WE NEED PROTEST SONGS
Buzzfeed and CNN publish a report from a British ex-intelligence officer that claims Russia has incriminating, sexually explicit material on the incoming President-Elect, and is using it to blackmail him. The report is credible enough to be issued to both the President and the President Elect. Russia and Drumpf both deny the claims, though other intelligence sources claim there are multiple incriminating videos and audio files circulating. Long story short, PEOTUS holds a press conference, vilifies CNN, denies any compromising material exists.
The next day, during a live C-SPAN broadcast of ongoing Senate hearings, while Congresswoman Maxine Waters – an outspoken opponent of Drumpf – is speaking, the broadcast is interrupted by RT, the Russian television station that focuses on Russian propaganda.
C-SPAN claims it was due to an internal routing issue.
It’s a new era. This is really happening.
Since his victory in November, we’ve been subject to this constant barrage of bluster and pomp in the face of mounting evidence of his collusion, his intent towards the dismantlement of vital institutions, his refusal to divest his business interests, his contempt for the rule of law, the Constitution.
The man who is quite possibly a compromised Russian intelligence asset is now poised to gain the most important office in the country, if not the globe. At minimum, it’s affirmed that Russia interfered in the election. A man who touted hoaxes as truth and fake news sites as reputable – a man who started the fucking birther movement – is now putting the clampdown on established news institutions. I can go on and on. There’s no shortage of insanity to choose from, but the end result is this: it’s clear that we’ve entered a new, dark era of American politics. In American history. We’ve never been here before, and the strength and vitality of the American machine is gonna be stretched to the limit, with the fervent hopes that the thing doesn’t just break down entirely.
It’s clear that we’re on our own. No one is going to help us. We’re going to have to help ourselves. We’re going to have to help each other.
That said, we need protest songs now more than ever. We need songs to remind us. We need songs as unifiers, as a call-to-arms, as anthems, as a spit in the eye to the powers that be. As reminders that we’re not alone. As sirens, motivators, refutations. Never doubt that music has an effect.
The personal is the political – even by saying nothing, we’re saying something.
The personal is the political – we’re going to need each other. Even how we move through the day, the choices we make, have ramifications.
Here’s some bands and songs that remind me to stay furious, to keep watchful, to prepare to resist. And they sound pretty goddamned awesome, too.
DANGERS – “Neo Neo-Nazis”
“But we should not, will not accept this anymore. There’s right and wrong, and now a line is drawn.”
Trolls and white nationalists and neo-Nazis are flourishing. It’s becoming more and more clear that simply turning the other cheek and ignoring them has allowed them to organize and gain in strength and momentum. It doesn’t work. They need be stopped. Physically, online, all of it. (Also, I love the breakdown here, where the singer’s like, “Ah, we’re gonna get beat up.” Perfectly resigned to the shitstorm that’s coming. It’s going to be an ugly fight, friends. But a necessary one.)
AMERICAN STEEL – “Loaded Gun”
“Well your grandpa broke the strikes and your dad the civil rights when they were 18, too. Kent State, you never had a clean slate. I didn’t see Watts burn but I felt the embers.”
BAD RELIGION – “American Jesus”
Sure, the band’s huge. They’re polarizing as shit - either some of the smartest, long-running political punk around, or old man mall punk. But this is maybe one of the best songs ever written about the weird notion of our country’s entwined belief of Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism. It’s brilliant. And that call-and-response bridge at the end is chilling. They get a lot of flak, these guys, but this is a jawdropper.
AVENGERS – “The American In Me”
Turning the JFK quote on its ear and reminding us just how obsessed we are with violence as a culture, all while being resolutely catchy as hell. Pretty good for two minutes worth of work.
THE CLASH – “Know Your Rights”
Prescient now as it was when it was released 35 years ago.
STRAWMAN – “Heartbeat”
Seriously, check out this San Francisco band’s entire discography. Lead by Tommy Strange – who started out in Zero Defex when he was a young kid in Ohio in the ‘80s – their first LP on Allied is one of the brilliant, careworn, awesome political punk records of the ‘90s. One of my favorite albums, and the band that Strange did after Strawman’s breakup, Songs For Emma, is incredible too. This song specifically reminds me that we’re going to need to seek each other out, that we’ll have to have each other’s backs.
DEAD MOON – “Johnny’s Got A Gun”
I’m a little surprised that this seems to be an original Dead Moon song, because they’ve never struck me as a particularly political band, but this has all the earmarks of a timeless anthem; they wrote this song over 25 years ago, and it might as well have been earmarked for January 20th, 2017.
DEAD TO ME – “Little Brother”
A) It’s just a catchy motherfucking song. But B) To me, at least, it’s also a fevered reminder of the insane juxtaposition between our military involvement in faraway wars and our constant commercial bombardment at home, and how the two are intrinsically intertwined.
DETOURNEMENT – “Stranglehold USA”
Union weakening’s gonna be the first order of business, even as there’s talk and smokescreens about bringing jobs to the country. Andrew Puzder, fast food mogul and Drumpf’s presumptive pick for Labor Secretary, is anti-minimum wage raise, anti-union, anti-overtime law. Like all of Drumpf’s Cabinet picks, he’s seemingly been appointed to dismantle or weaken the very institutions he’s been appointed to protect.
NUCLEAR SPRING – “War-Ridden World”
Christ, I hope not.
DJ SHADOW feat. RUN THE JEWELS – “Nobody Speak”
A bit of a switch – for one, it’s not punk, and it actually came out this year – but goddamn if the video accompanying this song doesn’t perfectly illustrate the last year and a half of America’s collective political experience.
THE TAXPAYERS – “Some Kind Of Disaster Relief”
“You can tell that things are getting terribly real when the people in charge don’t even gotta lie to the people.” A little different now – this administration lies ceaselessly, gleefully, without end – but the end result’s the same.
TITUS ANDRONICUS – “Titus Andronicus Forever”
The lyrics say it all: The enemy is everywhere, and nobody seems to be worried yet. It’s time to get worried. It’s time to accept what’s coming, and get ready to organize in whatever ways we can, and fight back.