Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars has produced a video wherein he claims his theory that conservatism is the new punk rock, has been vindicated. This comes after John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of Sex Pistols and PIL fame has claimed that he is happy about the fact that Brexit and Trump represent giving the middle finger to the old elite.
Lydon of course has a valid point, but I certainly hope that Paul Joseph Watson does not. If conservatism is the new punk, we are all doomed.
Punk rock as John Lydon has said many a time, wasn’t his movement. For Lydon, he was a young man trying to make a statement and in the process he became exploited by arch-capitalist Malcolm McLaren. McLaren was the archetypal liberal capitalist because he sought profit without regard to the following:
a. The moral sentiments of the public, including many working class people.
b. The economic well being of the young people whose image, talents and vulnerability he exploited
c. Any sense of original craftsmanship motivated by sincerity.
It is no wonder that he and his ghastly liberal wife Vivian Westwood got on…just before they fell out.
When taken as a whole, the punk scene was an odd combination of safe pseudo-anarchism, nihilism, fake socialism and opportunistic vulgar capitalism. It melded the idea of distrust with the credo that there is ‘no future’; no solution to the problems of alienation, economic decline and perceived creative repression. Except for the creative repression part, it’s a bit like a locked room full of Republicans discussing a post-Obamacare future…minus the clothes pins in the nose. I doubt that this is the meaning that Paul Joseph Watson intended.
This is one of the other reasons that Lydon has distanced himself from the entire contrived ethos of ‘punk’. Lydon has said that he believes in a future and has echoed the late Frank Zappa’s words in saying that voting matters and that all people in democracies ought to vote. Zappa, a self-described conservative, was incidentally ridiculed for saying this in the 1980s.
Since the late 1970s, the punk movement in Britain has gone even more commercial and now, ageing alcoholic has-beens in the music, art and worse yet, antiques business like to prove their punk credentials by plying young people with drugs, booze and worse in an attempt to be ‘cool’; as if giving young people ‘no future’ the Sex Pistols ironically spoke of is something for an ageing person to be proud of.
Lydon is famously anti-drug and anti-nihilism and this is to be commended. He appreciates the fact that many people trying to profit from the ‘punk’ label are as dastardly as the things he personally opposed as a teen in the 1970s.
Furthermore, there is something parochial about the punk movement when viewed in an international context. It was a uniquely English movement about a certain place and time, the economically stagnant Britain of the 1970s. This was a place where champagne flowed for some in bohemian London but where strikes and power-cuts were the reality for most.
It is rather odd that people in other countries co-opt this movement rather than addressing their own cultures, whether it be suburban America or post-Communist Czech Republic. Perhaps this is why at the time, punk rock was never a major seller outside of the UK. Bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer continued to ‘strike the right chords’ in America and Europe.
So no, conservatism is not the new punk, conservatism is ‘old school’ as they say. At the same time, the ethos of conservatism is about giving people a future based on the stable traditions of the past. The best foundation for a future is the ability to understand and learn from the past without resorting to fits of anger or sudden change. It’s what in Russia is called нормальный.
To quote a man once called Mr. Conservative in America, Barry Goldwater, “We must, and we shall, return to proven ways– not because they are old, but because they are true”. That is the essence of conservatism, not the selling of nihilism that punk represented as early as 1978.