“Old man take a look at my life.” Aged, 77-year-old rebel Neil Young goes full-on church lady, gets the vapors about a new young troublemaker, and demands the punk be fired. Or he’ll take his classic cookies and go home. Spotify says “don’t let the doorknob hit ya.” Across the room, ole Miz Joni Mitchell creaks up out of her ortho pillow, puts down her Geritol spritzer and warbles “me too-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo.” (“Sometimes it’s a thin line between Joni and Yoko” once snarked the duo Flo & Eddie.)

            The Flabbling Classes all have flabbled; it’s a fun distraction from picking squares for “what pile of poop will Joe Biden step in today?” (Did anyone have ‘Tell Putin invading countries is OK as long as it’s just a teeny weeny little invasion?’) Ancient rockers protest guy saying controversial stuff. How dare he! Whose Side Are You ON!!!

            But in all this hilarity are a couple of interesting points we should check out, before we leave Neil and Joni to their Golden Sunset Years. First is: what was old Neil thinking? Senility? Out of touch arrogance? Big mistake? I say nope! Young has always been a fairly canny businessman and I believe this is a deliberate and purposeful career move, following a tried and successful playbook called “Roll Left and Die.”

                The Science Fiction writer Sarah Hoyt lays this out in her blog “According to Hoyt.”  Rolling in the Deep – According To Hoyt

            “Years ago, watching science fiction magazines and newspapers of various sorts come and go, I identified a process I called “roll hard left and die.”

When a magazine or a newspaper or any news or entertainment media was in real trouble, they went hard, hard left, then died.

It took me a little while to realize this was a sane strategy.  In a field completely controlled by the left, when you knew that your job was in peril be it through mismanagement or whatever, your last hope was to go incredibly hard left, so you could blame the failure on ideology.  And instead of not being able to find a job, you found yourself lionized by all the “right” (left) “thinking people.”  New jobs were assured.”

                “Rolling Left” is thus a strategic re-booting move. When your sports, entertainment, newscasting, business product is failing, instead of folding the tent, you suddenly make a big stink, change the subject from your decline, re-brand yourself as an Idealistic Activist. The controversy gives huge PR benefit for the re-launch, and a whole new customer base awaits.

            Examples? Well, fading, mediocre quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a poster child. His Wikipedia bio defines him as “an American civil rights activist and a former quarterback.” Precisely! Beats just “former quarterback” eh? He played the cards perfectly and transitioned into his new career as “civil rights activist.” It’s one for the textbooks. And when was the last time Whoopie Goldberg had a funny movie?

            It’s not just individuals. Remember the Gillette shaving controversy? Gillette, maker of the super expensive multi-blade disposable razors, caused outrage not by embracing ‘girls with beards’ but conspicuous use of the term “toxic masculinity.” This grievously sexist insult did not go down well, prompting customers to drop Gillette in protest (me too. I moved to Harry’s. Better, and way cheaper product that doesn’t insult me.)

            Classic corporate boo-boo? Not really. Actually, the Port-side Roll was a ploy to change the story from Gillette’s steady market share collapse and $8 billion write down.  Procter & Gamble writes down Gillette business but remains confident in its future ( Result: P&G doesn’t look like a failure, but a brave, fierce martyr for gender equity, with progressive ‘cool kid’ cred, and maybe picked up a new customer niche as a bonus, to offset the hemorrhaging normies.

                Ditto for old Neil. By foregoing a miniscule payout from Spotify, Young raked in mega-publicity and support. He’s now relevant! In his case it’s not ‘rolling left’ because he always was left and political. He’s not reinventing as much as refreshing the brand. Spotify? It pays bupkis, and is mostly what we call a ‘loss leader’ to get customers in the door. How Much Money Does Spotify Pay Artists? (

                However, there is one very important note here. Young didn’t just make a stink, he demanded another person be silenced. This is the new, new Left. ‘We don’t debate you, we smash you.’ See, the hallmark of the 21st Century has been the change from mass culture to niche. The 20th Century was about mass-everything. ‘Any color as long as it’s black.’ Three TV channels. Everyone watched last night’s Carson. Walter Cronkite defined reality.

                The 21st Century is about niche. MSNBC-The View-Wash Post, versus Fox. Saturday Night Live is a case study, how it rolled from mass entertainment everyone could and did laugh at, to a specialized, ideological kabuki.  Nobody has the mass market now;  nobody certainly markets to one. So it goes.

                But lately we’re seeing the rise of one of the niches’ drive to eliminate the other ones. Fox viewers aren’t trying to get Joy Behar de-platformed. Ted Nugent doesn’t demand Neil Young be gut-piled. Dennis Prager doesn’t call for boycotts of Whoopie Goldberg.

                The spectacle of seeing artists demand the silencing of other voices is sad and a little scary. Spotify’s “get stuffed, old man” response to Young was correct. If old Neil wants to freshen his angry troubadour shtick, fine with me. But I was always taught that freedom was the right to swing your arm out until it hits the other guy’s face. Folks who claim the right to smash your face while demanding you keep your arms at your sides aren’t the good guys. Neil Young goes out a totalitarian. As they say: sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *