The long history of censorship in America has been chronicled extensively. Stacker popped up with this checklist in a search as I was writing this. The 1980s are full of seminal confrontational moments, like when Dee Snyder testified to Congress or the call to ban Ozzy for animal cruelty? Dee Snyder took apart Al and Tipper Gore and it was delicious. The bat Ozzy bit the head off of was already dead, (for two weeks!) per the guy who threw it on stage. False alarm. Again. Move along.
Of course these attempts at shutting down creative and independent thought happened during Gen X coming of age, and are an important reason why Gen Xers loathe constriction and convention.
In my post below, about social pioneering band Devo, I point out a RS magazine headline questioning whether Devo was a “Nazi.” Gen X is a huge topic of mine. (As an aside, two members of Devo attended Kent State, and were in the crowd when the shooting started on May 4, 1970. Gerald Casale lost two friends that day, was 30 feet away from the guardsmen when they opened fire, and watched his friend bleed out of her exit wound. And to be called a Nazi. Disgusting.)
The disillusionment with society began long before Gen X, but it accelerated with the advent of MTV, the PC, and the theory of Intersectionality, among other causes. I could tear down society all I wanted, but DO NOT TELL ME what to tear down or leave standing.
Songs like Subdivisions and Killing Yourself to Live speak to the isolation and desperation felt by a whole cohort that, on the one hand, was forced to, and then loved the freedom, to live like adults during our unsupervised hours, but then was forced to conform to distant and unconnected parental rules and norms of “polite society” upon those elders daily re-entry into our lives. After a while, it got to “F#%& You!”
So, here were are again. The calls to ban Substack are as loud as they are tired. My Great-Grandma Waelbrock lived until she was 94 years old. She had the greatest cancel button ever created. Something on the TV she did not want to see? Turn the button off. Someone at the door saying something you disagree with? Close the door. Hang up the phone she did when a caller bothered her.
What the hell is wrong with people? Reading is the bedrock of civilization. After fire and the wheel, I am hard-pressed to conceive of another thing that is so fundamental to humanity.
The fact that human beings who write words for a living are the loudest of the critics calling for censorship is beyond mind-boggling. I truly believe many of these people literally have never read a history book.
The sliver-lining to this cloud is that the firing squad just turned circular. For so long, the bullets were pointing away from the espousers of group-think. The ranks of false enemies, red herrings, and straw men built an army of illusion. And their alleged crimes make up a dystopian reality of the new thought law.
I am making a direct and honest appeal to my readers. Explore Substack. There are as many viewpoints on here as sands on the beach. I am pretty sure that you are capable of discerning which words strung together in certain ways are to your liking or not. I have yet to find someone really good at reading things they really hate. But then, I do read Salon and Slate and Vox. Oh well.
Thanks for reading my words. I have a much better idea than cancelling someone. It is actually a concept promoted by the word-blockers. It is called dialogue. If I say something stupid, or offensive, or hurtful, say ouch! You would if I hit you. Why not if my word-blow struck a soft-spot?
That is really what is wrong with society. Those 25-year-old word-blockers lived a childhood, adolescence, and college-life free from chaos and conflict. And now, for the first time in life, and as an adult no less, they are confronted with ideas and concepts completely foreign to them.
Human nature (the thing they deny, btw) forces them to dislike and distrust the foreign. Tribalism causes them to shun the different and seek comfort in community. Segregation results. It has happened before. Totally understandable. But are we not enlightened?
What is not understandable in 2021 is the call for censorship.
And on the the story…
I love Devo. And I love that so many people (used to) hate Devo. That makes me happy. I was the only long-haired stoner in my group that listened to Devo in 1980. In Farmington New Mexico. So there! small-town nerds. I got cred. In between Black Sabbath and Rush. Or Zeppelin. It was my car (1976 Ford Pinto), my cassette player, so tough shit. As a preface, a reader really needs to take a moment and watch the video Freedom of Choice.
A man has to learn that he cannot command things, but that he can command himself; that he cannot coerce the wills of others, but that he can mold and master his own will: and things serve him who serves Truth; people seek guidance of him who is master of himself.
Following his death in 1912, his wife continued publishing the magazine under the name The Epoch. Lily Allen summarised her husband's literary mission in the preface to one of his posthumously published manuscripts, Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success saying:
"He never wrote theories, or for the sake of writing; but he wrote when he had a message, and it became a message only when he had lived it out in his own life and knew that it was good. Thus he wrote facts, which he had proven by practice."
My friends, what I write about myself is fact. My fact. And what you live is truth. Your truth. The place where my fact meets your truth is the point of today’s narrative. This occasion currently causes and creates confusion and chaos in this country. I know that this message is good. And needed. And fact. And to the point.
I would like to begin with the various meanings of intersection, the root word of Intersectionality. Where did this concept originate? This article in Vox by Jane Coaston is a great encapsulation of Intersectionality, as defined and expressed by the woman who coined the term in 1989, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
· intersection noun (LINES) an occasion when two lines cross, or the place where this happens:
· intersection noun (ROADS) the place where two or more roads join or cross each other:
· intersection noun (GEOMETRY) a point or set of points where two lines, planes, etc., cross:
· intersection noun (ALGEBRA) An intersection is a group of items that belong to two different sets:
· Intersection noun (BUSINESS ENGLISH) the point where two things come together and have an effect on each other.
That is instructive. In each discipline, the word means what it means in real life. The algebra definition particularly resonates with me. And I hated algebra! Members of different sets ARE IN THE SAME GROUP. The mode is point. Intersection is also an occasion and a place. And this gem …” two things come together and have an effect on each other.”
In the article, even hard conservatives agree that the argument, as originally posited, is sound and practical
“The conservatives I spoke to understood quite well what intersectionality is. What’s more, they didn’t seem bothered by intersectionality as legal concept, or intersectionality as an idea. (I asked [Ben] Shapiro this question directly, and he said, “the original articulation of the idea by Crenshaw is accurate and not a problem.”)
It stands to plain reason. Half of the world’s population is female. Any female with any other (self-)defining characteristic is by definition “intersectional”. Could be color, orientation, or whatever. Add to that group any bi-racial or multi-racial males. And let us not forget those that choose not to be defined (refer back to Freewill from Rush) for they have made a choice.
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose Freewill
The total number of people that can logically be defined as Intersectional is huge. And multi-generational. And consequential. And presently perplexed. I write about multi-racial identity in the US here.
In the abstract, the concept is positive and empowering. The vast majority of us live in worlds and cultures that span two or more spheres of influence. That gives us multiple points of reference with which connection to members of different cultures should come naturally and organically. We should all be embracing this concept. It is the basis of most religious teachings.
But, as is human nature and original sin, and the politics of interpersonal power, this concept has been appropriated, mutilated, and regurgitated back to us as manna. And we are swallowing it by the gallons. We love it. It churns the cycles on cable. It drives the anger in the streets. It supplies simplistic causes to sinister actions. It eases the mind and soothes the conscious. Easy no choice there. Thankfully. For all.
Devo sang about it in their seminal song Freedom of Choice. The trailer for their long-awaited doc can be viewed here. As Mark Mothersbaugh explains during a 1981 RS interview with critic Michael Goldberg
“There are people who buy or don’t buy records because of the critics,” he said, his resentment obvious. “They call us fascists because we represent something scary to them. It’s like all these ‘Me Generation’ people whose politics are, ‘I want to take as many drugs and consume as much energy and own two condos and big recreational vehicles and take up as much space for myself as I can.’ They don’t want to be concerned about how they relate to other people on the planet and their responsibility to other people on the planet. Those kinds of people are upset by Devo politics. Because if there’s a politic behind what we do, it’s people being aware of their responsibility to other people.”
The article was hilariously titled Devo: Sixties Idealists or Nazis and Clowns?. Nazis? Nazis? Seriously. Nazis? We are talking about Rolling Stone, in 1981, calling a music band wearing upside-down red flower pots on their heads Nazis. Does anyone wonder why calling someone a Nazi now is the epitome of willful ignorance? I am most fond of the Urban Dictionary meaning of that term. Clowns yes. Badge of Honor.
Ad hominem criticisms are among the lowest category of discourse and is considered the weakest form of rhetoric in the intellectual discipline of argument. Substitute racist for Nazi, and it claws back some symbolic sting. Or fascist. Your imposition upon me notwithstanding. Hypothetically.
Again, settled meanings of words, or words that are years-old and lifetimes away, are now unilaterally and conveniently shape-shifted and re-defined to become pre-and-de-and-post-facto indictments. Cursory and perfunctory guilty verdicts are judged. Draconian, life-shattering sentences are rendered. “NEXT!” the Queen of Hearts demands after proclaiming “Off with her head!” Hard to evolve without a head.
But that is the heart and soul of the rhetorical device now being utilaweaponized, most recently against the never-onboarded-now-former-just-parted-ways editor of Teen Vogue. Is Seventeen still around too?!
The beauty of Devo was the unwritten and unspoken. The subversive and surreptitious undertones of lyric and form combined with true revulsion of the excesses and materialism of the Boomers to unite a defiant underground of outcasts. Gen X mega-icons spoke admiringly of Devo
OC Weekly: When you were a kid, did guys ever drive by in Camaros and yell, “Hey, Devo!” at you? Tony Hawk: No—I mean, just growing up in the skateparks, that was what was playing. That's one of my earliest memories, skating the Oasis skatepark in San Diego and Devo blasting over the sound system.
"Of all the bands who came from the underground and made it in the mainstream," declared Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, “Devo were the most challenging and subversive of all."
"We're still waiting to get to where Devo was in 1979," says Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, adding this beauty that topped some silly list in RS
1. He was sent to the school shrink for trying to kill Loverboy.
“In my neighborhood in Springfield, Virginia, there was a guy, Jimmy Swanson – we were like brothers. We both fell in love with the guitar when we were eight or nine years old. But eventually our interests split. I discovered the B-52’s and Devo; he was going off to Loverboy and Def Leppard. We would draw comics in class to each other. I’d draw Devo killing Loverboy with laser guns. I got sent to the school shrink for that.”
Ms. Crenshaw relates intersectionality to a traffic intersection, with traffic flowing in all four directions, so when an accident occurs it could have been a result of cars coming from any one direction, or all of them. She later wrote that reconstructing an accident is difficult and it is unclear who caused the skid marks or which driver was at fault. Which leads to no one held responsible and all parties go back to living their lives.
The best analogies are simple. Take “intersectionality,” the term for an increasingly popular framework for activism, which says that in order to understand social and political phenomena, people must consider various human identities like race, gender, and sexuality not as separate, but as parts of a complexly tangled web.
That the term uses a basic comparison of intersecting identities to intersecting roads is simple enough to guess. Indeed, Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a scholar credited with coining “intersectionality,” originally used the analogy to criticize a court’s dismissal of a black woman’s lawsuit of workplace discrimination. The court cited that the company in question hired both blacks and women, but Crenshaw argued that its decision didn’t take into account the woman’s intersectional identity.
As Crenshaw describes, the roads are identities, like race and gender, and the cars on the road are policies affecting those identities. Therefore, someone standing at such an intersection would be hit by traffic from both roads. For example, a black woman hit at the intersection of the roads representing blackness and femaleness would not be able to get help there. As a result, neither a race nor a gender “ambulance” could come along and help her, because they would mistakenly ask which road she belonged on, as if only one identity had jurisdiction over her.
Reflecting upon the current atmosphere Michelle I. Gao, the Crimson Opinion Writer, further opines
In the years since Crenshaw’s 1989 paper, “intersectionality” has taken on a life of its own. It usually shows up as an adjective in front of a movement, as in “intersectional feminism.” Supporters of intersectionality believe that a movement must stand for all the people under its umbrella. Intersectional feminists, for example, want more emphasis on issues that affect non-white, non-middle-class women, since they contend that white, well-to-do women have traditionally been the main beneficiaries of feminism. Emphasizing the issues of underrepresented groups within a movement often includes advocating for issues not directly connected to the movement at hand. Thus intersectional feminists make a point to talk about things like LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter because, as the leaders of the 2017 Women’s March announced, “Our liberation is bound in each other’s.”
I think that these new uses of the term “intersectionality” are based on a different analogy of intersecting. This analogy positions the individual not as the one being hit and needing to explain what led to her predicament, but as the person with agency. The roads are movements, and each person places herself at the crossroads of the movements she supports.
La Times music critic Robert Hilburn elicited this intellectual interchange way back in 1981 that is so profound and prescient it has to be a course of study in every school in America. How is it that this has been around so long, and so little understanding has come about? What is wrong with us? Are we just Jocko Homo? Or peruse the shelfs of Devo here to discover your inner Devo-Self. More lists. They drive clicks, right. Stop calling me a sellout because I will. See below.
As we all know and experience every minute of every day, we intersect. And collide. And crash. Many and most of the time it is not of willful or malignant intent. On occasion it is. At that place and point in time malevolence is to blame. Not skin color. Or orientation. Or gender. It is hard to see clearly from where I am standing. Just like it is from where you are standing.
Let’s get together and compare notes. Let’s break some bread and drink some beer. Tell me what you know and I will tell you what I know. We can therefore double our knowledge. Knowledge is power, and power soothes the soul. Real power. The power of community. Based on mutual respect. All that power comes from a simple choice. And it is your choice to make.
A victim of collision on the open sea
Nobody ever said that life was free
Sank, swam, go down with the ship
But use your freedom of choice