Yes, that’s the question we’re asking today. Can you be a DJ, or for that matter can you work anywhere in dance music and support the presidency and government of Donald Trump?
In order to answer that question, it’s helpful to step back for a moment and consider the history and the origins of the club scene that we all know and love. House and techno were both born in outcast cultures, created largely by oppressed non-white communities. The club, with the DJ at the helm, became a community, a meeting place, a site of togetherness and acceptance for those rejected or simply unwanted by the larger society. The club provided escape, hedonism and temporary transcendence for Black, Latino and gay people. DJing as we know it today, has its roots in gay culture and was largely pioneered by non-white people. It has always been about tolerance and diversity; the Warehouse nightclub was literally the embodiment of diversity. “Not everyone understands House Music” goes the famous Chuck Roberts acapella, “You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make a difference in our house.”
OK, snap out of it, back to 2018 and to the truly visceral shit-show of contemporary politics. To recap, Trump has said, amongst other things, that black football players protesting police shootings “shouldn’t be in the country”, referred to white supremacists and neo-nazis as “very fine people”, called for the “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration to the US, characterised Mexicans as “rapists” and claimed the Judge handling the Trump University lawsuit was biased because he was Mexican. Trump is a racist.
It’s hard to square these kind of views with the ethos of house music. They just don’t really seem to be the same. In fact, you could argue that this far right popularism / neo-fascism is the opposite of dance music and DJ culture. You’d be right.
If you follow the Make America Great party-line, if you support Trump’s policies, if you defend his actions, if you vote for him, then you are betraying the people who invented this culture that you profess to love. You denigrate their memory, and you sully the very ethos of what we are as DJs, producers, promoters and dancers. We stand for community, togetherness, for genuine tolerance and acceptance, we are the politics of love, there is no place for racism here.
But wait, what about freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, people have the right to their opinions right?
Yes, everyone has the right to their opinions, but just because someone has an opinion, it doesn’t mean that the opinion is valid, or true. It’s some people’s opinion that the age of consent should be lowered to enable them to have sex with children. We wouldn’t discuss this as though it were just another opinion, we would simply dismiss it as completely intolerable, abhorrent – a disgrace. It’s exactly the same with racism.
If you’re a racist, then that is not simply ‘an opinion’ or a viewpoint, it’s not a political outlook like being a conservative or a social democrat or a Green, it’s way less than that. Racism is a collection of worn-out tropes, bullshit and lies that don’t bear close scrutiny. It’s a stinking mess of rumour and insinuation, soaked in hatred and insecurity, that has been disproven countless times. It’s a disgrace, and therefore, racism doesn’t deserve to be treated in the same way as political viewpoints like left and right. The moment you embrace an ideology that denigrates an entire demographic, then you’ve stepped outside of the limits of civilised society and you’ve certainly stepped a long fucken way from house music too.
But hey, music and politics don’t mix, music should be above all that, DJs and artists should just stick to the music right?
Tell that to every UK raver who lived through the Criminal Justice Bill, or to anyone who attended a rave that got broken up by the Police. Tell it to everyone who campaigned to keep London nightclub fabric open. Tell that to the victims of draconian drug laws which don’t allow for drugs to be tested. Tell that to Underground Resistance, Dave Clarke, Seth Troxler, Public Enemy, DJ Sprinkles, The Black Madonna, Stormzy, Gil Scott Heron, Bille Fucken Holliday for fuck’s sake.
Clubbing has always been a political act. It’s an act of opposition to the ruling ideology, staying up all night, connecting with strangers, letting your ego take a few hours off as you become part of a greater whole, all that stuff, it’s oppositional – it’s a political act, whether you define it so or not. You have to stay up all night, sometimes all weekend, and then you have to take the day off work on Monday because you’re coming down hard: dance music and DJ culture is the literal opposite of the work ethic, it’s the play ethic, and it’s in direct contrast to the ruling ideology of 9-5 individualist consumerism. Clubbing, and DJing are inherently political.
So I don’t want to hear about the rights of fascists and racists, and I’m not interested in hey man just let the music do the talking. This is too serious for that now, we are way past just letting the music do the talking. Choose a fucking side.
In answer to the question can you be a DJ and also support Trump, if you support racism, you’re not a real DJ, you’re not even near. If you support racism and you call yourself a DJ, you’ve completely misunderstood what DJing is. The short answer to the question can you be a DJ and also support Trump is simple: