by Joseph Larkin
The irony of "conservative punk," or ConPunk as it's uncommonly known, is not lost on yours truly. According to my thesaurus, "conformist" is a synonym of "conservative."
We've heard enough about Punkvoter.com and Rock against Bush in the past year to be swayed into thinking that punk rock the few remaining bones of punk rock's corpse not already sold to television commercials is decidedly liberal. But punk rock's history is steeped in conservative politics; it should come as no surprise that there's been a rise in conservative punk in recent years.
To those who choose not to take conservative punks seriously those who say that punk, by definition, can never be conservative I say this: The recently deceased Johnny Ramone, one of the four guys who more or less invented punk rock as we know it, was a notorious, card-carrying, flag-waving, Republican. Well, I don't know if he carried a card or waved a flag, but he was certainly an unapologetic Republican, one who famously said "God bless George W. Bush" as his influential band was being inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame (a possible irony: the only political song the Ramones ever penned was anti-Reagan). And didn't the Sex Pistols write "Bodies," an anti-abortion anthem that Velvet Revolver is covering in concert? Who's more punk rock than Velvet Revolver?! And we all remember the skinheads, don't we? Isn't Fugazi's Ian MacKaye rumored to have owned an album by the notoriously uber-right wing, racist band Skrewdriver? And your eighth grade English teacher said you should never start a sentence with the word "and," didn't she? And didn't you just want to knock her block off? (She also warned you about ending a sentence with a preposition).
The important question as regards conservative punks is how they reconcile a traditionally rebellious music like Punk with conservative political views. Joseph Burns, who maintains Ant-anti-flag.com, a website that painstakingly debunks the lyrics and political sloganeering offered up by liberal punk band Anti-Flag, explains, "The number one message in Punk Rock [sic], to me, is 'Think for Yourself' [sic]. I am [thinking for myself], and I've decided I want a smaller government that leaves its citizens free to succeed or fail on their own merits." Bobby Steele, former guitarist of the Misfits, explains his stance thusly: "The initial rebellions in Punk were against the sixties hippie culture and its lazy, do-nothing-but-complain attitude. This included the philosophy that we not only need to work, but it is our right. Chelsea had a song [called] 'Right to Work,' the Clash sang about 'Career Opportunities.' Early punks wanted to get off of government dependence, such as the dole in the U.K. and welfare in the U.S.; we wanted to become entrepreneurs and strike it rich without having to take advantage of others [Tell that to the Sex Pistols! Ed]. [When] the San Francisco hippies came along and co-opted [the] musical movement, they turned it into the exact opposite of what it began as. They started telling young kids that money and wealth were evil, and you could free yourself from that evil by giving them all of your filthy money. They encouraged kids to leave home and become failures...and then they blame the government.
"We're rebelling against that and the other fascist attitudes that have corrupted our culture. Today it is rebellious to be conservative."
Bobby cleared up the most popular misconception about conservative punks, "That we're Nazis National Socialists. It's impossible for someone on the right to follow the teachings of socialism, which is a left wing belief. There's also a misconception that we're blindly following President Bush. We're not. If you were to read the opinions expressed at Conservativepunk.com, you'd see there are a lot of criticisms of the way things are being done right now. I'd say the thing that really brings us all together isn't so much that we're conservative as it is that we're sick and tired of being dictated to on how we must think to be punks. The left has consistently shown itself as the 'Thought Police.' We believe in the constitution, human rights, free speech and freedom of the press."
Me, I believe in a thing called love.
In the old days, punks or, the "hairdo-challenged," as they prefer to be called would use brightly colored, spray-painted slogans to voice their concerns, on highway overpasses and brick walls all across this great nation. Today's punks are far more savvy, using Internet bulletin boards as their virtual brick walls, spraying poorly-worded digital posts, rife with awful grammar and even worse syntax.
The most well known conservative punk website is probably the aforementioned ConservativePunk.com, home to some of the worst political cartooning I have ever seen. Launched on January 31, 2004, ConservativePunk.com was "created to counteract the multiple liberal punk sites on the web, which are run by only a small number of punk artists who are choosing to make up the minds of thousands of voters." Curiously, the otherwise media-friendly webmasters of ConservativePunk.com ignored repeated attempts to interview them completely. In true anti-capitalist Punk Rock fashion, they sell crap with their logo on it in the site's online store.
Then there's GOPunk.com, who do a good job of declaring their intentions: "[We] measure success by the number of left wing weenies we piss off." Very punk rock. GOPunk.com also spells out the basic philosophy of conservative punkers: "Most lefties seem to fear big business above all else, whereas we fear Big Government. Big business can be a problem, but without the additional weight of Big Government behind it, big business can be fought through free-market competition. However, Big Government without Big Business only grows [scarier] as it dictates our doctors [Do they mean doctrines?! Ed], our incomes, even our freedoms.
"Big Business might limit our choices, but Big Government can remove choice from the equation entirely. Or, [to] put [it] another way, Big Tobacco can make cigarettes, but it can't make you buy them. Big Government can." GOPunk.com
Also from GOPunk.com's official FAQ: "A republican SHOULD [sic] be: A supporter of smaller less intrusive government whos [sic] jog [sic] is primarily to defend the nation, it's [sic] people and constitution, to level the playing field so all citizens have equal opportunity [sic] in so far as the public trust is concerned, and to step in at times when neccessary [sic] to enforce the public will."
You might think I'm a jerk for not fixing their grammar and spelling mistakes, but it's a glaring part of the problem with ConPunk: CONSERVATIVE PUNKS CANNOT SPELL, TYPE, OR USE PROPER ENGLISH! Writing and editing this piece was a goddamned nightmare! These guys unnecessarily use commas at will (was William Faulkner a conservative punk?), and constantly capitalize words like "insane" and "dictator" for no reason at all. The same goes for bands names and song titles. It's an abomination. It's insanity! Stop the insanity! C'mon, that thing I just quoted was from their site FAQ! Their FAQ! At the very least, shouldn't your website's FAQ, the document that communicates your entire purpose, contain proper grammar? I don't mean to go off on a tangent here, it's just that the majority of time spent on this article wasn't researching the subject or interviewing people, it was spent editing all the quotes I got so they'd make some sense. Call me old fashioned, but in my day we used a little thing called "spell check."
Like the punks of yore, ConPunks face a fair share of harassment for being different. When I asked Bobby Steele if he'd ever been harassed by liberal punks for leaning so far to the right, he replied, "Actually, my left leg is shorter by an inch, so, technically, I lean to the left...LOL!!" And the Lord said, "Let there be ZING!" Steele elaborated, "During the 2000 elections, while I was supporting Ralph Nader, Gore fanatics were filling the Internet with slander against me not because I supported George W. Bush in that election, [but] because I wouldn't support Al Gore. I was called a Nazi, a child molester, and worse [A child-molesting Nazi? Ed]. This is what I see as the common tactic of the left: either you agree one hundred percent or they will seek to destroy you. These are all tactics that dictators in the past have used to discredit the good people who opposed them." Fuckers!
What do ConPunks think of well I guess we can call them LibPunks? What of Punk Voter? Joseph Burns, Anti-Anti-Flag.com: "I think Punk Voter is, in general, pretty pathetic. They're trying to turn punk into a special interest group, but the special interest group is, for the most part, in high school. What are they going to lobby for? Pizza twice a week in the cafeteria?" LOL, Joseph, LOL!
What about Rock against Bush? Bobby Steele: "It's being financed by some of the wealthiest people in the world. It's being backed by billionaires, like George Soros, whose fortune was made off the backs of failed economies. It's in his best interest to bring into power a president who will bankrupt our economy, and then Soros will buy up as many of our depressed dollars as possible and make a huge profit as the economy recovers. It's backed by Bill Gates [Come on Ed], one of the richest men in the world [OK, you got me there Ed]. The last I heard, he was worth one hundred twenty-four billion dollars. It's being financed by soft money right out of the pocket of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who keeps Ken Lay on her payroll." Yeah, but it's got Green Day on it! That should count for something...right?
As Rock against Bush reiterates, punk rock music has often protested politics, and specifically war, so what do the ConPunks think of the current war, in Iraq? Steele: "Real punk rock has protested oppression, slavery and poverty. Left wing so-called punk rock glorifies poverty, tells musicians that we don't deserve to be treated any better than what is slavery and praises great oppressors like Stalin and Lenin. Jimmy Carter held a meeting with the heads of the major labels back around '78 or '79 and basically told them that they better stop supporting punk rock or else. I can remember seeing the headline at Trash and Vaudeville back then.
"Punk rock has promoted fighting against oppressors. We were critical of the hippies' idea of sitting around bitching about the problem and not doing shit about fixing it just blame the government. It was Malcolm X who said he despised peaceful activists. His motto was 'by any means necessary.' If he were alive today, I'd want him to be my president, even more than G.W. Malcolm knew Islam he studied it for most of his life and followed its teachings. He was murdered by Muslims because he was beginning to expose their 'beautiful lie.' I'd think he would just state that either Muslims take responsibility for what is being done in the name of Islam or he'd promise to drop a M O A B on Mecca.
"Let's put it in perspective. I got this analogy from Andrew Wilkow (a talk radio veteran of Clear Channel and ABC, and a frequent ConservativePunk.com columnist Ed): You're in a bar, drinking a beer and minding your own business. Someone walks up and blindside sucker-punches you in the face for apparently no reason. You've got every right to pick up a bar stool and destroy that motherfucker before he attempts whatever his next move may be. If you don't make a serious move to stop him, you deserve to die at his hands, plain and simple. Do the math. [One wrong plus one wrong equals one right / one's rights? Ed]. When terrorists sucker punched us at the World Trade Center in '93, Bill Clinton did nothing. Terrorism in America grew: Oklahoma City, a terrorist attack in front of the Pentagon, where a terrorist started shooting randomly, just to name two incidents that come to mind. These both happened within two years of the 1993 WTC bombing. Since 9-11, we've managed to thwart terror attacks in the U.S.A. I believe it's because George W. took the initiative and brought the war to the countries that were perpetrating it." Josephs Burns: "There is no question Bush has mismanaged [the war] horribly; that doesn't mean it wasn't a worthy cause. You had an oppressive dictator with known terrorist ties [and] the intent, if not the means, to harm the United States, either directly or indirectly. With the lives of thousands and potentially millions of Americans on the line as a result of an attack, on which side would it be better to make a mistake on?"
Jesus Christ, are there any fundamental Republican views that these guys don't agree with?! Steele hit me with his best shot: "That depends on what you mean by 'fundamental Republican views.' If you mean 'perceived' views, I can quickly say I disagree with fighting for any law or amendment that outlaws love in this time of extreme hatred and I know a lot of Republicans and conservatives who agree with me. The gay marriage issue was very poorly timed, and it was highly irresponsible to try to take advantage of this time in history when we're fighting for the very survival of our country to push that issue. Do you think the Taliban or Al Qaeda are gonna support gay marriage? [Homosexuals will] be the first ones to have their heads cut off. They need to get behind the priority issue, which is national security. Do you think I'm looking at who's gonna make my medical marijuana legal in this election? No.
"I think too many Americans are being too fucking selfish about this whole war and election. Do you know how much it's affecting me? I'm on disability and the gas prices are killing me, but I'm not complaining like these rich elitists are. That's because I feel it's a small sacrifice to make in consideration of those who are making a real sacrifice."
Joseph Burns: "First, although I am registered a Republican, don't confuse conservative with Republican. Today's Republican Party has become less conservative than ever. I don't agree with the fundamentalist Christianity that is taking over the party. I disagree with the drive to support everyone on the public's dime out of Republican paternalism. Global warming doesn't exist, but it's still good for the nation if we err on the side of caution and promote alternative energy anyway. Republicans also need to stop pandering to Saudi Arabia and should probably send a strong message to Iran to shape up."
Is it really a sound policy for our country to fight terror with terror, Joe? Maybe being the bullies of the world is what got us into trouble with these pesky terrorists in the first place. Just a thought.
I hate to say it, but these ConPunks seem downright uptight. I wondered if have any difficulty listening to music that doesn't share their political views. Joseph Burns: "Well, Offspring and Bad Religion are my two favorite bands [and] they both appeared on the Rock against Bush CDs. Bad Religion called ConPunks 'Nazis,' that sort of bothered me. But, no, I don't have any trouble listening to bands of different political persuasions."
Bobby Steele: "I love the first Dead Kennedys album. It was brilliant political satire. Al Franken and those other liars at Air America could learn a thing or two from that record. I'm into music, so if it's good, I'll probably listen to it. It's just that most left wing bands aren't interested in music, it's all about furthering 'the cause' or 'the party,' so the music is as banal as Britney Spears. There's no intelligence or individuality in it it's a bunch of parrots spouting meaningless words [I didn't get the chance to ask Bobby about Fugazi Ed]. Of course I don't support bands that espouse Nazi or racist beliefs, and I don't support bands that violate or support the violation of anyone's civil rights, and most of them show contempt for civil rights in their words and actions, calling George Bush a Nazi with absolutely no evidence.
"It's about music, not preaching. I would hate a 'fuck Kerry' song just as much as I hate a 'fuck Bush' song it's not what I'm into music for. Fortunately, conservative bands are more interested in music, art and entertainment, not in forcing their beliefs down everyone's throats, so it's hard to say how many bands are really conservative. We focus more on the positive while the left can only see the negative side of things." Steele's last words on the subject were decidedly un-musical: "The Democrats have lied and used fear in all of their campaigns and I'm fed up with it. Ronald Reagan did not ruin social security that was done by L.B.J., Carter and Gore. They constantly accuse the Republicans of doing exactly what the Democrats are doing. It's an old tactic that has been used by dictatorships to fool the public in the past."
So those kooky Democrats call ConPunks 'Nazis' and, in turn, they compare them to dictators. Nice.
If there's one thing I've learned researching this piece, it's that both conservative and liberal punks are full of shit. Both groups accuse their enemies of doing the same things that their enemies accuse them of doing, but I'd rather have a world filled with hypocritical conservative and liberal punks than a world of Right Goths, a.k.a. Conservogoths, who, believe it or not, have a home on the Web, too: RightGoths.com. Right Goths are wrong. Goths are bad enough conservatives are even worse but Conservative Goths?! I hear they drink the blood of welfare babies. According to the Right Goth website, "Individualism is an integral part of being a Goth." That's why they wear all black and listen to The Cure, 'cos they're individuals.
"For many left wingers, namely the 'Health Nazis,' many aspects of the Goth lifestyle are anathema. It is the experience of the founders of [RightGoths.com] that Goths often stay out late, drink, many times smoke and don't necessarily eat right." And those hippie leftists aren't known for doing any of those things?
"The world is a bleak place filled with suffering and death. A conservative foreign policy spokesman will believe this as ardently as the nearest Goth." I don't care what political party you belong to, what god you pray to, what kind of music you like or what you basic philosophy of life may be, I am certain there is one thing we can all agree on: ConservoGoths must be stopped.
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