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Conservative Rock Songs, Deconstructed
A topic more suited to boozy dorm-room discussions has been subjected to serious academic consideration.


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John J. Miller

If you seek proof that liberal-arts scholarship is mostly a stinking heap of rubbish, behold the Journal of Popular Culture. Here are three recent examples of articles that have appeared in its dispensable pages:

Queer Dress and Biased Eyes: The Japanese Doll on the Western Toyshelf,” by Judy Shoaf (February 2010);

SpongeBob SquarePants: Pop Culture Tsunami or More?” by Jonah Lee Rice (December 2009); and

There’s Genderqueers on the Starboard Bow’: The Pregnant Male in Star Trek,” by Stephen Kerry (August 2009).

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Yet the ultimate testimony to the journal’s shining irrelevance appears in its current issue:

Rockin’ the Right-Wing Blogosphere: John J. Miller’s Conservative Song Lists and Popular Culture after 9/11,” by Michael T. Spencer.

Yes, it’s about me.

I guess I should be flattered. Spencer, who is a Ph.D. candidate in American studies at Michigan State University, thinks that my three-page article from a four-year-old issue of National Review is worth a 22-page response in an academic publication. And it isn’t just any old 22-page response. It’s a 22-page response that accuses me of “investing meaning in rock music through a dialectical process of negotiated use.”

This guy has my number. That’s exactly how I pitched the story to my editor.

Here’s a little background. Many moons ago, I came up with the idea of publishing a list of great rock songs, such as “Taxman” by the Beatles, whose lyrics express right-of-center sentiments. I asked NRO readers to submit nominations. The result was my article: a ranked list of 50 conservative rock songs, published in the June 5, 2006, issue of NR. On the interwebs, we posted the original article plus a sequel.

I knew the article would generate interest and controversy. It wound up going as close to “viral” as anything I’ve ever written. It’s not my best article, my most important article, my most influential article, or my favorite article, but it’s probably my most talked-about article. The New York Times covered it. Stephen Colbert joked about it. Even Pete Townshend had something to say.

Unfortunately, Spencer doesn’t add much to the conversation. Here’s one of his major points, a profound insight that he has uncovered through his scholarly investigation: “The motivation in constructing such a list is fervently political.”

Thanks, Captain Obvious! Perhaps at some point in the not-too-distant future, a college or university will smile upon this contribution to the sum of human knowledge and grant tenure.

At least this claim of Spencer’s is correct. The list of conservative rock songs really did have a political motivation. His other notions are textbook examples of moonbattery. Did you know that post-9/11 America — the one that elected a black president — has suffered “a resurgence of racism”?

Ho-hum. When does class end?



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