How does one become a Rock Star?
It takes natural talent, hard work, and luck.
At least, that is what the neo-liberal mythology tells us. Whatever liberalism’s intellectual history, neo-liberalism in America 2020 as it relates to Americans is not simply an academic theory. The rhetoric of neo-liberalism is the rhetoric of half of American domestic politics, “economic issues,” and it’s often presented in moral terms.
Indeed, the neo-liberal mythology of a “Rock Star” is a rise and fall narrative.
The Rock Stars Bad Company told us the story in “Shooting Star.” Johnny has talent, works hard at his craft, then kisses mom goodbye, goes to the Big City, puts out a record that goes “straight up to number one.” After a brief stint as a Rock Star, he overdoses on excess and dies.
At least since the 1980’s, an acceptable second act is as a Wise Elder, perhaps doing more “Indie” stuff, or getting back on MTV as a recovered addict telling the kids to say No To Drugs. So you don’t have to die young.
In the context of mass media, there’s a similar narrative arc to most Celebrities. Not just Rock Stars, but Hollywood Actors, Government Politicians, and Corporate CEOs.
At least since the Boomer generation, those who grew up watching television, there exists a coalition of Americans called “conservatives” that have always just assumed that the electronic mass media in America was a system of “free enterprise” operating in a “free market.” This was an explicity ideology in America, especially during the Cold War, in which America’s “free enterprise” system is compared favorably to the Communist Block nations, who had “state-controlled media.” Conservatives would point to the three major television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, and endorse this system of “competition” in a “free market.” The theory was that ABC had to give the people what they wanted to see, otherwise CBS would take their audience, before NBC, after a lot of hard work by very talented people, manages to muscle into first place.
Conservatives contrasted this media system with the media system under the Communist Block, which was controlled by the government, and there was only one channel, not three.
Thus conservatives “consumed” Rock Stars, as consumer media products, and believed the narrative of the “rise and fall” of various celebrities. The “Entertainment” business might be acknowledged as an outlier in the business world, after all what’s interesting and funny today might be considered boring and stale tomorrow. The entertainment business was certainly “cut-throat” because after all, celebrity is by definition a scarce commodity.
But Conservatives, since the era of Television, projected this idea on other forms of celebrity. Walter Cronkite was popular because he had “earned the trust” of American because of his dedication to the craft of journalism, in a fiercely competitive market – after all, there were only three spaces for a Major Network Television News Anchor.
Conservatives may even say that the TV news business is “liberal” and “biased” but, since the 1960’s, few have questioned if Cronkite was trusted because he was famous, because he was a celebrity.
Consider the young boy who from an early age watched Professional Wrestling. This is presented to him as a “contest” with a time-based narrative, with heavily moralistic content, and this is reinforced by his peers. At some age, he begins to understand that Professional Wrestling is not a “contest” but a “performance.”
Consider the young girl who has watched “Reality Television” from an early age. She assumes she is watching the antics of “regular people” engaging in highly competitive social activities. At some age she begins to understand that the “Reality Shows” are scripted, the “regular people” are in fact professional actors, and that the plots are written in advance, including the winners and losers of these feminine social competitions.
The Internet’s first 9/11 skeptic, David McGowan, tells a great story about the Rock Stars of the “Hippie Generation.” In 1966, a few dozen aspiring musicians all decide to spontaneously move to Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, next door to the Air Force Base, Lookout Mountain, which is the American Intelligence establishment’s media headquarters. Immediately, these aspiring musicians, most of whom are family members of America’s Military-Intelligence community, all get signed to “record labels” and within months have written songs, recorded albums, and been broadcast on ABC, CBS, and NBC, on both radio and television, and then are heavily promoted in related, second-tier media like magazines, newspapers, and later even cinema. In the summer of 1966, a new “counter-culture” – “the hippies” – are born and introduced to America on prime time television and drive-time radio.
The biographies of those 1960’s “Hippie” Rock Stars are the same genre of literature as the biography of many CEOs, like Reed Hastings of Netflix. Emphasis on “literature” because these biographies are often more fiction as than fact.
For conservatives, this was all just a coincidence. Talented performers moved to the big city, got “discovered,” perhaps in a dive bar, and then are given a shot at “the big time.” The public rewarded their talents and hard work with an audience, and advertisers paid for it all so they could peddle their soap and automobiles.
Capitalism at work, a success of the Free Market.
Now David McGowan and his conspiracy theory is easily ignored and dismissed. But what about the same conspiracy theory, but 30 years later, and promoted by a high-ranking journalist, the media arm of the Obama administration, and some of the most elite published media platforms in America?
According to Wikipedia, Patrick Radden Keefe is “an American writer and investigative journalist” who is a “staff writer” for the New Yorker and has written for the New York Times Magazine.
Keefe wrote a book on how the Chinese “illegally smuggled immigrants from China into the United States on a massive scale through cargo ships” during the 1980’s and 1990’s, another about the National Security Agency, the September 11th attacks, and global surveillance, and a third about the Irish Republican Army.
Keefe, a Boston Yankee, had a very elite education on both sides of the Atlantic: he earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia, was awarded a J.D. from Yale Law School and then “an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University, and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics.”
A quick consideration of the books he’s written and the stories he covers lead one to the conclusion that Keefe is certainly “well-connected” to the “establishment” and writes the kinds of stories that are interesting to those in the diplomatic corps, intelligence, and other imperial endeavors. So it’s quite interesting the Keefe has decided to create a series of podcasts about a textbook conspiracy theory about the CIA.
Keefe teamed up with a media company called Crooked Media for his podcast. Crooked Media was founded by three men; Jon Favreau, who “served as Barack Obama’s head speechwriter from 2005-2013;” Jon Lovett, a “former presidential speechwriter” and “TV writer,” and Tommy Vietor, who ” worked for President Obama for nine years, including a stint as White House National Security Spokesman.“
So the four men peddling this conspiracy theory, Patrick Radden Keefe, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, are all well connected to the highest levels of the “establishment,” ranging from the elite media to the military-industrial complex and the national security section of a Presidential administration.
That gives them more credibility than David McGowan, who was a Southern California beach-bum turned shop-keep who just knew how to read, and think.
The “hook” of Keefe’s conspiracy theory is “the CIA wrote the Scorpion’s rock song ‘Winds of Change’ to help bring down Communism and the USSR.”
One of the main characters in Keefe’s narrative is Doc McGhee, a drug trafficker convicted in 1988 of “smuggling 40,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States from South America. He was the “manager” of a number of rock bands, like the Scorpions and Motley Crue. Everyone is the drug cartel goes to prison, except for McGhee.
“[A]fter McGhee walked away with a $15,000 fine and a five-year suspended prison term, he started giving back to the community by organizing the Moscow Music Peace Festival, an all-star hard rock event dedicated to promoting world peace and helping curb illegal drug use in the Soviet Union.”
In 1989. Instead of going to prison for the drug trafficking, McGhee instead put on a rock show in the Soviet Union.
The term “Deep States” was coined after a fatal car crash in Susurluk, Turkey, in 1996. In the car was a Turkish legislator, the Turkish version of an FBI director, a notorious drug smuggler and organized crime figure, and a celebrity and top model. Thus, the Turkish Deep State was revealed to consist of these four components; the official government, the secret police (FBI, etc.) organized crime, and a media arm.
It’s weird too, learning about how the US Department of State, during the height of the Cold War, had “cultural attaches,” widely rumored to be CIA official cover, directly negotiating with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union about which Rock Stars to allow into the Soviet Union.
Apparently, the Communists wouldn’t approve the Beach Boys, but they did approve the Nitty Gritty Dirt band.
Perhaps an unintentional bit of humor appears in the story when its conceded that part of the logistics of these “arena rock tours” was importing explosives, euphemistically referred to as “fireworks displays.”
One can speculate about the drugs, but even without them there is more to it than just “propaganda.” In a logistical sense, you are creating communications networks, setting up antennas, radio communications, flying sophisticated electrical equipment for sound and video and radio over international borders.
Pulling off a “rock show” in Moscow, just months before the Berlin Wall fell, and just a year or so later Communism is gone – well, it’s a hell of a coup, isn’t it?
Capitalism defeated Communism, the establishment of the Neo-Liberal New World Order, in a sense it all happened in those three years, 1989 to 1991, just like that early “cultural revolution” had happened in 1966-1969. America was the target in the 1960’s, and Russia was the target in the 1980’s, but that logistics were certainly of a kind.
Conservatives see the first as a moral defeat, but the second as a moral victory. Either way, conservative see these phenomena as moral, not logistical.
And even more importantly they see these phenomena as essentially “coincidences” of random market or historical forces, not, say, a planned military or political campaign.
Because the bureaucracies of CBS, ABC, NBC – and MTV – are “private corporations” that exist in a “free market” with “competition” thus are “not political.”
In a real sense, many conservatives, especially of the Boomer/TV generation variety, believed that Soviet Russians not allowing the broadcasting of Rock and Roll, via vinyl, cassettes, radio, and live performances, was not just a violation of free market principles, but a violation of human rights.