The Punk Rock Politics of Global Communication

Never Mind the Bollocks: The Punk Rock Politics of Global Communication
Author(s): Kevin C. Dunn
Source: Review of International Studies, Vol. 34, Cultures and Politics of Global
Communication (2008), pp. 193-210
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20542757 .
Accessed: 18/10/2014 12:14
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp
.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]
.
Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Review of
International Studies.
http://www.jstor.org
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Never mind the bollocks: the punk rock
politics of global communication
KEVIN C. DUNN*
Abstract. Largely ignored by scholars of world politics, the global punk rock scene provides
a fruitful basis for exploring the multiple circuits of exchange and circulation of goods, people,
and messages that moves beyond the limitations of IR. Punk can also offer new ways of
thinking about international relations and communication from the lived experiences of
people’s daily lives. At its core, this essay has two arguments. First, punk offers the possibility
for counter-hegemonic expression within systems of global communication. Punk has simul
taneously worked within and against the hegemony of capitalist telecommunication networks,
navigating an increasingly interconnected and mediated world. Second, punk is a subversive
message in its own right. Focusing on punk’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethos and the resource it
offers for resisting the multiple forms of alienation in modern society, the story I construct here
is one of agency and empowerment often overlooked by traditional IR.
Introduction
I am increasingly concerned about the ways that International Relations (IR) as a
discipline seems unable to communicate to everyday citizens about issues of
tremendous importance. I am repeatedly struck by our inability to speak to the
people whose lives are affected daily by the issues we are supposed to be studying.
More importantly, I am struck by how irrelevant we and our work can seem to the
world’s population.
In 2003, I grappled quite openly and vocally with this alienation. The annual
International Studies Association (ISA) Conference was being held in Portland,
Oregon that year. Throughout the hallowed halls of the soul-numbing conference
hotel, the discipline of IR was displaying its strengths and weaknesses. The US and
its ‘coalition of the willing’ were on the verge of invading Iraq. But within the ISA,
there was little attempt to grapple with what this meant. My few attempts to stage
some form of protest and intellectual outrage proved heart-warming but ineffectual.
Then, at the end of the week, I went to a punk club a few blocks from the hotel to
see a Joe Strummer tribute show. Joe Strummer, the frontman for the Clash, had died
suddenly a few months before, and now over twenty bands from all over the region
were coming together to play a benefit show. Each band performed two or three
Clash songs; one band getting up after the other, sharing amps and a drum set. On
* I would like to thank Anna Creadick, Matt Davies, Alan O’Connor, Nie Sammond, Ian Taylor,
and the Editors of this Special Issue for their support and feedback; with special thanks to Ray
McKelvey. The podcast soundtrack to this article can be found at: (http://dunn.libsyn.com).
193
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
194 Kevin C. Dunn
stage, the bands were using the songs to make sense of the dangerous world we all
found ourselves in. The in-between song banter reflected this – comments about
President George W. Bush, remarks about American fascism, concerns about the
impending war on Iraq, and pleas to register to vote. The kids in the club were using
the Clash and punk rock, much as I did years before, to help them understand the
world they were inheriting. While the discipline of IR pontificated down the street to
itself about world affairs, I swirled in the mosh pit wondering: what relevance did I
and the ISA have to these kids? Sadly, it seemed to me that we as a discipline were
doing a poor job communicating with most of the people outside that conference
hotel.
Since that experience, I have become increasingly convinced that punk rock has
something to teach me about world affairs. Largely ignored by scholars of world
politics, the global punk rock scene provides a fruitful basis for exploring the multiple
circuits of exchange and circulation of goods, people, and messages that moves
beyond the limitations of IR. Punk can also offer new ways of thinking about
international relations and communication from the lived experiences of people’s
daily lives. At its core, this essay has two arguments. First, punk offers the possibility
for counter-hegemonic expression within systems of global communication. For the
past thirty years, punk rock has simultaneously worked within and against the
hegemony of capitalist telecommunication networks, navigating an increasingly
interconnected and mediated world. Second, punk rock is not just a medium of global
communication; the medium itself becomes a subversive message in its own right.
Focusing on punk’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethos and the resource it offers for
resisting the multiple forms of alienation in modern society, the story I construct here
is one of agency and empowerment often overlooked by traditional IR.
First verse: ‘You’re not punk and I’m telling everyone’1
The term ‘punk’ first emerged regularly in accepted terminology in the late 1970s with
regards to the music scene in New York City’s Lower East Side. Legs McNiel claimed
to coin the term ‘punk’ for the music centred around the clubs CBGBs and Max’s
Kansas City.2 Bands associated with this emerging New York scene included the
Ramones, Television, Blondie, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and others. But punk
music and style gained international attention largely through the emergence of a
scene in the UK, particularly in London, and specifically around the well-publicised
antics of the Sex Pistols, a band ‘invented’ by their manager Malcolm McLaren.
Informed partly by the New York scene (McLaren briefly managed the New York
Dolls), the UK punk style also drew from its antecedent subcultures, from skinheads,
mods, rude boys, glam rockers, as well as reggae and rockabilly.
1
‘Boxcar’ by Jawbreaker from the album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (Tupelo/Communion Records,
1993). 2
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (New
York: Penguin, 1997). It has also been asserted that Nick Tosches first used the term in a July 1970
essay, while Dave Marsh takes credit for using the term ‘punk rock’ first in the magazine Creem in
1971; see Jim DeRogatis, Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock
Critic (New York: Broadway Books, 2000), pp. 118-19.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 195
Heavily conditioned by class politics and working class culture, the original British
punk scene both reflected and mocked the disintegration of British society in the late
1970s. Rude and unconventional, punks tended to view established social conven
tions as hypocritical obfuscations obscuring the brutality of real life. Viewed from
without, punk was (and is) frequently caricatured by its evocative embrace of rage
and violence, which often led the music and the larger scene to be dismissed as
nihilistic and (self-)destructive. But viewed from within, the employment of violence –
both performative and real – became an important device for disrupting what many
considered to be the stultifying effects of everyday life in modern capitalist societies.
Musicians would frequently smash their instruments while playing them, audience
members would dance by jumping up and down (‘pogo-ing’) or crashing into one
another (‘slam dancing’), hair styles ranged from brightly-coloured mohawks to
starkly shaved heads, and clothes were intentionally ripped and destroyed. Bands like
the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Slits, the Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, the Raincoats, Gang
of Four, the Mekons, the Damned, and others emerged from within the British punk
scene to create music that Greil Marcus characterised this way:
as a sound, it seemed to make no sense at all, to make nothing, only to destroy, and this is
why it was a new sound, and why it drew a line between itself and everything that came
before it, just as Elvis Presley did in 1954 and the Beatles did in 1963, as though nothing
could be easier, or more impossible, than to erase those lines with a blur of footnotes.3
Musically, punk rock reflected a certain degree of diversity. As Chumbawamba’s Boff
later observed, ‘in Britain, a lot of the original punk which fired us up was really
diverse and challenging. From the Fall to Wire, ATV, the Slits, the Raincoats, they
were not all playing 4/4, male rock music. That was really important to us, that all
these people were a part of punk.’4
The punk scene that emerged out of Britain and New York quickly spread and
evolved, and major punk scenes were created in Washington DC,5 Los Angeles,6 as
well as in cities and small towns across the globe, from Mexico7 and South America
to North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. To quote Marcus again, punk provided
‘a surge of new voices unprecedented in the geopolitics of popular culture – a surge
of voices that, for a time, made a weird phrase like “the geopolitics of popular
culture” seem like a natural fact.’8 By the beginning of the twenty-first century, it was
hard to define ‘punk’ given the wide variations in music and styles associated with
the term. And like all musical genres, punk has mutated, fragmented and been
appropriated in the three decades following its inception. Within the punk commu
nity, attempts to define the term often invite scorn and derision.
3
Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1989), p. 64.
4
Daniel Sinker, We Owe You Nothing: Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews (New York: Akashic
Books, 2001), p. 124.
5 See Mark Anderson and M. Jenkins, Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital
(New York: Akashic Books, 2001). 6
See Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of EA. Punk
(New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001). 7 See Alan O’Connor, ‘Local Scenes and Dangerous Crossroads: Punk and Theories of Cultural
Hybridity’, Popular Music, 21:2 (2002), pp. 225-36 and Alan O’Connor, ‘Punk and Globalization:
Spain and Mexico’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7:2 (2004), pp. 175-95.
8
Marcus, Lipstick Traces, p. 65.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
196 Kevin C. Dunn
Borrowing from the work of Alan O’Connor, I conceptualise punk as a cultural
field: a relatively autonomous space in society in which people and groups compete
for recognition and cultural resources.9 The field of punk, like other musical fields, is
influenced by the corporate music industry and popular culture, and is typified by
internal debates and struggles about the boundaries of the field, and what and who
are ‘inside’ the field (that is, who is a ‘true’ punk). Thinking about punk as a cultural
field allows one to investigate the diversity of punk and the processes involved in
maintaining it as a relatively autonomous field. Rather than defining and reifying
artificial boundaries of what is and is not punk, I am more concerned about how the
field of punk provides individuals with cultural resources for expressing counter
hegemonic resistance within systems of global communication.
Guitar solo: a personal testimonial
Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, a backwater town in the southern United
States, I did not have access to the social networks, independent record stores, and
local fanzines of established punk scenes. My exposure to punk initially came from
a friend who exposed me to the Clash, the Damned, Sex Pistols, and a few American
hardcore bands. Many of those bands eventually signed to major record labels,
making it easier for me to find their releases in local record stores. I was fortunate in
the early 1980s to meet a girl from Nevada who sent me a few tapes of bands on indie
labels, as well as several copies of local fanzines. I ordered numerous tapes from the
bands and the indie record labels advertising in them, and ordered more from the
catalogues the indie labels sent me. By the time I reached high school, some older kids
had formed a punk band called Stevie Stiletto and the Switchblades (they soon
shortened the name). Unable to get access to live venues in town, Stevie Stiletto
booked themselves in local National Guard Armories and community centres before
opening their own venue, the 730 Club, in part to try to nurture a local scene.10 This
club became my major social destination, and I attended almost every show on any
given weekend. Touring outside of Jacksonville, Stevie Stiletto gained access to the
national punk scene and utilised those contacts to book shows at their own club. So
I was soon exposed to bands like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, SNFU, Neon Christ, and
others who would play shows at the 730 Club on their way between the bigger scenes
of Atlanta and Miami.
Exposure to live acts was extremely important to me, as it was to numerous others
drawn to punk rock. Live punk rock actively tore down the barriers between artists
and audience, intentionally exploding and deconstructing the image of rock star.
That aspect of punk music is frequently lost with recordings. A Clash album was
sonically different from other records, but the distance between the listener and the
band remained. For me, seeing live punk bands like Stevie Stiletto was inspirational
because suddenly I realised that I could do that. Inspired, I got a beat-up guitar and
convinced two friends to join me, one on a makeshift drum kit and the other on a
9 See O’Connor, ‘Local Scenes and Dangerous Crossroads’ and Alan O’Connor, ‘Introduction’, in
Alan O’Connor (ed.), After the Clash: Punk and Hardcore after 1977 (Albuquerque, NM: University
of New Mexico Press, forthcoming). 10 Interview with Ray McKelvey of Stevie Stiletto, 25 May 2006.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 197
saxophone (none of us could actually play our instruments). Calling ourselves the
Red Army we crashed a party, set up in the living room, and started bashing on our
instruments with me screaming spontaneous lyrics. We were invited to leave the party
(after a chair was thrown through a window), but my life as a punk rocker had begun.
My engagement with punk reflects its dual-nature within global communication.
On the one hand, through my exposure to punk in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I
became aware of political and social events taking place around the world. Listening
to punk was frequently an edifying experience, and I quickly learned about Third
World resistance to Western imperialism, historic labour struggles, and portrayals of
daily life from socioeconomic classes and races different from my own. After the
release of the Clash’s Sandinista, I dedicated myself to reading the newspaper daily
because the album spoke of current events about which I was painfully unaware. On
the other hand, punk rock was also a message on its own. It conveyed a means by
which I could disalienate myself. It showed me that I could and should ‘do it myself.
And given what I took to be punks’ inherent anti-status quo position, I realised that
to struggle was not just a means, but an end in and of itself. For me, punk offered a
healthy resistance to dominant forces and social norms, whatever they may be, and
this message was conveyed not just in the lyrics of punk music, but in the entirety of
punk.
Chorus: ‘We will not do what they want or do what they say’11
While much attention is usually paid to the noise, anger, and energy of punk rock, I
want to highlight three elements that can be found within the cultural field of punk
that are significant for articulating counter-hegemony within global communi
cation.12 First, punk provides the possibility for a critical opposition to the status
quo. For many within the punk community an anti-establishment disposition is a
defining element of the genre. As Pat Thetic of the Pittsburgh punk band Anti-Flag
said ‘Punk rock is a statement against the status quo. Punk rock is about fighting
against the status quo and trying to find other ways of seeing the world that are
more productive and less destructive to people.’13 Guy Picciotto of the seminal
Washington, DC band Fugazi observed: ‘The whole concept of punk was something
that was against whatever seemed normal or whatever seemed kind of handed down.
To me the basic tenets of punk have always been: no set of rules, no set of
expectations, and that it always challenges the status quo.’14
Of course, it would be a mistake to claim that the original scenes in London and
New York were established on well-developed social and political theories. As Craig
11
‘We Will Not’ by the Bad Brains from the album Rock For Light (Caroline Records, 1983). 12
This is not an argument that there are defining elements (or even common characteristics) of
‘authentic’ punk. A great deal of time and energy is spent policing the boundaries between what is
punk and what is not, and I’m not interested in joining those debates. Rather I am claiming that
these are three of the more pronounced elements that have been employed as the cultural field of
punk has been constructed and evolved over three decades. These elements are not exclusive to
punk (there was a strong DIY ethos in traditional American folk music, for instance). Moreover,
there is a great deal of diversity in the extent these elements are found across the punk field, as I
will note later in the essay. 13 Interview with Pat Thetic of Anti-Flag, 12 May 2005.
14 Interview with Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, 30 March 2007.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
198 Kevin C. Dunn
O’Hara notes, ‘They may have been against all the standard ‘-isms’, but were more
apt to spit and swear than to explain their feelings to the mainstream public.’15 Yet,
both of these scenes were steeped in an anti-status quo disposition. Setting aside its
lyrical content, the music generated often challenged established musical conventions
and embraced dissonance and ‘noise’; arguably representing an aural political
intervention.16 According to Ryan Moore, the original British punk subculture
exemplified a ‘culture of deconstruction’ in response to the condition of late
twentieth-century postmodernity, offering ‘the practice of appropriating the symbols
and media which have become the foundation of political economy and social order
in order to undermine their dominant meanings and parody the power behind
them.’17 Moore’s argument draws from Dick Hebdidge,18 who noted that UK punk
style employed techniques of juxtaposition, pastiche and self-reflexive irony to
disrupt the transparency of meaning and the ideological ‘common sense’ it supports.
For many punks, the anti-aesthetic they employed was a mocking assault on
dominant social norms. This ethos is still a major element within various contem
porary punk scenes.
Second, I propose that punk provides the possibility for disalienation, offering
means for resisting the multiple forms of alienation prevalent in a late capitalist
society. Punk sprang from a social context in which the youth of London and New
York struggled with feelings of alienation from the social, economic and political
forces around them. Growing up in Jacksonville, punk offered me a way to resist the
multiple forms of alienation in modern southern American middle-class society.
Politics and economics appeared as distant, uncontrolled, alien forces; constituted in
everyday life by the separation of the specialised activities of professionals and
intellectuals from the residue of everyday life in work, family, and leisure.19
Musically, for example, rock bands played in concert halls separated from the
audience in ways that reinforced the ‘rock star’ myth. For many, punk offered an
attractive alternative. As Matt Davies notes, ‘Punks strove to eliminate the distinc
tions between performers and audience, and did so by a radical form of egalitarian
ism: anyone could be a punk, and any punk could play in a band or, if they preferred,
to publish a zine, to organise shows, or to produce or distribute records. A punk
scene is of punks, for punks, by punks.’20 In the face of the alienating process of
specialisation and professionalisation, punk offers resources for participation and
access.
Third, punk is often characterised by its promotion of a do-it-yourself (DIY)
ethos. The DIY ethos reflects an intentional transformation of punks from con
sumers of the mass media into agents of cultural production. As Legs McNeil wrote
in his low-budget, self-produced fanzine Punk. ‘Punk rock-any kid can pick up a
guitar and become a rock ‘n’ roll star, despite or because of his lack of ability, talent,
intelligence, limitations and/or potential, and usually do so out of frustration,
15
Craig O’Hara, The Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 1999), p. 27.
16
See Roland Bleiker, ‘Of Things We Hear but Cannot See’, in M. Franklin (ed.), Resounding
International Relations: On Music, Culture, and Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2005). 17
Ryan Moore, ‘Postmodernism and Punk Subculture: Cultures of Authenticity and Deconstruction’,
The Communication Review, 7 (2004), p. 311.
18 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge, 1979). 19 Matt Davies, ‘Do It Yourself: Punk Rock and the Disalienation of International Relations’, in
Franklin (ed.), Resounding International Relations.
20
Ibid., p. 126.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 199
hostility, a lot of nerve and a need for ego fulfillment.’21 An example of the DIY ethos
is represented in a well-known, widely-circulated drawing of how to play three chords
on a guitar, accompanied by the caption ‘Now Form a Band’. Bands like the
Buzzcocks and Scritti Politti printed instructions for making a recording on the
hand-made covers of their own albums. Fanzines carried similar messages, informing
readers how to play chords, make a record, distribute that record, and book their
own shows. Punk Planet magazine carried a special section in which contributors
offered their own DIY input, and the magazine MaximumRockNRoll created a
resource guide to the global punk scene called ‘Book Your Own Fucking Life’, which
is currently online at (http://www.byofl.org). Daniel Sinker, founder of the magazine
Punk Planet, points out that ‘Punk said that anyone could take part
– in fact, anyone
should take part’.22 He continues, ‘Punk has always been about asking “why” and
then doing something about it. It’s about picking up a guitar and asking “Why can’t
I play this?” It’s about picking up a typewriter and asking, “Why don’t my opinions
count?” It’s about looking at the world around you and asking, “Why are things as
fucked up as they are?” And then it’s about looking inwards at yourself and asking
“Why aren’t I doing anything about this?” ’23
Seeing bands playing live helped me realise that I too could (and should) do it
myself. Stevie Stiletto was a local exemplar of the DIY ethos; they booked their own
shows at community centres, and when they were unable to secure regular live shows,
they opened up their own clubs (in addition to the 730 Club, they opened a club
called the Blighted Area in Jacksonville Beach). They released their own music on
cassette tapes with hand-photocopied covers. Their music distribution system largely
relied on themselves.24 For many, this DIY ethos is the defining element of punk
rock. Roxy Epoxy, of the Portland-based band the Epoxies, recalled ‘We started out
the way most punk bands do. We booked ourselves, we piled into a van that we
hoped to hell wasn’t going to break down. We slept on floors. We lived out of gas
stations. We could barely afford hotels here and there. And it’s still that way. We set
everything up ourselves. We build a lot of our own stuff and put together little
machines. It is thoroughly DIY.’25 Ian MacKaye of Fugazi observed: ‘We manage
ourselves, we book ourselves, we do our own equipment upkeep, we do our own
recording, we do our own taxes. We don’t have other people to do that stuff.’26
It is not my contention that these three elements are exclusive to the punk field.
Indeed, over its three decades of existence, punk has been influenced by a wide array
of other musical genres and cultural fields. Some of those fields have also been
typified by a tradition of musical resistance and a DIY ethos (for example, folk
music, reggae, hip hop), while others have provided outlets for anger of a more
apolitical bent (such as some forms of heavy metal). My point here is to suggest that
punk provides individuals within that cultural field with resources for agency and
empowerment.
21
Quoted in Lauraine Leblanc, Pretty in Punk: Girls’ Gender Resistance in a Boys’ Subculture
(Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999), p. 35.
22
Sinker, We Owe You Nothing, p. 9.
23
Ibid., p. 10.
24 Even today, their CDs are available in Jacksonville for $5 at several local stores, or via their web
site: (http://www.myspace.com/steviestiletto). 25 Interview with Roxy Epoxy of The Epoxies, 29 July 2006.
26
Quoted in Sinker, We Owe You Nothing, p. 19.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
200 Kevin C. Dunn
But I do not want to suggest some heroic narrative about the politics of punk, in
large part because there is no such a thing. Attempts to discuss ‘punk polities’, such
as Craig O’Hara’s The Philosophy of Punk, inevitably create a distorted, unidimen
sional image of punk. Punk bands exist across the political spectrum: from
anarcho-punk collectives to fascist hardcore bands. It is certainly true that many of
the original bands coming out of the London scene had a progressive leftist bent. In
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Greil Marcus connects
punk to the Situationist International (originally Lettrist International), a group of
avant-garde revolutionaries best known for their activities in the French revolt of
May 1968 when they spray-painted their poetic revolutionary slogans on the walls
of Paris.27 But conservative and neo-Nazi voices have also been prominent in punk
rock (for example, Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack, White Pride, the Dictators), as well as
markedly apolitical groups and scenes (for example, much of the current so-called
’emo’ scene). While anarchism has historically been a pronounced feature for some
individuals within the punk field (as evidenced by various anarcho-punk collectives
across the globe), one can also find examples of homophobia, racism and sexism in
other articulations of punk. Indeed, the energy produced by the fusion of audience
and artist heralded in punk’s disalienation can be creative or destructive, depending
on the message consumed. Witness the seduction of neo-fascism found in numerous
punk scenes across the globe. My argument here is that punk offers the possibility for
a wide array of political expression where other musical genres and cultural fields
may only passively communicate dissent. I will return to this argument in the third
verse of the essay.
Second verse: ‘Can we get that world to listen?’28
I began with the observation that punk, like other musical genres, represents a form
of global communication. Ideas, emotions, symbols, and such are communicated via
the medium. One of the elements that originally made punk significant was that it
represented not just a form of musical expression, but a social and political
disruption. In Dick Hebdige’s discussion of punk rock as a subculture and a style, he
makes the observation that ‘Subcultures represent “noise” (as opposed to sound):
interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to
their representation in the media’.29 Within the highly mediated world of the past
several decades, punk provides resources for the (often violent) disruption of the
orderly sequence involved in the communication of dominant social ideas and
practices. It can disrupt the authorised codes through which the social world is
organised and experienced. One only has to note the repressive force employed to
combat the popular rise of punk rock in London to realise that punk represented a
27
Marcus, Lipstick Traces.
28 ‘Radio Clash’ by The Clash from the single Radio Clash (CBS/Epic, 1981). 29
Hebdige, Subculture, p. 90.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 201
real threat to the established order.30 Even today, it is not uncommon for punk
concerts across the globe to face police repression and outright banning by state
authorities.31
Yet threatening cultural fields like punk can often be commodified and contained
over time. Social cohesion is maintained through the appropriation and redefinition
of cultures of resistance. As Hebdige notes, ‘As the subculture begins to strike its own
eminently marketable pose, as its vocabulary (both visual and verbal) becomes more
and more familiar, so the referential context to which it can be most conveniently
assigned is made increasing apparent. Eventually, the mods, the punks, the glitter
rockers can be incorporated, brought back into line, located on the preferred “map
of problematic social reality” \32 It is through the continual process of recuperation
that the dominant social order is repaired and its social power reasserted. Drawing
from the work of Roland Barthes, Hebdige notes that ‘The process of recuperation
takes two characteristic forms: (1) the conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music,
and so on) into mass-produced objects (that is, the commodity form); (2) the
‘labelling’ and redefinition of deviant behaviours by dominant groups-the police,
the media, the judiciary (that is, the ideological form).’33
With regards to the first move of commodification, numerous examples abound to
illustrate the commodification of punk style and fashion. Within a few years of its
emergence as a subculture in London and New York, one could buy ‘punk’ fashion
and accessories in shopping malls across the US. The subcultural signs of punk
continue to be incorporated into the dominant consumer culture today: from the
‘punk’ sounds of contemporary corporate music to the marketing of ‘punk’
merchandise, such as the popular line of punk Bratz dolls (tag line: ‘the only girls with
a passion for fashion’).
With regards to the ideological form of the process of recuperation, Hebdige
(again drawing upon Barthes) argues: ‘Two basic strategies have been evolved for
dealing with this threat. First, the Other can be trivialised, naturalised, domesticated.
Here, the difference is simply denied (‘Otherness is reduced to sameness’). Alterna
tively, the Other can be transformed into meaningless exotica, a ‘pure object, a
spectacle, a clown’. In this case, the difference is consigned to a place beyond
analysis.’34 Again, there are numerous examples of the transformation of punk into
meaningless exotica: the Bratz example above, the marketing of ‘punk’ costumes for
Halloween, and so forth. One could argue that the appropriation of punk bands,
30 For example, shows by the Sex Pistols were cancelled and the band banned. Their sarcastic single
‘God Save the Queen’, released to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, was boycotted
by radio stations and retail outlets. An outdoor concert aboard a boat on the River Thames was
met with excessive police violence. When the single reached number one during Jubilee week (largely
due to the controversy surrounding the band and the single), the sales chart contained only a
blacked-out song title and group name in the top chart position. See Jon Savage, England’s
Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1992),
pp. 261-7.
31 A recent tour of Latin America by NOFX (discussed later in the essay) met with tremendous police
repression in Mexico and Peru ((www.nofxofficialwebsite.com)). Discussions of state resistance to
punk scenes can be found in virtually any issue of MaximumRockNRoll, Profane Existence, and
other publications dedicated to covering the global punk community. 32
Hebdige, Subculture, pp. 93^.
33
Ibid., p. 94.
34
Ibid., p. 97.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
202 Kevin C. Dunn
styles, symbols, and sounds by the corporate music industry is evidence of the
domestication of punk rock.
But it would be a mistake to simply assume that the commodification and
domestication of punk bands, signs, and symbols has nullified the cultural field’s
potential to disturb and disrupt established social orders. The example of the band
Green Day is illustrative of the complicated moves under discussion here. Emerging
from the San Francisco scene, Green Day left the venerable Lookout! independent
record label to sign with a major label. Their first major label release, Dookie, was a
phenomenal commercial success. Many from the Bay area scene that nurtured them
quickly called Green Day sell-outs and actively distanced themselves from the band.
Many punks who had been attracted to their two indie releases dismissed Green Day,
claiming that they had forsaken their punk credibility. Yet, at the same time,
numerous youths in America were suddenly exposed to a band and style that they
would not have been aware of before. Many used Green Day as a stepping stone to
explore their former indie label contemporaries such as Rancid, Bad Religion and the
defunct Operation Ivy (in much the same way the major label releases of the Clash
helped turn me onto other punk bands twenty years earlier). The complicated
positions that Green Day occupy in punk, corporate music, and systems of global
communication is evidenced by their global tour for their album American Idiot. The
album is a pointed political critique of the George W. Bush administration and
contemporary American life, and the band combined their performances with calls
for political action and involvement among the audiences. Moreover, the band would
regularly pull members of the audience on stage, hand them instruments, teach them
a few chords, and have them join the band in a cover of Operation Ivy’s anti-war song
‘Unity’. Yet, the fact remains that Green Day performed these political acts of
resistance, disalienation, and DIY to large stadiums full of audiences that could
afford the high price of the tickets. Rather than getting into a discussion of whether
or not bands like Green Day actually qualify as punk (or being punk enough), I use
this example to highlight the complex ways in which punk continues to offer the
possibility for counter-hegemonic communication in the face of commodification,
appropriation and domestication.
One of the strongest examples of punk as a form of counter-hegemonic communi
cation is the frequent reliance by punks on informal, decentralised networks. While
the corporate music industry has coopted and appropriated elements of an idealised
punk culture, the global punk scene is typified by the flow of records, tapes, CDs,
fanzines and bands outside the hegemonic control of corporate capitalism. For
example, the punk scene in Washington DC emerged in the late 1970s via records and
magazines articles about the punk scene in New York and London. Visits by touring
bands from outside DC, often playing in spaces outside the established club circuit,
strengthened the emergence of a local punk community. The creation and evolution
of this vital scene has been documented in the excellent book Dance of Days.35 While
clearly not as active or influential, the emergence of a punk scene in my hometown
followed a similar trajectory: relying on informal social networks and the flow of
goods and people operating outside established channels of communication. Across
35 Anderson and Jenkins, Dance of Days.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 203
Europe, punk scenes are sustained by an important social network of squats.36 And
in Mexico City, the vibrant punk scene is organised by several anarcho-punk
collectives.37 In an attempt to strengthen global communication across communities,
punk zines like MRR, Punk Planet, and Profane Existence regularly feature scene
reports from around the world.
One important element that connects and nurtures these social networks is the
touring band. Growing up in Jacksonville, the touring band brought new ideas and
musical forms, as well as tapes, zines and connections from other punk scenes. The
DC punk scene was sparked by live shows from touring bands from the UK (namely
the Damned), New York (the Ramones) and elsewhere (the Cramps).38 O’Connor
notes the importance of Spanish punk bands touring in Mexico.39 In many cases,
touring punk bands perform at low-priced shows in non-commercial venues. This
allows them to avoid the commercial music industry, while making live shows
relatively accessible to all. Touring bands often provide bridges between social
networks and act as conduits for ideas, styles and other aspects of communication
between national and international punk scenes.
These scenes are frequently nurtured by independent record labels and stores, as
well as the DIY ethos of bands recording and releasing music on their own. In the
case of Washington DC, the scene has been strengthened by the existence of indie
label Dischord Records, which is run by Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye. Numerous
punk bands have chosen to create their own independent record labels, to either
support a local music scene or help other bands. Many of these indie punk labels
reflect a DIY ethos and hostility to the mainstream. As Pat Thetic of Anti-Flag notes,
‘We released a record with a record company that fucked us over, and we were like
“Screw this, we can do it ourselves” ‘.40 Independent labels have been one of the
hallmarks of punk rock’s success as they have led to a degree of freedom from the
dictates of the corporate music industry. For many, punk’s symbiotic relationship
with indies is one of its most pronounced features characteristics, and is reflective of
its anti-status quo disposition. As Ruth Schwartz, the head of Mordam Records,
asserted ‘What independent music is about, is anger against major labels and the
music business [on] all levels. … I think my job is to be a part of the support system
for artists to freely express themselves and to express an alternative point of view that
they are not necessarily going to be able to express through a big major multimedia
corporation in this country
– either orally or aurally.’41
The utility of major record labels is a hotly contested debate within punk
communities. The anarchist musical collective Chumbawamba scored a major
commercial hit after signing to EMI in Europe and Universal in the US – after being
dropped by their indie label. Defending his band’s decision to sign with the majors,
Boff argued ‘We know what we are doing. It is not as if we are na?ve. We understand
the relationship between band and label. We are trying to use them to sell whatever
message we have and the music we make, and they use that to make a profit. That’s
36
See Georgy Katsiaficas, The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the
Decolonization of Everyday Life (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 1997) and Ian Glasper, The Day The
Country Died: A History of Amare ho Punk 1980-1984 (London: Cherry Red Books, 2006).
37
O’Connor, ‘Punk and Globalization: Spain and Mexico’, p. 176.
38
Anderson and Jenkins, Dance of Days. 39
O’Connor, ‘Punk and Globalization: Spain and Mexico’, pp. 179-82.
40 Interview with Pat Thetic, 12 May 2005.
41
Quoted in Sinker, We Owe You Nothing, pp. 115-16.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
204 Kevin C. Dunn
fine and we accept that. If they are good at getting our records widely distributed, we
acknowledge their role. If I thought we could do that on our own record label and
have complete control, we would, but we can’t.’42 In part, the defence is about
making money that can be used for various causes. Boff pointed out that ‘when we
are offered forty thousand dollars for thirty seconds of music every day for four
weeks [for a commercial], then what we do is give that money to an anti-fascist
organization, social center, or community group.’43 He continued, ‘for us to turn
down that type of money [from Renault for a car commercial] when people in Italian
anarchist centers and social community centers are so short of money and getting
economically hammered by the state . . . [would be self-defeating].’44 Conversely,
Steve Albini, producer and member of punk bands Big Black and Shellac, has argued
that ‘The ugly truth and the thing that everybody seems to be living in denial of is
that the great majority of bands that sign to major labels not only sell fewer records
than they did in their independent lives, but they make less money. . . . Historically
these things have proven themselves true: People who get involved with major labels
make less interesting music; they end up suffering personally, and as a band,
aesthetically.’45
The other argument made in defence of signing to major labels is the increased
exposure the bands get, and thus their increased ability to get their message to larger
audiences. In an interview, Chumbawamba’s Boff noted ‘If we hadn’t signed that
piece of paper with Universal, we wouldn’t be having this conversation with you. Our
whole thing is about communication.’46 Jello Biafra likewise noted the increased
clout bands can exploit when signing to major labels. Speaking of Green Day’s
high-profile benefit for Food Not Bombs: ‘They raised $50,000.1 don’t think a small
underground show would have benefited Food Not Bombs as much. They would
raise $400 or $500 bucks and everybody would feel good in the end, but Food Not
Bombs could spend that money in half a day trying to feed homeless people.’47 As
Anti-Flag’s Pat Thetic notes, ‘You have to use that system [global capitalist
economy]. Obviously it’s clich? but you have to at least be able to have a voice to say
this is fucked up, rather than to have no voice and scream in the wilderness and
nobody hears you.’48 But Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Dischord Records has argued
that signing to a major corporate label compromises both the artist and the artist’s
message becomes compromised: ‘When a band signs to a major label, no matter how
good a contract they think that have, no matter how much control they think their
contract provides, it’s unavoidable that you are conscious of being an investment.
Somebody puts money into you and you have to pay it off somehow. And you want
to pay off.’49 The issue is certainly complex, and the experience of punk rock suggests
that the divide between cooptation and counter-hegemony is often a blurry space rife
with contradictions.
In addition to indie labels and social networks, the internet has proven to be an
important tool for punks engaged in global communication, and it has provided them
42
Ibid., p. 128.
43
Ibid., p. 126.
44
Ibid., p. 127.
45
Ibid., pp. 137-8.
46
Ibid., p. 128.
47
Ibid., p. 41.
48 Interview with Pat Thetic, 12 May 2005.
49
Quoted in Sinker, We Owe You Nothing, p. 20.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 205
with new resources for counter-hegemonic expression. Many punks have e-mail
accounts by which they communicate with other punks and punk scenes, sometimes
via international punk sites and chat rooms. Punk bands and independent labels
often have their own web sites where they can communicate directly to an online
global audience, as well as distribute their music and merchandise. Sites like
(www.worldwidepunk.com), (www.byofl.org), and other international punk sites
have helped connect individuals and communities. Sites like (www.MySpace.com)
and (www.archive.org) have allowed bands to distribute their music inexpensively
and widely, bypassing the need for record labels and distribution deals.
The internet has also helped generated useful debates concerning changes in global
flows of information. For example, Arjun Appadurai has offered an influential
portrayal of cultural globalisation, focusing on the decentralised flow of people,
technology, capital, media and ideas around the globe.50 He has argued that
electronic media ‘transform the field of mass mediation because they offer new
resources and new disciplines for the construction of imagined selves and imagined
worlds.’51 For Appadurai, and other likeminded theorists of globalisation, we are
currently experiencing transformative shifts in global technology and communication
that produce new opportunities for empowerment and resistance, especially in the
face of economic neoliberalism. Viewed from this perspective, one could argue that
the reliance of many punks on decentred networks and punk’s general commitment
to disalienation make it an ideal mechanism for counter-hegemony in the emerging
‘mediascapes’ of contemporary global communication.
Alan O’Connor, however, has offered a more nuanced view of global flows of
ideas and information in the globalised world. Through his multi-sited ethnographic
work on punk communities, O’Connor rejects what he regards as Appadurai’s
embrace of a virtual ‘chaos theory’ of global communication, arguing instead for the
importance of habitus.52 As he notes ‘the flow of media, ideas and people between
these [punk] scenes is socially organized … In particular, these flows of records and
tapes, fanzines and visitors are unequal and unbalanced. Notions of center and
periphery are still valid.’53 The US punk scene, for instance, dominates the global
punk field because of the economic resources it can command. European scenes exist
in a semi-peripheral position, and those in the Third World are clearly on the
periphery. For example, O’Connor documents the limited flow of punk bands and
goods from Spain to Mexico, but notes ‘I don’t know of any Mexican punk group
that has toured in Spain. The reasons are economic.’54 This insight is important for
it underscores the need to resist Utopian claims regarding neoliberal globalisation and
the promise of ‘free’ global flows of ideas, goods and people. The example of punk
rock illustrates that the ‘mediascapes’ of contemporary global politics are still
characterised by inequalities and gross disparities.
At the same time, punk rock is illustrative of what many identify as ‘cultural
hybridity’ in contemporary global politics. Local scenes develop around their own
50
Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota Press, 1996). 51
Ibid., p. 3.
52
See O’Connor, ‘Local Scenes and Dangerous Crossroads’ and O’Connor, ‘Punk and Globalization:
Spain and Mexico’.
53
O’Connor, ‘Punk and Globalization: Spain and Mexico’, pp. 175-6.
54
Ibid., p. 181. The Mexican band Tijuana No! did tour Spain and released a 2000 live album
recorded in Balboa, but O’Connor’s general point is important nonetheless.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
206 Kevin C. Dunn
social resources and political needs. As O’Connor notes, ‘I find that punk subculture
is selectively accepted in Mexico according to the needs of marginalized Mexican
youth’.55 The same can be said for local scenes in the US, UK and elsewhere. For
example, the scene that developed in DC reflected both the socioeconomic structures
in place and the needs of the youth at that historic moment.56 Discussing the
uniqueness of various punk scenes, Steve Albini noted ‘it’s unavoidable that there
will be a regional flavor to music. . . . Ian [MacKaye] described it in terms of a
regional accent.’57 Across the globe, local punk scenes emerge out of the intersection
of the larger subculture and the immediate surroundings. O’Connor notes that
Mexican punks created a scene and music forms that reflected their local struggles
and concerns. Likewise, punks across Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East,
and Asia continue to create scenes and songs that reflect their own particular needs.
Importantly, punks in those scenes are usually employing punk rock as a tool against
their repressive regimes and social structures, thus there is far more at stake in the
expression of a punk subculture in the global periphery than there is at the core.58
It is my argument that punk is attractive to local youths across the globe as a form
of personal and political expression because the punk field offers resources for agency
and empowerment via disalienation, a DIY ethos, and an anti-status quo disposition.
It is a musical form that is readily available for local youths to employ in their
articulation of domestic needs and struggles. As Pat Thetic notes, ‘The amazing thing
about punk rock is that every city, every group often kids, defines it for themselves.
Punk rock is … if you don’t see something that you like, create it.’59 In short, the
punk field offers resources for the ‘voiceless’ to express their voice. Ethnographic
work suggests that punk is one of the many sonic soundtracks of the subaltern,
alongside reggae, hip hop and heavy metal. It provides readily-available resources for
the articulation of resistance and the construction of hybridity in the face of
neo-liberal capitalist globalisation.
Third verse: ‘Here it is, turn it up, fuckin’ loud’60
In a recent conversation, Ray McKelvey (a.k.a. Stevie Ray Stiletto, the front-man for
Stevie Stiletto) claimed that he wasn’t ‘smart enough’ to sing about politics and
claimed that his music was decidedly apolitical.61 This was clearly a self-effacing
comment given that it is hard to characterise music that speaks to police brutality
(‘Night of the Cops’) and imagines the possible assassination of the president (‘Taco
Stand’) as strictly apolitical. But McKelvey’s point is well-taken. I noted earlier that
55
Ibid., p. 178.
56 See Anderson and Jenkins, Dance of Days. 57
Quoted in Sinker, We Owe You Nothing, p. 147.
58 Case in point: members of the Turkish punk band Deli are currently facing charges of ‘insulting
Turkishness’, a crime punishable by 18 months in prison. Charges stem from the lyrics of their song
‘OSYM’ which is a critique of the Turkish standardised test for high school students
((http://www.thestar.com/News/article/236227)). For a discussion of the political role of popular
music in North Africa and the Middle East, see Mark Le Vine, Why They Don’t Hate Us: Lifting the
Veil on the Axis of Evil (Oxford: Oneworld Press, 2005), esp. ch. 6.
59 Interview with Pat Thetic, 12 May 2005.
60 ‘Radio’ by Rancid from the album Let’s Go (Epitaph Records, 1994). 61 Interview with Ray McKelvey, 12 June 2006.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 207
it would be a mistake to assume the existence of a universal politics of punk, but I
suggested that punk offers the possibility for activism while other genres may only
passively communicate dissent. While numerous punk bands have overt political
stances, Stevie Stiletto, like numerous other punk bands, tend to focus on aspects of
daily life. But yet, doing so-and more importantly, how they do so-is still a
political move, especially given that the personal is political. While there are no ‘punk
politics’ per se, punk can produce a disposition that is inherently political in nature.
Returning to my earlier observation that the punk field is often typified by its critical
disposition to the status quo, DIY ethos, and a dedication to disalienation, I argue
that punk always provides valuable resources for political engagement. Even the
violently nihilistic elements found in punk should not be dismissed out-of-hand; while
often disturbing to western liberals, they frequently represent a form of social and
political expression for the people employing them. Regardless of the message in the
music, punk constitutes an intervention that is always political.
While I do not want to reduce the cultural field of punk down to its sonic effect,
that is, the music, I do want to suggest that even the most innocuous punk song can
carry a political message. For example, numerous punk bands have written about the
boredom and dissatisfaction of youth culture.62 Black Flag, for instance, sang about
having a ‘TV Party’ because ‘We’ve got nothing better to do/than watch TV and have
a couple of brews’.63 Likewise, Stevie Stiletto sang about the boredom of life in a
conservative southern US town in ‘Nothing Ever Happens in This Town’. While
Black Flag’s rant was clearly sarcastic (‘TV news shows what it’s really like out
there/It’s a scare!/You can go out if you want/I wouldn’t dare!’), both songs
contained (both lyrically and aurally) a rebuttal to dissatisfaction and alienation: pick
up an instrument and make some noise! And as noted earlier, that noise can represent
a powerful disruption in the authorising codes of the established social order.
In his study of punk politics, however, Ryan Moore asserts that there needs to be
more than this.64 He argues that punk’s ‘symbolic mockery and independent culture
must both be informed by an alternative, Utopian vision which looks to the way
society could and should be organised as a point of departure for its criticism of the
alienation and dehumanization inflicted in late capitalist society’.65 What Moore
desires is a grand narrative, a common centre upon which punk can articulate a
universal (and progressive) politics. But I argue that the ethos that permeates much
of the punk cultural field eschews grand narratives, especially of the ‘hippy’ Utopian
variety. The DIY ethos and anarchistic sympathies within punk provide for the
articulation of a politics that are local and contingent; micro-responses rather than
meta-theory. The power of punk rock is that it encourages its audiences to become
active forces for articulating their own critiques and responses to the politics of daily
life. While some bands have focused on addressing global political concerns, other
bands have focus on local issues, while others have been more concerned with
nprcnrml nnlitin?
62
Punk youth culture, especially in the US, is often portrayed as largely white, male, heterosexual and
middle class. This image, however, is a misleading caricature, as evidenced by the numerous women,
queer, and non-white bands and participants in the American scene, to say nothing of the
non-Western punk scenes.
63
From the album Damaged (SST Records, 1981). 64
Ryan Moore, ‘Postmodernism and Punk Subculture: Cultures of Authenticity and Deconstruction’,
The Communication Review, 7 (2004), pp. 305-27.
65
Ibid., p. 325.
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
208 Kevin C. Dunn
Take, for example, NOFX, a San Francisco-based punk band. While often
mocking overtly political punk bands, NOFX has always articulated a critique of
conservative American culture. That critique became more pronounced prior to the
2004 American presidential election. The band released a scathing critique of the
Bush administration with their American Errorist CD, and their frontman Fat Mike
organised two compilation albums called Rock Against Bush, vols. 1 and 2 on his
indie Fat Wreck Chords label. These compilations were part of a larger initiative
spearheaded by Fat Mike: (punkvoter.com). The ultimate goal of this project (which
included a national tour of numerous punk bands) was to educate, register and
mobilise over 500,000 youths to be an electoral force. As the website stated: ‘We plan
to use this election as a way to get our fans engaged in politics and evolve our
movement into becoming involved locally to affect real change nationally’. The
project was explicit in linking punk and politics: ‘Punk rock has always been on the
edge and in the forefront of politics. It is time to energise the majority of today’s
disenfranchised youth movement and punk rockers to make change a reality.’66
While few punk bands reach the level of organisational intervention that NOFX
had with the punkvoter.com project, across the globe one can see that punks are
articulating local problems from local perspectives. Speaking on the existence of
punk collectives in Mexico, a member of the Spanish anarcho-punk band Sin Dios
stated: ‘For them the word punk is a synonym of struggle and commitment. In their
collectives they not only organize concerts and promote punk music but have their
own workshops for study, analysis and political education. As well they participate
in social mobilizations.’67 Using decentralised social networks and a DIY ethos,
punks have coordinated political actions locally and internationally. Anarcho-punk
movements have resilient bonds that stretch across the globe.68 Punks have been at
the forefront of anti-globalisation movements and protests globally and locally. But,
recalling that there is nothing inherently progressive about the politics of punks, it
should be noted that punks have also been active in far-right political circles, from
nationalist/neo-fascist movements in the former Soviet Union to racist hate groups in
the UK and US.
Admittedly, the communication of various aspects of Western youth culture to the
rest of the world may have a disalienating effect. But the argument here is less what
a punk rock song (or other form of punk cultural production) says and more how it
says it. The key issue is that, across the globe, from Latin America to North Africa
and the Middle East to China and Indonesia, many youths frustrated with the social
and political repression of contemporary life turn to punk rock, as well as musical
genres such as hip hop and heavy metal.69 These individuals and groups utilise the
resources of the punk cultural field for agency and empowerment within international
relations. Agency for these punks can be expressed not just locally, but regionally and
globally as well. As discussed above, the punk field provides individuals and
decentralised groups resources for global communication outside hegemonic control.
Granted, the communication flows of ideas, signs, symbols, and sounds are uneven,
66
<http://www.punkvoter.com>. 67
Quoted in O’Connor, ‘Punk and Globalization: Spain and Mexico’, p. 186.
68 See Alan O’Connor, ‘Anarcho-punk: Local Scenes and International Networks’, Anarchist Studies,
11:2(2003), pp. 111-21.
69
See Le Vine, Why They Don’t Hate Us; Davies, ‘Do It Yourself, and (http://
www. worldwidepunk .com).
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Punk rock politics and global communication 209
with the global North enjoying a privileged position. But while most global punks
often borrow styles and ideas from the US and European punk scenes, they do so to
create their own scenes and styles. In Morocco, youths can hear several pirate punk
radio stations broadcasting from Spain, and these have nurtured a small but active
local punk scene. Often, there are intra-South flows of ideas and sounds, as scenes
connect with each other. While some observers occasionally bemoan the ‘apolitical’
nature of some punk rock scenes, often those critiques operate from a simplistic
framework of understanding what can be considered political. In many scenes, for
example, punks find it difficult to be overtly political given the fear of state repression.
But in these societies, the mere expression of punk rock can be regarded as a political
act in itself, much more so than it may be in less-repressive Western political contexts.
Many punks in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East face state
repression merely by looking ‘punk’. Indeed, it could be argued that what makes
punk ‘inherently’ political is the way it is seen and heard by the state and the political
and social machines against which it rages.
There are several points to underscore here. For the past three decades, punk rock
has functioned as a medium of global communication and, often, political resistance.
Given its frequent reliance on decentred social networks and independent flows (such
as, indie labels, self-managed tours, internet exchanges), those messages are often less
inhibited by the global capitalist system or corporate interests. But more than being
a possible medium for counter-hegemonic communication, punk is a message in its
own right. In a nutshell, that message is this: the world is fucked up, and you can and
should do something about it.
Outro: In which an angry, not-so-young man longs for a punk IR
My experience in Portland has turned out to be as transformative for me as the time
I first heard the Clash almost three decades ago, and I have become increasingly
convinced that punk rock can provide a mechanism for discussing world affairs in
ways that move beyond the limitations of IR. But perhaps there is a sad irony at
looking towards the entertainment industry for signs of resistance to corporate
capitalism. Decades ago, Adorno and Horkheimer argued brilliantly about the role
of the Western culture industry installing capitalism’s domination across the totality
of an individual’s daily life.70 To hope that an anti-capitalist revolution might spring
forth from the very entertainment culture that reifies its dominance may seem na?ve.
Yet, this was arguably one impetus for punk’s emergence: a mocking disruption
of the capitalist entertainment industry-and the status quo political ethos it
promoted

waged from within. In many ways it was a Gramscian exercise in
counter-hegemonic struggle. But on the other hand, punk was and is a form that
exists first and foremost within the culture/entertainment industry. There is a tension
here that cannot be resolved simply. But perhaps most importantly, it should be
recognised that politics, power, and resistance have distinct aesthetics, and often
those aesthetics have political import. The case of punk rock illustrates this, even
70 Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (New York: Herder and Herder,
1947).
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
210 Kevin C. Dunn
when the picture is complex and contradictory, as the punk band Born Against
recognised when it entitled its collective works The Rebel Sound of Shit and Failure.11
My first attempt to write about Portland was published in an edited volume on
music and international relations.72 One problem I continue to struggle with is that
academia has alienated me from the world that I am trying to understand. It has done
this by decrying emotions and passion. Matt Davies notes this when he observes:
‘Scholarly writing in particular relies on the writer’s ability to be an authority of a
particular kind: one who can stand back (even if one is a participant observer) and
communicate authoritatively and coolly. To write with anger is not a strategy likely
to get one published or promoted.’73 There is clearly a danger in subscribing to a
heroic narrative of punk, with the image of an individual raging against the forces of
a repressive establishment, particularly as such a narrative hides within it the
possibility of romanticising action and violence, with all the problems such a move
entails. But I am increasingly convinced that anger and passion are exactly what are
needed when discussing world affairs. As a punk, I had those things in spades. But
my education, graduate training, and professional career have all been instrumental
in stamping those elements out of me and out of my detached scholarly writing. In
order to communicate to the people I want to communicate with, I need to get those
emotions and passions back. As the Clash taught me many years ago: ‘Let fury have
the hour, anger can be power/You know that you can use it.’74 I need to be able to
communicate with anger and emotion. The scholarly discipline of IR doesn’t provide
me the tools to do that, but punk rock does. Because the punks are right: the world
is fucked up, and we need to do something about it.
71 Born Against, The Rebel Sound of Shit and Failure (Kill Rock Stars Records, 2003). Thanks to R.
John and others at punkplanet.com for articulating some of these issues for me.
72 Kevin Dunn, ‘The Clash of Civilization: Notes from a Punk/Scholar’, in Franklin (ed.), Resounding
International Relations.
73
Davies, ‘Do It Yourself, p. 138.
74
‘Clampdown’ by The Clash, from the album London Calling (CBS/Epic, 1979).
This content downloaded from 146.111.34.148 on Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:14:45 PM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
The Punk Rock Politics of Global Communication
Just from $9/Page
Order Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects

Literature

Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.

Finance

Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!

Psychology

While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.

Engineering

Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.

Nursing

In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.

Sociology

Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.

Business

We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!

Statistics

We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.

Law

Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment Help Service Works

1. Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2. Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3. Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4. Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essay GET A PERFECT SCORE!!! smile and order essay Buy Custom Essay


Place your order
(550 words)

Approximate price: $22

Calculate the price of your order

550 words
We'll send you the first draft for approval by September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Total price:
$26
The price is based on these factors:
Academic level
Number of pages
Urgency
Basic features
  • Free title page and bibliography
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Plagiarism-free guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 24/7 support
On-demand options
  • Writer’s samples
  • Part-by-part delivery
  • Overnight delivery
  • Copies of used sources
  • Expert Proofreading
Paper format
  • 275 words per page
  • 12 pt Arial/Times New Roman
  • Double line spacing
  • Any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard)

Our guarantees

Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.

Money-back guarantee

You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.

Read more

Zero-plagiarism guarantee

Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.

Read more

Free-revision policy

Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.

Read more

Privacy policy

Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.

Read more

Fair-cooperation guarantee

By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.

Read more
error: Content is protected !!
Open chat
1
Need assignment help? You can contact our live agent via WhatsApp using +1 718 717 2861

Feel free to ask questions, clarifications, or discounts available when placing an order.
  +1 718 717 2861           + 44 161 818 7126           [email protected]
  +1 718 717 2861         [email protected]