“Everything is political.”
That was the word on the street in the late ’60s and ’70s, when the Twisted Hipster came of age.
The age came by it honestly: From the assassination of JFK to the anti-Vietnam War movement to the killings of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the riots at the 1968 Democratic convention, to Watergate and the Iran Hostage Crisis – it was truly a turbulent age and one the contributing factors to twisting up the inner life and expectations of any hipster, including this one.
Many years have passed since then, and our national focus has been more on that twisted inner life and the emotional fallout from those turbulent times. But now we have Trump – an atrocity with a bad hair weave. A cult leader who hides behind any shred of decency until he doesn’t have to and reveals himself for the predatory freak that he is – witness his recent rescinding of transgender protections, after earnestly promising to be their champion.
Now comes his exclusion of The New York Times, CNN, Politico and several other media outlets from his most recent press conference – just think if President Obama had tried anything like that. Richard Nixon was bad, but he was never this bad. This is boldly undemocratic. UNDEMOCRATIC. Please consider that word. Trump claims to represent “The People,” even though he lost the election by 3 million votes. (Oh, and what happened to all those claims of “illegal voters”? Just another bright shiny object used to distract our attention from the bigger crimes that he is surely committing.)
The fact is, Trump received the fewest electoral votes since Jimmy Carter – the last one term president, something that the Twisted Hipster also sees in Trump’s future. He keeps touting what an “incredible” victory he had, how “huge” it was. And when a reporter corrects this misinformation, he merely brushes it aside – oh my God.
The Twisted Hipster has lived through Nixon, Reagan and Bush W. Trump is Nixon on acid. Trump is Nixon without the statesmanship. Trump is Reagan without the personal likeability. The Twisted Hipster yelled at the TV screen for Reagan’s 8 years, as he deregulated business restrictions. The Twisted Hipster yelled at the TV screen for another 8 years as W nearly destroyed our economy. But this Orange-Haired Menace is so much worse than them all – not even close. He got elected by Trumpeting his not being a politician, and somehow that worked just enough. Now he wants to be King Donald, and he has declared war on the press – ignoring the fact that this is the First Amendment for a good reason. There is no democracy without it.
The Twisted Hipster is an artist who has also proudly worked as a journalist. He was hired by The Village Voice right out of college to write theater feature articles and wrote several during his 18 month tenure there (before his job was phased out for financial reasons). But this was The Village Voice at the end of its heyday, and the young TH was privileged to share a newsroom with the likes of Jack Newfield, Nat Hentoff, Andrew Sarris, James Woolcott, Karen Durbin, Bob Christgau, Richard Goldstein, Alexander Cockburn, Erika Munk and so many others, all under the leadership of Maryanne Partridge – perhaps the first female editor at a major news outlet. (Not counting Katherine Graham, who owned the Washington Post.) TH’s editor was Ross Wetzsteon, a legendary name in Off-Off-Broadway theater circles for helping to put together the Obie Awards for years. Ross was not warm and fuzzy, he wasn’t a friend, but he was a very serious journalist who has mentored many current journalists, including Charles McNulty at the Los Angeles Times. Ross had studied writing with Vladimir Nabokov at Princeton, and he was ruthless in terms of applying those stylistic lessons to those he edited. Thank you, Ross, for the indelible lessons.
The TH went on to write for many publications, including In These Times, American Theatre, The Sunday New York Times “Arts & Leisure” section and The New Republic. He also delved into hard news, being the only journalist to meet with boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in maximum security prison after Carter’s reconviction. The TH sounded the alarm that justice still hadn’t been served, but nobody listened. It took six more years for Carter to get his case heard in Federal Court, where he finally gained his freedom for the very reasons that the TH had written about. While jubilant that Carter was finally free, the TH felt nothing but a deep sadness for the five years that Carter spent in prison after the article had been written. (The New York Times actually bought it for their Sunday Magazine, but then cancelled its publication after complaints from Selwynn Raab, who had broken the original story of Carter’s frame-up; the TH knows this is how it went down because Mr. Raab called at 10:37 pm one night to boast about it.)
The TH had issues with journalism – namely, its Trendiness. Hard to believe, but the word “demographic” was rarely used outside of academic circles before the early 1980s, Similarly, it was still possible to have a genuine conversation with artists about their art until around that same time, when everything started becoming publicity. That is, it was no longer about the art or the artist’s authentic voice, it was only about getting your face out there, reaching your demographic. Which made the TH not a journalist but a grossly-underpaid publicist. And if the TH had wanted to be a publicist or advertising copywriter, then he would have done so.
One thing the Twisted Hipster can say absolutely: the journalists he observed and worked with were deathly serious about sources and verification. The instances of writers making up “FAKE NEWS” and getting away are very rare – most recently, the “Rape on Campus” article in Rolling Stone in 2015. But the fact-checkers at most publication are the most relentless and driven of all employees. They will call you five or six times a day if there is even a shadow of a question about the veracity of anything you have written. They will chase you down and disturb your dinner with friends until you have answered their questions to their satisfaction. To call these people purveyors of “FAKE NEWS” is obscene and an insult to journalists and seekers of truth everywhere.
But the insult is not personal, it’s political – as is everything else now.
Yes, “everything is political” once again.
And the Twisted Hipster is honored to join the ranks of such “enemies of the people” once again at such a critical moment.
While BETTER LEMONS is an arts website devoted largely to the Los Angeles theater community, it is also an instrument for delivering the truth to its readers. The TH would like to thank Ashley Steed and Enci Box (who 10 years ago was acting in one of the Twisted Hipster’s plays) for this opportunity.
The Twisted Hipster pledges to keep it real in a time when our gaslighter-in-chief is doing the opposite. (See what all that emphasis on Trendiness leads to? The sad imitation of a president that we have today.) The TH pledges to give you the artist’s point of view, and to keep telling the truth – as he did in the case of “Hurricane” Carter.
Here’s hoping you will keep listening.