicitly anti-social fun. (The uninitiated can get a good sense of this from the titles of some of the band's signature tunes, which include "Beat On the Brat," "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," "You're Gonna Kill That Girl," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," and "I Wanna Be Sedated.")
For some righteously left-wing critics, such anarchic, aimless pleasure must always, in the final analysis, give way to something deeper, something more serious.
Take it away, fellers: