Even liberals dislike Hollywood activists. Nirvana’s former manager told us why

This story is co-published with capital and main

Everyone from the pillow seller to Zendaya weighed in on the 2020 presidential election. In his new book, “Bloody Crossroads 2020: Art, Entertainment, and Resistance to Trump,” influential music journalist-turned-band manager-industry executive Danny Goldberg explores the political roles of celebrities.

Goldberg is well aware of the interrelationship between politics and such stars. In his fifties in the music business — as a journalist (Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, The Nation), record company president, and band manager (Nirvana, Sonic Youth), Goldberg leaned on progressive issues when he co-produced and co-directed the rock documentary. no Nukes in 1980 and became a fixture in Democratic politics, while also writing for Country and becoming a writer. Goldberg spoke to Capital & Maine about what we can learn from the presidential election and celebrity activism to understand our political future.

The right wing denigrates celebrity activists but the liberals also dislike them. Bruce Springsteen performs during The Rainforest Fund’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert Present ‘We Will Be Together Again’ at the Beacon Theater on December 09, 2019 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Rainforest Fund

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Capital and Men: What inspired you to write this book?

Danny Goldberg: I have long been interested in the relationship between artists and politics. I have often thought that the political media—particularly the non-right political media—tried to trivialize it in a way that was not helpful to the progressive cause.

I also realized that the right wing, Democrats and liberals trying to stay away from the entertainment world, knew how valuable it was. Hence, Reagan as governor of California and then as president. But Donald Trump took it to another level. He was president only because he hosted a reality TV show in primetime for 14 years. He had established himself as this brilliant businessman in the minds of millions of Americans. And people in the entertainment business knew then and now know that reality television has little to do with actual reality.

I saw this explosion of a much wider and more diverse group of people in the creative community after Trump was elected. And I thought it would be interesting to try to document the role he played in the election.

In the book you document the history of Hollywood activism. But it has intensified in recent years. why do you think so?

We live in this world, for better or worse, where social media is so important, where normal old school media is less accessible. On the other hand, the other side has invested huge amount in it. Check out the top 10 Facebook posts, on any given day. It’s usually someone like Ben Shapiro or Dinesh D’Souza. It slants to the right. And they have Fox News. They have AM talk radio. They have these other television networks that are also on the right side of Fox, reiterating their own version of reality, speaking in a populist language. speeches on the Senate floor and in op-ed pieces New York Times And NPR is not going to reach enough people to fight back. You also need populist messengers.

For years the belief has been that whenever entertainers speak politically, it actually has the opposite effect of what they are trying to achieve. Some conservatives argue that people in “flyover states” don’t like telling the liberal elite what to do. Do you think this is true?

There are two categories of people criticizing or belittling the role of actors and entertainers in political conversation. One category is people who are ideologically on the opposite side. So Laura Ingraham writes the book “Shut Up and Sing,” but I don’t think she wanted Kid Rock to shut up and sing, or Jon Voight to shut up and act, or Donald Trump to shut up and go back to reality television.

I think right is threatened [Hollywood activism] Because they believe it’s the populist stream that entertainers can make that reaches people that op-ed writers don’t. And I think that’s why they showcase entertainers so much.

Donald Trump on The Apprentice
Donald Trump as the host of The Apprentice. Goldberg said that he branded himself as a brilliant businessman, but the entertainment industry knew that reality TV was not reality.

And then there is the event of a generous condescension towards the entertainers. I think there is a certain amount of regionalism among some pundits. People who study policy for a lifetime are proud of their expertise, and yet Meryl Streep says something about pesticides and gets more attention.

And the role of actors in politics is not limited to advertising. In any case, historically a large role has been played by his art in dealing with issues. I don’t think the reaction among young white people to the murder of George Floyd would have been as intense if it hadn’t been for a few decades of hip-hop songs to sensitize white hip-hop fans to the problem of racist police.

I don’t think same-sex marriage would have been so widely popular [without depictions in movies and TV shows], During the Clinton years, [supporting gay marriage] That was a surefire way for the Democrats to lose. And by the time Obama was running for re-election, more than 60 percent of Americans supported gay marriage, and that homosexuality was a liability.

Do you think political activism among entertainers will continue to grow?

I think for some time to come the creative community will have a louder voice than it did in pre-Trump years. I think once you cross the bridge and decide that you’re going to focus on your political beliefs, it’s usually pretty cool to most people. I spoke to Springsteen during his 20s, and he never said a word politically. And then Jackson Browne asked him to do a No Nooks concert in 1980. And that was the first political work he did. And since then, for the past 40 years, he has been steadily gaining weight. Sean Penn once said [about activism]”Once it’s in your DNA, it’s not gone.”

Do you think the creative community helped swing the 2020 election?

I think they were part of it. I think it was the right move to give ticket to Kamala Harris. I think the way Joe Biden reached out to Bernie Sanders was very helpful in terms of motivating his voters and making them feel comfortable supporting Biden. But there was also a celebrity host every night of their convention. He described one of Biden’s commercials to Brad Pitt, Springsteen narrated another. He must have thought there was a reason to use those.

The book is a detailed history of entertainment activism, but you shy away from any analysis. Why is it like this?

I guess just to deny [celebrity activism] Part of the mix is ​​not logical to me, but trying to measure the exact effect of it, I think, would be ridiculous. I don’t believe anyone who says they know why someone votes in some way or another. I think this is pseudoscience. I think there are a few things that research can tell you. There are some things that focus groups can tell you. There are a few things that polls can tell you. And there is much more that none of this can tell you.

What is the main message you want to convey to your readers from this book?

To be more open-minded in thinking about what the American political conversation is all about, and to recognize what politicians should focus on the next election—what the polls say, what the focus group says, what their donors want . They operate within a very narrow range of interactions, and that narrowness can sometimes be exploited by some of the darkest forces.

And I think that just expanding consciousness allows more oxygen, more energy, less fear, less despair in the conversation. I’m a big believer in more people – more people involved, more energy. Artists should be involved in this. Youth should be involved in this. But if there was one message to be conveyed, it would be: We win.

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