THE MUSIC OF MAGA
Gavin McInnes & the Mad Tweeter
Fuel and Fire For The Trumpian Right
by Wade T. Oberlin
Our political sphere has captivated the world in 2016. Music was still an important factor to me, but on a national level, I was busy following the election. I'm not an alt-right dude, but as a veteran I have a stomach for conservative views and news.
I also have to say that since the last time I wrote here I have started school with the G.I. Bill and integrated myself into a little music scene North of Seattle that has been more important and of interest to me than any other outside musical developments (apart from avant-garde festivals in Krakow, Poland, or Aurora Halal dance-parties).
While inside my own private bubble in the military, I was free to listen to and read about music at my leisure. Only near the end of my enlistment did I give more than a casual interest in political discourse beyond the historical arcs in my music histories or what would directly affect the military. But this is what happened in music surrounding the 2016 election on the other side of the blue line. I came to know this stuff by falling into various right-wing conversations on Twitter and through a few websites most people against Trump wouldn't give a glance. I look because I'm interested, sometimes more than I should be.
Earlier this year my favorite rock scribe Joe Carducci appeared on The Gavin McInnes Show to promote his non-music book of film history, Stone Male: Requiem for a Living Picture. The show is only viewable with a subscription through Compound Media, an entertainment station headed by Anthony Cumia, the shock jock who fell from the graces of Sirius XM for his free speech practices.
Compound itself is a fairly young company, a collective of free speech hawks pushed from their respective media nests by prior marketing teams or administrations through sheer intimidation by Social Justice Warriors, “creative differences,” and the buckling of their bosses... Compound, while burning with anarchic attitudes, is a rightwing menagerie that supplements and feeds back from the satiric media-topplers at Breitbart.
Gavin McInnes severed ties with his own company Vice back in 2008 for said creative differences and apart from a brief stint with Rooster media, he has been part of Compound ever since. A fan and participant in punk rock, his conversation with Carducci was centered more on the SST label than his upcoming book. Gavin also meandered around Carducci's conversation to take a phone interview with Dave Dictor of MDC to touch on the firing of Nick Solares. A reviewer for Eater.com, Solares was placed on leave for being involved in a skinhead band decades before when he performed as “English Nick” for Youth Defense League.
The episode also opened with a relevant rock-monologue about Jesse Hughes, the Eagles of Death Metal frontman, and the aftermath of the November 13, 2015 Paris Attack. Months later, Hughes was denied entry to Le Bataclan after his statements about the venue's security were brought into question. Hughes later apologized, and this was the crux in Gavin's diatribe against those who would silence people experiencing and speaking out about violence perpetrated by Islamists.
Gavin is charismatic and his show introduced viewers to a whole new cult of personality and i's players; those not often available for extended interviews in mainstream media or culture... generally speaking, a large spectrum of Trump supporters. Guests like Jim Goad and Richard Spencer gave open testimonies that showed what coldly intelligent people they were. Interviews like that sent me straying into alt-right and far-right territory that would often make me uncomfortable. Sites like Breitbart and National Review aren't quite as niche and radical seeming in comparison to the internet troll domain of the Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, or the more authentic white supremacist arenas of American Renaissance and VDARE.
I started listening to Gavin in May of 2016, and I haven't stopped. His show, while unknown to the general public, was actually pivotal in the development of the Trump supporter and his victory to come. Along the way, we all laughed, cried and looked on with jaws dropped as Trump took the primaries, the media, and then the election.
Trump was on the campaign trail after besting the other Republican candidates earlier in July. To my surprise THE DONALD himself was set to visit the most true blue, left-laying state north of California, and in my very own backyard.
Everett, WA is a town that got along primarily through logging and a paper mill before Boeing and the U.S. Navy set up shop. At this point, it's still a blip on the way to Seattle or Bellingham. A town striving very much to have a vibrant downtown, but not quite gentrified enough to overlook the homeless, the methadone clinics and the bail bonds buildings. It's what I think of as a working town. Friend and musician Jo Krassin, a native, related it to Cleveland after his last American tour. I guess that was part of the attraction that brought me back as a veteran, and part of the same reasoning for Trump's team to select Everett as his rally point in a state that was certain to reject him at large.
The day of the Trump rally came and I listened to his entire speech, streaming over Heavy.com. I considered going to the rally myself but I also wanted to host my own stream, plus I had some friends who were already checking it out. So I listened from home. One moment sticks out clearly in my mind after the surprise introduction from Rudy Giuliani. Trump's reading of Al Wilson's lyrics from “The Snake,” and the cheers from the crowd near its climax.
Trump was using the song as a warning in regards to the Syrian refugee situation and how taking in refugee status people would only come back to bite us. The Northern Soul record was put into a whole new context, or at least a more specific one. The song was a popular subject in many articles around the country.
But Northern Soul wasn't the most palatable genre for Trump. The most common musical fodder for his rallies was Classic Radio Rock. Around the time of these speeches, news was coming in via Twitter and open Facebook posts from the members of Queen, The Rolling Stones and R.E.M. that they in no way would ever endorse Trump. Neil Young was equally vocal in disparaging the republican candidate as Trump blared “Rocking in the Free World.”
Hip Hop and Trump
People were upset about the use of beloved radio classics at Trump rallies, but those artists were typically white and statistically so was their target audience. Within the hip hop world, producers and rappers were at first divided over the Trump campaign but didn't suffer so much from cultural appropriation. Instead, they were often asked by media officials to weigh in on Trump, Black Lives Matter, and Bernie Sanders. It didn't take long after the primaries, however, for artists like Meek Mill and Talib Kweli to give short observations and long diatribes against Trump, respectively.
Lil' Wayne was the biggest example early on of Trump support inside the hip hop camp, brushing off interviewers when they led questions about Black Lives Matter, racist cops and the state of the election after Trump took the primaries.
"He's Rich, and Rich Lives Matter."
Lil' Wayne cast his vote for Trump while most other hip-hoppers (Kanye excluded) aligned themselves with BLM or defaulted to Bernie and later Hillary. Weezy went red, and on record said that he was purely in it for the tax breaks. Kanye didn't vote but said he would have gone Trump, more than likely because they are practically the same in egos and ids.
Ice Cube had his thoughts on Trump chopped and screwed into an endorsement after saying Donald Trump was what Americans love as well as some criticisms of Sanders based on his history:
... But he quickly assessed that editing in this quick flash from TMZ:
Is Chuck D's position against Trump really going to be too surprising? The answer is no, fuck Trump and yes to BLM. Flavor Flav, on the other hand, had his doubts back in March as to whether The Donald was the power to fight.
Urban dance communities in particular aren't big for growth in the realm of Trump support on the surface. Lil' Wayne is an anomaly and Kanye loves the press. But there is at least one other example from Alaska, an internet troll and trap star, and it's not too surprising that he's white.
Twitter is Trump's favorite campaign tool. His most fervent followers, supporters and fellow internet trolls also interface there. Many within this community make waves, but few have made musical impact in the way that Baked Alaska has.
The MAGA Anthem is conventionally a trap-pop instrumental ridden over by Tim “Baked Alaska” Treadstone. Treadstone himself is from Alaska but resides primarily in L.A. while acting as a rapper/producer and political brand. The MAGA Anthem cemented Treadstone as an important figure within the alt-right and far-right and his Twitter profile provides plenty of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic tweets. The track has made it's rounds across the Breitbart/ Gateway Pundit region:
While the MAGA Anthem is a pop suppository dipped in Trump-ism, it hasn't gained notoriety in the Mainstream Media. This is probably because the video looks satirical even if the message is in earnest. It definitely wasn't as explicit in music-video messaging as these Trump supporters turned rockers, Brothers N Arms. Maybe because their stunt is less saccharine sweet and more aggressive in it's unabashedly patriotic, rockin' pandering. It's pretty thick-headed:
Baked Alaska was working in music beforehand and walked into his political role with ease. The most surprising development with Treadstone now is that he is actually in the middle of a divisive split within the alt-right, focused mainly against author Mike Cernovich. Gavin McInnes, Godfather of Hipsterdom and the new youths righty poster-boy is calling for unity among the right as early as yesterdays' episode of TGMS, the first of 2017. He even changed the theme song of his show to Operation Ivy's “Unity” to get his point across before inauguration day.
Not long after the election results were in, Adult Swim lost a staff member, Brett Gelman, who claimed that he was tired of working around misogyny and an alt-right group of producers. He was talking about the creators of World Peace, a show that has had just one season released. Sam Hyde and his team, consequently, had their show cancelled. The story made its rounds, left right and center, as detailed by Splitsider, The Observer and Fox News.
… the show also featured many musical guests and artists who quickly disavowed the show after the fact. John Maus, Ariel Pink collaborator, was the only notable exception.
Sam Hyde claims that no explicit alt-right statements were in the show, and that most of the evidence of this Trump support came solely from his Twitter feed or his YouTube content.
When Trump took the election, I had a feeling it would happen. For nearly a year I was reading Breitbart, listening to McInnes and checking out their many many sources of information. Call it fake news, fake media if you like. They were wrought mostly from the terminated careers of writers from more credible, older and trusted sources.
Music took a sideline while the Trump Train was stoked. I give special exception to favorites like Daniel Martin-McCormick and the roster at Lovers Rock / Sustain-Release. Richard Meltzer's 70th Birthday and Mother's Day Reading in Portland. Visits to Joe Carducci in the past few years, his interviews, book releases and personal insights at The New Vulgate. But my face was mostly in a laptop or in Ann Coulter books a lot of the time this summer and fall.
Who knows where 2017 will take us, and what sort of music will brew. A look at memes or The Hard Times will probably let you know that the public consensus is that music will only be better (and still leftist in attitude) under new political stress. It's possible we may even see another hard-core contingent, punk or noise or hip hop free from prior forms, with a new instilled sense of nationalism or conservatism. Won't that be interesting to examine post-election season?
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