Poll Position: Do you keep politics and the arts separate?

The big news out of Athens this week was the break-up of the band R.E.M., one of the quintessential bands of the 1980s and ’90s and for many members of Generation X. That includes me: “Out of Time” was one of the first albums I owned, and I saw the band live three times — including one short session at an open-air TV studio in Sydney, Australia (long story).

R.E.M. was hardly an apolitical band, and I think it’s quite safe to say their politics and mine didn’t align. But that didn’t bother me in the least. They could be very interesting musically and lyrically (by pop music’s standards, anyway), and the majority of their songs had nothing to do with politics.

Do you avoid artists whose political views differ from your own?

  • No (52 Votes)
  • Only if the work (movie, song, book, etc.) is explicitly political (51 Votes)
  • Yes (19 Votes)

Total Voters: 122

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It’s one of the worrying signs of the politicization of everything, however, that I hear people say they won’t listen to this band, or watch a movie starring that actor, because of their political stances. It’s one thing to boycott “Hanoi” Jane Fonda; it’s another to avoid, say, a very fine band like Arcade Fire because they played at an Obama rally in 2008.

When the theme of a particular movie or novel is pointedly political, it’s more understandable that one might want to send a message by not supporting it commercially. Then again, minds that are closed to other opinions reflect another worrisome trend in America.

So here’s your Poll Position this week: Do you check your politics at the door when enjoying the arts and pop culture? Answer in the nearby poll and in the comments thread below. (And apologies for the later-than-usual posting time for Poll Position, but I wanted to give the post on the GOP debate time to breathe.)

– By Kyle Wingfield

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43 comments Add your comment


September 23rd, 2011
12:51 pm

There’s entertainment and there’s art. If I want entertainment, I don’t necessarily want to be challenged too deeply. If I want art, I expect to be challenged. If you don’t match my expectations, don’t expect to get my money for your efforts.

UGA 1999

September 23rd, 2011
1:10 pm

Kyle, your last topic was much better.


September 23rd, 2011
1:16 pm

Like most people, I just go for good quality in lyrics and performance. I don’t think much about politics when listening to music.


September 23rd, 2011
1:16 pm

Joan Baez is the greatest folk singer ever. I own and listen to her folks songs. I do not own her “anti” work from the Viet Nam protests. Not because of their content but because they are just poor songs compared to the richness of her folk music.

Fonda is a great actress. Her politics does not change that fact. I have seen most of her work.

REM? To my knowledge I have never heard a single cut by the group.

Dixie Chicks is an OK group. Their opinion of George W notwithstanding. (Of course, I believe George W is a disgrace to the conservative movement. So maybe I am a poor judge.)

Barbara Streisand is a wonderful vocalist, nay, one of the great vocalist. What does her liberal politics have to do with that?

I never let politics interfere with art and entertainment.

Kyle this statement by you is the truth: “…minds that are closed to other opinions reflect another worrisome trend in America.”

This is real problem. One can debate the Bush decision on Iraq daily; but it will be 30 to 50 years before we will really know if he made the correct decision. That is the nature of government and politics.

Joe the Plutocrat

September 23rd, 2011
1:36 pm

all things considered, to their credit, REM were musicians/artists with some political activism; and not political activists with musical talent. to their credit, they seemed to check politics at the door be it the recording studio or the arena. in fact I caught one of their ‘94 or ‘95 (Monster Tour, I think) shows at the Omni, and I don’t remember much stumping (as opposed to say; some of the Steve Earle or Springsteen shows I have endured). and like most acts, their music and whatever message changed with age both for producer and consumer, but I agree, from ‘81 – ‘91 they were a %$#*@~+ great band (that bleep was for you, Kyle)

Junior Samples

September 23rd, 2011
1:37 pm

I heard they called it quits because the current tax code wouldn’t provide enough incentive to hire more roadies during their tour.
That and the health care thing. Is that true?

Joe the Plutocrat

September 23rd, 2011
1:41 pm

Junior, actually, they called it quits because they sold more records when Michael Stipe refused to discuss his sexuality, as opposed to after he came out (he did come out, did he not?). actually, as I casual fan, I suspect the begining of the end was when Bill Berry called it a day. the three remaining members were still a band, but they weren’t REM


September 23rd, 2011
1:51 pm

That get even attitude is so Bill O

Kyle Wingfield

September 23rd, 2011
1:55 pm

Joe @ 1:41: Agree about Berry. I remember at the time one of the remaining three said something like, “A three-legged dog is still a dog.” Not this time.


September 23rd, 2011
1:56 pm

Sure, a conservative will always make adjustments, the alternative is to pay attention to their own culture. They have no choice in the matter. Who wants to listen to anything conservatives put out? Pat Boone??? The Benny Hinn Gospel Singers? Up With People? Christian music? Ted Nugent???

Conservatives are always crashing the liberal party when it comes to pop culture. TV, movies, music, entertainment, and technology are all things conservatives sponge off liberals.

Try going all conservative one day. Watch nothing put the conservative Christian tv stations that dominate our airwaves. Stay off the liberal produced computer. Listen to Pat Boone on your record player. You’ll see, Republicans have no choice, they have to go along with the liberal political message.

Conservatives should be forced to listen to their Justin Bieber inspired “wholesome” stuff.

Justin Bieber!!! LOL

ragnar danneskjold

September 23rd, 2011
2:11 pm

I voted “yes” in the poll, but that is not technically true, While I avoid the Bruce Springsteens and Dixie Chickses of the world, I don’t hold any objection to conservative artists expressing their sound perspectives, and thus do not punish those.

ragnar danneskjold

September 23rd, 2011
2:15 pm

Friend Aurelius above raises an interesting question, re: Joan Baez. I do not find Ms. Baez politically objectionable, as I think she is motivated by a consistent ethic rather than politics. I recall that she was still publicizing the plight of the Vietnamese people in 1980, long after the leftist train moved on. I can respect that, and I bought an album of hers just last year (admittedly it was a Christmas album produced for her by Peter Schickele in 1968, but I assume she still got a couple of bucks out of it.)


September 23rd, 2011
2:43 pm

I tried to vote but it said I already voted, which isn’t true. Makes me wonder if this is rigged. I also think there should be a “sometimes” selection.


September 23rd, 2011
2:44 pm

I remember, in the early 1960’s, a fellow walking into and immediately out of a bar because Nat King Cole was singing on the juke box. This was in central Florida. Palatka, FL to be exact. I couldn’t understand how a persons color made any difference in his singing value.

I still don’t understand how color, politics or sexual orientation can make a difference in an entertainers value. I’m fairly liberal in my social outlook. I guess it takes a real wingnut of a particular persuasion to be concerned over an entertainers viewpoints on life.

Kyle Wingfield

September 23rd, 2011
2:45 pm

Rigged: That’s strange. Try refreshing your browser.

Invariably, I leave out some option that someone would like to choose. But that’s what the comments thread is for. How do you differentiate between those times you do, and those you don’t?

Tea Party Hobbit

September 23rd, 2011
2:49 pm

DannyX, if the liberal message is that engrained, then they are failing miserably. This country has been and still is about evenly split (argue semantics about center-left or center-right later, not my point) between liberal and conservative thought patterns. I would say media definitely has a more profound impact on conscious thinking. I do not think or care what the political persuasion of the people who made my computer are. Yet if I am watching TV and perceive that the anchor is biased when I don’t want bias, I will change the channel. What’s this nonsense about having to “go along with the liberal political message.” I repeat, if that is the intent, then liberalism is an abject failure.


September 23rd, 2011
3:17 pm

Kyle: Then again, minds that are closed to other opinions reflect another worrisome trend in America.

True. BTW Even though I detested his comments about Obama, (he’s a Muslim terrorist, etc.); I still occassionaly listen to Junior singing about drinking and fighting. There’s nothing like a good drinking and fighting CW song to get the party started.

Legend of Len Barker

September 23rd, 2011
3:24 pm

I’ve always enjoyed Lewis Grizzard and think My Daddy Was a Pistol (And I’m a Son of a Gun) is a fantastic piece of literature. He became right-wing when Reagan was shot and drifted further and further in that direction as time went on. Grizzard had a wonderful ability to transcend politics and biases (his and ours) when he so desired.

Danny O

September 23rd, 2011
3:26 pm

Poll is locked for me as well. For the record, I vote “Only if the work…”


September 23rd, 2011
3:26 pm

“go along with the liberal political message.”

You don’t have to like it. Nor do you have to follow it. If you want to be entertained you are pretty much forced to deal with it. Conservatives are good at expressing anger, that’s about it.

Conservatives have an opportunity to create their own message but generally fail. They whine about the liberal media doing NOTHING to further their own system. Nobody would watch. Nobody would listen. Republicans have to push themselves into places because they have no alternative. Creativity in the conservative world is a bunch of angry white men screaming on Fox, now that’s entertainment. Even at that Fox News doesn’t even place in the top 20 cable shows.

Conservatives hate liberal culture but can’t get enough of it. Movies, music, technology, tv, style, university system.

Americans ARE liberal, they eat it up.

Make your own movies, start your own newspapers, create your own networks, staff your own universities, create your own hi tech companies. Go ahead, try. Take liberals out of your life for a week.

Danny O

September 23rd, 2011
3:33 pm

Okay got it to work.

BTW, Kyle, thanks for bringing this up. I hate to see our country turning into two camps separated by a wall, with no one communicating to the other side. If we could make some effort to find the common grounds on which to gather (such as art, sports, or community) I think we’d be a lot better at solving problems. Perhaps Congress could do another sing-along on the steps of the Capitol. A Johnny Cash tune would probably do well.

Kyle Wingfield

September 23rd, 2011
3:35 pm

Folks, if you’re having trouble voting, make sure you’re opening the post and not trying to vote from my home page. You can see the poll from my home page, but you won’t see the buttons for voting.

Other than that, I’m not sure what the problem would be.


September 23rd, 2011
3:42 pm

I’m sure DannyX would vote for Lady Gaga as President. lol

I don’t want a politician singing for me and I don’t want a rock star leading the nation.


September 23rd, 2011
3:54 pm

What I don’t want is another b actor president. Republicans love Hollywood. They can’t separate the reality from fiction though. Republicans turn actors into (bad) politicians all the time.

Look at the Reagan disaster, raised taxes, created a new big government cabinet level position, expanded socialist Medicare, gave amnesty to millions and ballooned the deficit. This actor still has them fooled.

Then there is Arnie! What a joke. Sonny Bono! LMAO. Fred Thompson! These characters became office holders!

No, Lady Gaga will never be president, liberals can keep things separated. But Justin Bieber just might!

“MY COLD DEAD HANDS!!!!” Heston would have made a great president! Drama.

Seanus Romney

September 23rd, 2011
3:56 pm


Can you make the voting buttons larger?
My paws are too large.


September 23rd, 2011
4:17 pm

You’re funny DannyX.

You can keep your Jesse Venturas, Al Frankens and Jerry Springers.

Briley Parkway

September 23rd, 2011
5:28 pm

I’m a big fan of several artists whose political views run counter to mine. For example, I’m pretty conservative but love me some James McMurtry. I appreciate his artistry and creativity, even if I don’t always agree with the message in his songs. But I do get annoyed with artists who get so caught up in making a politcal statement that they forget how to make good music…U2 and John Mellencougacamp come to mind, and I think REM fell into that trap to a somewhat lesser extent.

Hillbilly D

September 23rd, 2011
5:37 pm

Never was much for REM. About the only song they did that I liked was “Radio Free Europe” and the thing I liked about it was the bass line, which is actually a pretty standard bass line that’s been used in some other songs.

Heard an interview with Gregg Allman once, many years ago, and he said when the Allman Brothers first formed, they made a hard and fast rule of no politics in the band. He said it was just a recipe for dissension and causing bands to split. Of course, Phil Walden guided them into breaking that rule.

As far as me listening to bands that have political opinions, it depends. It doesn’t matter until it gets to the point where they become too overt with it and that becomes what their band/act is about.

As for the Dixie Chicks, they are pretty good musicians and I liked a lot of their stuff, although I thought they thought were better than they are, especially Natalie Maines. I did think they cried a bit too much about people taking offense at their comments. You have a right to say anything you want to but other people have a right to not listen to your records for any reason they choose. It comes with the territory. If you’re going to speak out, don’t whine when not everybody agrees with your stand.

And by the way, the best version of “Traveling Soldier”, in my opinon, was by the writer Bruce Robison, on his album, “Wrapped”. The Dixie Chick’s version was too polished for my tastes.

All in all, I wish all of them, on either side, would just shut up and play the music. Their opinions are no more relevant than any other member of the public.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

September 23rd, 2011
5:41 pm

Hey all you ate up libs at the Urinal-

I’m so sure that printing fake Vents about taxing the rich, submitted by the pinkos that work for you, will make all the difference in the world, uh huh.

Michael H. Smith

September 23rd, 2011
5:53 pm

Once upon a time it probably didn’t matter the political bent of an artist or entertainer. Now, after a few years of force fed commi-puke from people like Babs Streisand, Alec Baldwin, Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken etc. hearing anything further from the likes of these socialists… Well, in the words of that raggin’ leftwing southern political operative from NOLA and husband of that dear charming conservative lady Mary Matalin, IT MEANS WOOWAH!

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

September 23rd, 2011
6:03 pm

I thought that was spelled “WAAAWAH”.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

September 23rd, 2011
6:07 pm

I grew up with REM…saw them play the Georgia Tech student center ballroom in the early eighties and many other times in the next few years. I liked them a lot better before they started attacking my belief system…that’s when they lost me.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

September 23rd, 2011
6:10 pm

Johnny Dollar, is that you?

Michael H. Smith

September 23rd, 2011
6:18 pm

Just pronounce it so it sound like “Whoa-Wa” no matter how you spell it.

Now for all those 2nd amendment hating libs, uncle Ted – the terrible – Nugent has some travelin’ music on tap for the Mature Audience only.

Kiss My Glock!


Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

September 23rd, 2011
6:21 pm

DannyX: Lady Gaga will never be president, liberals can keep things separated. But Justin Bieber just might!

DannyX: Just another publicly educated Democrat who doesn’t know what the U.S. Constitution says.


September 23rd, 2011
6:58 pm

“Just another publicly educated Democrat who doesn’t know what the U.S. Constitution says.”

Whoops I forgot, changing the Constitution for Arnold is no longer popular with Republicans, seeing how he flopped and all. Maybe Justin will reignite the passion.

You still have reality tv star Sarah Palin! She could win you know!

Run Sarah.

Also Republicans, stop stealing rock and roll songs that you don’t have permission to use, (meaning all of them.) It becomes a battle every election, popular rock stars have to order Republicans to stop using their songs as campaign themes. Stop sponging off the liberals to look cool. Republicans are not cool.

I can imagine a Republican song title, “Poor,Poor Pitiful Richman.” Something that really gets at the struggle of being rich and the burden of taxes. Republicans really need a song they can relate to.

Hillbilly D

September 23rd, 2011
7:57 pm

For what it’s worth, Justin Beiber is a Canadian.

Not So Casual Observer

September 23rd, 2011
8:08 pm

Danny X,

Surely your posts are intended to be controversial, since I could hardly imagine anyone who believes such things could be critical of anyone!

You believe changing the Constitution is wrong but simply ignoring the Constitution, as do Liberals, is just fine?

How about Eric Holder’s stated desire to ignore the 2nd Amendment?

Other than your lack of knowledge, the other obvious aspect of your posts is the dripping success and wealth envy.

Not So Casual Observer

September 23rd, 2011
8:16 pm

Two Brits in an Atlanta hunting club are discussing the posts from Danny X as they relate to something.

As their server approaches the table she hears:

The first says, “I think the spelling is w-o-o-o-m-b”.

The second replies, “No, I think the spelling is w-o-o-o-o-o-o-m-b.”

The server comments, “Gentlemen, the word womb is spelled w-o-m-b” and walks away.

The first Brit responds, “I do not believe the young lady has ever heard an elephant relieve himself of gas”.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

September 24th, 2011
7:54 am

DannyX: Whoops I forgot

What you forgot, or never knew, is that Canadians can’t be elected President of the U.S.

DannyX: Yet another victim of public schooling.

Moms Hugs

September 24th, 2011
8:24 am

I voted ‘NO’ because art, like religion, has its place in all societies – to inform, educate & entertain. It matters not the medium – paintings, photos, performances or music – both art & religion are used to ‘incite’ people as well. Think of some religious music that has moved you to believe in God, or our national anthem that has moved you to believe in our nation – both times when your faith in either one has been shaken. So, pick your political ‘poison’ & ignore politics – just enjoy the music you like.


September 25th, 2011
12:45 pm

In short, I respect the right of individuals to be able to voice their opinion. However, there is a line drawn in the sand. The placement of this line is different for everyone, but there is a line that if the artist crosses, he may expect people to express their discontent by not buying his product.

It’s really that simple.

I think the Dixie Chicks forgot who their fan base was – namely, Country Music fans. God, guns, and Old Glory. Before a country music artist opens their mouth about anything political, they should listen to a few Merle Haggard songs. It would save them a lot of heartache in the long run.

Jane Fonda can kiss my ass. I have never forgiven or forgotten her sitting on the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun at a time when our pilots were dying by those very same guns.

Donna Lynn

September 27th, 2011
7:48 am

When a face or a voice reminds me that this individual is striving against values I consider vital for my way of life, it ruins the escapism I would otherwise enjoy in a movie, a television program or music. That’s why I avoid stars or recording artists whose political work runs contrary to mine.