Punk singer Exene Cervenka posted a series of tweets Wednesday questioning whether the government staged last week’s mass shootings in Isla Vista, California, to enact stricter gun control laws.
Now I don’t want to get into a discussion of guns, gun control, etc. here, but I hope we can all agree that thinking the government staged the recent UCSB shootings in order to justify new gun control laws is kind of nuts. If that sounds plausible to you… well, you’re probably not going to be able to relate to the rest of this post.
I’m going to just assume that you agree with me from here and not spend a lot of time trying to argue against Exene, because if I’ve learned anything from conspiracy theorists, it’s that there is not point in arguing with them.
OK, I just have to say it or I’ll burst…. if the Sandy Hook Massacre didn’t result in new legislation, why would the government stage a less shocking massacre as a follow-up? And if the government wanted to make a point about guns, why were half the victims stabbed to death? OK I’m done.
So I’m left with the fact that someone whose music I enjoy believes some weird stuff. Which isn’t normally something I puzzle over- lots of musicians/artists, etc. whose work I enjoy believe some weird stuff. Lots of people whose company I enjoy believe some weird stuff. But I saw a lot of confused questions as to how someone who makes interesting music and presumably has some brains could believe this sort of thing.
I have a theory, and it’s probably stupid, but I’m going to throw it out there because YOLO.
People who become famous punk musicians don’t generally get a ton of schooling. Exene, for instance, was a high school dropout. Punk rock is a movement with lots of free floating anger at society, the government, corporations, whatever. Without the means to process some of that, people are going to be susceptible to people like Alex Jones- people who offer to explain it all. Who will share with you the knowledge that THE SYSTEM is hiding from you.
Without some critical thinking skills and the experience of having to back up one’s theories regularly, in front of impartial strangers, it’s hard to develop the kind of healthy skepticism you’d need to see through these theories. The kind you need to say “really, there’s a family called the Rothschilds and they live in a big castle together and rule the world, without fighting with each other all the time like other families do? I’m not sure I believe that.”
There’s also the fact that punk rock, ever since The Clash, has often dealt with some heavy subjects- war, poverty, class, race, systems of government, religion. Punk rock actually has a fairly healthy intellectual tradition. I mean, I’ve never heard a song on the radio that mentioned Foucault or discussed the invasion of the Falkland Islands.
So people get lost in all that. People sit around, get high and try to discuss things they read about in fanzines or hear about on records. They want to do something. They want to fight back against alienation, against boredom. They want to understand how the world can produce so much misery. And some of them become cranks. It’s not that hard to imagine.