Et tu, Pearl Jam?

I'm not gonna lie here: I adore the music of Pearl Jam.  And for good reasons: there are those luscious, awesomely masculine, authentic-Western-accented baritone vocals of Eddie Vedder.  There's that incredible guitar riffing of all three of them.  There's the original, evocative melodies.  There's the raging teenage boy angst's what a rock band should be.  And those guys are popular.  I know I'm not the only one who thinks this.

I've also been impressed with what I've read of Pearl Jam's philanthropy.  They're a '90s "Seattle Sound" grunge band, and lately, they've raised more than $10 million to help the homeless.  Grunge, all fits.  I've also read that Eddie Vedder is a nice guy in real life.  I was going to donate to their cause via the Starbucks (of course!) app on my Apple mobile phone, because, well, I love Pearl Jam.

Then I see crap like this:

HELENA, Mont. – Republicans are condemning a poster by Pearl Jam that shows the White House in flames and a bald eagle pecking at a skeleton they say is meant to depict President Donald Trump.

But Pearl Jam's bassist, Jeff Ament, is unapologetic, issuing a statement Wednesday saying he was the "sole conceptualist" for the poster.  He said the role of an artist is to make people think and feel, and the current administration has people thinking and feeling.

He says he welcomes all interpretations and discourse and ends with, "Love, from the First Amendment, Jeff Ament."

Cripes, why did he go do that?  Look how cheesy that art is for a political ad.  Even the Democratic candidate they're shilling for, Jon Tester, says he doesn't like it.  Nobody who's sane does.  It's the classic pornoviolence fantasizing on the left about killing President Trump.  Pornoviolence is a term coined by Tom Wolfe to describe the absolute fascination the media and others have with some guy getting his head blown off, playing the stuff over and over like a pervert in a public library.

The rabid left loves this stuff, and everyone else finds it appalling.  We have seen it rampant in the arts, what with Kathy Griffin's carrying around a human head depicting President Trump as some kind of comedy act, the Shakespeare in the Park crowd in New York rewriting "Julius Caesar" to get a good stab at President Trump, Eminem rapping his low-I.Q. high-violence threats, and Madonna voicing her desire to blow up the White House.  Those are the ones I can think of.  I know there are quite a few more.

Did it really have to be Pearl Jam that would join this crowd of losers next?  This is beneath Pearl Jam.



What's more, that poster degrades their art.  The political race in Montana is going to come and go.  Nobody is going to remember either of these two candidates.  The candidate they are endorsing doesn't even like the poster, given that he wants to win and can see what political extremism has done for the fortunes of other Democrats compared to the fortunes of moderates who get in there and then proceed to act extreme only when in office.  Pearl Jam's music is far more long-term than that; you can listen to the stuff they recorded in the '90s and still be awed by the artistry.  Politics, by contrast, is absolutely ephemeral.  Nobody is going to want to remember this race when an audience sits down to listen to Pearl Jam's music in 2048.  Album art and posters do matter.

Even more important, given Pearl Jam's popularity and exposure, as well as the specific political endorsement of one candidate over another, it amounts to an in-kind political donation for Tester and needs to be treated as such, subject to in-state and federal limitations and reporting requirements.  Will the enforcers go after that one?  They'd be remiss if they didn't.

Such a shame to see Pearl Jam go into the political consulting and opposition research business.  I thought the band was better than that.

While I'm not going to boycott as rare and excellent a talent as Pearl Jam, I probably won't donate to their cause now.  I won't enjoy their music as much when I recall this incident.  I won't think of them as nice guys.  It's just sad.  A gulf has been created now, and now I identify with these guys less.  The most similar incident I can recall like this is when Heart, another awesome Seattle band, came out to insult and attack Sarah Palin for using its music at her rallies back in 2008.  Oh, come on.  I've never recovered from that.  I unsigned myself from Heart's fan club.  I found myself hating the band for having to detach its music from its politics and listened to it a lot less.  Not a boycott – just a lessening of admiration and interest.

How sad that Pearl Jam is doing this to us, too.  It's a force of nature, not a sleazy political operative operation.  We want to love it.



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