Artists you love with politics you hate

I just bought a couple CDs from a band I love, New Model Army. Now, they write some great tunes and some really good lyrics. At the same time their politics are way different than mine. I haven’t paid any attention lately, they might have changed, but they used to be very far left by US standards. Some of their lyrics are basically anti-science. They also have a fairly large anti-US streak, or used to and have a song about England being the 51st State. They don’t like the US, or at least our politics all that much. Note, I started listening to them back in like 1986 or so, so this isn’t about the Iraq war, it’s been going on for a while. Those are just some examples, IIRC they have more songs that are totally opposite of what I believe in yet I still dig their music though they can get political at times.

I once got to meet them and we hung out for a bit and drank wine and argued about politics. It wasn’t pretty yet there were no hard feelings on my behalf (they were on tour and probably don’t remember a damned thing about the meeting).

Anyone else have artists they love yet totally disagree with?


Sure, tons of them. James Lileks is one of the funniest writers going, and his website is a hoot, but he’s a big ol’ conservative dunderhead politically speaking. And I don’t know if I coulda stood being around when George Bernard Shaw was in his heyday – he’s on my Top Ten All time Writer list, but politically he was a Fabian Socialist (which is OK by me) but prior to WWII his theories about “the superman” led him to be a big fan of Mussolini and to a lesser extent, and more briefly, that other guy. Hitler. And of course there’s ol’ HP Lovecraft. Wrote brilliant horror stories, but was definitely a stone racist. Well, kind of a stone racist. He did not care at all for Jews, but married one.

Another Lileks fan too- except for when he gets political. I wouldn’t even mind if I simply disagreed with his ideas on what should be our governments priorities or what would be the most effective way to solve problems, but when he goes off on his views he takes this very “this is all quite self evident, so I’m not going to waste your time with a rational justification” tone that is painful.

I used to enjoy some of Orson Scott Card’s works (though he’s very hit or miss) but he’s so LOUD about his beliefs and so downright nasty about people who fail to see eye to eye with him that it’s completely turned me off to his writing. What’s funny is he’s actually much more even handed and willing to show shades of gray when the focus of the book would have you expect it to be nothing more than a soapbox, but when writing books that don’t directly touch on his views he resorts to lame characatures of things he doesn’t like.

I’ve had exactly the same problem with Orson Scott Card my whole life. He’s one of my favorite writers, or at least he used to be, but when I was a kid I was irritated by his liberalistic bent and his Democratness, and now that I’m an adult, his anti-gay polemics and other assorted rants have really turned me off to his writing as well.

But I’ll still buy the sequel he says is going to wrap up the Ender’s Game saga by joining it with the Ender’s Shadow saga.

The Dixie Chicks

Another Lileks fan disappointed with his constant mindless left-bashing.

Just read a bio of Agnes Moorehead and was let down to discover she was a right-wing religious fanatic, with no sense of humor in private life.

I used to be concerned by this- there was a whole “anxious teenager” phase I went through when I couldn’t stand to read anything by Agatha Christie, even for light entertainment, because she was anti-semitic, you see (in fact, she was pretty much in step with public opinion at the time, and her politics became a lot less racist as she got older. It doesn’t shpw much in her work, though, either way.) However, I think I’m now past that- if the artist’s beliefs aren’t reflected in their works, then I can appreciate the work itself without worrying out the creator (how postmodern!), and if it is reflected in the work- well, if they interfere with the work itself to the extent that one must appreciate the politics in order to appreciate the art (if it is didactic, in other words), then obviously I won’t enjoy it if I disagree with those politics, and therefore I won’t sweat about reading it (I’m looking at you, Ayn Rand- I can see why some people appreciate her, but I feel as if she could have printed a objectivist manifesto on each page of Atlas Shrugged and I’d’ve got the same amount of enjoyment).

Rick Nielsen, Ted Nugent and the late Johnny Ramone are all guitarists whose work I admire but with whom I have a fairly strong difference in political opinion.

In a similar vein, there’s Wagner. Great high opera, but he was by all accounts a pretty ardent Nazi (it’s not Godwinizing to call Wagner a Nazi, is it?).

No, just wildly inaccurate, since the National Socialist party was founded in the 1920’s, some fifty years after Wagner’s death.

Yes, he was an anti-semite with strong beliefs in the German volk et al, but that doesn’t make him a Nazi- just a reactionary typical to his period.

I’m exactly the same but on the opposite side. I love punk, post-punk, and pop-punk like The Clash, Green Day, and System of a Down, but I dislike their leftist-socialist-anarchist political views.

I recall hearing that Herge (of Tintin fame) was considered a passive Nazi sympathizer, but I’ve not heard anything definite. An unpleasant feeling, since the Tintin series is one of my favorite of all time.

You’d probably feel the same about Skunk Baxter (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, etc.). Great guitarist, rock ribbed conservative.

For me? Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A writer of incredible passion and emotional power. A guy who STILL has his mustache velcroed to Fidel Castro’s ass hair.

Then how about Ezra Pound?

I’m not even sure if Wagner’s beliefs were typical even for his period. He was often criticized (and even ridiculed) during his lifetime for his rabid anti-semitism and extreme nationalistic (as well as for his music’s pompousity and the endless length of his operas).

Oh no? How about Von Treitshcke, a contemporary of Wagner’s (albeit in his later years), a respected academic who was a personal favourite of Kaiser Wilhelm’s? He was rabidly anti-semitic- as, for that matter (to a lesser extent) was Kaiser Wilhelm himself (“We must expel the Jews from Germany”- 1902). I’m not trying to defend nor excuse Wagner’s beliefs, merely say that they are very different from Nazism, more in step with the casual xenophobia and bigotry of the period, that extended to Jews, Catholics, Poles, Frenchmen, Danes, etc., etc.

John Malkovich, who has publicly expressed a wish to shoot George Galloway and Robert Fisk.

I fondly remember arch-conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke from his National Lampoon days.

I’ve always loved Vanessa Redgrave’s performances, but some of her political utterances have made me cringe. That “Zionist hoodlums” remark at the Academy Awards was a shocker.

A recent quote from the blog of author Neil Gaiman.

I’ve always tried to keep the artist separate from the art as I have found that quite a few writers/musicians/actors/etc. that I like don’t precisely fit my moral set. Ezra Pound is one of the first that comes to mind, and I have heard several people mention Robert Heinlein in this respect as well.

While he was arguably ignorant of the true nature of the Nazis P. G. Wodehouse, one of my favorite authors, recorded propaganda messages for them during WWII.

I just read a new bio of him, and the author seems to feel he was a truly clueless idiot, but in no way a Nazi sympathizer. And his broadcasts weren’t really propaganda. Still . . .

Other enjoyable authors I have trouble with are Edith “oh, those slimy Jews” Wharton and Cecil “I basically hate everyone” Beaton.

Yes, but Wodehouse was their prisoner at the time. He was in France when the Nazis rolled in, and they leaned on him pretty heavily to make those broadcasts. Yeah, a tough guy would have spit in their faces rather than make the broadcasts, but if I had an SS agent explaining that we could do things the hard way or the easy way I suspect I’d jump at the chance to take the easy way.