Rich Men North Of Richmond vs Try That In A Small Town

Two summer anthems of disaffection with decay in the U.S. could not be more different. Yes, they’re both in the country genre and feature male leads but one is a pro-policing screed that couldn’t be slicker, and the other is as genuine as it gets.

Viral hit “Try That In A Small Town” from Jason Aldean’s 11th album was written by a team not including Aldean, recorded in a studio, and then embellished with one of the more incoherent music videos I’ve seen. Granted I don’t see that many music videos, but my impression of this one was that the lead singer is mailing it in while the montage of images behind him — flag-draped White House, looting, assault — do the heavy lifting. Basically a 2nd Amendment commercial laced with the kind of threats you may remember from your elementary school playground.

The artist denies it, but dog whistle racist imagery abounds. It’s possible this song could be construed as a campaign ad for Trump since the disorder depicted is widely viewed by Republicans as occurring under the Biden administration and Democratic mayors of big cities.

(For an insightful discussion of disorder and other electoral issues, I highly recommend Matt Taibbi and Walter Kirn’s “America This Week: Campaign Preview” available here.)

Newer viral hit “Rich Men North Of Richmond” is performed by singer/songwriter Oliver Anthony in a lightly amplified outdoor setting. He nails the aggrieved white working class male lament in a way that the wealthy Aldean’s performance only mimics. 

Or maybe it’s not even a particularly white point of view? Rapper TRE TV nodded along in sympathy before sharing his reaction to Anthony’s intro, I been selling my soul, working all day, overtime hours for bullshit pay:

That’s how we all feel. We working, ain’t getting nowhere, the money ain’t adding up. You get your check and you’re like, What. Is. This?…Hell, this thing missing a couple of zeros!

I thought the vocals were tough.. and the message. I give this a 10. 

Anthony also takes a potshot at riders on Epstein’s “Lolita Express,” excess taxation, and references the suicide epidemic among young men suffering under top down control from the rich men north of Richmond. An interview with the singer revealed he was specifically thinking of Washington DC swamp monsters when he penned the alliterative line (he appears to like puns, rhyming, and alliteration).

He goes off the rails only once when he engages in fat shaming aimed at food stamp recipients. Hard to know for sure, but maybe he has an ex-girlfriend who’s 5 foot 3, weighs 300 pounds, and is partial to fudge roll?

It cracks me up how conservatives are trying to claim Oliver Anthony for their own. Did they listen to his words? Cue the mainstream media, now in overdrive claiming the song is a big hit with the right but leaving leftists cold. Wealthy media are having to spin extra hard to depict the ballad as a rallying cry for Civil War 2.0. You know, the war the wealthy hope we have instead of the revolution we need.

The problem with their analysis, of course, is that right and especially left have become so diluted in meaning that the terms are increasingly useless. Anthony has shared with journalists that he considers himself a centrist with no allegiance to either of the corporate parties.

Chris Hedges writes searingly about this from time to time. His latest is set in rural Maine aka northern Appalachia where I live and which, this time of year, looks nearly identical to the West Virginia setting of Anthony’s video. “Forgotten Victims of America’s Class War” lays out about as well as anything I’ve read how left vs. right or red vs. blue are increasingly meaningless in a gutted economy that’s failing working people.

Nice Manners Uphold White Supremacy & Brutal Class Warfare

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “A 22-year-old woman was arrested..on Sunday 11 September 2022 in connection with a breach of the peace.” This occurred during a public ceremony to recognize Charles as the new King of Scotland. Source: The National

One of the strongest messages a white baby boomer received growing up was the need to behave well. “Pretty is as pretty does,” was one such admonition, particularly tailored for girls. “Fools’ names and fools’ faces are often seen in public places,” was another. 

This conditioning must be overcome in order to raise a dissenting voice.

The changing of monarchs in the United Kingdom produced an outburst of fawning over crowned heads as well as an outburst of truth telling and its inevitable companion, tone policing.

Scots were arrested protesting the ascension of the rather unpopular Charles III. Some with signs were put in handcuffs, while others who boo’d appear to have gotten away with it.

The quintessential tone policing remark was predictable. As reported in The National:

Donald Maclaren, 64, of Livingston, said: “It’s very disrespectful, there is a time and a place if you want to protest, but this isn’t it.”

See, his mother just died, so it’s not the time and place to protest a man who just inherited a vast fortune and is exempt from the 40% inheritance tax others must pay. 

No matter how rich you are, you are likely to be totally clueless about how bad tone policing makes you look. Billionaire labor nemesis Jeff Bezos chastised a Black academic on Twitter who wrote: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.” 

His criticism and the pushback to it greatly elevated her original tweet (which now appears to have been censored by Twitter). More tone policing came from Carnegie Mellon University where she is employed. They said her remarks did not reflect their values despite Dr. Uju Anya’s explanation to a journalist:

“I am the child and sibling of survivors of genocide. 

From 1967-1970, more than 3 million civilians were massacred when the Igbo people of Nigeria tried to form the independent nation of Biafra.. 

this genocide was directly supported and facilitated by the British government.. 

weapons, bombs, planes, military vehicles, and supplies were sent to kill us and protect their interests in the oil reserves on our land.”

If you’re white and live in a racist country like the U.S., you’ve probably been in lots of situations where you were hearing white supremacist rhetoric while wondering what to say in response.

 That’s if you could find the courage to speak up at all.

You might have been at a family holiday dinner.

You might have been in a hair salon where the person you angered might be holding scissors next to your face.

Is it a coincidence that the part of the U.S. where many still revere the Confederacy has the reputation of being especially polite?

No matter where you live in the U.S., you were probably raised to be conflict averse in a society where “conflict” is a euphemism for war. 

So there’s likely an element of fear of violence involved in the calculus about what to say or whether to say anything.

Doris Lessing, one of my favorite authors, grew up white in apartheid colonial Africa, the part that is now Zimbabwe. Her penchant for telling the truth about British colonialism among other things did not always make her popular. She died in 2013 but I’ll give her the last word: