The U.S. capital has a consistency, a uniformity that defies age and exudes authority. But it shouldn’t snuff out artistic creativity.
- Taylor Swift’s new song shows an astounding lack of self-awareness.
- Her fans like her music. But now she’s wading into political controversy.
- “Only The Young” is divisive, artistically hollow electioneering.
Taylor Swift just dropped her new song, “Only The Young,” this week. The release coincides with the debut of her Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana.”
The song makes a big political statement [Rolling Stone] during a presidential election year. But making big political statements is not how Taylor Swift became a superstar.
Swift used to have the appeal of uncomplicated sweetness and wholesome charm. Her voice and image didn’t have anything to do with politics. She stood above it all.
But that’s all changed with “Only The Young” and “Miss Americana.” Now the country music icon’s business is to attack the president and one of her state’s senators.
She has hired out her voice to be employed for political purposes, corrupting the purity of her art. The boorish food fight that is U.S. politics is no place for Taylor Swift.
“Only The Young” Has No Heart
Great art is a wellspring of meaning. It doesn’t have an agenda. It certainly doesn’t have a political agenda. Art with a political agenda is hardly art at all.
It’s just propaganda.
Having a narrow agenda usually gets in the way of making truly captivating, resounding songs, or paintings, or stories. It produces third rate work like the throw-away melody and novice lyricism of “Only The Young.”
Taylor Swift’s agenda is to get more young people to vote in 2020. But she’s made it clear that she’s counting on that to push America’s political center to the left.
Taylor Swift Is Fighting Dirty
Here are some words she uses to rally the young:
You go to class, scared
Wondering where the best hiding spot would be
And the big bad man and his big bad clan
Their hands are stained with red
She’s blaming millions of people who’ve never hurt anyone for the actions of rampage killers. The system didn’t even merely fail in her mind.
Taylor Swift is holding half of our society responsible for the choices individuals made. But society isn’t to blame. Individuals are responsible for their own actions.
This is the ugly turn American politics has taken in recent years. And it’s bad enough that politicians and their adjuncts in the media do this now.
But it’s even worse that our kids can’t even listen to pop music anymore without being exposed to this new normal of bad faith hate-mongering.
“Miss Americana” No More
Taylor Swift’s refrain is:
Only the young
Only one thing can save us
Only the young
But if that’s really true, shouldn’t Taylor Swift back pro-life politicians like Sen. Marsha Blackburn? It’s just a question. I’m not going to treat Taylor Swift the way she’s treating so many Americans, and sing a song about how her hands are stained red.
What Swift needs to understand is that the most controversial issues in politics are very nuanced. And that both sides want the best and have good reasons for believing what they do. That extends to older people, who’ve had a lot more life experience than younger Americans.
There’s a lot that young Americans can learn from their elders. And if the next generation is going to save us, it won’t be by tearing our parents and grandparents down.
Here’s what “Miss Americana” seems like to me. It seems like Taylor Swift is in that phase Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera – really any aging teen pop idol – went through. Where they “grow up” by becoming very forwardly sexual with their image.
But Swift’s version of rebelling is just that she’s really political now – and a Democrat. Which is actually super adorable. It’s even a bit endearing. But it is tough to watch politics claim and absorb yet another great artist this year.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.
This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.
Last modified: February 1, 2020 4:38 PM UTC
Cohen: Authoritarianism, architecture and Washington power politics – Ottawa Citizen
WASHINGTON – There’s a draft executive order circulating in the White House these days that’s unrelated to immigration, de-regulation, education, health care or any of the usual hot-button issues of Donald Trump’s presidency.
This executive order is about architecture. It wants federal buildings – courthouses, agency headquarters, museums – built in the neo-classical style that has come to characterize this city over two centuries. This is the style that has made the capital look like the seat of the American Empire.
In its architecture, Washington has a consistency, a uniformity and a beauty. It defies age. The motif emerged in the 19th century before the United States was a global power, signalling its ambition. When America is no longer an empire, it will recall its glory, as Vienna does Austria.
The Capitol, the Supreme Court, the White House, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, are all magnificent, incandescent, other-worldly. They inspire awe. Clad in white marble, pillared or domed, in rigorous proportion, they evoke ancient civilization. They make Washington into Athens, Rome or Disneyland on the Potomac.
On one level, this proposed executive order is sensible. In a world of brutalism and ugliness, why not invest in the grace and elegance that gratify our esthetic sense?
The executive order making its way to Trump’s desk in the Oval Office is called “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” Written by the National Civic Art Society, a non-profit organization founded in 2002, it laments “bizarre, hideous, disorienting” contemporary architecture.
It says the government “has largely stopped building beautiful buildings that the American people want to look at or work in.” It wants architecture to “once again inspire respect instead of bewilderment or repugnance.”
On one level, this proposed executive order is sensible. In a world of brutalism and ugliness, why not invest in the grace and elegance that gratify our esthetic sense? Why not believe in beauty?
That’s one way of looking at it: an effort to resist the ugliness of modernism that lives in today’s architecture like a disfiguring gene. Washington has it in some recent concrete boxes and steel palaces of startling institutional dullness.
This executive order celebrates neo-classicism. New buildings would echo the motif, as does the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, a massive federal office complex near the White House that opened in 1998. It sits organically in its environment. So does the Embassy of Canada, in the shadow of the Capitol, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Isn’t that something to cheer?
Actually, no. The problem with the draft executive order is that it leaves little room for variety, novelty or originality. It wants to impose a policy on federal buildings that the American Institute of Architects, one of many critics, calls “one size fits all.”
The problem with this policy is that it would have made impossible other examples of risk-taking design. These include the National Museum of the American Indian, designed by Canada’s Douglas Cardinal, undulating in sandstone on the National Mall. Or the stunning bronze iron lattice work of the nearby National Museum of African American History and Culture, inspired by the work of slaves.
Both are distinct, going far beyond neo-classicism. Both would not have happened if traditionalists had their way – but then again, nor would the J. Edgar Hoover Building, as repugnant in style as the legacy of Hoover himself. This is the danger of artistic freedom.
This draft order smacks of authoritarianism. As Blair Kamin, the award-winning architectural critic of the Chicago Tribune suggests, it is artistic autocracy.
It means that government dictates style, not just standards. At one level, it should mandate style (to prevent, for example, the kind of atrocity represented by the expansion of Ottawa’s Château Laurier.) But it can go too far, as Mussolini and Hitler did in fascist design in Rome and Berlin.
Presidents have always brought ideas of style: Thomas Jefferson designed Monticello; Jack and Jackie Kennedy remade the Rose Garden and re-created Air Force One, the presidential airplane.
In Donald Trump’s America, a new design standard suggests something else: the strongman extending his authority over cultural life. The tastemaker-in-chief who wants movies to be more like Gone with the Wind now turns his attention to architecture.
As he says, we’ll see how things turn out.
Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.
ALSO IN OPINION
The BJP's Flawed Blueprint for Resurrecting Kashmir's Politics – The Diplomat
After a gap of several months, political activity is beginning to sprout once again in the Kashmir Valley. Both old and fresh faces of Kashmir’s mainstream politics promise new political fronts and a fresh vision for yet another “Naya Kashmir.” Quite understandably, the political leadership in Delhi is trying to infuse vigor into this political activity, hoping it can help to address discontent following the August 2019 decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and transform the former state into a union territory. While the politics of alternatives isn’t new to Kashmir, the current atmosphere bears a stark resemblance to the 1960s, when the Indian National Congress tried to consolidate their control over the political and administrative affairs of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The installation of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad as prime minister of the state, following the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, was the first move aimed at creating an alternative government, one acquiescent to Congress’ central leadership. His decade-long tenure removed apprehensions that Sheikh’s wavering loyalty had raised. However, it did not prevent the central leadership of the Congress from aspiring for a permanent alternative. Bakshi’s resignation under the Kamraj Plan opened up this possibility.
The Congress found Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq to be a perfect fit for its requirements. Sadiq, a National Conference dissident and founder of Democratic National Conference, won the 1967 election and led the first elected Congress government in the state. While this allowed the central leadership direct control, the move failed to achieve its aim of penetrating down to the masses – something the Congress has still not been able to do. Instead, the Sadiq government constantly depended on the central leadership for directions. This failure laid the ground for handing the reins back to Sheikh Abdullah in 1972.
In its pursuit of breaking the impasse and restoring political processes in Kashmir, the present government is perhaps seeking to create its own ruling class that will be dependent upon the center, both legally and politically. While they have chosen to avoid the older guard of Jammu and Kashmir’s political parties, the central leaders also do not seem to be interested in identifying and elevating the second-rung leadership. However, the continuous detention of these political figures keeps them relevant on both sides of the political discourse.
What is transpiring in the political circles of Kashmir is certainly not a new strategy. Armchair politicians and seasoned turncoats have traditionally been used to lay a fresh political ground in Kashmir, even though the practice is antithetical to restoration of democratic processes. This practice ignores the very fact that in a complex political environment where alienation is deep-rooted, alternatives cannot evolve in vacuum.
Any alternative to the older guard in Kashmir has to be broad-based. It has to have the patronage of the masses, a strong network of workers capable of mobilization and electoral experience. For now, the capacity to mobilize masses may be seen as a threat to public order, but it is precisely what is required to restore political processes.
Naveed Mehmood Ahmad is currently working as Legal Research Fellow in New Delhi. He has a Masters in Law from Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai.
Politics Briefing: Conservatives lead national poll – The Globe and Mail
Between the plane crash in Iran, the coronavirus and protests that are increasingly crippling rail lines around the country, it would be a trying time for any government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have been lauded for his handling of the aftermath of the plane crash last month, but Canadians are apparently souring on his leadership as the problems pile up.
The latest Nanos Research survey, released this morning, puts the Conservatives in the lead nationally at 36 per cent support among respondents. Nanos has the Liberals at 33 per cent, the NDP at 15 per cent, and the Bloc and Greens with 7 per cent each.
“Although the Liberals have enjoyed a marginal advantage over the Conservatives since mid-November there has been an decline in support over the last few weeks in the Nanos tracking,” founder Nik Nanos said. He noted the decline has happened at the same time as the controversies in the news.
The hybrid phone-online survey talked to 1,000 Canadian adults over four weeks. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The latest survey pegs support for the parties pretty close to what they were on the Oct. 21 election night. The Conservatives won the popular vote thanks to huge margins of victory in Western provinces, while the Liberals won a number of close contests in Central Canada that put them over the top in seat count. But with a minority government, technically the Liberal government could fall at any time.
Since the election, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer resigned. The party is due to pick a new leader on June 27.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
Teck chose to back out of the Frontier oil sands mine when it became clear that being at the centre of a national debate about energy and environmental policy was not going to be a boon to the company, sources tell The Globe and Mail. The business case for the major project was also troubled because of low oil prices. Teck said earlier this month it would be net-zero on emissions by 2050, and sources say it also wasn’t clear how the resources company would achieve that.
Protests in solidarity with some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue to target rail lines, a day after Ontario Provincial Police closed the main blockade at Tyendinaga. A new blockade was set up in Hamilton, at an important nexus for freight and commuter lines.
As if there wasn’t enough energy news, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the federal carbon price was unconstitutional. That ruling followed those of the Ontario and Saskatchewan courts, which found the carbon price was constitutional. It’ll be up to the Supreme Court to sort it out when it hears the case next month.
The New Democrats have tabled a bill to establish universal pharmacare. The Liberals have not said if they will support the bill, though they are promising to move somewhat in that direction.
The Liberals did table a bill to slightly open up access to physician-assisted deaths, by allowing for advance waivers and removing the need for the deaths to be “reasonably foreseeable.”
The government’s long-delayed plan to buy new fighter jets is being delayed more.
And the Public Sector Pension Investment Board is getting into real estate. However, it’s not clear if the Toronto development that the pension plan envisions will get the rezoning required to actually build housing.
Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the Teck oil sands mine’s sudden rise to national prominence: “It can’t be said often enough: Hardly anybody was talking about the Liberals’ looming decision on whether to approve the Frontier mine a few months ago, even in Alberta. It wasn’t a big topic last summer when the project received a rather tentative approval recommendation from a federal-provincial panel, nor in the fall election campaign.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the politics of the decision: “A big chunk of Canada’s population will cheer at the prospect that future oil sands projects will be stymied. Another big chunk will feel climate-change policies must be set aside to let projects go ahead. Those are now political forces beyond the full control of politicians.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on the need for federal and provincial governments to work together: “Yes, the United Conservative Party campaigned on scrapping the carbon tax and protecting provincial jurisdiction. But even Jason Kenney has to know there is value to a consumption tax, and there are much bigger fish to fry – including incentivizing its emissions-heavy oil sands industry to innovate itself greener.”
Jason Markusoff (Maclean’s) on Teck’s thinking in withdrawing the Frontier mine: “The company, as it saved face, also saw this as a good opportunity to demand governments have actual big-picture oil sands development policies, and not just leave each project, one by one, to the whims of the varying beliefs of cabinet ministers who think one more straw will break Canada’s carbon back, or that this one is climate-affordable and economically necessary.”
Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on fair dealing: “Canada is a nation that is built on the rule of law and common sense. Before a railway could be built across the new nation, the government had to make treaty with the First Nations of the plains. This process stopped in the mountains because the American settlers in British Columbia refused to see the need to deal fairly with the First Nations. Today Canada is paying the price and the politicians and those in power know it.”
Brenda Cossman (The Globe and Mail) on the Weinstein verdict: “Measuring the relative success of #MeToo through the Weinstein trial might be a little too myopic, even in terms of the law. Law has already had a big role to play. Men such as Mr. Weinstein and broadcasters Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose were fired, and none of these once-powerful men brought successful wrongful dismissal suits. Nor did any of them bring successful defamation suits against the media who reported on their sexual misconduct. Well before the criminal law got involved, there were many #MeToo consequences meted out through the law.”
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