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The pop dictators - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
 
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Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 11:37 am
The pop dictators

Check these two videos -- Bryan Ferry's 1978 single Sign of the Times and Philip Jap's 1983 video for Save Us.



Both seem to be embracing or pastiching the iconography of demagoguery, framing themselves in an authoritarian symmetry that's part-Nazi, part Citizen Kane. Both videos feature eagles and a phalanx of models (a play on "fashion" as "fascism"). The artist becomes Moseley, Mussolini, Hitler as filmed by Leni Riefenstahl.



We see this meme in the Nietzschean strut of Queen's Freddie Mercury ("we are the champions of the world") or Bowie's comeback heil at Victoria Station in 1976. It's British glam rockers who embrace the fascist aesthetic most openly, and make explicit the link between fashion, rock music, mass media, crowd control and fascism. (This was also, of course, the subject of my first album, The Man on Your Street: Songs from the career of the Dictator Hall.)

Here's David Bowie talking to Kurt Vonnegut in September 1976:

VONNEGUT: You've often said that you believe very strongly in fascism. Yet you also claim you'll one day run for Prime Minister of England. More media manipulation?

BOWIE: Christ, everything is a media manipulation. I'd love to enter politics. I will one day. I'd adore to be Prime Minister. And, yes, I believe very strongly in fascism. The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that's hanging foul in the air at the moment is to speed up the progress of a right-wing, totally dictatorial tyranny and get it over as fast as possible. People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership. A liberal wastes time saying, "Well, now, what ideas have you got?" Show them what to do, for God's sake. If you don't, nothing will get done. I can't stand people just hanging about. Television is the most successful fascist, needless to say. Rock stars are fascists, too. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.



VONNEGUT: How so?

BOWIE: Think about it. Look at some of his films and see how he moved. I think he was quite as good as Jagger. It's astounding. And, boy, when he hit that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a media artist himself. He used politics and theatrics and created this thing that governed and controlled the show for those 12 years. The world will never see his like. He staged a country.

In April 2007 Bryan Ferry expressed similar sentiments to the German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag. "My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves," he said. "Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and the flags -- just amazing. Really beautiful." Ferry told the paper that he calls his studio in west London his "Führerbunker".

So why did this 1930s fascist meme re-appear in the mid-to-late 70s? It was partly a reaction against the leftism of the 1960s counterculture -- what better way to shock a ragged, liberal hippy than to dress up as a Nazi? -- and it was also certainly a kind of cocaine-induced megalomania.

I think Adam Curtis gets it right in his excellent documentary series Century of the Self when he describes how the emphasis on self-actualization in the 60s and 70s reached a paradoxical tipping point.

Experiments with EST and other techniques had encouraged an "inner direction" so thoroughgoing that the "inner directed" reached the absolute core of themselves and found it empty. Endless changes and emptiness are big Bowie themes; strip away the last skin of the onion and there's nothing left but a frail, broken person ready to embrace religion, drugs, the occult, and a consumerist-spectacular version of fascism. Encouraged to locate their true selves, says Curtis, the hippies went so far into the self that they came out the other side, into the waiting arms of Thatcher and Reagan.



Here's the part of Century of the Self where Curtis shows us how "inner directives" (self-oriented creative people who seemed, in the 60s and early 70s, natural allies of the left) unexpectedly embraced right wing politicians as the 80s arrived. It was a message that had been apparent for some time in pop music, where the proposition "You can be whatever you want to be!" was answered -- surprisingly -- with "Okay, then I want to be Hitler!"

Who knew that individualistic libertarianism would lead to a celebration of authoritarian dictatorship, and celebration of the self to mass rallies? Perhaps George W. Bush stated it most clearly: "I'm all for a dictatorship, as long as I can be dictator."

43CommentReply

electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 09:55 am (UTC)

HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


GIP!


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 10:00 am (UTC)
haha this post ttly made my day!

Goddamnit, I was going to spam this post with all the nazi-related glam_lolz macros ever, but I appear not to have saved most of them.

You´ll have to make do with these:




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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 10:14 am (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 10:15 am (UTC)

The day-glo Klaxons are named after a line from the Futurist manifesto, whose author was a leading supporter of early fascism.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 10:50 am (UTC)

Adam Ant did a song about the Futurist Manifesto, and he didn´t support fascism at all (Romani). So that´s a bit pointless.

I mean, Joy Division were called Joy Division, and Blondie share a name with Hitler´s dog. Doesn´t mean anything.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)

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kaipfeiffer
kaipfeiffer
Kai Pfeiffer
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 10:30 am (UTC)

to me, fascism is but a weakness of the mind for people unable and/or unwilling to deal with the complexity of the potential interactions in a human society. so they want to narrow them down, instead of broaden them, as my personal ideal, anarchism, does. it is no wonder that especially symbolically powerful figures like pop stars fall for fascism, maybe out of frustration to not have any "real" power, despite the overblown image of themselves they get to see in millions of fans seemingly cheering at every move they make.


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 10:53 am (UTC)

Yesterday I stumbled upon a man named Doctor Steel. Seems like he is trying to, in that clip, to mock the world-take-over-emperor and fascist syle. He still seem quite, err, sinister though.

Just to think of the new Neofolk movement too. I recall some people around there having a fascination for old fascism styled clothing.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)

More Philip Jap stuff (must admit I'd never heard of him before stumbling on the Save Us video):

Total Erasure and Brain Dance.

He's one of the best of the Bowie impersonators of the era. Better than Zaine Griff.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)

not as good as David Sylvian, though.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 11:30 am (UTC)
fascism: it exists to be mocked.





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jimyojimbo
jimyojimbo
Dr Jim
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)

EST?


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 02:19 pm (UTC)

I'm still trying to figure this out. Okay, Hitler was a baddie and Thatcher was a baddie. But they were very different kinds of baddie, surely. Hitler was obsessed with the "Volk" and the collective will of the German nation, while Thatcher practiced de-nationalization and famously said "there is no such thing as society". The Nazis called themselves National Socialists, and some element of socialist planning was probably built in to their programme.

One reason for Hitler's success in the lead up to war was that he put Keynes's socialistic ideas for managing demand through state spending into practice when the British and others resisted them. Again, these were the opposite of the monetarist economics of Thatcher.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
Suggestiveness and creativity

Things like the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale and later research have shown that the correlation between intelligence and suggestibility are by no means clear-cut. I think the same is probably true of eclectic creativity, but that people who are eclectically creative expose themselves to a variety of ideas and those that are suggestive may take on those ideas, albeit temporarily, until they absorb something else into their crucible. I suspect that many of our most hallowed cultural icons are more suggestive by nature than the general population. So I think it is wrong to associate such phenomena with a specific political movement or era because it could be that it is human behaviour rather than arising out of a particular period.

~ JackPT (via Mr Goldacre's miniblog)


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cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)

...Coulter got the boo birds going right away. When Roberts asked her to name which historical figure she would most like to be, she replied: "(Sen.) Joe McCarthy." She called him "a great American patriot" who removed "communist spies from the government." Her second choice, she said, was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "so I could not introduce the New Deal."

"Then I would be Hitler," Franken said. "You’d call off the New Deal; I ’d call off the Holocaust and World War II. But I’d keep the Volkswagen."


At which point Coulter pointed out that they still make Volkswagens.
Franken explained that he meant the original 'bug'. "Hitler's vision wasn't the Passat"


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)

In that video Ferry's gurning more than he ever did before or since. A side-effect?


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niddrie_edge
niddrie_edge
raymond
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 05:14 pm (UTC)

My fave Ferry solo moment is a cover:



The original:



Sorry I can't provide you with Status Quo's version.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sat, Sep. 29th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)

What I find interesting about my (relatively) small town is that it once was a huge Nazi community. We still have lampposts that have swastikas on the bottom, which haven't been replaced since World War II.

History of my town during WWII:
Search for "WWII"

(Also Hindenberg Park which is now Crescenta Valley Park is home to drug peddlers and creepy men hiding in the trees. It's rumored there's still a statue of Hitler there but I don't believe it.)


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sun, Sep. 30th, 2007 01:30 am (UTC)

http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie


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