It’s a question you hear quite a bit in 2017. Usually – but not always – it’s asked when the subject is Donald Trump.
Trump is the most unpopular president in the history of polling. Seventy per cent of Americans want him out. Almost as many think he won’t serve a full term. It’s hard to think of an American president as detested as Trump is.
And yet his support among Republicans is rock-solid. Republicans in Congress may tut-tut about his crazy tweets but they have yet to abandon him entirely. And the conservative media – in particular the most-watched cable news network, Fox – still defend every insane thing he says and does.
Thus, the much-heard question: “What is wrong with these people?”
Why do they stubbornly cling to nutty conspiracy theories – like that former president Barack Obama was born in Africa, not America? Or that Obama ordered tapping of the phones at Trump Tower? Or that former Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz’s father conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald to kill John F. Kennedy?
Seeking an answer from the lead singer of a revered California punk rock band is a bit unusual. But Exene Cervenka of X is a bit unusual. And given that she has referred to herself as a “conspiracy therapist,” she’s inarguably very knowledgeable about the roiling, seething conspiracy constituency who – along with Russia –helped shoehorn Trump into the Oval Office.
Reached as she’s doing laundry, preparing for her band’s 40th anniversary tour, Cervenka is reluctant to discuss politics. Recently, she got in a lot of trouble for doing so. She shared some videos on YouTube that claimed that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax and that another mass shooting, in California, was engineered to give the government more control over citizens.
Cervenka apologized for sharing the videos and took them down. But, when pressed, it’s evident that X’s legendary singer still maintains a lingering connection with the conspiracy theorists who regard Trump as their Saint George, come to slay the twin-headed dragon of liberalism and media.
“There are people who are in power and there are people who are not in power,” says Cervenka. “[Government] play their games and we’re supposed to play along with everything they do. And act like we’re participants when we’re not.”
To Cervenka, “globalists” in governments do away with our humanity, creating a populace that’s “barely surviving, uneducated, scores of people who destroy each other, without even knowing why.”
Asked what she and her bandmates – bassist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake – are hearing from fans about Trump, Cervenka hesitates, grumbles a bit, then plunges forward. “The media are engaged in total fabrications and lies, and are self-serving,” she says, sounding without doubt. “They have candidates they want to win. They aren’t the real media, and haven’t been the media for quite a long time. But fortunately, we have the Internet.”
At this point, one can almost see Infowars’ Alex Jones nodding approvingly – about the views of a leftie punk rocker! But the X front-woman, perhaps sensing she has gone too far and sounds a bit too right-wing whacko, pulls back a bit.
“I just don’t get involved in politics,” she says. “What I see now is that race relations are worse than they’ve been since the ’60s. Crime is out of control in the Democratically-controlled inner cities. All people in power have an agenda. They’re pretending to favour immigrants or whatever. But what they really favour is votes.”
Maybe, maybe not. Justice and equality shouldn’t have a partisan affiliation.
But she’s the lead singer of X! What happened?
To punk rockers, who tend to hew to the left side of the spectrum, it’s disappointing – and depressing – to hear the likes of Cervenka say such things. Punks are supposed to be against the likes of Trump and Jones, aren’t they?
But Cervenka is relevant and not because her band’s four earliest albums are among the best of the genre, 40 years after the fact. Cervenka is relevant because she’s the embodiment of a growing constituency in the United States of America which believes in nothing emanating from government or the media, and which has decided to craft private worlds.
Exene Cervenka may no longer be much of a true punk rocker.
But she’s decidedly a true Trump-era American – and she doesn’t think she’s wrong.
She thinks we are.
Troy Media columnist Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.