This show has kind of bled off the stage into loads of different environments, and I don’t mind hollow, shallow accusations of being racist or stuff like that. It kind of allows this show to do what it’s designed to do, which is to expose intellectual inconsistencies and hypocrisies and use myself to do that.… [But] the 1975 did not waltz into Malaysia unannounced. They were invited to headline a festival by a government who had full knowledge of the band with its well publicized political views and its routine stage show. Malaysian festival organizers’ familiarity with the band was the basis of our invitation.
Me kissing Ross was not a stunt simply meant to provoke the government. It was an ongoing part of the 1975 stage show, which has been performed many times prior. Similarly we chose to not change our set that night to play pro-freedom of speech, pro-gay songs.
To eliminate any routine part of the show in an effort to appease the Malaysian authorities’ bigoted views of LGBTQ people would be a passive endorsement of those politics. As liberals are so fond of saying, “Silence equals violence. Use your platform.” So we did that. And that’s where things got complicated.…
Naturally, the Malaysian authorities were irate, because homosexuality is criminalized and punishable by death in their authoritarian theocracy. That is the violent reality obscured by the more friendly term of “cultural customs.”
But it was the liberal outrage against our band for remaining consistent with our pro-LGBTQ stage show which was the most puzzling thing. Lots of people, who appear to be liberal people, contended that the performance was an insensitive display of hostility against the cultural customs of the Malaysian government, and that the kiss was a performative gesture of allyship.
To start, the idea of calling out a performer for being performative is mind-numbingly redundant as an exercise. Performing is a performer’s job. The stage is a place for […] artistic expressions which are inherently dramatized. That’s why audiences go to fucking shows.
Other apparent liberal people contended that the kiss itself was itself a form of colonialism. That the 1975, in the rich tradition of evil white men past, was forcing its Western beliefs upon the Eastern world.… The Dutch East India Company could have saved a fortune on weaponry if they knew that all they had to do was make out with each other to forcefully subjugate the people that they exploited.
To call the 1975’s performance colonialism is a complete inversion of the word’s meaning.… We have no [power] at all to enforce will on anyone in Malaysia. In fact, it was the Malaysian authorities who briefly imprisoned us.
So for performers like Julian Casablancas, who took to Twitter to criticize us, this bizarre mangling of colonial identity politics merely served as an expedient way to express their own disappointment with the festival’s cancellation.… These are the kind of mental gymnastics that are employed by celebrities to save face with their liberal-appearing audience, who delight in having their favorite academic catchphrases parroted at them.… Leveling accusations of colonialism against Western critics is by now a standard PR procedure in the authoritarian theocracy playbook.…
There’s a contradiction at the heart of liberals’ outrage over our supposed cultural insensitivity, that the conditional belief in inclusivity […] has led them to indirectly support a government which is intolerant of their own existence. What responsibility do liberals have to be ideologically chivalrous to those who wish they were dead?…
If you truly believe that artists have a responsibility to uphold their liberal virtues by using their massive platforms, then those artists should be judged by the danger and inconvenience that they face for doing so, not by the rewards they receive for parroting consensus. There’s nothing particularly stunning or brave about changing your fucking profile picture whilst your sat in your house in Los Angeles.…
Malaysia’s militarized enforcement of laws against public displays of homosexuality creates a clear line in the sand for what artists are allowed and expected to do, but elsewhere this line isn’t so defined. Even here in America, there’s loads of states which uphold illiberal laws that restrict people’s bodily autonomy and gender expression.
But I suspect, I’ve got an inkling, that those who took to Twitter to voice their outrage over the 1975’s unwillingness to cater to Malaysian customs would find it abhorrent if the 1975 were to acquiesce to, let’s say, Mississippi’s perspective on abortion or trans rights. Overall, the idea that it’s incumbent upon artists to cater to the local cultural sensitivities of wherever they’ve been invited to perform sets a very dangerous precedent.
It should be expected that if you invite dozens of Western performers into your country, they’ll bring their Western values with them. If the very same things which made you aware of them could land them in jail in your country, you’re not actually inviting them to perform. You’re indirectly commanding them to reflect your country’s policies by omission.
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