Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Rightwing Populism’s failure to adapt to the Realignment on Class and Biopolitics

While Anthony Oliver’s, Rich Men North of Richmond is untimely, it is still relevant to ongoing political and social issues. Despite the song being adopted as a MAGA anthem, Anthony Oliver stated that neither party represents him. He slammed partisan Republicans for hijacking the song, because Republicans are also “Rich Men North of Richmond.” If anything, Oliver seems like the kind of non-aligned populist who would support RFK Jr. over Trump or Biden. The song’s lyrics deal with themes including, wage slavery, inflation, the centralization of power, Jeffrey Epstein’s Island, and obese women on welfare. Responses to the song from the left, range from dismissing it as MAGA propaganda, to being racist, conspiratorial, and even having antisemitic dog whistles. However, there was a New York Times Op-ed about why liberals should be more open minded about the song’s message on class struggle.

While Anthony Oliver has some talent and the song is not bad, it’s not exceptional either. Melancholy country music can be great, but the melody and chord progressions feel too generic, and don’t invoke a strong emotional response. It is part of a formulaic new fad of adding a political message over generic country music melodies. I don’t have anything against Oliver, and he seems fairly humble. His canceling of a concert over a ticket price hike, demonstrates a kind of overly principled, perhaps naïve, earnestness. What I found annoying is the cringe responses, among partisan Republicans embracing the song. The arts, including music, need not be overtly political, but rather more intuitive rather than analytical. Conservative art often fails because it is overtly political, while liberals are successful at subtly propagandizing, by manipulating peoples’ subconscious, going back to Edward Bernays.

Source: @AndrewSmithClub Twitter

Even if Anthony Oliver does not align with conservatism, the song’s lyrics show certain intellectual flaws with rightwing populist narratives, while also getting close to the truth. For instance, romanticizing despair, victimhood, defeatism, and feeling aggrieved and disrespected, as the elites get away with their crimes. The populist right prefers a good moral tale rather than any serious winning strategy. It is easier to view the oppressor as morally evil rather than Darwinian winners, or to take a realistic look at power dynamics. An explanation for conspiracy theories is because liberal egalitarian individualism is so engrained in American culture, including on the right, that any extreme power dynamics will seem conspiratorial, once people become “redpilled.” I am not excusing those in power, and if anything, this slave morality prevents populists and dissidents from taking measures to successfully fight their adversaries.

Source: MatthewParrott Twitter

This also applies to another political country song, Try That in a Small Town, which is more overtly conservative. Try That in a Small Town is a cope that it’s still like the 1950s, where small town hicks can pull together a posse and carry out vigilante justice against transgressors, like BLM and Antifa. It’s a feel good anthem but does not reflect the reality that if small town conservatives actually tried that, the Justice Department would come down hard on them. Much of small town America will be wiped out economically by the consolidation of the banking system and flooded with migrants, and its citizens will likely sit back and take it, holding on to these anthems that make them feel morally vindicated. This mentality also applies to Jan 6th defendants, who behaved more like religious martyrs than revolutionaries, like the Founding Fathers. Not to mention QAnon types, who are all about trusting the plan with blind faith in Trump and being rewarded in the afterlife, rather than productive action.


Leave a Reply