Full disclosure: I happen to think Rush’s music is terrible. But the critics’ aversion to their Objectivist-laden science fiction rock operas was always a point in their favor. Finding out that the drummer, Neil Peart, wrote those grandiose lyrics, and that he was some sort of libertarian, didn’t hurt either. And only 41 years after Peart joined the Canadian trio, the editors at Rolling Stone have decided to put Rush on the cover for the first time.
In the profile we find this (via Matt Welch):
In the Seventies, Peart rankled the rock press with an affinity for libertarian hero Ayn Rand — he cited her “genius” in liner notes, and critics promptly labeled Rush fascists. Rush’s breakthrough mini-rock opera, 1976’s 2112, is, in part, a riff on Rand’s sci-fi novel Anthem.
… Rush’s earlier musical take on Rand, 1975’s unimaginatively titled “Anthem,” is more problematic [than 2112], railing against the kind of generosity that Peart now routinely practices: “Begging hands and bleeding hearts will/Only cry out for more.” And “The Trees,” an allegorical power ballad about maples dooming a forest by agitating for “equal rights” with lofty oaks, was strident enough to convince a young Rand Paul that he had finally found a right-wing rock band.
Peart outgrew his Ayn Rand phase years ago, and now describes himself as a “bleeding-heart libertarian,” citing his trips to Africa as transformative. He claims to stand by the message of “The Trees,” but other than that, his bleeding-heart side seems dominant. Peart just became a U.S. citizen, and he is unlikely to vote for Rand Paul, or any Republican. Peart says that it’s “very obvious” that Paul “hates women and brown people” — and Rush sent a cease-and-desist order to get Paul to stop quoting “The Trees” in his speeches.
“For a person of my sensibility, you’re only left with the Democratic party,” says Peart, who also calls George W. Bush “an instrument of evil.” “If you’re a compassionate person at all. The whole health-care thing — denying mercy to suffering people? What? This is Christian?”
No libertarian (or conservative, for that matter) I know of advocates “denying” mercy or, for that matter, health care, to anyone. Even most bleeding heart libertarians would acknowledge that some people will need help, but still believe that some form of free-market system—what rock critics in the 70’s might refer to as “fascist”—would be the most effective and moral system for most Americans. I won’t speak for rock star Ayn Rand disciples, but a contemporary libertarian can be both generous and compassionate in his personal life without relying on the state to do it for him.
But that’s just the typical misrepresentation of libertarianism. What I don’t get is why Peart claims that it’s “very obvious” that Rand Paul “hates women and brown people.”
Women are not drawn to libertarianism. I imagine the misogyny accusation spawns from those manufactured attacks on Paul a few months ago, when he had the audacity to speak to female reporters who posed silly gotcha questions in the same way he would anyone else. But brown people?
Does he mean all racial minorities? A former Ayn Rand devotee probably understands that Rand’s comments on the Civil Rights Act in 2010 were propelled by a belief in freedom of association, not an aversion to race. It was Paul, after all, who went to Howard University to make a pitch for the GOP to a young and skeptical African-American crowd. He answered tough questions afterwards. He was the first Republican politician to speak there since Colin Powell in 1994, and the first non-African American Republican in memory. Like his policies or not, it’s Paul that continues to push, perhaps more than any GOP candidate, the idea that the party needs to appeal to black and Hispanic voterse.
Who cares, right? Musicians, for the most part, are ideological locksteppers, and no one expects them to endorse a Republican. But this is another example of how problematic it is for any GOP politician—even one that’s gone out of his way to court young people and minorities and holds a bunch of positions that are probably pretty appealing to readers of Rolling Stone—because they will surely be misrepresented in popular culture.
Anyway, if Paul stops quoting “The Trees” it’ll be a victory for America.