So, there’s a blog post doing the rounds at the moment, seems to be every other link I click on, which is Tom Gabel from Against Me! defending their new song, ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’. I’m not going to link to the song, because if you’re reading this I probably like you, but to give you an idea: it wouldn’t sound out of place on a U2 album. I’ll link to the blog post because it’s unavoidable: http://ifeelsicktomystomach.blogspot.com/2010/05/i-was-teenage-anarchist.html Shit, just realised the song is on that page. I’m really sorry.
I know every anarchist on the internet is busy deconstructing this at the moment, but I’m going to go for it anyway. I’d like to say first that I’m not a disgruntled, betrayed, former Against Me! fan. By the time I was getting into that type of music they were already signed to Fat Wreck and on the road to generic pop rock. It might have been different if I’d heard them when they first released ‘Baby, I’m An Anarchist’, but I didn’t, so it isn’t. First off, I’d like to congratulate Tom on his justification of police brutality against himself:
Next thing I knew one of the cops had grabbed me by the neck, twisted my arm behind my back and started dragging me over towards their parked cruiser. They slammed my face down onto the sun-baked trunk of the car., kicked my legs apart and started going through my pockets. Every time I tried to get my head up off the burning trunk it was slammed back down harder. After a long and immature verbal exchange, most of the immaturity being on my part (I think the words “fucking” and “pig” were used quite a lot if I remember correctly)
Now, I have no doubt that he probably was fucking annoying. But he’s been followed by two cops, obviously picking on a teenage kid cos they can, and comes away thinking HE’S the most immature? Read the whole account and make up your own mind, but I think it’s disgustingly disrespectful to victims of police brutality to imply that he deserved what happened cos he swore a few times.
That wasn’t the main point of this though. The point was, that although I have respect for a lot of the stuff that Tom mentions he did when he was younger, it’s a case of ‘if you’re not now, you never were’. The fact is that no matter what way you look at it, Against Me! have betrayed everything they claimed to stand for. In general, I don’t really give a shit about bands getting big and signing to major labels. It’s just a bit unfortunate when you spent the first half of your career claiming you never would.
Which leads me to the title of this post. IT’S NOT US, IT’S YOU. Yes, there are always people in activist circles who are fucking idiots and demonstrate the exact opposite of what it should be about. But, where I get a bit unclear, is how this justifies doing nothing, renouncing your ideals and signing to Warner Bros?
I feel like the revolution sold to me when I was a teenager by the punk scene, by the Anarchist scene was a lie. The real revolution was the political awakening. That initial spark that made me want to change the world. And that’s what I’m interested in, maintaining that fire.
If he ever felt like he was ‘sold a revolution’, he missed the point to start with. The beautiful thing about anarchism is that if you can find two anarchists who have exactly the same politics, you probably haven’t found two anarchists. I’m not sure whether Tom’s in a position to pass judgement on a movement he clearly never understood. He’s reduced that movement, incorporating everything from striking workers, to the black bloc, to people planting community gardens, down to his limited experience of the anarcho-punk scene in one part of America. The constant conflation of the anarchist and punk scenes as one and the same really doesn’t work. I got fucking sick of the punk scene pretty quick because yeah, it’s full of people who think anarchy means you can get drunk all the time and be an inconsiderate asshole. I could have dismissed it and left it there, but I knew there was more to it than that. And yeah, in the anarchist scene there are people who think they’re right, everyone else is wrong, they have the answer. The problems are nothing to do with punk or anarchism though, you’ll get people like that anywhere, whether or not they try to justify it with their political position. Maybe Tom didn’t spend enough time outside these circles to know that everyone else is exactly the same?
It also seems like pretty convenient marketing for the band. They clearly lost most of the anarchist and punk communities back when they signed to Fat Wreck, and the remaining few when they signed to Sire. They had their tyres slashed, van graffitied (‘REMEMBER WHEN YOU MATTERED?’), and there was an article in Maximumrocknroll advocating pouring bleach on their merch table. Against Me! have a lot of reasons to hate ‘the scene’. But, if they hadn’t got signed to Fat Wreck, and could continue leaching off it, I’m sure they wouldn’t hate it. After all, if it was always just a fashion, might as well. One of the excuses they first used when signing to a major was that it would spread the message to more people. Clearly that meant the message that anarchism is a childish phase that we all need to grow out of! That’s…helpful. To be honest, if the band had stayed on an independent label, but renounced anarchism, nobody would care as much. Likewise, if they’d gone down the major route, but kept their ideals and continued to ‘spread the message’, yeah they would still have seemed like hypocrites, but it would have seemed more justifiable. As it is, it just seems like, and I really didn’t want to say this, but, selling out. Renounce your politics, make your music into generic stadium rock, and, hey presto! You make loads of money. It’s a tried and tested formula.
It’s not “heresy for an anarchist to say ‘FUCK Anarchy'”. However, Tom, when you say it after supporting Obama in the last election, it’s a bit different.