Anthems of the Revolution

by Mark Steyn

After catching up with America’s Funniest “Occupy Wall Street” Videos, I chanced to read Comrade Nordlinger’s column. Jay writes about my speech a few months back in support of Andrew Bolt’s campaign for freedom of expression Down Under, and specifically my reference of the recent English case, in which a singer performing “Kung Fu Fighting” was arrested for “racism”. I sang a few bars of the song and encouraged others to join in – which led Jay to his point:

The Right is no good at “street theater,” never has been. I borrow the phrase from Bill Buckley: He once referred, with a slight sneer, to “the street theater of the Left.” They are very good at this, these theatrical protests. For instance, they will have a “kiss-in,” or a “die-in,” or a “teach-in.” It stands to reason that the Left is better at collective action than we are. Conservatives are apt to recoil at the very thought of a group.

But wouldn’t it have been neat if conservatives and classical liberals had leapt to Simon Ledger’s defense with a “sing-in” — a mass singing of “Kung Fu Fighting,” at the top of our lungs? The spirit would have been, “Come and get me, copper! You can’t arrest us all! Or can you?”

He’s right. But it’s not just that conservatives are by nature antipathetic to collective action, but also that you need a certain blindness to self-evident absurdity. There is almost nothing so stupid that Frances Fox-Piven won’t say it in public – and, as a result, things are going her way pretty swimmingly. Years ago, Jule Styne, the great composer of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, gave me a word of advice: He said the quickest way to make a million dollars was to take the joke that makes you laugh most and play it for real. In the 1927 Broadway season, George Abbott was working on what was supposed to be a comedy about southern morals that results in the gal’s dad shooting her suitor dead. It was going nowhere as a comedy, so he decided to play it as melodrama, and Coquette was the box-office smash of the season: “You never heard such weeping in the theatre in your life,” he told me.

I think the sheer plonking earnestness of leftist agitprop makes the same point. I mean, is there anything as hilarious as anarchists demanding more total government control, which is in essence what “Occupy Wall Street” boils down to? Yet those guys are out there playing it for real, and very convincingly – as they do with all the most exquisite jests, from “climate change” to transgendered bathrooms. When I sang “Kung Fu Fighting”, I prefaced it by saying that in an ideal world this is not the hill of western civilization I would have chosen to die on. But we don’t get a choice, and Jay’s correct. Instead of doing eight bars as a droll after-dinner jape, I should be out in the street leading thousands of angry “activists” in the full twelve-minute megamix. As my compatriot Kate McMillan likes to say, “Not showing up to riot is a failed conservative policy.