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The Delusion of Hollywood and the Music Industry

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It’s hard to believe, but the following events happened this year… aka The Year 2020… aka The Year That Never Ends:  the impeachment of President Trump, the assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, and that great speech by British comedian and self-proclaimed liberal Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globe Awards; a boring spectacle so self-congratulatory that it’s surpassed only by The Academy Awards and Grammys. Based on various speeches and comments during the recent Democrat National Convention from Hollywood and music industry celebrities, it’s clear that Gervais’ criticisms fell on deaf ears.

Gervais’ scathing opening monologue, as you may remember, focused largely on the hypocrisy of Hollywood, and surprised many on the Left at the time. But what seemed to startle them most was the huge, supportive reaction he received as a result. Most notable during his 8-minute opening was when Gervais scolded potential honorees saying, “You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god and F*** OFF!” Immediate reaction on social media was overwhelmingly positive, and within 24 hours the number of Gervais’ Twitter followers had increased by over 300,000. If you listened closely that day, you could practically hear the Hollywood elites scratching their heads and muttering, “I wonder why they’re reacting this way. I thought they adored us.” Gervais managed to capture the thoughts and emotions of millions of middle-class, regular Americans. The message hit home… stop with your pontificating and reprimanding. Just because you happen to be good at pretending to be someone else, and just because we choose to go to your movies occasionally doesn’t mean you’re smarter than us and it doesn’t make you superior to anyone. Be grateful for what you have and shut the hell up.

Only moments later on that very same stage, the brilliant intellectual known as Patricia Arquette – who just happens to be an actress – couldn’t help herself. Upon receiving an award for something, she took the opportunity to rip into President Trump and his approach to the crisis with Iran, stating that Trump had brought us to “the brink of war”, and then demanded that we “vote in 2020 and beg and plead for everyone we know to vote in 2020.” If you’re wondering whether or not anyone from the media followed up with Arquette to call her out on how absurd her statement was in retrospect, wonder no more. They didn’t. Brink of war, Patricia, really? It seems that you not only screwed the pooch on that analysis, you got it totally backwards. Trump’s tactics didn’t just work, they turned out to be masterful.

Such cluelessness isn’t limited to Hollywood, unfortunately, as we see a similar disconnection with many music stars. In 2004, the band Green Day launched a world tour in support of their album titled American Idiot. Green Day had sprung onto the music scene in the early-1990s with a hard-driving, punk-rock sound that had fairly wide appeal. Subject matter for the majority of their song lyrics, most of which are written by front man Billie Joe Armstrong, had previously been limited to the standbys for that genre; topics such as recreational drug use and masturbation. But by 2004, Armstrong had become so intelligent that he felt compelled to weigh-in on politics. The title song from American Idiot, released in the middle of George W. Bush’s presidency, was essentially a rebuke directed at anyone to the right of Armstrong’s ideology, which applied to the vast majority of Americans then and now.  My thirteen year-old daughter had become a big fan of Green Day, and I somehow acquired the duty of escorting her and a friend to one of their stadium concerts. For those who have never had the pleasure, there are two surefire ways for a band to get a positive reaction from a stadium full of teenagers – use the F-word and mention the city in which you’re playing – and the most effective method is to use both at the same time. Between virtually every song that day, Armstrong shouted “F*cking Frisco!” No other context, just the f-word and the name of the city, and he received loud applause each time. The irony escaped the younger attendees, but not the adults. The moderately-skilled guitarist who mumbles lyrics to 3-chord songs and resorts to such an inane method of gaining approval from a stadium full of adolescents, was on stage telling us how stupid conservative Americans were.

For me, the most disappointing example of this phenomenon is Bruce Springsteen. Having grown up on his music, I knew virtually every word to every one of his songs from the early-1970s through the 1990s. Early on, Bruce sang about his humble upbringing in a blue-collar home, and about experiences to which we could all relate; “chasing those factory girls underneath the boardwalk, where they all promise to unsnap their jeans.” Along with his E-Street Band, Springsteen played the No Nukes Concert in 1979, and there was a minor sense of political messaging on his 1985 album Born in the USA, but his politics were subtle. It didn’t feel like he was preaching. In 2002, Springsteen released the album The Rising in the aftermath of 9/11, and the performances on his accompanying tour frequently featured politically-tinged comments. By 2004, Springsteen was openly supporting the candidacy of John Kerry, a liberal Democrat, and appearing with him at campaign rallies. Springsteen’s immersion into the politics-of-the-day has been increasing ever since.

To fully understand the development of Springsteen as a liberal activist, we really need to look backwards. Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949, and grew up in the working class town of Freehold, New Jersey, and from the age of 15 he was being paid to play in local clubs. In late-1972 he signed a contract with Columbia records, and as he proclaims to his love interest in the song Rosalita, “the record company Rosie, just gave me a big advance”, and I’m sure they did. Therefore, from the age of 23 until now, Springsteen has made his living creating, selling and performing music. Good for him. He’s been blessed with a God-given talent, and he’s made the most of it. But consider the work itself and consider the compensation: playing and writing your own music. Touring the world and playing music, and dedicating hours to perfecting the craft of creating it, can undoubtedly be challenging. But compare the nature of what Springsteen does to the grueling work of the mason who built your retaining wall last summer. Or the nurse who is on her feet for 12 hours straight with the stress of knowing that a single mistake could literally kill someone. Bruce Springsteen projects the persona of the common man, yet he makes over $1 million for a single show. When was the last time Bruce had a sleepless night worrying about the impact of the coming year’s property-tax increase? Probably never. Yet he feels justified in preaching to us about why we should vote for Democrat politicians who want to raise our taxes to fund free healthcare for illegal immigrants.

When Springsteen began releasing music in 1973, his upbringing was in his recent past, right there in his rearview mirror, and his political activism was virtually non-existent. But as his career progressed and his success increased, so did the visibility of his politics. The further removed Springsteen has become from the experiences of middle-class America, the more vocal he has been in lecturing it. And while Springsteen’s musical genius is undeniable, if he was half as smart as he thinks he is he would recognize that his life experiences are now very different from the rest of us.

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Ultimately, the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives plays a role with the attitude of Hollywood and the music industry. Being a liberal has always been cooler, more appealing, particularly to a younger audience. Who does a teenage girl want go out with: the teenage boy talking about the dangers that entitlements are causing with our national debt, or the boy who hates billionaires and climate change, and loves polar bears?  And let’s face it, Hollywood and the music industry desperately want to be seen as cool. But a sentiment that’s been attributed to various personalities over the years, including Winston Churchill, states “If you’re under 25 and you’re not a liberal, you have no heart. And if you’re over 35 and you’re not a conservative you have no brain.” This statement applies perfectly to Hollywood and the music industry. If your most recent point of reference to the “real world”, as Ricky Gervais calls it, came when you were 22-years old like Bruce Springsteen, then being a liberal makes sense. If you want to be admired, be liberal. But for most of us out here in the real world, fretting over the amount of income tax that’s withheld from our paychecks each week, we see the dangers of liberalism, and we’ve grown up.

PF Whalen