Art and the politics of the Artist

Posted on January 3, 2013


I wrote on a post recently about the disaster that was not Sandy but the “12-12-12” concert. In that post, I took a shot at the phony populist Bruce Springsteen (who charges fans $100 and up to attend his practice sessions). It’s quite common for celebrities to say one thing and do another (as it is with all of us), but when does it become too much? At one point does their hypocrisy undermine their work so that you no longer listen or watch them? Bruce-Springsteen

I am a fan generally of The Boss. Generally in that I think he has some good songs, good lyrics, and from what I’ve seen, puts on a lively, rockin’ show. I bought one of his CD’s years ago and sometimes play his songs (” Girls in their Summer Clothes” is one of the best remakes of “The Kids are Allright” ever) online. I respect his talent and drive but am not such a fan that I ever considered buying one of his high priced tickets. His fans are among the most devoted anywhere and would probably cheer whatever he said from the stage, but more likely than not, they just love the music. So, I’m not conflicted much b/c I won’t be in attendance when he shills for the Democrats or prattles on about baaaddd Republicans.

There are musicians that I still enjoy very much whose politics I loathe. Most of the time, their “politics” are so juvenile and michael-stipe-637x0-1disjointed that it makes it easy to forgive/forget them. Michael Stipe of REM comes to mind as he once admitted that he gets his information from the back of Ben & Jerry cartons. A more complicated case would be the singer from the Arcade Fire, a band I really dig.  Here’s some of his recent blather about Comrade Obama in Rolling Stone:

Barack Obama is perhaps the greatest president of modern times at communicating directly with foreign populations. He has also changed the way the government communicates with its own citizens about the outside world.

I am excited for four more years of an Obama presidency for many reasons, but the one I am going to write about is selfish: I want four more sweet years of Canadians liking Americans. The Republicans will try to convince America that President Obama being a good communicator is somehow a bad thing. Often times politicians act as if the only use of public speaking is trying to get elected. In fact, this kind of personal charisma is perhaps the most direct way a president can pursue America’s interests abroad. Being able to communicate in a compelling way, and engaging other countries as partners and adults, is in America’s best interest.

There was a great example of this over the summer when Mitt Romney visited London for the Olympic games. In attempting to pander to a U.S. audience and show how “presidential” he was, he ended up convincing our greatest ally that he’s prone to terrible gaffes that could jeopardize relationships with our allies – delicate relationships where a few misplaced words can do great harm.

The most compelling recent example of President Obama’s abilities as a communicator came in his recent address to the United Nations. This speech was broadcast all over Canada and the world, and it detailed America’s vision for human rights, democratic change in the Middle East and its priority to change the global status of women.

I felt so proud – as an American citizen living in a socially progressive country like Canada – that our president understands that there are global moral imperatives that unite us all.

Obviously, someone so selective about simple facts and so slavish in his devotion is not someone I’d want to embrace. Assuming he’s sincere and not padding his career (you must be a committed leftist to get anywhere in popular culture), his statements demonstrate how one could be gifted in certain areas and bankrupt in others.


Posted in: art, music, politics