Saturday, August 27, 2005

Canadian bloggers punk'd!

Okay, so Warren Kinsella picking fights with prominent Canuck journalists and/or bloggers is nothing new. But it's always fun, isn't it? Just a little?

Carl Wilson -- a.k.a. Zoilus -- wrote about Kinsella's punk manifesto/memoir Fury's Hour in the Globe today. (If link doesn't work, Google News "Fury's Hour".) Wilson's musicological opinion of the book was pretty negative: "Kinsella's "manifesto" is merely the nostalgia trip of a punk dinosaur and, oh yeah, total sellout."

In response, Kinsella did what he so often does when someone disagrees with him -- launched a personal attack.
A buddy of mine who edited this Wilson guy's stuff at the Globe told me he's a poseur, that he's a prissy arsewipe, and that he'll be insanely jealous of my book - and, ipso facto, that he'd try and figure out some way to rip it. My buddy was right, it seems!
What's most amusing about this Moron-With-A-ThesaurusTM is his naked desire to impress someone, anyone, with how very clever he is. I mean, referencing Freud in a column about rock'n'roll? "Warholian" impulses? Golly, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore - we're stuck inside some loser's need to impress his black turtleneck readership at OCA!
Okay, first of all, what kind of anti-intellectualism is that, attacking someone for referencing Sigmund Freud and Andy Warhol in "a column about rock'n'roll"? They're not obscure academics... they're two of the most important figures of the twentieth century. No one reading the Globe's Review section will be, like, "Who is this 'Freud' of which you speak?" I don't think anyone reading the Sun would for that matter... Please, Warren, our newspapers are dumb enough. Don't encourage the dumber-downers.

(This isn't to say that I don't roll my eyes at a lot of the academic overthink Wilson is prone to in his column and on Zoilus... Just that, in this column at least, it's in check.)

I haven't read Fury's Hour yet, but I'm inclined to believe Wilson when he writes that Kinsella has a "blind spot" in not understanding the link between punk and neo-conservatism. This was clear back in September, when Kinsella posted:

A bunch of us are seeing Franz Ferdinand this Friday - and, yes, Tony Clement will be among us. A former Conservative cabinet minister who I happen to like, guys like Tony are a puzzle to me - as are all punk-loving conservatives. Punk, y'see, is essentially Leftist in its orientation (anti-globalization, anti-corporate, pro-feminist, pro-gay), and it is decidedly anti-authority, too. Usually, the Right constitutes the authorities. So, ipso facto, how did Johnny Ramone, a life-long Republican, keep himself from going batty? I'm not being coy, either: I'm writing a book about punk, and I actually don't know the answer.

Well, Wilson knows the answer and he explains it rather clearly (as does Jonathan Coe's great book The Rotters Club, I think):

Kinsella realizes punk was a purgative convulsion against the perceived decadence of the 1970s, but overlooks how closely that origin binds it to the neoconservative backlash that brought putative punk (and Liberal) foes Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney to power...
He enthuses over punk's do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic, for instance. But call it an entrepreneurial work ethic and you've got a neo-con sacred cow. (Vancouver punk Joey Shithead points this out, but Kinsella shrugs it off.) Punk also partook of Cold War apocalyptic fantasies parallel to those that would soon drive the mass revival of Christian fundamentalism -- "no future" meets the Rapture down on Death Drive.
Neo-cons hated the sixties, and punks hated hippies. In many ways punk anticipated the knee-jerk, know-nothing disdain for collective input and consequence that would become standard-issue conservative politics and culture -- extreme individualism and atomized democracy.
I've got to agree with Wilson when he writes that "punk is an ink blot -- you see in it what you want. From drunk racist frat boys to anarcho-feminist straight-edge vegan art geeks, all sorts of characters have claimed the mohawk and leather jacket (or vinyl jacket for the vegans) for their own." I've never thought of punk as a progressive youth movement, but then I never understood how all the anti-globalization activists in university thought that Black Bloc anarchists were somehow on their side either...

I understand, of course, why Kinsella's pissed. Wilson was pretty harsh. And he was a bit unfair -- clearly wanting to engage the book because of who Kinsella is, rather than what the book was about.

When Wilson writes, "the people who buy this book don't really need [Kinsella's ]mini-bio of the Ramones... they want an account of how this prominent late-1970s Calgary punk, a member of The Hot Nasties and proprietor of Blemish Records, ended up a notorious strategist in the Liberal regime of Jean Chr├ętien" he is projecting his personal reasons for reading the book on everyone who buys it.
He simply wrong there: If political junkies are buying the book because Kinsella's the author, they probably do need the mini-bio of the Ramones... If people buying it because they are punk fans, they probably don't really care about the autobiographical stuff.

In any case, Kinsella should thank Wilson for this column because -- unlike the Globe's review of Fury's Hour, or its interview with Kinsella -- this article kind of made me want to read his book. (I am also eager to know what, if anything, he says about the Dead Kennedys...)

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