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Aug 9, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

Life gets a lot easier when you realize you simply don't have to give a shit about what publications like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, or NPR think. They're a little like vampires in that you have to invite them into your home in order for them to do anything to you. They derive most of their power from dictating who is and isn't one of the good ones, you deny them this and they have nothing.

Another big part of the punk ethos was saying a big fuck you to the mainstream music press, and it was there for a reason. The most cynical part of this whole mess is that these publications don't really give a shit about social justice politics, it's just how you gain clout in popular culture these days. These issues will be put out on the curb next to the trash the minute it is no longer convenient too.

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SJWs lost me when I was thinking to myself “okay, I get it now. So what should I do?” and I kept hearing “wanting to do something or fix things is white supremacist.” That’s when I realized the only thing I’m meant to do is feel bad and continually “do the work” of not having ideas or thoughts or questions.

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My sniff test is, if you’ve come up with a galaxy-brained way of reinventing the concept of Original Sin, I probably don’t want in on your ideology.

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I wish you were at this Indie Rock show in Philly I was at this weekend Freddie. There were some moments where I could only roll my eyes in the back of my head and shake my head at what was said in the name of political action... in the middle of a fucking set.

If there is anywhere that intersectionality, identity politics and a strong LBTQ presence is at... it is at an indie rock show.

Anyway one band in the middle of their set goes on to say something about... "Oh we are living in this collective trauma of the past 18 months and we must *vague handwave* come together and heal. Then, literally after the next song they played the main singer rants about "All problems we currently dealing in this country are due to one thing and one thing only - WHITE SUPREMACY. And it is up to you white people to DO THE WORK!"

I slowly looked around to make sure I wasn't at some DEI corporate training sponsored by Starbucks whose main speaker is Robinbram X. Kendi-Di'Angelo. I mean really? WHITE SUPREMACY is the reasons for all problems including Coronavirus, inequality, global climate change, and increased violence in poor neighborhoods around the country?

What heartened me, was that only about half the crowd cheered... at an indie rock show. I'll take what I can get.

I know this subject is written much about in the Substacks, but I just don't understand how people just love to revel in their guilt and feelings and bitch about what they feel... yet do nothing materially to help people they claim to want things to be better for.

It's like the one scientist (from Seattle) at my workplace complained to our leadership about how we weren't valuing and awarding enough women and minority scientists for awards/grants/etc.

Bitch! I looked at your history and not once in your 2 DECADES have you got off your ass to nominate for a grant or award for ANY minority or women scientists. All these people can fuck off.

P.S. Also, in the show the black guitarist got up to the mic and said to the crowd "Do yall fuck with Critical Race Theory. Cause I do." And then proceeds to screamo out unintelligble lyrics to the next song.

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This got me thinking and clarified a strange parallel that I've been seeing for a while. It's that conservatives recruit like christians and liberals tend to recruit like Jews.

When I was a kid in Hebrew school, they taught is that it was a virtue that we don't try to convert people - people have to want it. That ideal of purity seemed good to me as a kid.

But after hearing that stuff and living in that culture for your whole life, it gets stale. As I see it, it's good and fine that Jews don't proselytize, but also, if you operate that way, you shouldn't be surprised that the Jewish population is small. More specifically, if you think that we need to replenish the Jewish population lost after the holocaust for purely demographic reasons, and that's so important that it's worth dying for, maybe try to put more effort into converting people to Judaism?

It's always seemed weird to me: I'm supposed to be upset, as a Jew, that we're dying out, but also supposed to pre-exclude the solution of converting more people to Judaism... and therefore, Jewish-American culture consists of content produced by Jews for other Jews about why it's OK that instead of growing, we're just supposed to ruthlessly defend what we have (Israel, the idea that Jews are an important group of people, and so on).

That paradox always bothered me growing up and is part of why I'm not religious anymore. When I first stopped believing, I even considered becoming Christian, briefly. Christians are out there and they want you. It seems welcoming.

Anyway, I feel like I notice a weirdly similar thing with liberalism. It's an ideology, with no history as a race or ethnicity or religion, and yet, it has the same emphasis on policing a small exclusive group (and seeing conversions as something you don't want to pursue) as a group of people who are literally clinging to an ancient religious prohibition that we're attached to because it's what we're used to.

At least we have the excuse that our culture is codified and 3000 years old.

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Again, a well wrought sentence contains an important insight that is ignored in much if not most discourse: "Categorical moral claims blunt the demand for individual moral responsibility."

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I think you’ve written before about how a lot of the white participants in these social justice-y communities implicitly tend to assume that whatever dismissive or mean comments they make about white people just don’t apply to them.

The white people making these comments about how much white people suck on some level understand that what they’re engaging in is insincere posturing and should not be taken very seriously. The white guys who log on for the first time and see these ideas/posts unfortunately don’t understand yet that they shouldn’t be taking a lot of it literally or seriously. It would be easier if these hypothetical white Twitter users had an understanding of social context on the Internet such that they would realize that if a white guy online is talking shit about white people, it has little to do with reality, and much to do with that guy’s desire to advance socially, and he probably doesn’t actually believe in any of it. Alas. You have to spend years online to fully get any of this, and even then, it’s still annoying.

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In my life, I've abandoned (1) the strict, traditional religion that I was raised in and (2) the newly-strict, political party that I've been raised amongst. In both cases, there's a very similar process.

First, there's the Fearful Vertigo that comes from an absence of structure - of there being no rules and guide rails and training wheels. "Who will catch me if I fall?" "No one. But, to be fair, there wasn't anyone to catch you before, either. That was an illusion."

Next, there's the (in my case, muted) Kneejerk Hedonism. "If there's no [orthodoxy], then I'm going to do whatever I want," with "do whatever I want" being reflexively "explore all the things [orthodoxy] said were bad." (This is the "So I'll be a racist, then" defiant impulse that Freddie alluded to.)

Then, there's the Quiet Interrogation. Rather than continue doing "what you want," you *actually* examine what you want. In absence of an orthodoxy (whether original or reactionary), you start to listen to the only remaining guide you have remaining: your inner voice, your center, whatever you want to call it. Is that voice just a conglomeration of chance nature and nurture, of genes and memes? Sure is. But it's the only authentic thing you have, so you'd best become acquainted. This is where "educate yourself" comes into play (though not likely in the sense that many wielders of that imperative intend).

Finally, there's the Confident Centeredness. You're not arrogant, and you still have a *ton* to figure out (hopefully that'll never change), but you're now familiar with your center of gravity, and it's difficult for you to be thrown off-balance. Now it's just an ongoing dialogue between your experiences and your interior voice's reactions to them. The struggle in this phase (at least these days) is how public/vocal you are about the content and outcomes of these internal dialogues.

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Is there really a huge difference between teenagers listening to The Minutemen and Led Zeppelin? I don't know, I don't see that as a given. That's not coming from a 'they're all just stupid white guys with guitars' perspective, I like both bands just fine. But The Minutemen's most played song on Spotify is the Jackass theme song. The self-importance that the punk movement gives itself and its politics has always felt vastly out of proportion to any of its actual achievements. The most popular far-leftist band of all time made music that Paul Ryan was rocking out to at the Congressional gym. Popular music has never been less political and young people are as revolutionary as ever while John Lydon is wearing a MAGA shirt. Maybe it just doesn't matter that much.

And as for poptimism - 'Vox explains: Why Beyonce is actually Che Guevera' is clickbait to make Beyonce fans feel good about themselves. In 2021 most people writing about music are content farmers, they don't write about rock music because new rock music doesn't get played on the radio anymore and because it doesn't exist as a substantial cultural force in 2021.

"Which prompts the question: if you are a white man with a guitar, and your musical star is rising..." ...I mean, who could this sentence even be referring to anymore?

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Matthew 7-18 'A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.'

I remember in 2013-2014 there was this weird thing happening where the media-rati were all, 'YASSSSS Beyonce!!!' 'YASSS TNC!!!' who I both thought not that interesting.

Beyonce was fine in the way that Coke and Marlboro are fine. TNC could turn a phrase, but mostly he came off as a shallow, angry, fat nerd.

Now we have a larger body of woke-approved film, TV, music, and literature and it basically all sucks. The limp auto-fiction, unwatchable TV and film, disposable indie rock that is 'well reviewed' are reliably joyless and disposable. You get the impression that the critic hates the artform they are tasked with assessing... why? Their disappointment with life?

I too am a fan of the Minutemen. But even more amazed by the general cultural fertility of that period. The 80s SST roster: Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Bad Brains, Minutemen. It was just awesome.

The main value of current regimented cultural offerings, uniformly grey and flat, is as a backdrop to the recent past. Growing up in the 90s, in retrospect a golden era creatively, was desensitizing - there was too much good stuff. Now though, when you listen to a good early Wu Tang solo album or a coked out Bowie record or an earnest cover by the Replacements or watch a De Palma or Schrader film or the King of Comedy it's almost hallucinatory in contrast to how constricted art is currently. Tarantino's recent film 'Once Upon a Time...' felt like a eulogy to a sort of filmmaking that can't be done anymore.

Maybe it's a generational thing? We have to go through a cohort of sour, mediocre, midwit critics, cultural cops, 'content producers,' and gatekeepers before things can open up again? Although what's the plan? On many fronts (education, culture, politics) I feel like I have the same conversation: 'Hopefully in 5 years this shit goes away.' So, what is it, what's the plan?

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Far from winning converts, the social incentives point in the other direction entirely: scrambling to out-woke and ostracize the already-faithful.

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Maybe because in the West we started with Occitanians on lutes? Looking through the substack,“Encyclopedia of World Music Genres” (George Eberhardt free substack)...https://georgemeberhart.substack.com/ it looks like it's men with what ever instrument is used in most cultures.

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“White men with guitars” also covers a pretty broad swathe beyond just rock ‘n’ rollers.


If you ain’t never heard this white dude with a guitar mourn the death of labor unions through a haunting melody and a heart-wrenching narrative, today is your day.

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I was very actively "part of the left" from about 16-22 and have always been either nearby or monitoring it for the 16 years since then. And there has always been one belief I've held that has put me at odds, culturally, with other leftists. That belief is that Zeppelin rocks.

I could openly espouse imperialism, colonialism, capitalism itself, whatever, and still be more culturally part of the left than I am because I'd rather listen to an outtake of Jimmy Page shredding for 20 minutes than all the punk music ever made. Zoso baby.

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Aug 10, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

Maybe partying will help.

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Really great post. I believe it’s important for people on the left to push back on the SJ narrative about white people, but most writers are afraid to do it. I’ve spent so many years in woke circles that it’s almost shocking to see someone spell it out (someone who isn't on the right).

But we need to be honest about the message that white people get from SJ discourse. Like the post says, a lot of people will deny that the movement is hostile toward ordinary white people living their lives. I used to say the same thing when I was involved in college activism 15 years ago (back then, it was mostly true).

These days, however, white people really are told that they’re bad because of their skin color. They’re expected to grovel and apologize for existing, and to scold other white people until they do the same. It’s not the case in America generally, but you absolutely get that message in elite, woke spaces. We need to be honest about this.

Anyway, I thought you did a great job of articulating the problem and the consequences.

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