Friday, September 21, 2012

good guy dylan

Rolling Stone magazine has yet another interview with Bob Dylan. I should note at the outset that I haven't read it -- it seems to be behind some subscribers-only firewall. So my comments are based on an article, in Reason, about the interview.

Interviewer Mikal Gilmore devotes an inordinate amount of energy to trying to get Dylan's endorsement of President Obama. To his credit, Dylan demures. Telling quote:
This gives Gilmore his hook: didn't Obama change all that? And isn't it so that people who don't like him don't like him because of race? Gilmore takes five different swings at getting Dylan to agree. Some of Dylan's responses: "They did the same thing to Bush, didn't they? They did the same thing to Clinton, too, and Jimmy Carter before that....Eisenhower was accused of being un-American. And wasn't Nixon a socialist? Look what he did in China. They'll say bad things about the next guy too." On Gilmore's fourth attempt, Dylan just resorts to: "Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word? What are you talking about? People loved the guy when he was elected. So what are we talking about? People changing their minds?"
It's particularly ironic given that Dylan made his name in political music.

The thing for me is that I get tired of hearing the show business crowd pushing their opinion as if they know better than anyone else. I even remember reading of one star (I can't remember who) going so far as to say that actors know better because they are trained to play roles and so have more empathy. Now, accepting that claptrap for the sake of argument, it says nothing about understanding whether policies are likely to work or what the unintended consequences may be.

But I digress.

Certainly, celebrities can endorse politicians or policies. But at some point I find it a turn-off. One of the reasons that I lost interest in Christine Lavin (New York-based singer/songwriter who was, in the 1980's, one of the cool breed of "new" folksingers) is that I got tired of her adding politics to her act.

I'll admit that, to some degree, my feelings are a matter of whose ox is being gored. I'd be less bothered if the Hollywood set were endorsing views that I shared. Hey, I'm only human. But even so, when I hear about Hank Williams Jr.'s latest diatribe, I roll my eyes and wish he'd shut up. And I tend to be more sympathetic to his views than to, say, Peter Yarrow's.

I just want to add, with regard to the above quote, that I was particularly glad about Dylan refusing to blame opposition to Obama on race. There are lots of political arguments that I think are wrong. But that one -- that opposition to Obama is about race -- isn't just wrong. It's aggressively wrong, and offensive to boot. Remember, half a decade ago, when we were told that dissent is the highest form of patriotism? Now, judging from some of the rhetoric from some prominent left-wing celebrities (including Dylan's interlocutor), it's the lowest form of racism.

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