Friday, July 20, 2007

Poptimism: A Modest Proposal.
Dear Blogreader.

I’ve been quite enjoying the works of black metal band Drudkh recently. Now top Blog polymath Poetix has informed me that they’re Nazis.

I’m ashamed to say that this information has thoroughly ruined my enjoyment of them. I just can’t seem to get it out of my mind whenever I listen to them now. I mean they’re obviously not to blame, they’re exactly the same as they were before, the problem’s with me. It’s like that moment in the Horror movie when the character suddenly realizes that the juicy steak they’re tucking into is in fact human flesh and suddenly it becomes repulsive to them. Ridiculous, of course, the steak tastes exactly the same and the fact that you know it’s a human being doesn’t make any difference to its flavour. So if you were to say for example “I can’t eat that, it’s disgusting,” you’re wrong, aren’t you, because if you didn’t know it was human flesh then you’d enjoy it. I might try to kid myself that humans have a natural aversion to eating other humans but obviously I’d just be falling back on some kind of bogus essentialist justification, when in fact many people have eaten human flesh under numerous circumstances, and some have certainly enjoyed it, so it’s hardly absolutely and categorically a universal aversion. Maybe most people would feel an aversion to it, then, but of course just because most people do it, doesn’t mean anything. Most people are in favour of hanging.

So how can I get rid of this stubborn aversion to listening to them now, this feeling that I’m doing something wrong, that I simply can’t enjoy it, that some new element is tainting my reception of the work, how can I get a pure, clear, lucid, rational and unmediated response, a proper and fitting adult response unencumbered by all this juvenile “ethical” silliness. It’s starting to depress me as I feel, y’know, just so….. unsophisticated. Clearly I need to work on this as I’m simply not doing justice to Drudkh as a sonic artefact, in terms of the texture and dynamics of their sound, after all, their being Nazis isn’t a component of their sound, is it? They don’t have intelligibly Nazi lyrics (and even if they did, I mean, come on…..) and already having the record, if I listen to it repeatedly I won’t be contributing any more money to them, will I? And besides, Nazis are such a negligible force politically that even if I did provide them with a few more pounds it’s hard to get worked up about, isn’t it? Plus…. many people actually are Nazis and enjoy Nazi literature and music so who am I to dismiss it out of hand with my flip, left-liberal, hand-wringing “responses.” Who am I to say being a Nazi is wrong? I mean what right do I have to stand in judgement, aren’t we all racists in a way, am I so sure that under certain circumstances I too couldn’t become a Nazi? How many Nazis do I know personally? Have I ever even been to a BNP meeting, can I honestly say that I’ve read “ Mein Kampf?” I can’t. So isn’t it just another one of those poorly thought out, really baseless prejudices that I ought, as an intelligent man to be ridding myself of?

It is, it is! Can anybody out there help me out.? I’ve tried a couple of techniques, downloading Skrewdriver tracks and focusing in on what a tight, aggressive hardcore band they were, the quality of the guitar sound, hanging around on so-called "hate" forums (actually there’s a lot of love there too, remember! Real, brothers-in-arms, underdog bonding) trying to enjoy the energy of some of the posters, the sense of shared mission, the undeniable passion, Googling up pictures of Aushwitz and Treblinka and trying to get past the bog-standard “horrified” thing and focus on how a lot of the shots of camp guards standing next to mass graves are really quite well composed, re-reading “ If this is a man,” re-watching “Shoah” and trying to see things from the other side, reminding myself, well, there are two sides to every story, a lot of these so-called Nazi’s were just regular guys who were trying to get on, they didn't invent the system! It’s helping, but it’s taking a long time and I’m kind of embarrassed to be wandering around with this, well, frankly, atavistic, undergraduate set of “attitudes” toward stuff.

After all, when I look around I know that many people smarter than me have managed to get rid of all this irrational, left-liberal humanist baggage that’s still weighing me down (maybe they were just lucky enough never to have been lumbered with it in the first place. Wow! What a great life that must be.) Really, compared to them I feel like half a person, feel it’s preventing me from getting as much out life as I could. Help me understand, really and finally that, of course, it just doesn’t matter, Nazi, not Nazi, is it good music? It is! Then don’t you deserve it? I do! I dream of a Poptimist therapy that could address these issues, help to heal these old wounds that have been inflicted on me.

Yours sincerely

Mr Impostume

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.thehighhat.com/Potlatch/008/dameron_flag.html

Not an amazing piece by any means, but definitely pertinent.

One thing...The whole Melvins, Patton and Albini entry was, of course, on one level, a tongue in cheek platform for comedic expression. Nonetheless, aren't you, on some level, being inconsistent by even attempting to enjoy Drudkh. Or, is 'The Sardonic' a lesser evil than National Socialism?

Bateman0330

Dominic said...

I actually have read Mein Kampf - I did it as part of my History A-level. Needless to say, it instantly converted me to Nazism, and I've been disguising my fascist tendencies with hifalutin Slovenian theory ever since. But now I've been found out as a perpetrator of identitarian classist-racialism - my cover's blown, I may as well admit it...

Anonymous said...

Harmony Korine, (who is jewish) when asked if he felt bad for using Burzum's music in his film Gummo replied:

"I don't care if he's a nazi, as long as his music's good."

Now that's a proper aesthete.

Dominic said...

Top sculptor, typeface designer, printmaker and engraver Eric Gill used to bum his own daughters (as well as, apparently, his dog. I mean Gill bummed the dog, not the dog bummed Gill's daughters, although it was clearly a very incestuous household and who knows?). The discovery of this unpleasant behaviour understandably put a lot of people off his work for a while; then again, he was a Catholic, and they're nothing if not forgiving of serial sex offenders.

"I don't care if he's a papist, as long as his fonts're good".

Anonymous said...

Ahh, yes, a true aesthete indeed then! And isn't that really what we should ALL aspire too now? The wonderfully serene, apolitical detachment of the true aesthete, even if we are just average Joes in dead-end-jobs, struggling to raise our kids in the crumbling inner city? I’m sure Harmony has a great time at their shows, hanging out with fellow fans, who knows, he may even have met the band themselves, which is a really inspiring prospect as it reinforces to me the essential tolerance and respect for difference that’s at the heart of the whole Nazi scene. Plus, if an actual and authentic Jewish person doesn't care whether a band are Nazis, what possible right could I, or indeed anyone, including other, less enlightened Jews, who let's be honest have got a chip on their shoulder over the whole history-of-persecution thing, have to such music.

Thanks a lot. This stuff is really helping!

carl

steve57 said...

And they you'ver got your Zepplin, John Bonham 'Greatest drummer..' etc etc, but also pretty tasty with his fists around women, always seems gets glossed over...

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere Tom Araya expressing support for Pinochet (he's of Chilean descent), but then again, Slayer's politics are something I'll always put to one side when listening.

More on Eric Gill - the BBC use Gillsans for their logoface and Gill also did the statue of Prospero & Ariel (representing God & Jesus, natch) on Broadcasting house - However, when it went up, there was a bit of scandal about the size of little Ariel's, ahem, 'member' and Gill was dispatched to chop a bit off so as not offend the public...

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back Steve!

Tim said...

Am I right in saying that the aspect of Poptimism which you're talking about is the tendency to say "we don't care about who wrote the songs, does the record sound good?".

Or have I missed your point?

Tim said...

(The reason I ask that question is because I don't think Poptimists, as a general rule, go much further into the realm of "pure, rational, unmediated response" than that partcular issue. Much of the best Poptimist criticism is interested specifically in the mediation of response, I think.)

Anonymous said...

i suppose what i was wondering (and quite genuinely) was whether the fact that Drudkh are avowed Nazis and my subsequent shift in attitude toward them (though attitude doesn't quite capture it, it's more like a physical sense of distate, queasyness)would be universally regarded as a legitimate response ( and clearly it isn't)i was curious as to what the poptimist take on this would be (that the kind of person the artist is, is irrelevant to one's enjoyment of/opinion on the work, this is the kind of poptimist "intentional fallacy", isn't it?) and so imagined it (caricatured it, you'll say if you're a poptimist!)

maybe you can clarify things for me if i'm misapprehending/being reductive about the whole poptimist project. What is the poptimist line on enjoying Nazi metal like Burzum or bands like skrewdriver who use music to actively promote their views/recruit people to the cause?

Tim said...

My view is that your reaction to Drudkh is legit, and probably rather similar to mine.

A few quickly-typed notes in response: I haven't thought most of this through but I wanted to put something here having asked the question this morning:

I don't know what "the whole Poptimist project" is, I'm not sure there is one. Perhaps there will be, by and by.

I haven't ever seen anyone who self-identifies as a poptimist take the full-on "my pleasure is all and the world outside is irrelevant" line, or the purist death-of-the-author approach, and you seem to be ascribing a mixture of the two to Poptimism.

This seems to have been something attached to them / us as a result of the totally, like, *burning* Paris Hilton debate. And, while I might not be over-keen on Paris's public image, if I did find the noise of her records viscerally appealing I am not so repelled by her that I think it would make a Drudkh-style difference.

This may feel like dodging the key question, but my feeling is the Poptimist approach would be to think about what it means that the whole work of art, in your way of thinking, is made up of the thing itself plus a load of stuff you associate with the thing, and to worry at that complex web of stuff, including criticism.

So, for example: how far down the road of "I disagree with the artist" is it possible to go before ruling the records out due to unease or quease? Is disagreeing with Bob Wyatt's line on Stalin enough to rule his records out? Some of them, maybe? What about sexism in reggae, or hip hop? What would it mean to be the sort of person who drew that line in a different place (and could I be that sort of person, or have I been)?

But like I say, there's no manifesto and I am only really talking about my understanding of something still rather murky!

Tim said...

There's a "to your way of thinking" which crept into, and changed the meaning of, a paragraph about halfway down there, sorry!

Anonymous said...

interesting....i've just been chewing this set of concerns over when i should have been working and i think it largely depends on the primacy you grant to the political (or, y'know are constituted by it blah, blah) if politics is fundamental to you you'll probably listen to certain stuff that if you're fundamentally an "aesthete" you won't (music might be viewed more instrumentally in the first instance). I'm a combination of the two impulses/orientations and often they're opposed to each other, hence the difficulty. My worry about popism is that while it might allow us to reject something for idealogical reasons (and probably has too without straying into very contentious areas) it won't also let us LIKE things for those same reasons and refuses to acknwowledge or conceive of any positive politics around music (this is badly expresed, forgive me)ie finally it wants to have its cake and eat it....

Tim said...

If I was driven primarily by political concerns in choosing my listening, I think I would probably end up listening almost entirely to music with whose politics (or my perception thereof) I disagreed. That'd likely be much more politically productive than cosying up with the stuff which buttressed my world-view.

I don't think poptimism allows or disallows anything, really: "I like this because I respond to the meaning of the words" is a totally legit poptimist response to something though it'd want to be fleshed out a bit I think, equally "I like this because it reminds me of a time when ......" or "I like this because it gives me hope for a better world in the future" is perfectly alright.

I don't think there are illegitimate reasons for liking something, though I might not agree with all of them. I do think that all of us are often faced with lazy, usually non-legit reasons why people *don't* like something: I am heartily sick of "it's rubbish, they don't write their own songs" / "oh look it's just cr@p and you know it". I wouldn't say people *should* like whatever they're critiquing in that way, I'm saying that they're most likely not thinking about their reactions very hard.

I suppose I'd need you to name names because I just don't see where the hedonist-nihilist tendency you're satirising, or describing, exists.

Anonymous said...

interesting.. i can't respond to this more fully here as i'm about to go home AND i need time to think about it... but i will a bit later.. can i extract it from the comments box and use it on a blog page if required? i'll understand if you prefer I don't, of course

gahhh.. i told myself i wasn't going to get caught up in any arguements right now (thirty feverish exchanges later everyone politely agrees to disagree) but i can't just keep my big trap shut, can I?

Tim said...

Please use as you see fit, but please also bear in mind that I have written a lot of this stuff off the top of my head also (I suspect I'm as busy as you today!) and it's not to be taken as gospel, or the bottom line.

Truth told, I'd be more comfortable continuing the conversation. I think we'd both end up further along via a bit of friendly back-and-forth, but go ahead if you'd rather approach it differently. I can't see how you'd avoid relying too heavily on my hurried and un-thought-through notes, but then I guess that's up to you. I look forward to it either way.

Anonymous said...

i'm not going to kind of nail your comments up there and then attempt a point by point evisceration or anything, that kind of super close reading and hairsplitting is always tedious and not very fruitfull (there go my credentials with the Derridians, if i had any), i was more just going to reference it a bit and use it as a sprigboard to more broadly expand my own thoughts on, i guess, what the role of an artist or a critic is. something which i'v e been thinking a lot about of late....

Anonymous said...

This is the funniest thing on the interweb I've read in weeks.

hanging around on so-called "hate" forums (actually there’s a lot of love there too, remember! Real, brothers-in-arms, underdog bonding)

indeed!

Alex said...

"my own thoughts on, i guess, what the role of an artist or a critic is. something which i'v e been thinking a lot about of late...."

u could have fooled me

owen hatherley said...

I don't want to be rude to Tim here as his responses are very intelligent and thoughtful, but, but...

The claim is so often made by its defenders that poptimism/popism etc isn't a project or, lord forbid a theory that it's at risk of becoming the internet circle that does what it does and if anyone else likes it, its a bonus. On the contrary, attempts were made to codify this particular approach, with the Geezaesthetics Manifesto a few years ago as the most glaring instance ('We believe that a strong feeling generated by the familiar is as stimulating as a strong feeling provoked by the shocking' being salient here)

I think there really is an impasse here, if we're reduced to arguing the toss over ludicrous positions that few if any of poptimism's detractors would hold ('they don't write their own songs', etc etc, a ritual re-fighting of an extremely old battle, irrespective of the adversary) and eventually we have those Kogan pieces, with their combination of faux-naivete, bad faith and impressive geopolitical bad taste.

Dave said...

it's at risk of becoming the internet circle that does what it does and if anyone else likes it, its a bonus.

What do you mean by "at risk"? That pretty well describes it to me. (That manifesto seemed pretty silly to me! I laughed, even.)

ludicrous positions that few if any of poptimism's detractors would hold

Well how about ludicrous positions that no poptimst defenders have ever held? Impostume seems to have skipped a crucial step in satire, where you actually find a subject and then satirize it. Neither FK nor I (who was the nobody linked in SR's little blurb -- don't think I don't see y'all visiting in droves pushing my hit count numbers into the near TRIPLE DIGITS even!) nor anyone else I've ever seen even TALK to a damn poptimist let alone identify as one, has ever written a single word that's even in the same universe of this parody, which is in pretty poor taste (well, obviously -- talk about "impressive geopolitical bad taste"!).

Tim said...

Well thanks for the kind words Owen, but really I didn't say there isn't a project, I said I'm not sure there is a project (which is to say there isn't *a* project). Then I spent some time actually trying to tease out some stuff which I think is identifiable. I'm sorry you didn't find anything worth engaging with there, and I'm sorry that you preferred instead to concentrate on that single sentence, which doesn't seem like an especially fresh battle to me.

(I could talk at length about that manifesto but I don't think it's something that most of those who identify as Poptimists would hold up, or stand by in its entirety: there are all kinds of things wrong with it, but it was meant as an attempt to continue and provoke a conversation. It was supposed to be funny, too: I'm glad Dave laughed, at least.)

Incidentally, I hear the "don't write their own songs" line bashed out on a more-or-less daily basis when I talk to people about pop, at work or out and about. I'm amazed and delighted you don't, but it means that I don't much care whether or not "Poptimism's Detractors" hold those positions. Perhaps the conversations, such as they are, are taking place in different places?

Anonymous said...

Dave, just out interest, is the "Cure for Bedbugs" title a reference to Brecht?

Dave said...

Actually, it's a reference to bedbugs! Started the blog with 'em, have since recovered (tho not due to any cure that I'm aware of). I was attacked in the general vicinity of Brecht, but I don't think that counts.

throughsilver said...

At risk of being late to the party, and of bringing the subject to paddling pool levels of shallowness, I'd like to offer my thoughts on the original 'this band is a nazi band' theme.

I'm arguably a hypocrite because I tend to decide on these art vs. artists dilemmas on a case by case basis. I made mention of my liking Shellac and Melvins despite their frontmen appearing to be jerks, but then I will happily refuse to give A.C. a chance based on quite how ridiculously jerky their Seth Wotsit appears (that said, he did some pretty awesome screaming on Pantera's 1996 album).

Sort of ditto on Slayer: Kerry King is a wanker (when asked his thoughts on gay marriage, he replied he was against it 'because otherwise they'd think being gay was OK'), and I don't like Slayer. Then again, part of the reason I don't like Slayer is because they are painfully mediocre and given a free pass on everything because they are Slayer.

I'm tempted to say I'd be against this band for being nazi (I have no intention of ever listening to Skrewdriver for example) based on a Burzum precedent but, again, I don't know how much of that is based on the fact I don't give a rat's arse about Burzum anyway.

P.S. Am I the only person who refuses to either be popist or rockist based on the fact that subscribing wholeheartedly to one or the other is a bit silly? It takes me back to A level Psychology and the whole 'nature or nurture? Both!' thing.

Anonymous said...

this will seem glib but i quite seriously wonder what it would mean to say, instead of "nature versus nurture, Both!" Neither!

same re Popism/rockism...do we have to be one or the other or both..? Can't we find it within ourselves to be some third thing, unrelated to either?

carl

Anonymous said...

Carl-
I linked to your post on Drudkh from Poetix. After reading your words I immediately decided that you might have a false dilemma (of sorts), and after scanning the comments, I noticed that this possibility had not been mentioned, and that your labeling the band as "Nazi" had gone entirely unquestioned. As far as I have been able to determine, and I could be well off the mark, neither Roman Blagih nor Roman Saenko are Nazis. The ideology at work here (with Drudkh in particular, Hate Forest is likely another matter) could more accurately be described as revolutionary conservatism. Obvious racist-nationalist elements notwithstanding, the "Ukrayins’ka Povstans’ka Armiya," or "UPA" (about whom the artists titled a track on the Blood in Our Wells album) were opponents of the Nazis, the Armia Krajowa (Poland) and the Soviet Union during and immediately after World War II. While they certainly did commit war crimes against the Poles of Western Ukraine, and had a mixed relationship with Western Ukraine's Jews (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_Insurgent_Army for a brief summary of this), they were most certainly not Nazis.
Aside from this, it is important to note the heavy influence of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko who, far from being a National Socialist, was an Eastern Orthodox, Humanist, Pan-Slavist and Federalist, and his work was even used by the Soviets for its anti-Tsarist elements. The band has actually received criticism for this influence from the more "fundamentalist" elements of the Satanic black metal community (see http://www.propaganda666.com/666.htm).
Now, I don't want to downplay the likelihood (or fact of the matter) that the individuals involved in Drudkh, including record labels and associated bands, are involved in racialist/racist/rightist politics, I just wanted to point out the possibility that there might be quite a chasm between the Ukrainian nationalism of Drudkh's members and what one could fairly describe as neo-Nazism.
Concerning the difficulty of reconciling creative work with the creator-in-question's personal habits, tastes, attitudes or beliefs - it hasn't stopped many of us from reading Heidegger.