Let me tell you about Chris and Dana Loesch.
But first let me tell you that I don’t want to write this as I’m spending most of my time livestreaming the production of my next album. I am perfectly happy being a singer/songwriter, a self-producer of what I think is some great music, and a source of entertainment that doesn’t hate you for who you are. But the solution is the problem, it seems: I’ll reach a hundred times more people by writing what I am about to write about a group of crony conservatives who are damaging our movement than I will by having kickass product waiting for you on iTunes. This depresses me greatly; I’m not sure I want to be part of something that eschews honest, hard work and high-quality content for gossip, infighting, and pissing contests. If you like what I write, how I write, or how I try not to let hypocrites run free in our communities, I just want you to know that I would be perfectly happy if I never wrote anything like this again. We should be ashamed of ourselves and our unchecked desire for the most base kind of instant gratification.
So, yeah. These two…
In April of 2012 I was working on self-producing an album called The Solution is the Problem, a title whose relevance haunts me to this day. My wife, who was immensely supportive of the project, knew as I did that conservatives are offensively bad at anything having to do with art, music, film, television, or culture in general, and were not happy to be even gently reminded of it.
As I mixed recently-recorded electric guitars one afternoon, my wife came running into my home studio with the characters “@ChrisLoesch” scribbled on a Post-It note. “This guy was just on [so-and-so]‘s [internet] radio show, and just said we need to have real musicians and artists on our side, not this knock-off Weird Al crap we do.” You could say that’s a statement I have always wholeheartedly agreed with, even when it wasn’t directly in my own interest.
I didn’t know who Chris Loesch was at the time. I knew that a Dana Loesch was a local talker in St. Louis, but otherwise not a big deal. I followed Chris on Twitter and contacted him immediately, saying “I’m one of the musicians you’re talking about. Let’s talk soon.” He quickly replied, “Okay!” and followed me back.
I haven’t been in an English classroom in some time, but I assume the exclamation point in that context still indicates excitement.
At the time I was recording all the instruments, and all the vocals for 19 tracks that I had written over the years, 11 of which ended up on Solution. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I made sure that the songs, which were already good, also had that studio-quality sound that many people, including myself, consider an integral part of the experience of enjoying music. I was live-streaming the entire process to anyone who would watch, the logic being that social media is a 24/7 world, and you can’t just disappear for 18 months to self-produce an album. At the time I was not confrontational, not controversial, and stuck largely to sharing my content, and clung desperately to approximately 300 followers across Twitter and Facebook.
A few days later, not having heard anything from Mr. Loesch, I contacted him on Twitter again, asking when he’d like to talk further. “I’m always game to talk music,” he replied. That worried me a bit because it seemed he wanted to talk 140 characters at a time, which I don’t consider serious discussion about changing culture. So I replied, “E-mail? Phone? 140 characters at a time?” He replied with his e-mail address.
I wrote him a detailed e-mail with my backstory, my philosophy on music and why we fail as so-called “culture warriors,” and made it clear that I thought we could help each other – I had the sort of product he was looking for, and he had the name recognition I needed. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I sent him on April 30th, 2012:
So, lest you think this is just a sob story and the product isn’t good, I wanted to have a discussion with you because it seems like you want the same things I do. I don’t want a handout. I want an opportunity. I looked for weeks, for example, on The Blaze and the GBTV site, for one thing – where the bleeding hell do I send a press release? That’s all. And I couldn’t find it. I wasn’t going to harangue Glenn Beck on Twitter, and I certainly wasn’t going to be one of the douchebags who hates on him, or a “minority” conservative that he showcases because he just can’t believe there are non-white conservatives. I just wanted to send a press release and let the chips fall where they may.
I have always been of this mindset; by nature of being an artist I am creating a product, and news about that product (“Production begins on Solution….”; “Solution will be released on…”; “Non-stuffy young conservative writes song that’s not about Jesus or his pick-up truck,” etc.). It is my responsibility to get the product and the news about the product out there. I was more than happy to try to form relationships with friendly news organizations and provide them content for their readers. Everybody wins, right?
Mr. Loesch didn’t reply to this e-mail. After being apparently excited that someone responded to his desperate plea for less “Weird Al crap,” I outlined a way I thought we could help each other out. Unbeknownst to me (because I don’t stare at my followers list all day and swoon), Mr. Loesch continued to follow me on Twitter for two and a half months. During that time, I broadcasted several live sessions a week, as I continued to record and mix The Solution is the Problem. Mr. Loesch didn’t send me one message on Twitter, or any other medium. He never retweeted anything about what I was doing. He did not interact with me at all. And he did not reply to the thoughtful and honest e-mail I sent him.
In late July 2012, I asked my Twitter followers to help me create a list of popular so-called “conservatives” who talk a big game about “changing the culture” but do nothing about it. This was for a promotional project that was scrapped because, at the heart of it, it wasn’t a good idea. I don’t regret having the idea, however, as some people believe I should. We all have stupid ideas and that was one of them, and I subsequently didn’t act on it. However, I responded to some tweets from a follower who had never spoken to me until then, and she took it upon herself to describe every way she could think that this was a bad idea (Twitter seems to breed these people). In my hubris I defended my bad idea, at one point mentioning as a reason why I was thinking this way, that Chris Loesch claimed in April 2012 he was looking for artists, especially musicians, who had more to offer than trite flag-waving pseudo-country and parody songs based on current news events.
No sooner did I type the name “Chris Loesch” than he appeared. Immediately, as if he was watching. Which is kind of creepy if you think about it.
Loesch attacked with great energy and enthusiasm. Called me a coward for “calling [him] out” without using his Twitter handle (though the opposite is often true). Advised me that he had spent the last twenty-three years of his life doing more for conservative artists than any other human being in history, which I thought belied his claim of two months prior that we needed better “conservative” artists. He began to put my Twitter screen name in the middle of his unhinged ranting tweets. If he had left them at the beginning, only those who follow both of us would have seen them. Moving them to the middle ensured his tantrum would be seen by every one of his almost 10,000 followers.
A few of them – Gary Eaton, of “The Army You Have” (How’d November go, Gary?), a parody band that write clumsy middle-of-the-road “conservative” comedy about the news headlines; Mandy Naggy [sic], a Breitbart contributor and “libertarian”; and her boyfriend, Scott Jacobs – attacked almost instantly once Mr. Loesch had done this, Jacobs sending me 57 consecutive abusive tweets. Not surprising since Jacobs is an atheist who told everyone at Redstate “Go f*ck yourselves!”, as if he’s someone who should be discussing conservative culture. I’d never spoken to any of them before in my life and they knew nothing of me before that moment. I was accused of “probably [being] just a sappy over-patriotic Toby Keith knock-off.” Eaton said I sounded like Nickelback, despite no part of Solution (which sounds nothing like the Canadian nu-metalers) being finished or posted anywhere for Mr. Eaton or anyone to have heard. I was accused of having an “entitlement mentality,” that I wanted people who didn’t like my product to be forced to consume it.
In the middle of it all, Mr. Loesch’s friend Ben Howe tweeted me to say he’d be happy to give me pointers on how to promote my stuff. At the time, in the context of the continuing siege, it appeared to be an empty gesture, or a set-up. Unable to let go, Howe now tells people that I believe we lost the Presidential election last November because he doesn’t like my music. Howe, and his friends, also seem to think that the complete and total solution to reclaiming the culture is to make documentary-style YouTube videos of a political nature that appeal singularly to the neoconservative wing of the Republican party. Because that’s what a largely nonpolitical, socially center-left secretary wants to tap her foot to at the office.
As if this was some grand exercise in gallows humor, Brooks Bayne came to my defense shortly thereafter, encouraging his followers to check out some of my music he’d actually heard. This led to some of the followers I had prior to this incident abandoning me, because they’d been sold the lies Loesch and his clique had told about Bayne’s alleged anti-Semitism.
Because demonizing individuals with whom we disagree is apparently part of who we are. Interestingly, out of all of the “big names” on Twitter, I’ve gotten more promotion and followers from Bayne than anyone. Who’s promoting toxicity and who’s promoting culture?
I personally do not believe that arguing on the internet is a good thing. Some seem to believe that Twitter-mobbing an honest but socially-awkward music geek who purports to share a similar sociopolitical ideology is just, as Mrs. Loesch ironically writes, “contentious interparty back and forth about what’s best for our country.” I also – and I do not say this for your sympathy – suffer from panic disorder, which means that while my first instinct is to wipe the walls with these middle-school-esque imbeciles and cite them chapter and verse about their hypocrisy and cultural sedition, it is neither socially or mentally a good idea for me to spend too much time in that headspace. I’m not a pacifist by any means, but I have said many times, here and elsewhere, that giving these attention whores the exact thing they crave is at the very least a waste of our time, and often damages our ideology. It pains me that I have to write this piece, for example, to counter the bullshit Mr. Loesch and his friends spew about who I am and what I do. To this day, when the topic of culture comes up, Mr. Loesch and his friends toss my name about as if I am a grand running joke.
So what, right? There’s no such thing as a free lunch! You pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work your ass off for what you want. You sell your product like you can’t afford to eat. Nobody owes you anything. The free market should decide your fate.
Guess what? I agree with every last word of that, with every fiber of my being. I don’t care if you support me, if you don’t support me, or if you hate me. Feel free to waste the rest of your life seething over what an asshole I am.
But don’t you dare complain that we fail at culture.
It seems that everyone has come out with an opinion about culture as it pertains to conservatives. In the end, most of them conclude it’s not their problem. Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller, who received a complimentary copy of Solution for review before its release, eventually told me that the album would come in handy when “someone creates a conservative Rolling Stone.” Glenn Beck, who once had the youngest audience in all of conservative talk, decided last year all by himself that we need to take back the culture, and ordered the artists in his audience to write him an essay about why their art is the art he should pay attention to. Beck, a voracious reader, sends any book he mentions to #1 on Amazon’s Best Seller list within seconds. but will not even ask an intern to listen to music from people who share his ideology. Breitbart Editor-In-Cheif Larry O’Connor destroyed a contributor’s positive review of Solution on Big Hollywood when he was alerted to a tweet where I stated, in complete honesty, that I regret not being able to speak to Andrew when he was alive; and that I didn’t agree with his tactic of fighting constantly with people who called him names, to the exclusion of conservatives like me who at the time believed in his idea that culture was upstream of politics. O’Connor publicly (using similar tactics to Loesch) went ballistic, accusing me of “pissing on Andrew’s grave,” and said he was going to “shut me up for good” – which sounds like a pretty serious threat, until I realized he meant he was just going to remove the review. Big man, with your WordPress admin account.
Big Hollywood and sites like it continue to contribute to our side’s lack of understanding of culture by posting story after story that can all be summed up, “look at what this mean liberal said!” The shameless cannot be shamed. The 70% of Americans who aren’t on the far right or the far left don’t give a shit about your adolescent tattling on this celebrity or that celebrity. We look like paranoid megalomaniacs with Borderline Personality Disorder.
And now even Mrs. Loesch has weighed in with her screed on how to reclaim the culture. And it centers around how Ben Howe does a lot of cool videos! Oh, wow, videos! You mean, like, a series about a maverick doctor who’s brilliant but misanthropic? Or, like a story about a bunch of people stranded on an island that actually didn’t happen? Or maybe a talking car that fights crime? Six hipsters sharing an apartment? Something with a good beat that you can dance to? A virtuoso concept album about the overthrow of an totalitarian government? Uh, sorry, no: Amateur YouTube shorts about how people were mean to Andrew Breitbart.
Yeah. Lemme call Universal. We got this.
Mr. and Mrs. Loesch are among the loudest voices clamoring for some kind of takeover of culture. A local talk show host – whose only product is complaint and requires a Democrat president and left-leaning country in order to thrive – and a guy who runs a taxpayer-subsized “recording studio” (funded with $4.4 million in government tax credits – read: your money) the kind which is no longer necessary to create great-sounding tunes, should not be the self-appointed arbiters of what is or is not good enough to be considered by the masses of people who share our ideology, who are desperately searching for ways to help take this country back from a well-organized army of opponents who expertly weave pop culture, ideology, social mores, and propaganda into yummy bite-sized morsels of feel-good center-left product that requires neither an education in history or a full-time passion for politics to consume.
Yet we continue to stumble forward, like tone-deaf frat boys, and the blame is put on those of us who are not experienced entrepreneurs, people who are good at creating content but not the business behind it. People who can’t create pure gold out of thin air. People who might be a bit socially awkward, because our talents lie elsewhere, and our individualist spirit recoils at the thought of licking the right boots – or peep-toes, as it were. All because Mr. and Mrs. Loesch and their friends can position themselves as innocent victims of my – and others’ – lack of business savvy. I can hear them now: “Oh, if only Mark Scudder knew how to effectively market his music, if only he knew how to write what we think people want, then we wouldn’t have this dearth of quality product with which to influence culture! Oh, Mark Scudder, why are you so cruel to us?! Ben Howe offered you pointers!! He could’ve made you a trailer!!”
(And the grander irony is, aren’t we supposed to go to #WAR with The Army We Have?)
A lot of people have horrible taste in music – just turn on FM radio. So many have horrible taste that I’m never sure how to take it when someone says “your music sucks.” Does that mean I’m about to be rewarded with heavy radio airplay and millions in sales? Does Beiber “suck” too? Gaga? Nickelback? If you didn’t know before now what I do, consider that it’s because five or six friends – who aren’t even real conservatives – have decided that I “suck,” and you have replaced the free market with their insecurity. Is that how it’s supposed to work?
We have some in our ranks who are rugged individualists, and some in our ranks who believe we must come together on the 95% we have in common instead of wasting time and energy flaming each other about the 5% on which we disagree. Both camps need to address this culture conundrum immediately. Individualists need to articulate that no one person – be it Chris Loesch, or me, or anyone else – should be telling us what “sucks,” lest human nature prevent them from not finding things they might actually like. Those who believe we need to come together and act like an actual community with goals (like, oh, I don’t know, rescuing the republic), need to create ways to get the word out about people doing culturally significant things – even if that’s just dedicated word of mouth right now, with an eye on creating record labels, media outlets, and production companies down the road. Both groups should strongly consider starving crony conservatives like Mr. and Mrs. Loesch, and echo-chamber content creators like Howe, of the attention they so desperately crave.
But what to put in their place? Are we so used to content aggregators that we will simply let the next narcissistic clique fill the void? Are we so indoctrinated by American Idol and The Voice that we believe music is simply a competition to see who can sound the most generic while singing other people’s songs? Is there any room left in our brains to personally evaluate all the choices and support the ones we like? Or are you more likely to check me out now because I blog well?
We must choose wisely when it comes to the next generation of “conservative” content aggregators, with an eye not on making anti-abortion rallies and NRA meetings “hip,” but by having interests outside re-posting the news of the day and reciting our principles. When people not in our hyper-political far right communities see us doing something cool, or entertaining, or they fall in love with a song one of us has written, or they become invested in a really great story told on film or on television, and then they find out we are conservatives, they will be forced to do something that has not happened to any real conservative in decades, if not longer.
They’ll be forced to take us seriously.