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.