By Sean McElwee | Think Pieces | January 26, 2014 |
By Sean McElwee | Think Pieces | January 26, 2014 |
I would like to announce my membership in the ever-expanding club that boasts among its members the likes of Anne Frank. I am a Belieber. Through and through. I’ve paid about as much attention to Bieber’s career as most American’s have to what is happening in Ukraine right now (on review I spelled his last name correctly once in the first draft of this piece), but what I know makes me believe he is someone I should support. Let me run through the only five facts about Justin Bieber stored in my cranium:
1. Justin Bieber desecrated a photo of Bill Clinton and shouted “Fuck Bill Clinton!”
2. Justin Bieber egged a millionaire’s house
3. Justin Bieber recently got arrested for a DUI
4. Justin Bieber was born to a single mother, grew up in low income housing, taught himself four instruments, created Youtube videos of him playing those instruments, was discovered by a marketing agent and became, in short time, one most successful male artists currently working
5. Justin Bieber is now hated by a broad swath of the American public
For me, fact #1 is a great reason to support Bieber. Having grow up in low-income housing, he’s certainly aware of how disastrous the Clinton presidency was to the American poor. Having lived in Canada, he is stunned at just how illiberal Clinton is and how cruel American society has become. The symbolic act of urinating in a mop bucket and denouncing Clinton was his first step in the direction of high-level performance art. If anything, we should encourage more artists to follow his lead of aggressive political art. As to the fact #2, I can’t hate anyone who eggs rich people’s houses.
Fact #3 is sad and personal; it strikes me as evidence that America is a nation of dicks. We are lead by the “journalists” at TMZ whose entire goal in life is too feed off of misery and insecurity. These writers are so incredibly dumb that even touching a book causes aneurysms so violent they require hospitalization. Instead of actually investigating, reporting or thinking, they make their money leeching off of actually talented and successful people. Like ringworms, they have embedded themselves in Bieber’s bowels and can only survive if he does, but constantly work to emaciate their host.
Bieber has done a lot of douchey things. I’ve done a lot of douchey things. All of my friends have done a lot of douchey things. You’ve done a lot of douchey things. The difference is, your douchey things and my douchey things aren’t national stories, because you and I don’t have voices like a fucking angel. A recent The Daily Beast story (perfectly shaped to by an atomic bomb of click-bait) compared Richard Sherman and Justin Bieber and declared Bieber a “thug.” The evidence:
In case of Justin Bieber, does any one [sic] doubt hat [sic] he would love to be called a thug? He clearly has been trying be seen as a bad boy for the past few years. He has reportedly threatened paparazzi and his neighbor with physical violence. Bieber is being sued by a photographer who claims Bieber beat him up. (Why anyone would admit to being beaten up by Bieber is beyond me?) And Bieber has done his best to convey the image on social media that he smokes marijuana.
Earlier this week Bieber was again seen trying to cultivate his “thug” image. Bieber was reportedly in a Miami Strip club, “making it rain”—translation: throwing money at strippers as often depicted in rap videos.
Compare these misdemeanors (he smokes weed and goes to strip clubs! *gasp*) to say, Mark Wahlberg regularly beating the shit out of people in his youth, all the Woody Allen stuff or Eminem’s drug use. We don’t actually know Bieber, or what he’s like, instead we’re fed a narrative by TMZ and Hollywood Reporter that is meticulously shaped to create interest. TMZ’s article on him egging his neighbor’s house is an exercise in this Huxleyian game. After describing the egging, the author writes, “And, in a shamefully obvious ploy to make himself look good, he posted these pictures of himself with his little brother and sister.” Isn’t it possible that Justin Bieber made the dumb decision to egg his neighbor’s house and also very much loves his sister and brother? Must everything be black and white for the simpletons at TMZ?
Earlier this year I discovered that I was supposed to hate Anne Hathaway because she is a theatre girl or something. Right now, I’m supposed to love J-Law. It’s all narrative and all spin. When I hear these benign doings of celebrities, I’m reminded of the apocryphal quote of Christ, “he who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.”
Facts #4 and #5 are the most interesting. America holds two entirely contradictory ideas about itself. First, it believes it is a society of opportunity, and therefore inequality, where every man or woman can, through force of will, make themselves a fortune doing what they love. Second, we believe that all men are equal, and hold fiercely egalitarian sentiments. Thus, the “middle class” runs from roughly $30,000 a year to whatever you earn and truck drivers in El Paso vote for tax breaks on Park Avenue. Even the richest American pretends to be middle class just like you (see: Warren Buffett’s persona) and even the poorest among us is, as John Steinbeck noted, are “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
This dialectic means that we first build up a celebrity, often far beyond their merits and then, once they’ve reached the apogee of their success, begin violently tearing them down. We’ve all seen this cycle happen — Woods, Spears, Sheen — to name a few instances. But what is odd about the Bieber story is how perfectly he embodies the American Dream. He’s not a Ben Stiller or Frank Ocean or Jayden Smith or Luke Russert (or come on, let’s face it, basically every successful musician or actor) who was born to famous parents and managed to not totally fuck it up. Because masscult music and acting are so easy to do that almost anyone can do it passably, it helps to have a parent in the business. In contrast, Justin Bieber became successful from pure talent, drive and luck alone. He owes no one anything. How many actors, singers and bankers can say that these days? Not many. Justin Bieber may be the only shred of evidence that something like the American Dream exists. He is a self-made man, the epitome of meritocracy and democracy. Like Nietzsche’s overman, he has transformed the world to his will, re-valued all values and he did it through sheer talent and drive. So call me a Belieber.