FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Danny Goldberg’s Imaginery Kids

by MARIA TOMCHICK

 

Danny Goldberg’s new Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit has a great premise: that the decline in political power of the American “left” stems from its increasing alienation from the popular cultures that define the worlds of millions of young Americans. It’s an intriguing idea, worth exploring. Unfortunately, it’s presented like the sort of marketing decision Goldberg, a long-time recording industry executive, might make. Instead of tacking a hit record onto his memoirs, Miramax Books seems to have decided it needed a catchier theme and a new opening chapter.

Goldberg managed acts from Led Zeppelin to Nirvana, going on to help run seemingly every big L.A. corporate music division, about one a year, through the merger-happy ’90s, before starting his own independent label. That history serves here as a name-dropping background to Goldberg’s free speech activism (especially with the ACLU) and fundraising for Democratic candidates. The ultimate “Hollywood liberal” political memoir turns out to be a semi-monotonous 30-year narrative of electoral cycles and music censorship battles, and the meetings that love them. Zzzz.

It’s hard to judge one person’s account of such now-obscure brouhahas. (Remember 2 Live Crew?) Meanwhile, vast chunks are missing from Goldberg’s discussion of his subtitled topic. Are Democrats out of touch? His argument rests almost entirely on adult condemnation of youth culture–stop the presses!–and a stunningly unhip 2000 campaign featuring Tipper Gore and Joe “I’m more religious than you” Lieberman.

But do Democratic candidates now hate kids, or are moralistic adults bigger donors and more frequent voters? This isn’t new–Southern Dixiecrats, a major Democratic Party bloc, were among Elvis’ biggest critics, and from Spiro Agnew to Dan Quayle to Robert Dole to Bill Bennett and John Ashcroft, it’s easy to find more recent Republican counterparts.

Older societal leaders are forever clueless to the ways of the young. Including, apparently, Goldberg, who fails to tell us what “teen spirit” is, how it could be regained, or how it might be applied in politics. Youth, here, don’t have energy or ideas–only votes and disposable income. Goldberg never once quotes or cites an actual young person; in his world, unit sales and hip corporate executives, rather than politicians, speak for the young. The young themselves still don’t speak.

If they did, perhaps they’d mention other factors–like the perceived irrelevance of politicians or futility of trying to influence them. Or they’d discuss–unlike Goldberg–non-electoral, youth-led phenomena like the anti-globalization and sweatshop movements, which have been ignored by Democrats. Goldberg does discuss Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential bid, but ignores the reasons why so many 18-to-24-year-old voters found the equally wooden Nader (who, Goldberg reports, had no idea in 2000 who Austin Powers was) more compelling than Gore. (Might the young ‘uns be responding to–gasp!–the Democrats’ anemic policies? Or Nader’s accomplishments?) Goldberg can’t even tell us whether Republicans are drawing youth votes from the Democrats (what about Reagan?), or whether kids simply aren’t voting at all. And in discussing the elite left’s antipathy for rap and hip-hop, the wealthy, white Goldberg somehow forgets race and class.

Far more people are drawn to a good time than to a position paper–or to a music executive’s free speech memoir. I’ll take Emma Goldman’s revolution any day. “The left”–the traditional American voice of the disenfranchised, including youth–should absolutely sneer less at pop culture, and celebrate it more. A book on the topic would be a great idea.

MARIA TOMCHICK is co-editor and contributing writer
for Eat The State!, a biweekly anti-authoritarian newspaper of political opinion, research and humor, based in Seattle, Washington. She can be reached at: tomchick@drizzle.com

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
David Yearsley
Reading Room Blues
February 04, 2016
Scott McLarty
Political Revolution and the Third-Party Imperative
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail