What can Macklemore teach libertarians?


It takes a special type of person to enjoy canvassing, leafleting and telling on election nights. I’ve done them all myself, and consequently can be placed firmly in said category of ‘special’. But such activities are hardly the apex of political persuasion. Party activists may play an important role in marshalling support when it really matters, but rare is the doorstep conversation that moulds and shapes somebody’s core principles.

In an age when young people are increasingly disillusioned with mainstream politics, the methods with which public opinion can be influenced are further removed from overt ‘Political’ discussion than ever before. In a recent interview on this website, Sam Bowman (Research Director of the Adam Smith Institute) remarked that:

“The Wire has probably done more to change people’s minds about the War on Drugs than every policy paper published by every think tank in the world.”

The underlying message is that oftentimes, public opinion can be shaped more tacitly, and in surprising ways. Another example of creative media’s capacity to influence peoplecan be found in a song released by Ben Haggerty (commonly known as ‘Macklemore’) in mid 2012. ‘Same Love’ was partly inspired by the rapper’s gay uncles and gay godfather, and features lyrics that sensitively promote marriage equality. The video, which is featured below, deeply affected me the first time I watched it, and undoubtedly did the same for countless others:

[vimeo id=”54559146″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

I didn’t need my mind changing on marriage equality, but a sizeable minority of people in the UK still do. Although yesterday saw the ‘Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill’ having its second reading in the House of Lords, a December 2012 ICM poll for The Guardian found that 31% of the public opposed legalisation enabling gay marriage. If you know anybody that is a part of that 31%, link them to the music video. It might not change their mind, but it will certainly give them food for thought.

Many of Banksy’s pieces criticise an authoritarian, collectivist mindset in a way that libertarians can sympathise with.

Whilst it would be ludicrous to suggest that Macklemore is single-handedly responsible for the passage of Referendum 74 in Washington, it would be equally ludicrous to say that his track (which has to date reached over 44 million people) made no difference whatsoever. In the realm of street art, the phenomenon of Banksy has undoubtedly helped many to reconsider their own principles and political philosophy. Penn and Teller’s ‘Bullshit!’ was wildly popular and helped to communicate a markedly libertarian message to a mass audience. What can Macklemore teach libertarians? That we don’t have to be political journalists, politicians or activists to convince people that freedom is worth fighting for.

Artists, poets, musicians, directors, and indeed everyone else should take note.



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