On my hungover ride up the shuffling parking lot that is the 400, I noticed a carload of punks in their lowered Honda Civic undoubtedly heading to the Vans Warped Tour. Their mohawks and steel bracelets screamed “I’m hardcore” and their sleek Honda’s exhaust pipe shuddered and coughed just inches below a bumper sticker that stated, “No Blood For Oil”.
A quote from the 1994 movie “PCU” jumps to my mind, “These Tom, are your cause-heads. They find a world-threatening issue and stick with it… for about a week.”
I had just scored a job “bartending” (read: paid human can opener) at the beer tent in Molson Park in hopes of catching Bad Religion and a few other bands during my down time. In reality, I spent far too much time with garbage bag in hand, plucking empties off picnic tables with some hack punk band screaming about “the idiot son of a rich American ex-President.”
And yes. Why not poke Bush a bit? He’s a stammering, over-aggressive ole boy who’s been so fashionably criticized by pundits ranging from actor Susan Sarandon to director Spike Lee. In fact, every hour some new artist or actress seems to jump aboard this anti-Bush wagon. Trickle-down economics may have been discounted, but trickle down activism is definitely thriving and hasn’t ever been this thorough. It really is en vogue to come out against Bush in the media. It spins your celebrity profile nearer to that idyllic combination of “fireman who saves kittens” and “well-read and worldly humanitarian.”
While it may be a little pretentious (and definitely misleading) of me to imply that every celebrity that waltz’s down the red carpet to come out against Bush is doing it for media kicks, a growing number of them are unabashedly using it to fuel their careers. When you see an album entitled Rock Against Bush Vol 1 (and 2) featuring Sum 41’s hit song “Moron”, I defy you to hold those bitter chunks of puke from rising up your gullet.
Most higher income activists will tell you that despite their privileged position, they still deserve their right to dissent. I fully agree… By all means go ‘U2’ on people, but get used to the eyes rolling. It’s really easy for your words to come across as contrived if you have either wealth and fame supporting you.
If you check out Anti-Flag’s website, frontman ‘Justin Sane’ rails against everything from the war in Iraq to the brainwashing “for-profit media” without offering better explanations than because “IT MAKES ME ANGRY”. It’s this brand of pop-activism that makes me sick. The overly-emotional, soap-boxed propelled drivel that, once you finish reading, you quickly decide your time would have been better spent reading the backside of a Count Chocula box.
Not all of this NÜ-activism is as mind numbing as Anti-Flag. Michael Moore’s films, for instance, have brought some succinct criticisms to the public eye in all of his films. Many have rightly attacked him for his overly-evocative editing style which often twists contexts and undoubtedly weaves facts in ways that border on propaganda. Nevertheless, Moore draws very interesting connections with a level of intelligence that at least spurns the viewer to learn more.
If activism is about anything it’s about spreading an educated message to a broad audience with the intent to change policies and behaviours. It’s not about selling CDs, stylish clothing lines or even theatre tickets. No matter how hardcore you feel with that placard in hand and no matter who else is doing it, make sure you have reason behind you.