by Mo Karnage
I’ve been avoiding 2 things recently- beginning to write for Profane Existence and addressing the Miley Cyrus debacle in any serious manner. This morning a houseguest who writes for Afropunk.com pointed out the Vice Magazine article about Miley Cyrus being punk, and I decided that was the last straw. So this is my wading into the intersectional cluster fuck. Apologies. Not sorry.
I live at the Wingnut Anarchist Collective in Richmond, VA and I listen to a lot of pop country, but my background and politics are punk. In August my Aunt bought me tickets to see Ke$ha in DC, cause I like Ke$ha, cause I have bad taste. I’d never been to any mainstream show in my life, and had no idea what to expect. What blew me away was the sheer spectacle of mainstream pop music. There were stripper poles, drag queens, blow up animals, soft porn videos, mini cars, angle grinders shooting sparks, and more. I was convinced by seeing the spectacle in person along with a couple thousand 14 year olds that nothing is shocking anymore. It is with this experience that I address the Vice article on Miley Cyrus.
The concept of punk as spectacle or just fashion rebellion is something that was probably never accurate, and if it was, it is hella outdated. Being raunchy or pushing boundaries has been for some time now completely accepted by consumer capitalism and the pop industry. Spectacle sells. Capitalist scum have at this point completely stopped caring about morals or promoting WASP values, and only care about making money and distracting people from reality. See the Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord for more on this concept.
Shock isn’t punk. Punk has always been about more than shock. The politics of punk are shocking because they undermine mainstream values, not because our clothes are covered in safety pins. Punk is shocking because we want to overthrow the patriarchy and smash the government and free all the prisoners and stop racism. Drugs and excess aren’t punk either. Those have always been privileges of the rich.
If Miley Cyrus’ racist performances are punk, the the KKK is punk. And the KKK isn’t punk. Mainstream society is all about the white supremacy. Ain’t nothing punk about that. If Miley Cyrus not giving a fuck about what people think is punk, then Monsanto and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex are punk. I think its pretty obvious why not giving a fuck doesn’t make you punk.
Miley Cyrus can’t conceivably be working towards her own liberation while contributing to the oppression of others. Shit doesn’t work like that. No issue is one dimensional. Of course slut shaming is unacceptable. But we have to go beyond the white/liberal feminist stance to address the racism and classism and other shit coming from Miley’s corner. And we also have to address the systemic nature of these things. It’s not just Miley and it never has been.
Dan Ozzi (author of the Vice article) writes like a person with a lot of privilege. He thinks not giving a fuck is punk. How original. Sounds like every other white male with unexamined privilege. He can get in line with the manarchists. Punk isn’t for him. And we don’t need people like him to try to define a genre for us. Not giving a fuck about racism or sexism or transphobia or classism is about as fucking normal as you can get.
Capitalism is about what sells. And capitalism is rapidly appropriating aspects of punk that it can turn into consumer products. Those products have never been punk. True punk rebellion includes fighting capitalism, fighting oppression, and promoting a DIY ethic and solidarity and community. Punk isn’t about rebellion for rebellions sake. That’s what capitalists would like for us to think. There are specific values to punk. Punk is queers and people of color and womyn and everyone who refuses to assimilate or perpetuate oppression. Listen to some Crass, Bikini Kill, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, etc. Check out Punks Unite Across Turtle Island – www.nativepunxunite.tumblr.com . Check out radical punk zines like Shotgun Seamstress www.shotgunseamstress.wordpress.com . Punk isn’t dead and shitheads like Dan Ozzi and Miley Cyrus will never kill it. Punk isn’t dead and the capitalists won’t ever be able to market the parts that really matter.