For those who are blissfully ignorant of Patti Smith’s putative artistic genius, her creative “torrent” includes poetry, artwork, and music of negligible impact and popularity. Her sole appearance on the musical charts, for example, is 1978’s “Because the Night,” a song written by superstar Bruce Springsteen with some lyrical additions by Smith.Nonetheless, her “Godmother of Punk” persona and her association with more talented figures of hipster adoration like pornographic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and heroin-fueled novelist William Burroughs have earned her a National Book Award for Nonfiction (for her name-dropping memoir Just Kids), an Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Minister of Culture, and a slot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Do such awards even have any credibility anymore? Barack Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize, for Pete’s sake.
Fellow Hall of Famer Mick Jagger once famously said of Smith, “I think she's so awful... She's full of rubbish, she's full of words and crap. I mean, she's a poseur of the worst kind, intellectual bullshit.” And yet her aura of artsy cool has many believing that she has had a seminal cultural influence. It’s similar to the delusional reverence sometimes accorded Yoko Ono, whose notable influence on pop culture was breaking up The Beatles.
Asked in the Telegraph interview about the political scene in the States, Smith expressed a dissatisfaction with the radical Obama that is typical of the far left, who complain that he hasn’t been radical enough:
I voted for Obama. I was very happy when he won. But Obama hasn’t really been able to effectively do anything that has made me… [pause] He hasn’t helped the environment. He didn’t close Guantánamo Bay. He went deeper into Afghanistan.But, Smith explains, that was all because Obama has simply continued the line peddled by “the last regime.” George W. Bush, the impeachment of whom Smith lobbied for, “completely embedded the idea that the most important issue in the whole world is terrorism. It’s not the most important issue in the world,” she says with what the interviewer described as “a solemn shake of her head.” Actually, when you have an avowed enemy who is literally hellbent on killing you, other issues tend to go on the backburner. But the only time progressives take terrorism seriously is when they’re accusing America of it.
And predictably, Smith is as much of a lemming as any anti-war progressive when it comes to blaming America and Israel for war crimes and atrocities. Activists like Smith are not anti-war; they are anti-America. If they were truly anti-war they would protest both parties to a conflict. Wake me when Smith and her ilk start denouncing the Taliban or Hamas.She expounded further on her “raging but formed opinion” about terrorism:
And I’ve said this over and over, but I’ll say it a million more times — I’m concerned more about the death of a bee than I am about terrorism. Because we’re losing hives and bees by the millions because of such strong pesticides. We can live with terrorism. We can’t live without the bee.In all fairness, this isn’t quite as inane as it first sounds. Bees do play a very significant role in plant pollination; the bee population has apparently declined sharply in recent years, and their extinction would have a dramatic impact on the food chain (how dramatic is debatable, but to suggest that humanity will end – in four years, according to one estimate! – is typical environmentalist hysteria). Claiming that this somehow renders terrorism insignificant and harmless is dangerous nonsense, typical of the left’s denial of any threat from America’s existential enemies.
Progressives are quick to dismiss concerns about terrorism as fear-mongering (while they fear-monger about global warming or the Christian right). It is not fear-mongering to acknowledge that Islamic terrorists exist and are waging war upon us, and to take appropriate security measures accordingly. Ignoring that threat so we can all turn our attention to beekeeping will get some of us – perhaps many thousands of us – killed.Not that Smith is overly concerned about that:
When you think about how many people the terrorists have killed, its nothing. It’s not as many as die on a bicycle in America probably in a year or something.This is presumably another one of those “raging but formed opinions” that sent such a thrill up the leg of the interviewer. Smith’s callous trivialization of the thousands of American innocents killed or wounded here and abroad by jihadists, not to mention the innumerable deaths that could have resulted from disrupted or failed terrorist plots, is repugnant. It’s also a bit odd, considering that she created an art exhibition in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that featured drawings of the Twin Towers, the collapse of which she witnessed. Though it’s difficult to tell for certain, her comments at the time at least hinted at empathy for the victims:
No matter where one stands politically, the human dust in the air lingers. As much as I understood the soul of the remaining building, I felt the people – 3,000 – dying in moments, just blocks from my house. The Towers were in my sightline. I sent my daughter to school at 8:15. An hour later they were gone. Breathtaking.For a poet, “breathtaking” is a breathtakingly poor choice of words. An Australian thunderstorm is breathtaking. A Van Gogh is breathtaking. The destruction of the Twin Towers at the hands of fanatics consumed by hatred of the 3000 innocents they murdered is not breathtaking. It’s devastating. It’s outrageous. It’s unconscionable.
In any case, that was then. Now she shrugs and asserts that “we can live with terrorism,” another breathtakingly poor choice of words which sounds an awful lot like surrender. This celebrated genius believes she sees the Big Picture about bees and humankind, but she’s blind to the serious impact “living with terrorism” is currently having on everything from our personal security to international relationships to our economy to our rights and freedoms. She also doesn’t seem to grasp that working toward a solution to the bee problem doesn’t mean we can’t simultaneously work toward solutions to the Islam problem.Celebrities and their airy opinions may seem like easy targets for criticism. But artistes like Godmother of Punk Patti Smith are given an undeserved platform by the media, their opinions and willful ignorance too often absorbed uncritically by others. If Smith wants to live in a leftist fantasy world in which the death of a single bee is more critical than averting another 9/11, that’s her right in a free society. The rest of us don’t want to have to live with terrorism – or die from it.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Magazine, 6/19/12)