Everything In Its Right Place

8 minute read

Tough times

It’s not rocket science to point out that the UK has been through a rough month. Not relative to many countries, but relative to its own past, certainly since the IRA were blowing things up with regularity from the 1970s-1990s, something that many grown adults are too young to remember apart from as a blur on the news.

First, Middle East-style terrorist attacks, where innocents are blown-up or run over when leaving a gig or walking down the street.

Then, the Grenfell Tower disaster, which, in a world full of destruction and a media that brings a small amount1 of that destruction into our awareness every day, has burned something into our minds that will stay forever. Rarely does a tragedy so-clearly remind us of our mortality, with healthy doses of futility and helplessness thrown in for good measure.

Strong emotions create bizarre reactions. Large groups tend to, er, groupthink. Combine the two, and we see the “progressive” “liberal” giving Occam’s razor short shrift, and suspending logic and rationality.

Rather than blaming the:

  1. Terrorists, and
  2. Companies and organizations who fitted flammable material to the outside of Grenfell Tower, the tragic symbol of human2 failure,

It’s obviously the politicans and the system which who are to blame3.

No matter that disasters have been happening on Planet Earth forever, sometimes even in non-capitalist regimes, not just abroad, but also in the UK itself. A tower block burnt down killing tens of people in a frightening, unimaginable way, ergo an entire political system is to blame? Is any political system able to avert every disaster that might occur?

Art versus real life

Let’s digress, I like music. Tonight, if my social media feeds are anything to go by, UK millenials were mostly talking about Radiohead’s headlining performance at Glastonbury.

Radiohead. One of the biggest bands in the world. From their indie-rock roots, their ambition led to increasing levels of experimentation with arrangement and sounds, at times sounding more like electronica than a rock band, alienating and bringing new fans at each step. Followed by an incredibly loyal core fan base who idolize and analyze the band and their music, they are icons for “alternative”4 music in the UK.

Glastonbury. From humble hippy roots in 1970, to one of the biggest festivals in the world. Looking at the buildup on social media, it’s pretty clear that they’re part of the “let’s politicize everything” bandwagon”. They even have a “Glastonbury Free Press” “newspaper”, which we can assume is “Free” in the same way as any communist country with “Democratic” in the name is democratic. “Glasto” is an icon of live “alternative”5 music in the UK.

As I was writing this, I scanned the setlists for the 3-days of safe, middle-class rebellion. I can’t believe my eyes. Tomorrow, at 4pm, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will appear on the Pyramid stage. Not a band, nor even a singer-songwriter, but the Hezbollah-flirting, Chavez-hugging leader of the Labour Party.

As a music fan, you go to a festival and what do you get? A political indoctrination topped off by a party leader on stage preaching the good fight.

Good art often has something to say, but here we’re not talking about artists and their lyrics, nuances, stories. We’re not talking about anything to do with art at all. We’re talking about a bloke who wants to be the next Great Leader and a captive audience which the other Great Leader has put on a plate for him. He’s going to look like a rock star, and let’s face it, they are far more influential than politicians. People go for charisma over content.

Apparently, this isn’t a problem.

Radiohead get Holy

Worlds collide. In a few weeks, Radiohead are going to play in Israel. It will be a massive gig by Israeli standards, with the usual high ticket prices and crap sound. These days for an international artist to play in the freest country6 and only true democracy7 in the Middle East, the 19th-ranked country out of 188 in the UN Development Programme Human Development Index, is seen by the regressive left as about the worst thing they can do. It was refreshing to see that a band who could have used Israel as an easy way to make a “statement”8, were more interested in music than politics.

Even more surprisingly, usually-introverted singer Thom Yorke felt the need to come out in public and defend the band’s decision. This was a remarkable act, given the state of the bitter art community, led of course by Roger Waters who famously started an affair with an Israel-hating Israeli-Arab whilst she was still married to his friend, until she dumped him, a symbol of the ugly face of the modern left, ready to castigate their peers for supporting “oppressive regimes”, turning the hypocrisy level up to the max.

Yorke said:

“It’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years,”

“There are people I admire … who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think.”

“It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.”


This is where it comes together, if it comes together at all. According to reports of tonight’s gig, during the set, Yorke made several derogatory comments about under-pressure UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.

I’m sure that this will be heralded by some as genius social commentary, yet to me it looks like a cheap shot. It’s like if she was to stand in Prime Minister’s Question Time saying to the House of Commons:

“Wow, Kid A was unlistenable, what the hell were they thinking, I like experimentation but this is shite.”

Just with a larger audience.

Thom, didn’t you say:

“It’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years,”

“There are people I admire … who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think.”

“It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.”

What’s going on? Is it one rule for the band, who can decide for themselves without being browbeaten, and another rule for the hundreds of thousands of fans, at the venue and on the TV and radio? Do “artists” have a special, superior moral radar compared to us run-of-the-mill plebs? Couldn’t you just have “engaged her personally” rather than “thrown shit in public”?

I think we can see where this is going.

As they look down on us, and tell us what is right and what is wrong, celebrity political geniuses play to our fears about the powerful people at the top who only look out for themselves. But hold on.

Isn’t using your luck in celebrity to influence thought, quite an (ab)use of power? Should I place extra trust in what you have to say about social justice because you wrote a good song or three? Do you really need all of your tens of millions of dollars in the bank? Do you really need to limit your liability in case of a loss? Aren’t corporations evil? You seem to have a lot of them, but you won’t find me telling you what to do or who to vote for.

It’s a fine line, as freedom of speech is unarguably important. Yet, (this seems to be a recurring theme):

  • How many of us get deep enough into the real issues, enough to challenge the proclamations of those who have the ability to shout louder?
  • How good are we at retaining the context and filtering out the noise?
  • Do we compensate for our tendency to seek out things that confirm what we already think?

I’m happy to hear Radiohead’s music. I couldn’t care less what they think about politics, what their favourite food is, or what football team they support. I get the impression that they’d also rather not talk about those things, and perhaps the pressure got to Yorke. It’s not easy being the voice of a generation.

It’s true that politics has a central influence on our lives. But everything seems to be becoming unapologeticly politicized. Gary Lineker, mainly known for poking in goals from short distance and advertising crisps, is apparently now an authority on refugees.

The moment a public figure opens their mouth about something which it’s reasonable to assume, they don’t understand any better than you and me, yet the media gives them a platform, we have a problem.

The hypocrisy leaves me on the fence about buying tickets for the gig. Do I want to hear him drone on about peace in the Middle East as if nobody’s ever tried to solve that one before, and all that we need to change the reality on the ground is a messiah from a rock band and a nudge in the right direction?

Some will point out that public figures also have a right to an opinion, but that would be a straw man. Of course they do, just like the rest of us, but there’s a time and place for everything. Or as Radiohead themselves might say, Everything in Its Right Place.

(Header image: Glaswegian Radiohead fans hold up Palestinian flags and boycott Israel banners.)

  1. The news is already full of information overload, but it’s a tiny percentage of everything that goes on. 

  2. Humans run organizations. 

  3. Well, mostly. If there’s a chance to point fingers, it would be rude to leave the Jews out, right? 

  4. They’ve sold over 30 million albums… 

  5. Ticket sales revenue is tens of millions of pounds annually, although much of this goes to “charitable donations and running costs”…. 

  6. The competition isn’t exactly fierce. 

  7. Lebanon, whilst confessionalism and Hezbollah are involved, isn’t a serious contender. 

  8. Hold on, guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to an Israeli! #awkward