Friday, April 20, 2018

The Books of My Life: The White Separatist Movement in the United States

I have long been fascinated by a number of things, too many, in fact, something that has made my academic sojourn far more complicated and far longer than it had to or needed to be. Three of the things I have long been interested in are social movements, culture wars, and the role both play in identity and community construction. This is why I picked up and eventually read Betty Dobratz's and Stephanie Shanks-Meile's wonderful book The White Separatist Movement in the United States: "White Power, White Pride" originally published by Twayne in 1997 and republished by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 2000 with a new preface.

There were several things about Dobratz's and Shanks-Meile's book I really admired. I liked the fact that Dobratz and Shanks-Meile engaged in both emic and etic analysis. I liked the fact that they explored the White separatist movement from the inside by reading movement literature and talking to movement members.I liked the fact that Dobratz and Shanks-Meile let activists speak for themselves providing readers with a glimpse, in the process, into the diversity of the White separatist movement, a diversity that the sensationalist driven media invariably misses. I liked the fact that Dobratz and Shanks-Meile explored the White separatist movement from the outside by engaging social movement theory. Finally, I liked how informative, enlightening, and prescient the book is particularly from the vantage point of Trump America.

I highly recommend Betty Dobratz's and Stephanie Shanks-Meile's The White Separatist Movement in America to everyone now that Trump is president of the United States and many groups and individuals in the White Separatist movement have come, so to speak, out of the closet. My only reservation is that for the general reader the material in each chapter on social movement theory and the White separatist movement may be a hindrance rather than a help in reading this excellent book. Don''t let it stop you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Books of My Life: Anti-Americanism

Once upon a time I was a Biblical Studies major. I was less interested in the theology or dogma surrounding the Bible, however, than its history and its prehistorical and historical contexts. Little did I know when I switched from Biblical Studies to the social sciences that I would still be reading theological and doctrinal works and dealing, in my teaching, with theology and dogma on a fairly regular basis in my history and history of television classes.

Several years back I read Hungarian born sociologist Paul Hollander's book Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965-1990, published by the American arm of the venerable Oxford University Press in 1992. Hollander's book proved less an analysis of anti-Americanism than a dogmatic and doctrinal study of irrational anti-modernism and irrational anti-capitalism. In Hollander's world, anti-Americans weren't reacting to what imperial America did. They were irrationally reacting to what America was, modern and capitalist, and were thus a primitive throwback to an earlier period of world history.

Recently I read another book on anti-Americanism, Andrew Ross's and Kristen Ross's edited collection Anti-Americanism published by NYU Press in 2004. Ross's and Ross's collection, which originated out of a conference held in February of 2003, is everything Hollander's book isn't. It is, in other words, less theological, less doctrinal, and more empirical and historical. I found a number of the essays in Ross's and Ross's collection interesting and enlightening. Historian Greg Grandin's essay helpfully typologises various forms of anti-Americanism. Kristen Ross's essay explores elite and more popular forms of anti-Americanisms in France. Timothy Mitchell's essay on anti-Americanism in the Middle East is particularly enlightening on how the United States has used war and radical Islamist groups to try to gain imperial traction in the Middle East and to try to stave off socialism in the Middle East. Mary Nolan's essay explores the history of post-war German anti-Americanism. John Kuo Wei Chen's essay explores elite America's use of the claim of anti-Americanism to demonise the "other". Linda Gordon's essay explores the iron cage of anti-Americanism that America's conservative apologetic and polemical elite and intellectuals have caged liberals and the left in. All of these essays show what should be obvious to any dispassionate observer, that the vast majority of forms of anti-Americanism are a rational response to post Spanish-American war imperialism.

Personally, I have long seen anti-Americanism as similar to something I researched for several years, the claim among intellectual Mormons that all criticism of Mormonism was grounded in stereotypes and caricatures of Mormons. It is true that some varieties of anti-Mormonism are grounded in stereotypes and caricatures.Evangelical Ed Decker's various attacks on Mormonism, most notably his attacks on Mormons and Mormonism in The God Makers, is filled with hatred of Mormons and irrationality about the Mormon faith. The Tanner's many tomes on Mormonism are problematic given that they apply methods to the analysis of Mormonism that they would not apply to their own evangelicalism because the results would be the same. There are, however, also valid criticisms of Mormonism, for example,the historical and empirical contention that the Book of Mormon provides the answer to virtually every quandary in 19th century American religion and so is probably a product of 19th century America. The latter is simply not anti-Mormonism, though you don't have to be Michel Foucault to understand why Mormon apologists and polemicists might want to categorise it as such, just as it is understandable why America's elite and their polemical and apologetic courtier intellectuals, like Paul Hollander, might want to categorise any criticism of America as irrational and backward and demonise it.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

“It’s Strange to See A Girl Act Like That But I Liked Them”: Recovering the Nearly Lost History of All-Female Rock Bands Before the Runaways

Rock and Roll, since its inception in the 1950s, has been and still remains to some extent, a man’s game. Males have dominated and controlled the industry since its inception. There were, of course, female acts like Lesley Gore, girl groups like the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes, and the Supremes, Brill Building songwriters like Carole King, and female fronted bands, like Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company,and Frumpy, fronted respectively by Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, and Inga Rumpf. Thanks to the World Wide Web and especially YouTube and Wikipedia, however, it is now possible, if tentatively, to begin to recover the lost history of female rock and roll bands, the lost history of bands made up of females who played their own instruments, the lost history of female bands trying to make their way in what was a man’s world.

Despite the fact that rock and roll has been a man’s world since it began there have been all-female rock and roll bands since the 1960s. Eric Brightwell’s database of all-female rock and roll bands formed in the 1960s and the 1970s lists some 110 all-female bands founded before 1975. There was, for example, Liverpool’s Liverbirds a band founded in 1963. There was Manhattan’s Goldie and the Gingerbreads, a band formed in 1963 by singer and saxophonist Genya Zelkowitz who was later known as Genya Ravan. There was Minnesota’s and Iowa’s Continental Co-ets, a band that emerged in 1963. There was Niles, Michigan’s Tremolons, a band formed in 1963 by sisters Char Vinnedge, who played guitar, and Chris Vinnedge who played bass guitar, who later morphed into the Luv’d Ones. There was Finland’s Cimmats, a band founded in 1963. There was Detroit’s Debutantes and Pleasure Seekers, both formed in 1964, the latter by guitarist Patti Quatro. Patti’s sister Suzi, who played bass in the band, would go on to have a major solo musical career particularly in Britain and a career as an actor appearing on American the TV sitcom Happy Days. In 1969 the Pleasure Seekers morphed into Cradle. There was Indonesia’s Dara Puspite, a band which emerged in 1964. There was Singapore’s Dorothy and the Vampires, a band which was founded in 1964. There was Argentina's Las Mosquitas, a band that was formed in 1964. There were Les Filles and Cheetas both of which emerged in 1964, two of the eight all-female bands that formed in the 1960s in Denmark, which seems to have been a hot bed of all-female rock and roll band activity during that era. There was Norway’s Dandy Girls, a band founded in 1964. There was Berlin West Germany's Die Sweeties, a band that emerged in 1964. There was Sacramento, California's Id, who formed in 1964 and who later morphed into Hairem and finally She. There was Sacramento's Svelts, a band founded in 1964 and who later morphed into Wild Honey and finally Fanny. There was Tokyo’s Tokyo Happy Coats, a band formed in 1964 and who played on Fanfare in 1965 and the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966. There was Jugoslavija’s Sanjalice, a band founded in 1964. There was Boston’s Pandoras, who emerged in 1964. There was Montréal Québec's Les Beatlettes, who formed in 1964. Québec, by the way, was home to five all-female bands in the 1960s. There was Sweden’s Black Cats, who formed in 1965 and who later changed their name to the Woops. The Black Cats were among the five all-female bands that emerged in Sweden during the 1960s. There was Sydney, Australia's The Vamps a band formed by European immigrants a la The Easybeats in 1965. There was Chicago’s Daughters of Eve, a band founded in 1965. There was New Zealand’s Fair Sect, a band formed in 1965. There was Manitoba’s Feminine Touch, a band that emerged in 1965. There was California’s Freudian Slips, a band founded in 1965. There was Manhattan’s What Four, a band formed in 1966. There was Lubbock, Texas’s the Heart Beats, a band that emerged in 1966. There was Nashville, Tennessee’s Feminine Complex, who later renamed themselves the Pivots, and who formed in 1966. There was Columbus, Ohio’s Wild Things, who emerged in 1966. There was Mexico’s Las Chicas, a band founded in 1967. There was Fullerton, California's The Daisy Chain. There was the Haight’s Summer of Love Ace of Cups, a band formed in 1967. There was New Hampshire’s the Shaggs a band founded by the three Wiggin sisters in 1968. There was Orem, Utah’s the Clingers, who morphed from a girl group into a garage rock and roll band in 1969. There was Toronto’s The Curse, who formed in 1971.

In an era when singles were more important than albums--albums really didn't start to become important in certain circles until the late 1960s--several of the all-female bands of the 1960s recorded singles. Most of the singles they recorded were cover versions of songs written by others. The Liverbirds, for instance, hit the top five in Germany with a version of Bo Diddley’s “Diddley Daddy”. Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who initially signed a recording deal with Spokane Records, released a single version of Bill Haley and his Comet’s “Skinny Vinnie” with lyrics slightly altered and credited to Zelkowitz and Stan Green. In 1963 they recorded a cover version of Herman’s Hermits “Can't You Hear My Heartbeat” which reached number 25 on the UK charts, for Decca, who they signed with in 1963. The band released nine singles before breaking up in 1967. West Germany's Die Sweeties released two singles in 1964, "Morgen Will Mein Schatz Verreisen" on Bingola and “Früher Oder Später” on Polydor. The Pleasure Seekers recorded the David Leone penned single “What a Way to Die" for Detroit's Hideout Records in 1965 and the G.Fishcoff and C. Boyer penned “Light of Love" for major label Mercury Records in 1968. Les Beatlettes recorded two singles, "C'est N'est Plus Qu'un Rêve", written by Hal Stanley, Lucien Brien, and Ben Kaye, who also produced the single, in 1964, and "C'est Grace A Toi", a single released in 1968. The latter was a cover of the Supremes "You Can't Hurry Love". The What Four signed a record contract with major label Columbia where they recorded two singles including “I'm Going to Destroy That Boy” written by Ronnie Dante and Arthur Resnick in 1966. Auckland's The Fair Sect recorded the single "Kimberley" b/w "Never Again", the first written by Tom Turner, the second by Hart Randazze, for New Zealand's Zodiac Records in 1966. Chicago's Daughters of Eve, who were founded by Carl Bonafede manager to be the sister band of his Buckinghams, signed with USA Records then Spectra Records and finally Cadet Records, releasing four singles, including the James Butler penned "Social Tragedy", between 1966 and 1968. The Clingers recorded a cover version of Australia’s The Easybeats “Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight”, with slight lyric changes, that was released as a single produced by Kim Fowley and Michael Lloyd on Columbia Records with production in 1969. The Clinger’s performed the song on the Smothers Brothers Hour in 1969. Mr. Kim Fowley, by the way, would later create and manage the all-female punk band the Runaways. The Tokyo Happy Coats released two singles in the 1970s, including the Earl Hagen penned "Harlem Nocturne" and the Bob Marsano penned "Tea-A-Wanna Whistle" on King Records.

A few of the all-female bands of the 1960s did record their own compositions, something that was becoming more common and would soon become the norm in the post mid-1960s rock and roll world thanks to the Beatles. Carol Goins, lead guitarist of the Continental Co-ets, wrote "I Don't Love You No More", while all the members of the band wrote the instrumental b side, "Medley of Junk" of a single released by Milford, Iowa's International Great Lakes Records in 1965. Goins also penned the Co'ets single “Let’s Live for the Present”, a single that went unreleased until Hip Hop Records released it in 1994. Many of the Luv’d Ones songs, including “Dance Kid Dance” and “Up Down Sue”, two of the four singles the Luv’d Ones released in 1966, were written by singer, guitarist, and manager Char Vinnedge. Most of the unreleased songs of the Ace of Cups, including “Simplicity”, were written by the Cups guitarist Denise Kaufman, who was, by the way, the Mary Microgram of Merry Pranksters frame. Contemporaries were able to see and hear The Cups perform “Simplicity” thanks to the 1968 documentary on the San Francisco music scene, West Pole. The Feminine Complex's Mindy Dalton wrote their single "Run That Through Your Mind”, which was released on Athena Records in 1968. She's guitarist Nancy Ross wrote both sides of their single, "Boy Little Boy" b/w "Outta Reach", which was released on Kent Records in 1970.

Several of the 1960s all-female rock and roll bands recorded extended play discs or long playing albums. The Liverbirds recorded two albums in Hamburg, Star Club Show 4 and More of the Liverbirds, the former released by Spain's Fontana Records in 1964 and on West Germany's Star Club Records in 1965, the latter released by Star Club Records in 1966. Dara Puspita recorded three albums and 6 eps between 1966 and 1970. The Daisy Chain released the album Straight or Lame on United International Records in 1967. The album, released during the Summer of Love, consisted mostly of psychedelically tinged songs like "Love to Share", and more soul tinged songs like "Got to Get You in My Arms", mostly written by members of the band. Sanjalice recorded two eps in 1967 and one in 1968 for three different Jugoslavijan labels. Dorothy and the Vampires released an ep on Philips Records in 1968. The Feminine Complex released their album Livin' Love on Athena Records in 1969. According to Jonathan Marx, by the way, Lee Hazen, the engineer of the  Livin' Love album, claimed that studio musicians were used on all the songs on the album while others have wondered whether the The Feminine Complex existed at all. The Shaggs recorded the album Philosophy of the World, which later became a favourite, if that is the right word to use, of Frank Zappa, Dr. Demento, Kurt Cobain, and Terry Adams and Tom Ardolino of NRBQ, was released on Third World Records in 1969. All of the songs on the album were written by The Shaggs guitarist Dorothy "Dot" Wiggin. The Tokyo Happy Coats recorded two albums, one of them live, in 1970 for King Records.

Several of the all-female bands from the 1960s were novelty acts. Genya Ravan, aka Goldie Zelkowitz of Goldie and the Gingerbreads, recalled in an interview that the band was considered “freaks”, at least in America, and that many assumed that the band could not play their instruments. The Continental Co-ets and the Heart Beats competed in battle of the band contests with male groups, the Co-ets while performing live in the Midwest and the Heart Beats while performing on ABC TVs Happening ‘68’s Battle of the Bands where they performed “Time Won’t Let Me”, suggesting that musical promoters used novelty and sex to sell rock shows. The Heart Beats, by the way, beat seven other all male bands to win Happening ‘68. Then there were the novelty all-female band acts of a more overt sexual kind including the All Girl Topless Band, founded in 1967, and the Ladybirds, both of who performed topless onstage. The All Girl Topless band accompanied comedian Godfrey Cambridge’s act at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas while The Ladybirds played for audiences in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Many of these all-female bands toured at least until family, motherhood, college, chance, and breakups intervened. The Liverbirds were a staple at the Star Club, the same club the Beatles played at, in Hamburg, West Germany and appeared on the famous West German TV show Beat Club. The Star Club billed them as the female Beatles. They broke up in 1968 after a tour of Japan. Goldie and the Gingerbreads toured the US and Europe playing on the same bill as the Kinks, the Yardbirds ,and the Rolling Stones before breaking up in 1967 after losing bassist Nancy Peterman to pregnancy. The Continental Co-ets toured the American Midwest and the Canadian Plains. They broke up after members left for college or got married. Les Beatlettes broke up after drummer Mimi Jourdan and lead guitarist Claudette Faubert died in a car crash. Christine Vinnedge left the Luv’d Ones when she got pregnant. The Daughters of Eve broke up after guitarist founding members Marsha Tomal and Judy Johnson got married. San Francisco's Ace of Cups lost members to motherhood and added male members to the band before they broke up in the early 1970s.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s and 1970s that the landscape of all female rock and roll bands began to change thanks to a host of economic, political, cultural, demographic, and geographical factors including core nation economic expansion, countercultural political radicalism, civil rights movements, free speech movements, anti-war movements, and women’s rights movements. In the late 1960s and the 1970s an all female band from California named Fanny, the band Cher referred to as strange to see in the title of this paper, emerged, changing the rock and roll landscape for all-female bands and females in rock and roll bands after them. One of the things Fanny changed was the level of musicianship in all-female rock and roll bands. Fanny took musicianship in an all-female band to a level rarely if ever seen before, a level, as a matter of fact, rarely seen even in most of the all-male bands of the 1960s and early to mid 1970s.

The pop/rock band Fanny, consisting of Manila, Philippines born guitarist and singer June Millington, Manila born bassist and singer Jean Millington, drummer and singer Alice de Buhr, and keyboardist and singer Nickey Barclay, evolved out of the Svelts, a cover band founded by the Millington sisters in 1964, a band which eventually included Alice de Buhr, and the band Wild Honey, which included the Millington sisters, de Buhr,and guitarist Addie Lee.

Unlike most of the all female bands before them, Fanny, recorded albums on two major record labels. Fanny recorded five albums—Fanny in 1970, Charity Ball in 1971, Fanny Hill in 1972, and Mother’s Pride in 1973--all on the major label Reprise, and one, Rock and Roll Survivors, for the major label Casablanca in 1974 with two new members, Patti Quatro, who had been in the Pleasure Seekers, and Brie Brandt, born Bree Howard, who had been in the Svelts. Most of the songs on these five albums were written by Fanny. Two of the singles Fanny released between 1970 and 1974 hit the singles charts including ”Charity Ball”, written by June Millington and Alice de Buhr, which topped out at number 40 on the Billboard singles chart, and ”Butter Boy”, written by Jean Millington, which peaked at number 29 on the Billboard singles chart in 1975. These albums and singles were produced by noted producers like Richard Perry, who produced Fanny's first three albums, and Todd Rundgren, who produced the fourth. Fanny recorded their third album, Fanny Hill, at the famous Abbey Road studio in London.

Fanny, unlike the all-female bands before them, garnered a good deal of press and music press attention. There was a cover story on Fanny in Teen magazine in June of 1971. There was a review of Fanny’s second album Charity Ball in Creem magazine in November of 1971. There was an interview with Fanny in the Great Speckled Bird in November of 1971. There was an interview with Fanny in Creem magazine in its January of 1972 issue. Billboard magazine reviewed Fanny’s third album Fanny Hill in its 4 March 1972 issue. Rolling Stone’s Mike Saunders praised Fanny’s album Fanny Hill in its April of 1972 issue. There was a profile on and an interview with Fanny in the Phonograph Review in August of 1972. There was a review of Fanny’s fourth album Mother’s Pride in the New Musical Express in April of 1973 and in Melody Maker on 6 May 1973. There was an interview with Fanny in All Right in February 1973. There was an article on Fanny in the New Musical Express in June of 1973. There was an article on and interview with Fanny’s second incarnation in the New Musical Express in November of 1974. There was an interview with the second incarnation of Fanny in Gallery in 1975.

Unlike the all-female bands before them Fanny was extensively promoted by their record label, the Warner Brothers owned Reprise Records. Reprise released three radio spots for Fanny’s first album one of which played up the fact that Fanny was an all-female band that was “heavier than anybody’s sister”. A second promo told the radio listening public that Fanny was “something that they could get behind”. Reprise placed an advertisement for Fanny’s single “Charity Ball” in the 13 November 1971 issue of Billboard magazine. A fourth Reprise Records promo promoted Fanny’s fourth album, Mother’s Pride, in the German market in 1973.

Unlike most of the all-female bands that they followed, Fanny made several appearances on American and European television. Fanny appeared lip-syncing to “Charity Ball” on the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in August of 1971. Fanny played live versions of “Charity Ball” and the Nickey Barclay written “Cat Fever” on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Fanny played live on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test on December of 1971 performing the June and Jean Millington written “You’re the One” and Stephen Stills’s “Special Care”. Fanny played live on German TV’s Beat Club on November of 1971 performing “Special Care” and the Nickey Barclay and Alice de Buhr composition “Blind Alley”. In November of 1972 Fanny performed the Nickey Barclay penned “Borrowed Time” and the June Millington written “Summer Song” on Beat Club. Fanny played live on the French television programme Rock en Stock along with Birtha, another all-female band, probably sometime in 1972, performing Cream’s “Badge” and the Ike Turner composition “Young and Dumb”, one of their singles. Fanny played live on the NBC live rock music programme The Midnight Special in April of 1973. A third incarnation of Fanny, with Cam Davis replacing Brie Brandt, as Fanny’s drummer, played on the Mike Douglas Show in June of 1974 and performed a cover of the Bell Notes' “I’ve Had It” on American Bandstand in August of 1974.

Fanny toured widely in the US, Canada, and Europe with record label support, and played at a number of well known venues in the US and Europe. In Los Angeles, for instance, Fanny played both the Whiskey a Go Go and the Troubadour. They played the Fillmore West and the Fillmore East in April and May of 1971, places that some have called the churches of rock and roll. They performed at Max’s Kansas City, one of New York City's most famous live music venues, in January of 1973.

In many ways Fanny was just like almost any other band, male or female, before and after it. Some of what Fanny experienced during their run was what every band experiences. There were the inevitable tensions between members of the band. Alice de Buhr told Angela Smith that there were already tensions between her and the Millington’s in the pre-Fanny Svelts. Jean Millington admitted in an interview that there were a lot of tensions in Fanny particularly between her sister June and keyboardist Nickey Barclay. Nickey Barclay said in an interview that there were tensions between her and June, tensions that arose, she believes, from their different musical backgrounds. There were tensions between the band and its manager. Nickey Barclay said in the same interview that Fanny, like many other bands before and after them, had a crooked, sly, manipulative, and narcissistic “manager from hell” and that this was the main reason she left the band. Alice de Buhr said in an interview that she left the band because her girlfriend asked her to.

In other ways, Fanny had experiences that members of male rock and roll bands probably didn’t have. Sexuality may have been a factor in tensions within Fanny. June Millington and Alice de Buhr were lesbians while Nickey Barclay was bi. Barclay talked about the impact that the perception of some that Fanny was a lesbian band on her. “It”, she said in an interview with Curve magazine “affected me badly. In fact, I'd say it significantly delayed my realization—some six years after the end of the band—that I am bi”. Sexism was a constant for Fanny during their five year run. In an interview with Gibson June Millington noted that Fanny was in the trenches given that they were an all-female band. The record industry, as members of Fanny have repeatedly remarked, did not take them seriously because of their gender. There were also tensions that arose from the attempt by Reprise record executives to sell Fanny as a novelty act. Tensions arose because record executives and producers made Fanny much popier in the studio than they were live. June Millington mentioned on the YouTube page for “Blind Alley” that this, the "Blind Alley" live performance, really captured what Fanny truly sounded like. Jean Millington mentioned in an interview in PopMatters that Fanny’s albums don’t accurately reflect what the band sounded like live and didn’t accurately represent Fanny as a band. There were tensions between Fanny and its producers. Jean Millington recalled in an interview that producers Richard Perry and Todd Rundgren kicked Fanny out of the studio during the mixing and editing of their albums. There were tensions because many listeners assumed that Fanny didn’t play their own instruments. Nickey Barclay recalled that people came to jeer at Fanny thinking it was somebody else who was playing guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards on their songs. Alice de Buhr recalled that many who came to see them live thought came to see them because they thought the band couldn’t play their instruments. There were tensions in how record executives tried to dress and fashion an image for Fanny Band members have spoken about how record executives posed them in provocative positions. Nickey Barclay recalled how at the beginning Fanny wore whatever they wanted but over time were pushed to dress in more “feminine” ways. Alice de Buhr remembered a photo shoot in Germany during which a photographer demanded that Fanny get on their hands and knees and look submissively into the camera all with management approval. Jean Millington recalled that Reprise wanted the band to emphasise the “T&A” in order to increase record sells and that her sister June was uncomfortable with being pushed to be a sex object. Alice de Buhr recalled that Reprise pushed them to wear skimpy outfits. Record executives reacted negatively when de Burh said she wanted to cut her very long hair. She did it anyway. Alice de Buhr, who later worked in record distribution, recalled that Fanny was a running joke among her male colleagues at the record company. The mainstream music press often wasn’t any less sexist than the record company or artist management. An article on the second incarnation of Fanny in the New Musical Express from November 1974, for example, seems to encapsulate the sexism of the time in the mainstream musical press toward female groups like Fanny with its references to the appearance of Fanny’s Jean Millington and Patti Quatro and references to the provocative clothes they wore. Band members noted that what began as jokes, the humourous suggestions that Reprise market the band with sexually suggestive slogans like “Fanny, the End of an Era” and “Get Behind Fanny”, were used to market the band by the record company. Nickey Barclay later described all of this as the equivalent of being in a “freak show” and said she was embarrassed by it all.

Ironically, as members of Fanny mentioned in their appearance on the French TV show Rock en Stock, many rock musicians were more accepting of their presence in the man’s world that was rock and roll in the 1970s than record company movers and shakers and the male dominated music press. In an interview June Millington said that the better the male performers and bands were, the less threatening Fanny was to them. Mike Jahn reviewing Fanny’s performance at the Fillmore East for the New York Times on 30 May 1971, wrote that Fanny were “extremely good” and added that if the performance Fanny put on that night had been by a male band they would have gotten a standing ovation rather than the “slight applause” they actually got from the mostly male crowd with damaged male egos that night. In an interview with Gibson June Millington spoke about how John Lennon, who had earlier dismissed the idea that girls with guitars was a good idea in reference to his fellow Liverpudlians the Liverbirds, got David Bowie’s guitarist Earl Slick to introduce him to June in New York City so they could talk guitar. Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, who played with David Bowie and Lenny Kravitz, has spoken about how much Bowie loved Fanny, how he introduced her to Fanny, a band she had never heard of before, and how Earl Slick, one of Bowie's guitarists, who was married to Jean Millington, told her how great a bassist Jean was.

Fanny wasn't the only all-female band to emerge in the 1970s. California’s Birtha, emerged in 1968. Birtha, whose music mixed heavy funk and blues, was comprised of guitarist and singer Shele Pinizzotto, bassist and singer Rosemary Butler, keyboardist and singer Sherry Hagler, and drummer and lead singer Olivia "Liver" Favela. Birtha signed with Dunhill Records in 1972 releasing two albums on the label, Birtha, produced by Gabriel Meklar who had earlier produced Steppenwolf, in 1972, and Can’t Stop the Madness in 1973. Birtha also released the single, “Free Spirit”, written by Shele Pinuzzotto, in 1972. Almost all of the songs on both albums were written or co-written by members of Birtha. Birtha got some media attention but not as much as Fanny. An anonymous reviewer, for instance, praised Birtha’s first album in Billboard magazine in September of 1972. Lorraine Alterman briefly reviewed Birtha’s first album in the New York Times in October of 1972. Freelance critic and new journalist Lester Bangs, one of many in a long line of critics who conflated personal views with critical analysis, praised Birtha’s second album in a retrospective review in 1981. Like Fanny Birtha also appeared on European television. Birtha appeared on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test, on French TVs Rock en Stock, and on Belgium TV. Fanny guitarist June Millington, by the way, in a post on a Ms. Magazine story of all-female rock and roll bands, praised Birtha and Birtha’s guitarist Shele Pinizzotto, who died in 2014.

Manhattan’s jazz fusion band Isis, consisting of singer/guitarist Carol MacDonald and drummer Ginger Bianco, of Goldie & the Gingerbread’s fame, lead guitarist Susan Ghezzi, bassist Stella Bass, saxophonist Jeanie Fineberg, trumpeter Lauren Draper, trombonist Lilly Bienenfield, and percussionist Nydia Mata, formed in Manhattan in 1972. Isis signed with Buddah Records in 1973 and released their debut album Isis, produced by noted producer “Shadow” Morton, in 1974. All of the songs on Isis, with its emphasis on horns, congas, flutes, and even the occasional lead guitar, an album critics called a mixture of funk, psychedelic, prog, and jazz. All the songs on the album, which reached the Billboard’s Top 100 Album Chart, were written by members of Isis. Two other albums with new members added to the core group of McDonald, Lewis, Feinberg, and Seeley followed, Ain't No Backin' Up Now on Buddah in 1973 and Breaking Through in 1977 on United Artists. Like Fanny Isis got a bit of media attention during their run. Glenn O’Brien, for instance, wrote an article on Isis and did an interview with the band in Rolling Stone in November of 1973. Isis was a regular fixture at the New York City Greenwich Village club Trude Heller’s and toured with Kiss, Aerosmith, the Beach Boys, and Lynyrd Skynyrd according to Angela Smith, who interviewed Ginger Bianco for her Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country. Like Fanny, Isis was impacted by the sexuality of two of its members. Isis’s Ginger Bianco was lesbian. Isis’s Carol MacDonald was an out lesbian, something that was reflected in Isis’s music in songs like “She Loves Me”. According to MacDonald in She’s a Rebel (p. 130), her out lesbianism was a factor in the bands lack of popular success. Others have argued that the demise of the original line-up of the band was one of the reasons for tensions in the band and between the band and its label, Buddah Records.

The progressive rock band Mother Superior formed in London in 1975. Mother Superior consisted of guitarist and vocalist Audrey Swinburne, keyboardist and vocalist Lesley Sly, drummer and vocalist Jackie Crew, and bassist and vocalist Jackie Badger. Mother Superior managed to record one album, Lady Madonna, under difficult circumstances including off-time recording sessions and a first time producer, which was released only on SMA, an obscure Polydor label in Sweden. Band members wrote five of the seven songs on the album. Mother Superior also recorded one single, “Back Track”, which was never released. Mother Superior got even less TV airtime than Fanny and Birtha. The band appeared on BBC One’s It’s Cliff and Friends, hosted by Cliff Richard, performing Stephen Still’s “Love the One You’re With” and a cover version of Chuck Berry's “Sweet Little Sixteen”, which they performed with Richard, in 1975. Mother Superior, like Fanny and Birtha, toured Europe and the US. They, like Fanny before them, were also at the receiving end of condescending and dismissive treatment by record executives. An A&R man from Sony, who came to one of Mother Superior’s gigs in London, for instance, told them that, “[t]he trouble is, I can’t see an audience for you. Girls won’t like you and they won’t want their boyfriends to like you”. Mother Superior also, like Fanny, suffered from manipulative management. Mother Superior, like Fanny, had management problems. The band's manager negotiated a contract with their record company that allowed him to sign anything on behalf of the band.

It would be nice to say that Fanny, Birtha, Isis, and Mother Superior changed attitudes toward all-female bands once and for all. They didn’t, at least not right away, however. In a review and interview with the Runaways in Classic Rock in 2003 Ian Fortnum wrote that all-female bands were “self-consciously butch” with “hairy apparitions” for names like Fanny and Birtha. Translation: the names Fanny and Birtha conjured, for Fortnum at least, images of women with unshaven armpits and legs, images that have become standards in the anti-feminist rhetorical arsenal ever since the 1970s. Fanny, by the way, claim they chose Fanny as the name of the band because it was short, feminine, and bold and reflected the female spirit. Glenn O’Brien opened his article and interview with Isis in Rolling Stone in November of 1973 by saying that “[an] all-woman rock band, one that really cooks, seems to be both a contradiction in terms and a lousy pun” and continued by writing that “there has never been a band of women which transcended the gimmick, which went beyond the queer, reverse draggery of it all and explored a musical territory that was a no man's land”. Translation: for O'Brien all female rock and rollers were as talent less simulators as drag queens.

Sadly after the 1970s and early 1980s Fanny, Birtha, Isis, and Mother Superior were, just like their 1960s predecessors, largely forgotten, so much so that some, like Elizabeth Day and Sia Michel, came to believe that Kim Fowley’s band, The Runaways, was the first all-female rock and roll band of note in the rock and roll universe. Amnesia about all-female bands before The Runaways was so complete that David Bowie had to remind Rolling Stone magazine in 1999 that "[Fanny] were one of the finest fucking rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary: they wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody's ever mentioned them. They're as important as anybody else who's ever been, ever; it just wasn't their time".

Now, thanks to the digital revolution, Fanny, in particular, and Birtha, Isis, Mother Superior and several of their 1960s predecessors are finally getting their due. In 1996 Teenbeat Records re-released the Feminine Complex's Livin' Love with additional demos on CD. In 1997 See for Miles Records in the UK re-released Birtha's Birtha and Can't Stop the Madness. In 1996 Audio Archives re-released Mother Superior's album Lady Madonna, re-titled as Mother Superior, on CD. In 1999 Sundazed Records released a compilation of Luv'd Ones singles, demos, and a live recording called Truth Gotta Stand. In 1999 Big Beat Records of the UK released a CD of mostly unreleased music by Hairem and She. In 1999 RCA Records re-released the Shaggs first album Philosophy of the World. In the 2000s Ace Records and Rhino Records released anthologies of all-female rock and roll bands on CD. In 2001 Minnesota Public Radio did a segment on the Continental Co-ets. In 2003 Big Beat Records in the UK released a compilation of Ace of Cups rehearsal tapes, demos, sound stage recordings, and live recordings on CD titled It's Bad For You But Buy It!. In 2005 Sundazed Records re-released The Daisy Chain's album Straight or Lame on CD. In 2005 Fanny drummer Alice de Buhr was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame. In 2007 Fanny was honoured by the Berklee College of Music in Boston and Rockgirl magazine with their "Women of Valor" award. In 2008 Fanny’s first four albums were r-released, with additional live tracks, alternative recordings, demos, and unreleased tracks, in a box set entitled First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings by Rhino Records. All four of Fanny’s Reprise albums were re-released by Real Gone Music with extra tracks in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2011 CD Baby released What a Way to Die, a compilation CD of Pleasure Seekers songs. In 2013 Goldmine magazine named the members of Fanny as among the ten women who influenced rock and roll more than people know. In 2015 the New Musical Express ranked the first Fanny album Mother’s Pride number 92 of the 100 lost albums rock lovers need to know. In 2016 Sundazed records released a compilation of Pleasure Seekers songs on vinyl called What a Way to Die. In 2017 Guitar Player magazine named Fanny guitarist June Millington as one of their 53 unsung greatest guitarists everyone should know. In 2017 PBS station KQED's programme KQED Arts did a segment on the Ace of Cups. In 2018 Fanny was honoured with the “She Rocks” award by the Women’s International Music Network. Women in all-female rock and roll bands, it appears, are finally getting the attention and recognition they deserve for the significant and important roles they have played in the history of rock and roll.

Jacoba Atlas, “There Aren’t Many Girls in Hard Rock, But a New Day (and Attitude) Is Dawning”, Billboard, 6 November 1971, RN-20, RN-30

Claire Fallon, “A History Of All-Girl Bands And The Rock World That Tried To Keep Them Out”, Huff Post, 26 April 2017

Gillian Gear, She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll, NYC: Seal Press, second edition, 2002

"Girl in a Band: Tales from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Frontline", BBC Four, 30 October 2015

Lyndsay Helfrich, "I Wanna Rock: A Critique of Gender Essentialism in Metal Music Scholarship", MA Thesis, the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Angela Smith, Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014


On the all female bands of the sixties and seventies:
Eric Brightwell, “All-Female Bands of the 1960s”, Amoeba Music, 3 March 2015

Eric Brightwell, “All-Female Bands of the 1970s”, Amoeba Music, 4 March 2015

Cillie Retmeister, “The Sounds of the Women’s Movement - Women’s Rock Bands in Germany (1974 – 1985)”, The Finland Lectures, Helsinki, Sibelius-Akatemia, March 5, 1985 and at Jyväskylä University, musiikin laitos / Music Institute, March 14, 1985

All-Female Band CD Anthologies:
Girls with Guitars, Ace Records, 2004

Destroy that Boy, More Girls with Guitars, Ace Records, 2009

The Rebel Kind: Girls with Guitars 3, Ace Records, 2014

All-Female Bands:
Ace of Cups:
“Ace of Cups Official Website”

Les Beatlettes:
“Les groups Québécois féminîn: Les Beatlettes”, Jukebox Magazine, No. 69, 1993, p., 56

The Cake:
The Cake, who formed in New York City in 1966 and who later migrated to California, are not technically an all-female rock and roll band. The Cake were an a capella group consisting of Jeanette Jacobs, Barbara Morillo and Eleanor Barooshian, who signed a record contract with Decca and released two albums on the label. My favourite The Cake tunes, like “Rainbow Wood”, which was written by Jacobs and Morillo of The Cake, have a wonderful Left Banke and Beatles "Norwegian Wood" baroque pop flavour to them.

Chris Campion, “The Cake A Real Life Beyond the ‘Valley of the Dolls’”, Dangerous Minds, 9 September 2016

Continental Co-ets:
Mark Stell, “Remembering the Continental-Coets”, Minnesota Public Radio, 21 August 2001

The Daisy Chain:
J. Monk, "1967: The Daisy Chain Straight or Lame, Tiny Mix Tapes, 27 June 2002

Patrick, "The Daisy Chain Straight or Lame, 1967 Female Lysergic Garage Acid Psych”, johnkatmc5, 13 September 2005

Daughters of Eve:
Debi Pomeroy and Mick Patrick, “Chicago’s Daughters of Eve: The Story of an All=Girl Band”, Spectropop, n.d.

The Debutantes:
The Debutantes: An All-Girl Band From Michigan, West Mich Music Hysterical Society: An Interactive Archival Database for West Michigan Music History, n.d.

The Feminine Complex:
Jason Arkenny, "The Feminine Complex", All-Music Guide

Jonathan Marx, "Liner Notes, Livin' Love" pp. 2–6, Teenbeat Records, 1996

Goldie and the Gingerbreads:
“Goldie and the Gingerbreads Official Website”,

Dana Spiardi, “Goldie and the Gingerbreads: Rock’s First All-Female Guitar Band”, Hip Quotient, 18 April 2014

Gary James, “Interview with Genya Ravan (aka Goldie Zefkowitz)”, Classic Bands, n.d.

Heart Beats:
"The Heartbeats Story"”, n.d.

Timothy Horgan, “The Heart Beats: An Extremely Unofficial Fan Page”, 23 April 2002

Luv’d Ones:
Emilie Friedlander, "1966: The Luv’d Ones - Truth Gotta Stand, Tiny Mix Tapes, 23 October 2008

Jessica, “Char Vinnedge and the Luv’d Ones”, The Flower and the Vine, 19 July 2013

Bess Korey, “The Secret History of Women in Rock: Charlotte and Christine Vinnedge of the Luv’d Ones”, Bitch, April 2009

Steve Seymour, “Ace Girl Band Made U.P. Stops”, Rock and Roll Graffiti, 26 November 2008

Sini Timonen, “Girls in the Garage: The Case of Char Vinnedge and the Luv’d Ones”, The Girls Are, 29, November 2009

Pleasure Seekers:
Pleasure Seekers: 1964-1966, QuatroRock: Official Site of the Quatro Sisters Music

Richie Unterberger, “She”, Pychedelicized and Mile High Music, n.d.

The Shaggs:
Susan Orlean, “Meet the Shaggs”, New Yorker, 27 September 1999

The Vamps:
Michael Organ, “The Vamps--Australia's First Female Rock Group”, VampsOz Blogspot

Fanny, Birtha, Isis, and Mother Superior:
“Fanny Rocks, Fanny’s Official Website”

“Fanny Portal”

June Millington, “You Never Heard of Fanny?”, Ms. Magazine blog, 26 May 2011

Secondary Sources on Fanny:
Jamie Anderson, “When Fanny Rocked”, AfterEllen, 30 June 2008

Jason Ankeny, “Fanny”, Billboard, n.d.

Geoff Barton, “Fanny: The Untold Story of the Original Queens of Noise”, TeamRock 4 September 2015

Sophie Chernin, “Meet June Millington: The First Badass Lady Rocker”, Ms. Magazine, 25 January 2016

Eric Danton, “Fanny Lives: Inside the Return of the Pioneering All-Female Rock Band”, Rolling Stone, 16 March 2018

C. Degenarro, “Fanny: An Unlikely Candidate for Rock and Roll Obscurity”, Aquarium Drunkard, 1 June 2015

Richard Metzger, “Fanny: the Great Lost Female Group from the 1970s”, Dangerous Minds, 1 August 2012

Sally O’Rourke, “Album: Fanny “Fanny Hill”, Rebeat, 29 July 2015

Ann Powers, “You've Got A Home: June Millington's Lifelong Journey In Rock” , National Public Radio, 19 November 2015

Toine van Poorten, “Back to the Past (29): Fanny”, Metal Maidens, 2001

Interviews with Fanny:
Jamie Anderson, “Kicking it with Fanny: The Women of the Groundbreaking All-Female ’70s Band Take us Backstage and Back in Time”, Curve, 6 June 2010

Nicole Blizzard, “Changing Horses in Mid-Stream”, Technodyke, n. d.

Jim Farber, “Fanny: Behind the Reunion of of a Groundbreaking All-Female Rock Band”, the Guardian, 1 March 2018

Russell Hall, “Rock’s First All Female Band”, Gibson, 20 March 2013

Eric Danton, “How Discrimination Kept Fanny From Being Recognized as Rock Pioneers”, Pitchfork, 11 November 2015

Gary James, “Interview with Jean Millington”, Classic Bands, 2016

Lyndsey Parker, “ The Lost Story of Female Rock Pioneers Fanny: 'Society Was Not Ready to Accept Us'”, Yahoo Music, 28 February 2018

Christian John Wikane “Jean Millington: An Interview With a Rock and Roll Survivor”, Pop Matters, 26 February 2009

Fanny Live:
Fanny doing “Charity Ball”, live in Cleveland, recorded in April of 1972

Fanny Autobiography:
June Millington, Land of a Thousand Bridges: Island Girl in a Rock and Roll World, Goshen: MA: Institute of Musical Arts, 2015

Contemporary Writing on Fanny:
Mike Jahn, ,“Fanny, a Four‐Girl Rock Group, Poses a Challenge to Male Ego”, New York Times, p. 39, 30 May 1971

Ian Dove, “Fanny Proves Role of Women in Rock is Not in the Kitchen”, New York Times, p. 24, NY Edition, 29 January 1973

John Ingham, “Unnnghhh! Grunt, slurp…” New Musical Express, November 1974

Mike Saunders, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue: Cryptic Tales of America’s Fanny”, Phonograph Record Magazine, August 1972, pp. 4, 14, and 25

June Millington and the Institute of Musical Arts:
Millington and her partner, Ann Hackler, have run the Institute for the Musical Arts, which was founded California and which is now in Western Massachusetts, since 1986. The institute runs summer programmes for young women including a rock and roll camp for girls, and workshops on vocal and instrumental instruction, album production and recording techniques, lyric and music composition, and booking, promotion, and entertainment law.

Tom Sturm, “Millington Smoreship”, Valley Advocate, 18 August 2011

”June and Jean Millington's (of Fanny) Play Like a Girl band camp with a brief bio of the two”, YouTube

“Birtha Rocks, Birtha’s Official Website”

“Artist Biography: Isis” Classic Music Vault, n.d.

John S. Wilson, “Isis Plays Gutsy Rock and Roll”, New York Times, 19 November 1973

Mother Superior:
“Mother Superior, Official Website”

“Mother Superior - Mother Superior (1975 uk, classy wise prog rock)”, Plain and Simple, 6 September 2014

Research and Writing: October 2017 to March 2018
Published: International Women's Day, 8 March 2018
I want to thank all of those mostly non-professional historians working in the field of all-female rock and roll bands whose work I have drawn extensively on in this paper. Any inaccuracies are my own.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tales from the Darkside: Mr. G. and Louis the T.

Malise Ruthven rightly defines fundamentalism as a group or groups characterised by literalism, nationalism, and misogyny. By these criteria, which I will slightly broaden, Mr. G. is, on the basis of the evidence of his posts, a fundamentalist.

Mr. G’s literalism, like all fundamentalist literalisms, is a curious one. G., for instance, turns a transparent sentence like this: “Israel, like all modern and postmodern nations and settler societies, has inequalities of wealth, income, class, gender, age, and ethnicity”, a statement that quite clearly notes that Israel is not exceptional or unique in any way, into Israel…[alone] has inequalities of wealth, income, class, gender, age, and ethnicity, a statement never made.

Given this mangling of meaning one might wonder whether Mr. G. really is a literalist. He, a critic might argue, did not take the sentence literally, he transformed it into something that it wasn't, so he can’t be a literalist. But while that is true one must remember that scriptural literalists see what they want to see in a text and take what they want to take from a text. Their literalism, in other words, is not necessarily accurate. Their literalism resides not in taking every word of a text literally but in the notion that a text should (a normative reading) be taken literally.

Mr. G. is clearly a nationalist. He has a civic faith, in this instance a belief (a normative reading) in the absolute rightness of Israel. It is his unquestioned nationalist or civic faith, in fact, that leads Mr. G. to mangle the sentence above. Nationalist faith, in other words, over rides textual accuracy in order to demonise its utterer. I shouldn’t have to note that nationalism, as a meaning system, generally has a tenuous relationship to factual accuracy and empirical reality.

Mr. G. may or may not be a misogynist. What he most certainly is, is an ethnocentrist. Misogyny, of course, is a form of ethnocentrism. Mr. G. is an ethnocentrist with an authoritarian complex, a messianic complex, and a voyeuristic habit. G. maintains in one of his posts that he is on a mission, one presumes from god, to combat what he calls “Jew haters”. G., like all of his ideological kin, constructs this “evil” in fictional Manichean terms. “Jew haters”, in his crooked ethnocentric universe mental world, are anyone who says anything he deems “bad” about Israel regardless of whether it is valid or not, regardless of whether it is true or not. Validity and truth, in fact, never become an issue because in Gs ideologically constructed Manichean tautological mental world any criticism of Israel is “bad” and must therefore be “evil”. This Manicheanism justifies, for G and others of his ilk, his liberal use of ad hominems, his illiberal incivility, his red faced emotional hatred, and his rather creepy and freaky voyeurism. One can easily imagine G uncovering and taking part in any of the inquisitorial witch hunts that have periodically haunted human history.

What may seem odd to some is that someone who is likely on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Mr. G. also plays the ain’t I so superior demonisation Manichean game, BBC documentarist Louis Theroux. Theroux’s 2007 BBC 2 documentary, "The Most Hated Family in America", takes us on a trip to a freak show of Theroux’s construction, the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. In his documentary Louis the T. paints a picture for his British audience of yet another scary American cult—Westboro is actually a sect—that holds kooky views—actually Westboro’s condemnation of adultery and homosexuality, its Calvinism, and its apocalypticism are quite common and fairly mainstream in the history of Christianity and the other Mediterranean faiths of Judaism and Islam—and is headed by a weirdo—the now deceased Fred Phelps. At one point Louis the T, in conversation with Shirley, the Phelps daughter who plays a major role in the day-to-day operations of Church, calls Westboro a weird cult. Shirley responds to this demonisation in a way all of us who care about human rights should, she tells him that he doesn’t get to define who or what Westboro is. While Shirley is right to raise the issue about who gets to define an outsider religious group like the Westboro Baptist Church, Louis actually, at least in this case, does have the power to make the characterisaton, even though it is an ethnocentric one, stick. It is he and his BBC colleagues who have edited "The Most Hated Family in America" for near maximum weirdo effect. It is, after all, rather easy to demonise a small group of around 70 members with little political and cultural power. It is Louis characterisation of the Westboro Bapitist Church that most watchers will buy into because seeing the other as a freak allows one to think of oneself as "normal".

Mr. G. and Louis the T. have a lot in common. They are arrogant. They are self-righteous. They are my way or the highway type of guys. They are, in other words, pretty typical modern and postmodern individuals.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Living Through Another Democratic Party Conspiracy Theory

Every year around August I am reminded of the differences between journalism and the social sciences, which I teach. I always begin my introductory Sociology class by having my students watch Louis Theroux’s BBC 2 documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church, The Most Hated Family in America. After students have watched it I point out to them how Louis’s portrayal of the Westboro Baptist Church is sensationalistic and the questions he asks are meant to portray the Church as weird and abnormal. Sociologists, on the other hand, try to hold their values at arms length by exploring groups like the Westboro Baptist Church through the causal frames of economics, politics, culture, geography, and demography.

I was reminded in August of 2017 of the difference between journalism and the social sciences while listening to journalist and former public servant Bill Moyers and Steven Harper, an adjunct in the Northwestern University Pritzger School of Law, talk about their timeline of Russian interference in the US election on Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word on MSNBC. What stood out to me while watching this news report was that in academia it is generally (or should be) de rigueur to explore contrary evidence and different interpretations while in journalism journalists tend to ignore contrary evidence and interpretations in their reporting.

A number of red flags were raised for me as I made my way through Moyers’ and Harper’s timeline of Russian interference in the American election. First, I remembered that Moyers has long had Democrat sympathies and that while Moyers, like Robert Reich, another Democrat civil servant, has been critical of neoliberal Democrats he is still a Democrat and Democrats have recently been obsessed with Russia’s supposed role in the 2016 US presidential election. I learned that Lawrence O"Donnell, the host of the programme that Moyers and Harper appeared on to talk about their timeline, says he is a European style socialist but he has, during his career, been more sympathetic toward Democrats than Republicans. I learned when I made my way through Harper's timeline on Moyers's blog that there wasn’t any reference to or empirical criticism of those experts who have raised questions about the supposed hard evidence of Russian manipulation of the US election in 2016. Harper's timeline, then, which seems to assume, mistakenly, that quantity is quality, is hardly dispassionate and balanced as a consequence.

There were other things Iearned during my adventures in HarperLand. I learned once again that, politically and culturally speaking, scapegoating is a common practise among human beings and has been so almost as long as their have been human beings. Democratic scapegoating of those evil Russkies, is akin to the scapegoating of anarchists, socialists, communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons in America’s historical past. I learned that apparently Democrats are unable to accept that they got beat in the presidential election of 2016 by a near fascist moron of the lowest order. I learned that American Democrats cannot and do not take note of America’s interference in foreign elections. Ironically, it was Democrats who interfered, in the Russian election between Boris Yeltsen and Yevgeny Zhuganov in 1996. I learned, given the reaction of the military-industrial complex and the deep state to the election of Trump, who was favourably disposed to America’s long time evil other Russia, that America’s military-industrial complex and its deep state might be uncomfortable with candidate Trump’s unconventional foreign policies and might be using disinformation to undermine Trump’s foreign policy reset.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Liberalism" versus Liberalism: The Right Wing Perversion of the History of Liberalism

In a recent post, "That Good Old New Time Right Wing Religion", I tentatively explored the demographic, economic, and cultural aspects of that good old time right wing religion of Prager University and others of its ilk. In this post I want to explore another cultural aspect of PU and similar right wing religions, specifically its manichean (mis)perception of liberalism.

For many, particularly in the post-World War II era, "liberalism" has become a dirty word, a caricature and a stereotype. For many on the right "liberals" are to them what the Jews were to the Spanish Inquisition. Those who caricature, stereotype, and demonise liberalism, however, really do not have, and not surprisingly I might add given their manichean religious inclinations, a sound grasp of the history of real empirical liberalism. Liberalism, of course, is the product of several intellectual streams. Historically speaking liberalism is the product of Florentine and Italian city-state ideas about representative government and practise of representative government. Liberalism is the product of the Scientific Revolution beginning of the sixteenth century. Liberalism is the product of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century with its emphasis on anti-monarchicalism and anti-theocratism. Liberalism is the product of mass capitalism, which, while it has antecedents in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, became prevalent in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the modern world, and dominant in the twentieth century. Liberalism is the product of the American and French Revolutions both of which helped increase the power of the bourgeoisie or middle class. Liberalism is the product of political debates surrounding concepts like liberty, freedom, property, justice, equality, and fraternity since the sixteenth century.

Liberalism has been and continues to be, as a result of this history, multiple. Lockean political liberalism, which challenged absolutism, for instance, emphasised the inalienability of the "natural rights" of life, liberty, health, and estate or property, which Locke, like Marx after him, argued originated in the mixing of one’s labour with the land. The laissez-faire form of economic liberalism, which, ironically, most of those who detest liberalism these days actually believe in, that emerged from the Scottish Enlightenment emphasised the need for a free marketplace in the face of monarchical monopolies. That brand of liberalism relied on a deus ex machina in the form of the invisible hand to make it work making it, in the process, akin to a religion. The American propertied elite liberalism of America’s founding fathers borrowed heavily from Locke with its inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Constitutional liberalism, as opposed to nationalist liberalism, began with the American Revolution, was stimulated by the French Revolution, and was further stimulated by the triumph of mass capitalism and corporate capitalism in some places in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Social liberalism, which emphasised the need for a stronger government to deal with what was seen as the ravages of mass capitalism including poverty and inequality, emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Leftism or radicalism, by the way, emerged as a challenge to liberalism during the French Revolution and became a prominent modern subculture or counterculture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many on the radical left saw the central symbols of liberalism, life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, as inherently contradictory. Conservatism arose as a nostalgic, theocratic, and romantic or utopian reaction to liberalism.

Throughout constitutional liberalism’s history the concepts of life, liberty, health, estate, the pursuit of happiness, and others that followed, such as equality and fraternity, have had and continue to have, as symbols often do, multiple meanings. Many American liberals, for instance, found slavery inconsistent with their understanding of “liberty”. Many American liberals debated how big constitutional liberal states, which vouchsafed liberalism’s sacred symbols, should be. Some, anti-federalists, wanted a very weak central state and strong regional states. Some federalists, like Jefferson and Madison, wanted a stronger federal state than that allowed by America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, but disagreed with others, like Hamilton and Washington, who wanted a stronger federal state than the weak federalists.

So given this historical context what is the best way to understand liberalism? First, liberalism is best seen as a continuum with a number of levels to it. Liberalism, for example, is a continuum with free market liberalism at one end of the continuum, and, a mythical total state control of the economy on the other end of the continuum. I say mythical because no liberals I know of advocate total state control of the economy. Social liberalism or progressivism, with its advocacy of things like food and drug regulations, lies somewhere in the middle of this continuum. The social liberals Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Baines Johnson, for instance, enacted social liberal legislation that saved capitalism rather than destroyed it. Liberalism is a continuum with right libertarians and left libertarians, differentiated largely by their attitude to big economic institutions, on one end and a mythical group of no liberty or freedom types on the other end. No political liberals I know of want total abolition of free speech, for instance, though some do want limits, hence they lie somewhere along the continuum. Liberalism is a continuum in which some advocate for limits on civil rights--I know of no liberals who advocate for zero civil rights--while others advocate for the expansion of civil rights, American liberals pursing civil rights for Blacks, homosexuals, and trans people, for instance. Liberalism is a continuum in which some liberals, including liberals of left and right, are authoritarian while others are less authoritarian. I know of no liberals, by the way, who advocate for total anarchy and anarchism.

Why do those of the right wing religious persuasion like PU and others of their ilk ignore this real history of liberalism? The reason is simple. They ignore it because they have to. They need to believe in an enemy and proclaim "liberalism" as their enemy because fear, as history repeatedly shows, is a polemicists and a demagogues best friend. Fear allows them to raise money and pied piper the opiated masses. Fear, with its stereotyping, caricaturing, demonisations, and mythhistory, allows right wing cults to try to achieve power and influence with the help of the pied pipered masses they have opiated. Fear with its manichean "logic" gives them collective life. Marking off your group from an "inferior" and "polluted" "enemy" "other" is a tried and true method of creating an identity and a community with a mythic sense of their own superiority. Given this, manufacturing "enemy" "others" is not likely to end anytime soon.

That Good Old New Time Right Wing Religion

I have had a long intellectual interest in religion. The reason for why is simple, I have long been interested in why humans think and act the way that they do. Like other social and cultural constructionists I argue that the reasons humans think and act as they do is because of the meanings humans give to the world around them and their place or places in it.

One can see the process by which cultural meanings or cultural ideologies become "realities" most clearly in the rise of new religions like Mormonism, which I have extensively studied, Quakerism, which I have also studied, Anabaptists, which I have studied, the Oneida Community, which I have studied somewhat, Burned Over District evangelicalism, which I have studied somewhat, Shakerism, which I have studied somewhat, and the post WWII radical right, which one can't, thanks to it going mainstream since the 1980s, help but explore given its omnipresence on social media.

One of the new religious groups I have been studying recently is a right wing group that calls itself Praeger University. Because PU evidences that hybrid of Christianity, social Darwinism, the gospel of wealth, bah humbugism, and neoliberalism I am going to categorise PU a cult. PU is a cult because, just as Christianity was a cult to Judaism because it added new wine to old, PUism is different from the Christianities of the past despite containing older Christian elements within it. My observations are based on ethnographic analysis and, since I haven't done statistical analysis, random or otherwise, of PU my conclusions must remain tentative. I hope that despite this my observations are not only accurate and interesting but that they contribute to the study of right wing cults like PU.

Demographically, the PUers, as I call them, whether they are committed devotees of PU and their high priest, radio host Dennis Praeger, or whether they are fellow travellers of PU, are mostly male. This seems to be the case with a lot of the religiopolitical groups that were once marginal in American society and which have become more mainstream in American society since the 1980s, religiopolitical groups like the John Birch Society and the many neo-Nazi groups one finds across the US these days. Many of the "members", who are somewhat fluid, not surprising given the nature of postmodernity, and fellow travellers, are, I suspect, GenXers and millennials, whose lives have been distrupted by the economic changes driven by postmodernity including the decline of well paying and good benefit manufacturing jobs in the US and the rise of jobs in the low paying and low benefit retail or sevice sector of the American economy since the 1960s.

Economically, as I hinted, the devotees and ideological fellow travellers of right wing religious cults like PU have been displaced and dislocated by a postmodern economy that has seen the expansion of the service sector of US economy and the contraction of the traditional manufacturing sector of the economy which has fled overseas to take advantage of low labour costs in places like China and other semi peripheral nations. PU, like many religious groups, is registered as a charity and funded by the passing of the social media plate. Apparently most of the start up money for PU came from the Christian fundamentalist and fracking loving Wilks brothers.

Culturally, PUers and others of the right wing ilk appear to have what one might call a socially and culturally constructed manichean mind. Those with this social and cultural "(dis)order" think that what they believe is "good" whlle what the other knows is "bad". This is the I am OK, you are not OK, if you want to be OK you must be just like me syndrome. Others might call it, on the basis of the William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal controversial tête a tête on national TV in 1968, the scratch a right winger and you will find an ethocentrist or, in Buckley's case a fascist, beneath the surface complex.

So how does the manichean religious mind work? Well it works just like the religious manichean mind has always worked. Let me give you an example. Many PUers and other right wingers, in their blanket condemnations of left wing colleges and universities, ignore or elide the fact that Calvin College, a Christian reformed evangelical college, is similar to yet different from Amherst College, a secular college, in important ways. They ignore that Jesus College, Cantab is similar to but different from Ball State University in important ways. They ignore, in other words, the complexity of colleges and universities in the postmodern core nation world. Second, they ignore the fact that universities are home to a variety of different departments with a diversity of faculty in those departments. Engineers, mathematicians, physicists, biologists, and astronomers, for instance, are found in most broad curriculum based colleges and universities. If you believe PUers and right wingers, however, you would think that all of these folks are not only manning the red barricades but are actually in control of universities. The fact is, however, that college and university administrators with degrees in things like student personnel really run universities particularly in the US and UK outside of Oxbridge. They, by the way, run universities like managers run a department store. They run universities like retail establishments. The notion that universities and colleges are run by revolutionaries common among PU cultists and other right wing cultists is so delusional that some might argue that, as with those who believed themselves messiahs or prophets in the past and in the present, right wing cultists who today believe that colleges and universities are bastions of Marxism and socialism, the evil others par excellence in their theodicies, should perhaps be placed in mental health institutions. Perhaps they should thank their lucky stars that those "bleeding heart liberals", who right wing cultists in their theodicies wrongly conflate with Marxists, socialists, and nazis, dowsized them in the late 20th century.

Another cultural aspect of PU and other right wing religio-political cults is their eschatology. Many Christians have claimed over the years and continue to claim, that the Crusades and Christian anti-Semitism, for instance, both of which were hazardous to human health, were and are not characteristic of "real" Christianity. Only when "real" Christianity comes will, they claim, time be no more, lions will lie down with lambs, and swords will be beaten into plougshares in a post- or pre- apocalyptic Garden of Eden. Free marketeers, like their religious forebears, claim that contemporary versions of capitalism, specifically corporate capitalism, in core nations with their monopolies and cartels, their elite control of politics and politicians, and their ability to obtain subsidies, grants, and bailouts from American taxpayers, is not "real" capitalism. "Real" capitalism, free market capitalism, they fantasise, has never really existed and only when it does will, say true believers, the radiant paradisical capitalist future arrive making everybody in their free market capitalist version of the Garden of Eden rich in the process. The rub is, is that just as with the Christian apocalypse, which many have predicted on many occasions, the right wing free market cult apocalypse, though predicted almost as often as the Christian apocalypse, never comes. Such realities, however, rarely ever troubles true believers whose relationship with reality is tenuous at best. As a result the ideology constructs reality circle remains unbroken.