Sunday, October 29, 2006

"I'm A Conservative. And You May Not Like That, But I Am."

Lest we forget, the debate over the influence of the Religious Right on conservatism and politics in general isn't new. Watch this discussion from twenty years ago between Frank Zappa and Washington Times columnist and social conservative John Lofton. The topic was censorship and the danger posed by offensive lyrics and music videos. Despite his unscripted style (in contrast to Lofton's handheld talking points) Zappa scores with comments like: "I'm a conservative. And you may not like that, but I am." And in this exchange:
Lofton: "We're entitled to use the force of our civil government to help protect our families. How could you oppose that? I consider this national defense."

Zappa: "The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It's moving America toward a fascist theocracy."
Remember, this was the "Evil Empire" Reagan era, and three years before the Berlin Wall came down. More than a bit prescient, wasn't it?

Despite the personal shots and Zappa's "kiss my ass" lapse at one point, I was struck by how this somehow represented a more intelligent (or at least calmer) era in media discourse. While Crossfire was known as a shoutfest even twenty years ago, note how the hosts allowed the guests to go beyond sound bytes and have an actual discussion. And just as importantly, that discussion wasn't interrupted every few minutes; there was one commercial break during the entire show.

Most telling, though, is what Lofton and Novak invoke as a symbol of the "threat" to America: Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" video. Could there be a better example of how some on the Hysterical Right would trade the Constitution for "national security" and "protection" from the boogeyman of the moment? (And what a threat to the republic that video proved to be!)

As a postscript and perhaps as a lesson in career trajectory for the Coulter/Malkin set, an apparently enlightened Lofton describes himself here as a "recovering Republican" who is "never happier that he is no longer a Republican than when he sees Sean Hannity on TV." When you put all your chips on the "Hot For Teacher" threat, what's next?


Anonymous nil said...

Someone pointed me to this very video a few months ago. I was amazed at how Zappa looked like the elder stateman, while the social conservative... squealing about incest... appaled that young Americans could be told to register and vote...

I had a similar reaction as I saw Bowling for Columbine (a disappointment), when they interviewed Marilyn Manson. He had some sane things to say, and seemed calmer than the mob out to eradicate the latest threat to the American moral fibre.

10/29/2006 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've grown very tired of the talking points and the shout down crowd. I'm starting to shout back, which tires me, too. I'm tired of the people around me proclaiming the US as the best nation in the history of humanity with a flawless track record. Yawn! I try to remind them about all the bad things they said happened during the Democratic Presidencies. In one breath they say "that never happened" and in the next breath condemn Clinton "for all the bad things he did".

10/30/2006 12:24 AM  
Blogger Ned said...

Lofton's current blog, FWIW, is here:

Hadn't checked it out before but I think I might have to now...

10/30/2006 12:29 AM  
Blogger Ned said...

...though on second blush, much about his stance I strongly disagree with! Still, it's more internally consistent as a far-right point of view than the catch-all formula Bush and company deal with now.

10/30/2006 12:34 AM  
Blogger Mark Jones said...

I just finished watching most of the Zappa-Lofton tape. For me, a trip down memory lane. I remember very well, the Tom Braden/Novak era of Crossfire. It was interesting to once again watch old Novak, back when he was not a shrill Republican hack. I actually enjoyed Crossfire back then. It really was not a Shoutfest, at least compared to today’s typical cable news talk shows. Also interesting, was the fact that the guest actually “talked”, even the republican reptiles like Lofton. People (both left and right) were not just walking and breathing “talking points”. Zappa comes of as very thougtful, mostly because he was a thoughtful person, and because compared to today, he was truly a citizen speaking his mind. Not a think tank or political zombie. Oh how I long for the 80’s……… the music was better, and so was the political discourse.

10/30/2006 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

One wonders: when Zappa did "The Central Scrutinizer" could he have imagined John Poindexter in the role?

10/30/2006 3:34 PM  
Blogger DrDave said...

For a really great read, get "The Real Frank Zappa Book" by Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso. An important autobiography by a brilliant man. Zappa was more of a Libertarian than a conservative and had little faith that government was capable of doing much other than f*ck things up.

10/31/2006 7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

herman's definition of conservatism...

10/31/2006 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Pennypacker said...

Brings to mind an H.L. Mencken quote:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

11/03/2006 5:45 PM  

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