Regular HTV readers know my admiration for Charles Pierce, whom I cite at least once a week. He’s the funniest American political columnist. If all you did was read “What Are the Gobshites Saying These Days,” his roundups of the Sunday morning talk shows, in which he pays attention to panjandrums as they ooze pieties without cracking their face powder, you’d get a sense of his wit. The most recent entry dissects the GOP obsession with a health care website they don’t want to fix and their determination not to give a damn about the Americans without Willard Romney’s insurance plan. Like a good historian, he makes inductive leaps that work: read “Andrew Johnson And The Roots Of Constitutional Conservatism.”
I like Pierce so much that I mistake his wisdom for generalism. Today he writes a piece about the Country Music Awards so reactionary that the Newt Gingrich for whom Boys Town served as a model for Troubled Modern Youth would have tweeted it. The subject of his ire? Confirmed Obama supporter Brad Paisley and gay marriage endorser Carrie Underwood’s lame joke about the Obamacare website. Jon Stewart has made lame jokes about the website. Charles Pierce thinks it’s embarrassing too. For Pierce, though, the joke served as an excuse for admissions like this, in which you sense his relief in sharing with y’all, like a dude unbuckling his belt on the porch, leaning back, and belching:
Let’s forget all of that and concentrate on the main issue — which is that I think modern country music sucks gigantic bowls of monkey dick. It is, weight for age, the phoniest genre of music since Pat Boone was ripping off Little Richard. Most of what is celebrated as “country” these days is simply bad rock and roll played by people who look like they flunked the audition for a Night Ranger tribute band. I mean, Taylor Fking Swift is already a “legend,” and Patsy Cline would have eaten her on toast.
To expect a political columnist to have read this, this, this, and a myriad other mini essays in Tumblr or Facebook about the dismal state of male-dominated country rock — and the counterrevolution for which Miranda Lambert and her associates have served as avatars — is unreasonable, not when Washington offers so many delicious objects of derision. But Pierce, who posts as if he’s never endured the acid rain of banality that is an award show, uses the Paisley-Underwood joke like the apparatchik in Milan Kundera’s novel: a truncheon with which to beat those goobers whose tunes are uploaded to plutocrat iPhones. Some of Marco Rubio’s most glassy-eyed fans? They love “Gimme Shelter” for the same reasons Pierce and I and hundreds of other liberals do: it’s a frightening song about anxieties that are just a shot away. That’s the privilege of living in Miami-Dade County — you know this stuff. Hell, last spring Charles Pierce himself tipped his hat and complimented Kacey Musgraves for singing real purty (like Emmylou!) and writing as good as Graham Parsons, Guy Clark, and the other country rock icons of his golden youth.
A gay man with a shelf groaning with Henry James and Geoffrey Hill, I have every reason to agree with Theodor Adorno: “Sports itself is not play, but ritual in which the subjected celebrate their subjection.” Recent developments make a stronger case than Adorno ever did. But to use these incidents as reasons to indict the atavism of the modern capitalist state would be the kind of stupidity that won’t learn how to spell “nuance.” How stupid also to expect a correspondence between the cast-a-cold-eye probity required of a excellent political columnist and of a critic.