Should You Care That Morrissey, Danzig and John Lydon Aren’t Woke?
What do Steven Patrick Morrissey, John Lydon and Glenn Danzig have in common? If you guessed that they haven’t had an essential record in over a decade, you’d be right, but that’s not where I’m headed with this. All three have said things this year that can be viewed as unfavorable (Lydon and his pro-Brexit / Trump stance), incorrect (Danzig saying he doesn’t think Planned Parenthood should sell “baby parts”) or just plain asinine (Morrissey and his racially charged remarks regarding the Manchester bombing).
Now, we could unpack each individual’s recent public displays of — for lack of a better description — poor choices, but that’s been done to death, and I’m sure someone somewhere is poised over the horse’s carcass ready to give it another kick because their parents didn’t hug them enough or some shit. What’s most interesting to me is that all three came from countercultural music scenes that bucked the status quo and gave the finger (or two, for our friends across the pond) to the establishment. You would think their stance would naturally be on the side that most of their fan base and peers appear to be on, right? That’s probably what makes this the most surprising — not that three old men acted like your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, but that it was the figureheads of the Smiths, the Sex Pistols and, well, Danzig.
The argument could be made that they’re still fighting the establishment — just the one that held the White House for the last eight years or the party that wanted to hold the U.K. in the European Union. They’re still being provocative, albeit not in the direction you would expect. The case could be made that it’s hypocritical to judge them negatively just because the window they’re throwing rocks at is yours and not the prom king and queen's.
I was shit with metaphors in school.
Does this make them shitty people? In Morrissey’s case, yes, but that’s news even Ray Charles saw coming, and he’s been deceased for years. As for the other two and the myriad others who’ve shared some surprising views, I don’t know. I mean, that’s what this country is founded on — freedom of speech, right? Well, that and slave labor and wars for oil, but I’m not trying to split hairs here.
And that’s where we come in: the fans. When does it become our personal responsibility to shun our heroes? Does it even matter? Should we care?
I don’t need to point out the obvious — that we live in extremely tense and sensitive times (oops, just did), and with everyone being connected through absolutely every facet of their lives, each one of us bears the personal responsibility of the consequences of what we say and who we say it to. That extends to people with a larger platform: celebrities. And they shouldn’t be surprised if people get upset with them if they do disagreeable shit. To step out of music for a second, for Kathy Griffin to act surprised that her stunt with the head caused people to be upset with her is honestly fucking preposterous, and I didn’t even find it personally offensive. I somehow doubt Barron Trump did either, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point is, even if we don’t agree with it, people have the right to disengage with someone whose views they find stupid or just plain disagreeable. And people in the public spotlight should not be surprised when they’re on the receiving end of being told to fuck themselves if they’ve opened their shit-traps to the world.
As a natural devil’s advocate, I’m also of the school of thought that we give these people entirely too much credence in public discourse. John Lydon had an advertising campaign for butter — why the fuck would anyone care what he has to say (especially after those PiL reunion records)?
I don’t know if what any of these three said will affect how I feel about their music. I know there’s a lot of chatter out there about boycotts and whatnot, but let’s face it — the majority who are being loud about this probably pirated their records anyway. And destroying your copies of said artist’s records may feel good, but it’s absolutely fucking pointless. It’s symbolic at best. They already have your money, and I’m pretty sure you breaking your possessions will not keep them awake at night. They’re rich; they can afford good sleeping pills. Morrissey can probably just make an audiobook of himself talking, and I’m sure that will do the trick every time. Cheap shots aside, if you’re really that fucking steamed about what an artist says, then take their material and sell it, then donate the money to a charity that represents what they’re against instead of creating more shit that’ll sit in a landfill. You’d be doing two good things, and here in America, we sure love patting ourselves on the back.
“But Mr. Jameson, what if they say or do something really offensive?” First, Mr. Jameson was my father, and second, this is where our oft-ignored skill of critical thinking comes in. Are they saying something that encourages violence against someone or careening down a dangerous path toward ideas worth fighting against — or are they simply just on the other side of the argument? Is it worth expending energy that you could be using for something positive to try to school them on an idea they’ll never come around to, or are they receptive and open-minded? Jesus Christ, civil discourse in this day and age is a lost goddamn art.
Personally, I won’t get rid of my Smiths, Danzig or Public Image Ltd stuff. I already spent the money on it; they already got what they wanted from me; and, in return, I got what I wanted from them. I will, however, make sure they don’t get any of my money in the future, because that seems to be a way to get someone’s attention — through the soft spot. But I’ll still enjoy what I have, because that’s how I’ve made my personal choice in this matter. Your miles may vary.
Oh, and I didn’t mean you need to have discourse with someone like Richard Spencer — you can throw a hard right or a hilariously demeaning open-handed slap at them. While you’re at it, kick the Nuge in his old, worthless balls, too.