I’m pleased to see a movie coming out on August 28 called The Boat That Rocked that depicts a heroic battle in 1966 between near-literal pirate radio stations, broadcasting rock from boats in opposition to the British government-licensed radio station’s more staid formats. (If you can’t wait that long to see a good movie, consider seeing the first annual Lighthouse International Film Festival in Long Beach Island, NJ, June 4-7 and organized by Charlie Prince, who just happens to be right-leaning.)
The boat film, it strikes me, is a good test of what sort of conservative one is. Obviously, libertarians (especially Jesse Walker and Brian Doherty — not to mention some libertarian ex-DJs I know, like David “Watts” Whitney and Michael Malice) will tend to side with the pirates in this case, but I would hope virtually all conservatives would applaud their defiance of onerous regulations. Unfortunately, there are those stick-in-the-mud, FCC-loving, authoritarian-type conservatives who still instinctively hate the rebels and love the Man — or will side with the pirates in this case only by suppressing their natural inclinations.
(Note that I’m assuming these broadcasters are “pirates” only in the sense that they’re homesteading unused bandwidth that should not be viewed as “owned” by the government in the first place — this is not the same, morally-speaking, as stealing your neighbor’s cable, and it’s certainly preferable to the kind of anti-globalization vandalism-as-protest that has taken dangerous form here in Manhattan recently, with incidents like that bombing of a Starbucks up in the East 90s, which fortunately have so far harmed no one. If it’s really the antiglob doing it, one has to wonder whether the logic of their anti-cosmopolitan position will eventually lead to a war against airmail, the Internet, and bus trips to Canada.)
Even more frightening than pro-FCC conservatives is that handful of leftists whose aesthetic and cultural allegiances might draw them rockward in the 1966 battle but who side with the government anyway on pro-regulation “principle” — though I’d urge them to recall (and this may be my main message in life) that your aesthetic inclinations should never lead to a knee-jerk fondness for regulations.
You may recall that my ex-girlfriend Dawn Eden was a mod and a rock writer before becoming a religious activist — and in her old form called 1966 the peak of taste in American pop culture, not such an unreasonable position given the way it balanced old-fashioned jacket-and-tie presentability with a touch of bourgeoning psychedelia, achieving that nice but short-lived Batman/Gilligan/Prisoner/Star Trek balance.
But where does my new glam ladyfriend Helen Rittelmeyer stand on this boat vs. establishment question, you ask? I think she’s just pleased to see people passionately fighting for their sect or home team, which often means siding with traditionalists over innovators and reformers but also leads her to a fondness for feisty unions (and even Al Shanker), underdog sports teams, come-from-behind boxers, martyrs, Nietzsche, punks, and thus presumably rebellious broadcasters — not so much the boring bourgeoisie. She’s complex. (Of course, the staid bourgeoisie needs vigorous defending itself, from evil statist predators and common criminals, not to mention Naomi Klein — roughed up by the International Policy Network’s Kendra Okonski here.)
She also sort of enjoys seeing tribes duke it out and thus if she weren’t in DC right now might enjoy tonight’s Debate at Lolita Bar about Zionism and its implications for the Palestinians. Be there. It wasn’t easy setting up an Israelis/Palestinians debate, by the way — my original wording, “Should Israel Give Up Land?” was rejected by the originally-planned pro-Israel debater as too pro-Palestinian and rejected by the pro-Palestinian debater as too pro-Israel. I try.
Eliminating religion might help defuse the conflict, though contradictory land claims are the real problem. Also, my religion-eliminating solution probably wouldn’t go over well with the aforementioned ladyfriend, who already worries (eloquently) about the bourgeois, secular, naively perfectionist, suffering-ameliorating, and thus sometimes blandness-making, virtue-neglecting, and identity-erasing tendencies in the culture. By contrast, my slogan is nearly “Every Man a Cyborg,” my attitude toward pain and suffering (as a utilitarian) is nearly the same as Daffy Duck’s (I don’t like pain — it hurts me), and I think we can achieve excellence and virtue even while enjoying the material bounty of bourgeois, secular society that helped us go see They Might Be Giants and Frank Sinatra Jr. on the same night a few nights ago instead of being trapped on the bayou with a traditional jug band, to make a complex argument brutally short. (Then, too, we secular types can only get away with just so much serious ritualism before we get accused of hollowly mimicking the religious traditionalists — damned if we do, damned if we don’t, as it were.)
But I’m a big-tent, fusionist kind of guy at heart, and I think the civilization’s big enough to embody a lot of these tensions without having to whittle things down to one winning formula. So I’ll save the politicking for next month and for now go back to talking about rock n’ roll — well, after blogging just a tiny bit about Twitter and some related problems tomorrow. If you crave more politics in the interim, contemplate how a certain residual libertarian/federalist streak in Cheney was his rationale for cautiously embracing gay marriage and how that might be a wise attitude toward the whole thing. Also, check out Op-Toons frequently for some sophisticated political humor — you gotta love the joke about Sotomayor being kept off the jury due to her ethnic bias. Oh, and read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, out yesterday in paperback, if you haven’t already.
P.S. One more religion note: My coworkers pointed out to me that the new Bishop of New York traditionally begins his term by knocking on St. Pat’s to be let in — but the doors are so massive he does it with a plain-old hammer in order to be heard, which for a second made one coworker, who was seeing this happen recently with the volume off on his TV, think a new burst of Protestant revolt was occurring or something, a la Martin Luther.