Saturday, August 31, 2019

In Defense of Taylor Swift

Ever since Taylor Swift began to speak out about her social and political beliefs, she has received backlash from both the political left and the political right. Taylor's recent stance in support of the US federal Equality Act is a good example of this. Left-wing people are unhappy about her not promoting so-called community activists, while right-wing people, who believe the act contains provisions they cannot accept, have called her irresponsible.

On a level, I think it's actually brave of Taylor to do what she is doing. She's already a very successful artist, and she really doesn't need the backlash. I guess she wants to see change on certain issues, and she's certainly entitled to her views. Besides, taking a stance is always braver than not doing so.

People should remember that, Taylor Swift is entitled to her free speech rights, to support what she wants, and to do it how she wants to do it. Being a celebrity shouldn't take that away from anyone.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

You Need To Calm Down (and Listen To Me), BreadTube Taylor Swift Haters | BreadBusting #6

Welcome to BreadBusting, where we attempt to examine the problematic ideas that come out of BreadTube, and the ideology of Breadism more generally. Basically, it's like Myth Busting, but for Breadism. Today, I'm going to talk about the controversy surrounding Taylor Swift's new song You Need To Calm Down. Basically, Swift has released a song that is all pro-LGBT, but it has provoked backlash from both the left and the right. While I do agree with some of the criticisms levelled at the video for the song, I also think some of you may just need to, well, take Taylor's suggestion and calm down, so you can at least rationally understand where your anger is coming from. In fact, I think some of the people doing the backlash may ironically be making the same error Taylor herself has made with the video. I will show you why. By the way, my most important message won't come until the end, and it isn't what many of you think, so please listen to the whole thing.

Firstly, I agree that there is a good point to be made about how the anti-gay people in the video are portrayed as, for lack of a better term, rednecks. Not only is this stereotype not entirely fair, this also represents an attack on a particular class of people, which is totally not in line with the inclusive and unifying spirit of Pride. Furthermore, stereotyping and making fun of people is extremely ineffective at changing attitudes. Therefore, I think that people on both the left and the right are correct to point out this attitude problem, and I hope Taylor gets the message. However, it is also true that conservative attitudes are more common in working class people, and especially those who live in rural areas. While left-wing commentators have criticized Taylor for stereotyping 'rednecks' from a class-based perspective, I think I need to remind everyone that a true embrace of working class people must mean meeting them where they are, and accepting that, at least for now, they may have beliefs that we don't share, and respect their right to hold these beliefs. We must first accept people where they are, if we are to be able to start a conversation and hopefully change minds. This is what Taylor Swift doesn't seem to understand, and it's also what a large part of the left don't understand either.

Secondly, while right-wing criticism of Taylor Swift was rare until last year's midterm elections when she announced her support for Democrats, left-wing criticism of Taylor Swift has always been common. It used to be that she wasn't feminist enough, or that she refused to stand for any political causes. In left-wing circles, indie artists were always the coolest, but even mainstream pop acts like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande have always been cooler than Taylor Swift. Furthermore, some of Taylor's early hits, including You Belong With Me and Fifteen, were particularly hated on the left for cultural reasons. Therefore, while You Need To Calm Down may deserve some criticism regardless, I think it would have attracted much less hostility from the left if it were released by another artist. For example, Lady Gaga's Born This Way was similar in many ways, except for making fun of 'rednecks', and yet there was little left-wing hostility to its release back in 2011.

Some people have attributed the anti-Swift sentiment on the left to her ultra-rich family background. But this doesn't make sense, because realistically you would have to be ultra-rich to get into the Billboard top 20 nowadays. In fact, the way the business is structured nowadays, I can't imagine an everyday working person getting too far in the music industry, even if they were extremely talented. But leftists don't hate all mainstream pop. Instead, I think that the left-wing hostility towards Taylor Swift is a cultural thing. You see, the particular contemporary influences of the 1960s and 70s student activist generation, coupled with the way much of leftist critical theory is geared, means that there is a certain cultural aesthetic that the left embraces. In the post-1970s leftist aesthetic, things that are seen as inherently cool include rebellion against traditional norms, lack of respect for traditional values and boundaries, and a defiance against the cultural value of purity. Hence, indie rock artists are cool because they embody this aesthetic, Lady Gaga is at least a bit cool because she embraces at least a bit of this ethos, but Taylor Swift has long been seen as the antithesis of this ethos, and hence a cultural enemy. This doesn't just apply to musicians by the way: I suspect the historical popularity of certain philosophers, for example Michel Foucault, could be partly because they fit well with the post-70s leftist ethos, rather than what they actually had to say. Furthermore, leftists seem to prefer atheist thinkers and politicians over religious ones, where they are equally as progressive otherwise, because atheism fits with the rebellion aesthetic in Western society. TLDR: leftist in-group identity is partly aesthetic, and Taylor Swift has long been seen as suspect in leftist circles because she failed their aesthetic test.

On the other hand, people on the political right, who became at least partly defined by their opposition to 1960s and 70s activism, have been more likely to embrace those who are aesthetically opposite to the new left-wing cultural ethos. Hence, many of them took Taylor Swift to be one of their own. This was why, when Taylor Swift revealed her politics in 2018, many people on the political right were quite upset. They never expected Taylor to be socially progressive, because they always thought she was one of them! This also explains why some on the right are particularly upset at Taylor Swift supporting the Equality Act, despite many other celebrities already doing the same. In effect, Taylor has now found herself in no-mans-land in terms of political aesthetic, hence all the backlash from both sides.

The take home message is that, it is important to note that, many leftists who have long hated Taylor Swift may in fact have committed the same type of error Taylor herself committed when she made this video making fun of working class 'rednecks'. Of course, this also applies to right-wing people who are still upset Taylor isn't one of them after all. In all of these cases, it is aesthetic-based identity politics that is causing the problem. Looking in terms of the actual political scene, aesthetic-based identity politics seems to be generally working well for the right, and working very badly for the left. In fact, an important reason why left-leaning parties aren't doing so well internationally is because of the rise of aesthetic-based identity politics. Everyday working people generally love traditional institutions and traditional values, and in a battle based mostly on aesthetic identity, the right will win among the working class every single time. Ironically, it was the New Left that started all this, and it is also the current iteration of the New Left, that is the Breadists of BreadTube and elsewhere, who remain in deep denial about the real reason they are unpopular with the working class, and won't even acknowledge this being a problem. You just need to look at a few BreadTube videos to see that they do certainly have a particular aesthetic, and that aesthetic is thoroughly rebellious and anti-traditional, making it unlikely to be embraced by the working class. The truth is, they can laugh at Ben Shapiro all they like, but if they had someone who presents their stuff like he does, I bet a lot more working class people would listen to them. Finally, as a classical liberal, I am committed to getting rid of all identity politics, and that includes aesthetic-based identity politics.

That's all for today. I'll be back next time to discuss another big idea. Subscribe if you want to follow our story. The transcripts are available on my website. And remember to resist the hive mind and stay individualistic. The world depends on it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Lady Gaga Surprises with I'll Never Love Again

I'll admit it: I've underestimated Lady Gaga all these years. For many years, my view on her was that her music was OK, but she was more known for her stunts. Like that meat dress (very horrible indeed). I truly thought that, without the stunts, she would have been less special.

But maybe she should have sung ballads all along. Her latest track, I'll Never Love Again from the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, actually surprised me. Lady Gaga, without all the stunts, was actually still something special! I'm very impressed indeed.

The TaraElla song I would choose to go with I'll Never Love Again is Love Is All Around Us. The reason is simple: they are both ballads.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

YOU ARE SPECIAL Because You Are An Individual

The fact is, you are special. Let me repeat that: you are special. No, you are not just another part of the big system out there. You are special because you are an individual. Everyone of us is an individual, with unique DNA, unique experiences, unique thoughts and unique beliefs, and that's why everyone of us has something unique to contribute to the world. You are not just a part of some pointless system. You are your own unique and meaningful system.

What you need to do, what we all need to do, is to find out how our unique gifts can be best used to better the world. And this searching may take some time. The journey towards finding this answer can be long and twisted. But don't lose faith, because you'll get there. The important thing is to keep this mission in mind. Your mission is not just to get through the day, but to look for the answer. The answer to the question, how can I, a unique individual, use my gifts in the best way. Always keep this question in mind, because clues that will lead you to your answer may pop up in unexpected places, and at unexpected times. Treat every day as an opportunity to find these clues.

I'll leave you with this: never forget that you are a unique individual, on a unique mission.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Taylor Swift vs Kanye West, the Ultimate Political Paradox?

Today I'm going to have a look at the recent political drama surrounding Taylor Swift, now presumed by many to be left-leaning, and her long-time critic Kanye West, now known to be a proud supporter of President Donald Trump.

Taylor the Progressive vs Kanye the Conservative? Surprise, Surprise!

We need to put this all in context. Just this time last year, Kanye West was a favourite among self-described progressives, who have seen Kanye as one of them ever since he criticised President Bush back in 2005. When Kanye started to proclaim his support for President Trump earlier this year, it disappointed many progressives. Some have even asked themselves if they should still like his music. Which is absurd, because his music has nothing to do with politics. On the other hand, Taylor Swift was often considered to be probably conservative by many people. Over the years, I have read many articles and casual comments from progressives, saying that Taylor Swift was the musical equaivalent of John McCain, whatever that meant; that she wasn't a good feminist, whatever that meant; and even that she probably didn't support gay marriage, which has been of course proven wrong last week. Conservatives also seemed to think that Taylor was likely one of their own, heaping praise on her family friendly style as far back as her second album in 2009. Needless to say, Taylor coming out to endorse two Democrats was taken as a very pleasant surprise by progressives, while conservatives have generally been disappointed. When President Trump now says he likes Taylor 25% less, I think many conservatives can't help but share his sentiment there.

But should we really have been surprised?

But let's look at all this from a cool-headed, centrist perspective, because that's what we always do here on this show. By the way, if you have any further thoughts you want to provide, please drop me a comment so we can continue this interesting conversation. From what I have observed, the fact is, we actually didn't know much about Taylor or Kanye's politics until this year. Quite a few people have assumed Taylor to be right-leaning, or Kanye to be left-leaning, based on their own prejudices, nothing more. It was always an assumption based on prejudice, based on stereotyping. The fact that Taylor did country music and presented a more traditional lifestyle didn't mean she was conservative politically, and the fact that Kanye criticised President Bush didn't mean he was necessarily left-leaning. In recent years, both progressives and conservatives have been too easily swayed by the aesthetics of personalities and ideas, and this has affected our ability to think rationally. Perhaps the twin political surprises of Taylor and Kanye are just what we need most, right now. The fact that people are surprised by Taylor and Kanye's politics says a lot about how prejudiced and irrational people have become, more than anything else.

Let's start treating Individuals as Individuals

So how can we become more rational? We need to start treating individuals as individuals, rather than stereotypes. We need to respect that individuals are unique in all sorts of ways, and that can be a good thing. This is one of the biggest themes of my work. Real freedom is based on respect for individual differences. We need to accept that the people we like aren't always going to be exactly like ourselves, because everyone is unique. For a start, progressives need to be able to respect Kanye's right to his political views without feeling differently about his music; and conservatives need to do the same about Taylor Swift. Right now, many conservatives may feel like liking Taylor 25% less, but there's really no reason to do so, because Taylor Swift is a musician, not a politician. Her politics do not matter. Furthermore, conservatives who can't agree with Taylor's politics can still praise her relatively family friendly style, like they did back in 2009. Nothing has changed in that regard. Similarly, there's no reason for progressives to stop listening to Kanye's music, if they were previously into that. His music hasn't changed.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Real Friends should have been the breakout hit for Camila Cabello

Camila Cabello stunned the world last year with her single Havana, which went to number one in several places around the world. To be fair, I acutally enjoyed Havana quite a lot, it was my song of the month last October. It was also quite a special song.

But I have to say that, Camila's new one, Real Friends, is even better. It's one that you can enjoy with your friends, sitting back and relaxing. I mean, it's kind of ironic that the lyrics are actually about the lack of real friends and the many fake people out there. But the way the song sounds, it's really made for hanging out with some real friends.

The TaraElla song that I would choose to go with Real Friends would be Beauty. They both have the same kind of relaxed vibe to them. I mean, Beauty doesn't have the kind of irony about the lyrics, but both are the kind of song that you would enjoy with your friends, sitting back and relaxing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Chloe Grace Moretz uses Personal Experience to make a Case Against Conversion Therapy

Actress Chloe Grace Moretz, talking about her recent film in which she plays a young person forced into gay conversion therapy, has spoken out about her opposition to this practice. Specifically, she drew upon the experience of her two gay brothers, who faced a difficult time growing up in small town America.

I believe in using personal stories to make one's case. I mean, I have little patience for most academic social theories, and I don't believe in 'systematic oppression'. But I do believe in making people's lives easier, and I do believe that listening to people's lived experiences is the way to achieve that.

So good on Chloe!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Anne-Marie takes us back to 2002: Well, sort of.

Anne-Marie's latest single 2002 has got me interested. After all, 2002 was a great year for me, and it had a lot of great music.

There's just a problem: the 2002 described in the song may well not be 2002 at all. It's like the time machine malfunctioned, and brought us to another time. You see, the song included lyrics of songs supposedly popular in 2002, but from my memory none of them were actually from 2002.

Anyway, nostalgia is not a real time machine, and memory is often inaccurate. So maybe we should forgive her for that.

Now, I think I wrote this song in 2003, but since memory is often inaccurate, could it have been in 2002 instead?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Is there Cultural Appropriation everywhere, from Utah to Eurovision? I don't think so.

Israel's Netta has won Eurovision with her great song Toy. But this victory was not without controversy: as you see, she dressed in an Asian-styled costume, and her stage was decorated with Asian items. This has predictably caused some people to cry 'cultural appropriation'.

This also brings to mind a recent unrelated story from Utah, USA, where a girl who wore a Chinese-style prom dress provoked a national discussion. In both cases, none of the Asians I know were offended: most were simply bewildered.

You see, the reason why cultural appropriation is considered bad is because comedians in the US and UK used to do blackface, where they would paint their faces black and act in ways that were demeaning to black people and black culture. I can understand why black people are very offended by anything similar to blackface. But wearing an Asian dress? That's completely different. There's simply no parallel here. In fact, Asians living in Asia are arguably the most pro-cultural fusion people in the world. Every Asian I know has no problem with people of other races adopting aspects of their culture, provided that they do it respectfully. In fact, my Asian relatives quite enjoyed Netta's performance.

From my perspective, it really wasn't 'cultural appropriation'. It was just, well, special

Monday, May 14, 2018

Contrary to Popular Belief, Babe Proves that the Old Taylor Swift is Alive and Well

"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she's dead!" So proclaims the lyrics to What You Made Me Do, Taylor Swift's first single off her Reputation album released last year. At that time, even the most die-hard fan of country Taylor had come to accept the reality: the old Taylor simply wasn't coming back. If she said it herself, on her own record no less, it had to be true.

But recently, there is evidence that the old Taylor is, in fact, alive and well, just hidden somewhere. What is this evidence I am talking about? A song called Babe, a collaboration between Taylor and country band Sugarland. Not only does Taylor sing on a country record, she still sounds just like the old Taylor from the Fearless era.

Taylor, I know that you still want to make country music. Don't let the pop fashion of the day stop you from doing so. After all, you may just need a new vision: