Essay on punk in the US and UK: “Unless you print them on a T-shirt, political messages don’t sell”

June 8, 2012 by Bryne Yancey

Essay on punk in the US and UK: “Unless you print them on a T-shirt, political messages don’t sell”

(Above: Russian feminist punks Pussy Riot)

Interesting new Op-Ed at the New York Times today, in which Jessica Bruder talks about the growing resistant punk movement across the world while lamenting its demise in the US and UK. An excerpt:

"The idea that music can help change things, rather than just sell expensive coats, isn’t very popular here right now. In America, the loudest answers to contemporary crises have been mostly moribund. Bruce Springsteen offered up the anemic “Wrecking Ball.” Miley Cyrus made an Occupy Wall Street-flavored video for her treacly tune “Liberty Walk.” Jay-Z’s clothing company, Rocawear, profited by hawking $22 “Occupy All Streets” T-shirts; the rap mogul didn’t blink when movement organizers cried foul.

In other words, unless you print them on a T-shirt, political messages don’t sell. These days, the Sex Pistols don’t sell either, though not for lack of trying. Last week, Universal reissued “God Save the Queen” as a 7-inch record to celebrate the song’s anniversary and cash in on Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Fans’ attempts to push it up the charts flopped, though the refrain — “No future, no future, no future for you!” — feels as relevant as ever, thanks to the global economic crisis and widespread unemployment.

Punk today belongs more to Russia and Iraq, Myanmar and Indonesia, than it does to its birthplaces. Like any movement steeped in dissent and nonconformity, punk’s moral force grows with government suppression. As authoritarian regimes crack down on rebel rockers, their efforts to censor subversive voices often backfire by attracting attention from international media and human rights activists."

Read the rest of the column here and let us know what you think in the comments.

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