Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Boat Will Rock


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.


Todd Seavey said...

The aforementioned Jesse Walker points out (that he pointed out a couple months ago) that _The Boat Will Rock_, alas, bends history to make the conservatives look like the villains (of course, so do serious historians these days, so I shouldn’t be too surprised — and let me add that the pirate broadcasters have always been at war with Oceania’s state radio system):

Todd Seavey said...

P.S. Jesse ended his awesome _Titicut Follies_ radio show to head back to Baltimore but can still be found at Reason and his eponymous blog, where he recently posted this uncharacteristically funny passage from Alasdair MacIntyre parodying scientism in political analysis (which nicely captures my wariness of experts-in-general, not that I trust non-experts either):

There once was a man who aspired to be the author of the general theory of holes. When asked ‘What kind of hole–holes dug by children in the sand for amusement, holes dug by gardeners to plant lettuce seedlings, tank traps, holes made by road makers?’ he would reply indignantly that he wished for a general theory that would explain all of these. He rejected ab initio the–as he saw it–pathetically common-sense view that of the digging of different kinds of holes there are quite different kinds of explanations to be given; why then he would ask do we have the concept of a hole? Lacking the explanations to which he originally aspired, he then fell to discovering statistically significant correlations; he found for example that there is a correlation between the aggregate hole-digging achievement of a society as measured, or at least one day to be measured, by econometric techniques, and its degree of technological development. The United States surpasses both Paraguay and Upper Volta in hole-digging; there are more holes in Vietnam than there were. These observations, he would always insist, were neutral and value-free. This man’s achievement has passed totally unnoticed except by me. Had he however turned his talents to political science, had he concerned himself not with holes, but with modernization, urbanization or violence, I find it difficult to believe that he might not have achieved high office in the [American Political Science Association].

Todd Seavey said...

Speaking of mod, by the way, here’s the dangerous side of that aesthetic:

And in less-stupid geek news, by the way, it appears Brian Blessed (King Vultan of _Flash Gordon_, etc.) will play Odin in the summer 2011 _Thor_ movie Kenneth Branaugh’s directing.

Todd Seavey said...

And if you’re _not_ an Odin-worshiping neo-pagan (though some of you are, and you know who you are), you might instead check out eleven pages worth of mega-cartoonist and Catholic-raised Robert Crumb literally illustrating the Book of Genesis in the June 8-15 _New Yorker_. Trippy.

Brain said...

Todd, you may not comment on your own posts except in reply to someone else. When you comment to your own post, repeatedly, that is the electronic equivalent to having a loud and lengthy conversation with yourself as you walk down the street, and is a sign of madness.

Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Todd Seavey said...

Once in a while there are things that simply don’t rise to the level of warranting new entries.

Brain said...

Or you’re just losing your mind, byt that’s okay.

Hey, Mama, we’re all crazy now.