May 30, 2003


Dem Blues: The left, turning right, was plain wrong to attack pop culture (Robert Wilonsky, 5/29/03, Dallas Observer)
You've been warned: This is a column about politics wherein a popular-culture critic (dunno what that is either, but says so on my tax returns) interviews a former rock journalist-turned-publicist-turned-band-manager-turned-record-label-executive about how the Democratic Party alienated everyone under the age of death. You may take this with a grain of salt; you may take it with an entire salt lick. Wouldn't blame you a bit, as all I know about politics could fit inside the head of the Green Lantern action figure sitting on my desk, and the record-label exec in question did sign Jewel to a major-label deal, which should make you immediately suspicious of anything he has to say, think, write or, for that matter, do.

All that said, Danny Goldberg is probably the perfect guy to talk Democratic politics with when all you know about Democratic politics is that Joe Lieberman's going to get his salami handed to him on a seder plate come Election Day 2004. The 52-year-old Goldberg is not only the quintessential liberal--supports higher taxes to fund national health care and better pay for teachers, has been an officer in the American Civil Liberties Union since the mid-1980s, believes labor unions should be stronger--but he's also a longtime rock-and-roll pusher man. He's worked with Led Zeppelin (as publicist and head of Swan Song, the band's label), Nirvana and Sonic Youth (as manager, when he owned Gold Mountain), Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams and R.E.M. (as the head of one of several labels for whom he's worked, including Warner Bros., Mercury and Atlantic) and now Warren Zevon and Steve Earle (as owner of his own label, Artemis Records).

Ever since Robert Plant was a golden god, Goldberg has been selling culture to kids. He has been witness to rock's occasional revolutions and a party to its intermittent downward slides (he signed Hootie and the Blowfish); he helped organize the No Nukes concert in 1980 and was on the front line of the Culture Wars long before Tipper Gore ever fired a shot. And from his vantage point, the war's going badly for his side: Used to be it was only right-wingers who hated what he was selling. Now you can't find a Democratic candidate, outside of maybe Al Sharpton, who'll own up to owning music you can move to.

As Goldberg insists in his book Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit, which arrives in stores in two weeks, Democrats can't get kids to vote anymore because they've spent the last decade, if not longer, attacking young voters and those coming of political age--especially Democrat front-runner Lieberman. It was Lieberman who, along with Hillary Clinton, introduced the Media Marketing Accountability Act of 2001, which wanted the Federal Trade Commission to go after record companies selling rock and rap records to kids under 17. Lieberman insisted, hey, he just wanted to put "ratings" on CD covers; what he really wanted was to make it a criminal act to sell Eminem and "the vile, hateful and nihilistic" Marilyn Manson to kids. Lieberman--don't kid yourself, he's Bill Bennett in a yarmulke.

Well, Mr. Wilonsky does start by warning us he knows not whereof he speaks. but by the time he gets to the point where he thinks Joe Lieberman did himself political damage by attacking the likes of Marilyn Manson he might have thought better of handing in the column. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2003 4:25 PM
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