GAGA, BOWIE, HITLER
Well you can bump and grind,
It is good for your mind,
Well you can twist and shout, let it all hang out
But you won’t fool the children of the revolution
-Marc Bolan, 1972
The mythology is all wrong. Prometheus did not bring fire to the humans.
This is what happened.
Prometheus stole fire from the old, conservative gods and ate it. With this fire in his belly, he descended to the human world, jumped onto a stage, and told them, “I have brought you fire!” None of them grew warm because of the fire inside the rebel god—they only though they did. Mesmerized by his dancing flames, they crowded around Prometheus and confused the shared heat of their bodies for that of his own. In their ignorance, they truly believed that Prometheus had brought them fire. In truth, all Prometheus ever did with the fire in his belly was dance.
For his crime, the old gods punished Prometheus by chaining him to his stage. There, tied to the stage on which he once danced, an eagle devoured his insides. At night, when the world slept, when everyone forgot, Prometheus healed from his wounds. In the day light, the eagle returned and ravaged him once again. The eagle haunted Prometheus forever.
A YOUNG MAN
In 1913, in the German city of Munich, a young man successfully avoided military service. This young man was an artist who could not thrive in the art world. He had been rejected from art schools and told by the old conservative world that he could never do what he wanted to do. When the first world war began in 1914, he eagerly sought to join the same military service he had once avoided. In 1914 he was shipped off to the Western Front. Despite being wounded in 1917, he found war to be the greatest experience of his life. When the war ended 1918, and his world of heroes and battles was over, he had nowhere else to go. And so, on the streets of Munich, Adolf Hitler happened upon the German Worker’s Party.
He entered this group just as he entered the art world and the military: looking for a world on which he could leave his mark. By 1921, Hitler had risen to become a minor party leader. They called him Fuhrer. In 1921, Hitler and 600 armed men surrounded the speech of their political opponent. From there they attempted to take over the Munich city hall. Eventually the Nazis were crushed and Hitler was sent to prison, but the attempted coup catapulted the Nazis into fame. A starving nation found comfort in the boldness of this political party. While in jail, Hitler wrote a book called My Struggle. His words were to find resonance in the desperate population of Germany. Finally, the artist had found his medium. All of Germany would soon be looking in his direction and before long, so would the rest of the world.
ANOTHER YOUNG MAN
In 1962, in the suburbs of London, a young man just out of art school declared to his parents that he was going to be a pop star. They did not want him to become a pop star. Despite this discouragement, the young man moved from band to band, hoping to find the one that would catapult him into stardom. He wrote songs for money over the years and drifted through London, living his life as if it was a long, theatrical conquest. When his dream band arrived one day, he made them “Ziggy’s band.” He told the world that in the end he would become “sucked up into his mind” after having “made it too far.” Ziggy Stardust jumped onto the stage and immediately started to disintegrate. The fame he sought began to leave marks on his face: strange, sparkling lightning bolts that he displayed to the starving world around him.
The world from which David Bowie emerged was tumultuous and riddled with disorder. His album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was released in the summer of 1972, the same summer that the Angry Brigade was on trial. They were anarchists accused of firing a rifle at an embassy, sending bombs to members of British Parliament, and writing incendiary communiques, among other things. In one of these communiques, the Angry Brigade stated that “life is so boring there is nothing to do except spend all our wages on the latest skirt or shirt.” They once asked a question: “Sit in the drugstore, look distant, empty, bored, drinking some tasteless coffee? Or perhaps BLOW IT UP OR BURN IT DOWN.”
Bowie preferred to dance in front of everyone, watching as his face turned up on the latest shirts for people to spend all of their wages on. He proceeded to fulfill his own ambition until it consumed him. As Ziggy Stardust began to disintegrate, David Bowie started to unravel. He could not escape the stardom he had once craved. He could not escape his personality, his exoskeleton. He could not tell the difference between himself and his own image. Much like Adolf Hitler, David Bowie chased his projection into the future until it reached its wretched conclusion. Ziggy was to become an empty, desperate shell.
In his 1974 album Diamond Dogs, David Bowie declares that what he is doing is “not rock and roll. This is…genocide.” The dazzling luminary became rather dour. There was no more glitter, there was only a man with slicked-back blonde hair called the Thin White Duke. In 1976, his album Station To Station was released. During that same year Francisco Franco, the fascist leader of Spain, finally died. Rather than allow news of the dictator’s death to broadcast via satellite, Bowie chose to have his interview broadcast instead. Francisco Franco led a fascist army that, aided by Adolf Hitler’s army, wiped out and eradicated the anarchists struggling in Spain. The Thin White Duke spoke to England on the day that Franco died, but said nothing of the dictator’s passing. The same year, David Bowie told a reporter that “Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader.” Bowie later blamed this comment on drugs and stress. Also in 1976, he also said that “Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.”
Ziggy Stardust ended up as the Thin White Duke. His persona had eaten him. He retreated to Berlin, the city where Adolf Hitler killed himself. There he made records influenced by German electronic music. Millions of people had flocked to see David Bowie while he was Ziggy Stardust. Millions continued to see him after Ziggy was dead. His albums continued to sell, his face continued to be on the latest shirts, his words continued to be broadcast everywhere. In 1977, just as the insurrections in the Italian cities were starting, just as the struggle against work and the factory was intensifying, David Bowie said these words to the world: “I’m the perfect example of the victim of technology. I think it’s disastrous.”
A YOUNG GIRL
In 2003, in New York City, a young girl began to sing in clubs. She had left art school, dissatisfied with the people in her classes, and started to make music. The young girl knew it was her “destiny” to become a star. Soon she was singing in night clubs in a leopard-print thong. This disturbed her father, a wealthy man who did not understand what his well-educated daughter was doing. By 2008, the young girl had crafted her first album and projected herself into the future, much like Bowie, much like Hitler. The Fame, released in the summer of 2008, was Stephani Joanne Angelina Germanotta’s assault upon the world of pop-culture. She created an album, a persona, and an image that encouraged people to come to her and be themselves. Her album champions living like a spectacular movie star.
“This idea of The Fame runs through and through,” Stephani said. “Basically, if you have nothing, no money, no fame, you can still feel beautiful and dirty rich. The music is intended to inspire people to feel a certain way about themselves, so they’ll be able to encompass, in their own lives, a sense of inner fame that they can project to the world.”
Stephani, who had since given herself the name “Lady Gaga,” toured the United States promoting her new album. With The Fame, she began to develop a cult following that spread quickly through the electronic networks of the contemporary United States. Her image metastasized. Lady Gaga often expressed her love of David Bowie and wore a lightning bolt on her face in homage. As heiress to his tradition, Lady Gaga disseminated her songs of glamor, decay, and ecstasy. Her face appeared on the latest shirts and skirts.
Since the 1970’s, the aspirations of people like the Angry Brigade had been systematically crushed. There were fewer people attacking commodity society and they received less support than the anarchists of the seventies. By the fall of 2009, when Lady Gaga’s second album was released, the anarchists of the world had finally found a new power ever since the Greek Insurrection in 2008, an event which mobilized and inspired thousands of anarchists. Unfortunately, in 2009, commodity society was still more powerful, thanks to people like Lady Gaga.
With her follow-up album, The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga decided to dub her followers “little monsters.” Each song on her album was meant to be a monster that she found in herself. Lady Gaga, no longer calling herself Stephani in public, had become an exorcist for people who found comfort in her words and imagery. In interview after interview, Lady Gaga extolled her followers to purge their inner monsters from themselves at her concerts and through her music. Unlike David Bowie, Lady Gaga created an army and an empire for herself with her persona, an empire she sustained with constant touring and publicity stunts. In her music video for the song “Alejandro,” Lady Gaga is depicted as the leader of a hyper-sexual fascist army. With each stop in her Monster’s Ball Tour, Lady Gaga amassed more fans, swelling the ranks of her “little monsters.”
Like Adolf Hitler, Lady Gaga channeled the suppressed energy of her audience into herself. In the Germany of the 1920’s, Hitler told everyone that he was just like them, that he could feel their pain, and that, above all, he knew how to get rid of that pain. At the time, the population of Germany was poor, hungry, and starving for a common direction. In the United States of 2008-2010, the population was poor, losing their houses, and desperate for answers. Lady Gaga, a self-professed “freak,” told her fans she was just like them. Her fan base was composed of people with a reason to hate the current order. She spoke down to the freaks, excluded, the oppressed, trying to lift them up to salvation and inner fame. In the end, Lady Gaga did not liberate anyone, she only reinforced commodity society. Hitler used his fame to reinforce the fascist state. Lady Gaga used her fame to reinforce the capitalist state.
Costuming herself in a false benevolence, Lady Gaga told Oprah Winfrey, “All the things that I do, in terms of The Fame and in terms of The Fame Monster, it’s meant to sort of make it a bit easier to swallow this kind of horrific media world we live in.”
TWO YOUNG BOYS AND A GIRL
Lady Gaga is currently doing nothing new. David Bowie did it before her. Kiss, the Grateful Dead, and Jay-Z all did the same thing. Every shimmering star is a distraction from physical reality. Every star mobilizes their fans in order to profit off them monetarily. Every star crafts webs of fantasy, delusion, imagery, and sound in order to keep their fans coming to their shows and buying their albums. Every star accumulates capital. Every star is a star unto themselves, a fire-bringer that never really shares the fire.
For every Adolf Hitler, there is a Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker who created The Triumph Of The Will. As an artist, she felt no qualms about making a film for the Nazis. Her evocative film exaggerates and aggrandizes the Nazi leadership. It also depicts thousands of loyal fans giving the Roman salute to Hitler. Although Riefenstahl helped promote the Nazis in their ascent, she continued her life as an artist after the end of the second world war. Other artists would later find inspiration in her film techniques. She pioneered the art of displaying a star to a world. Since her 1934 film was released to the German public, cinema has mutated into the internet-centric media world of the present day. There are no longer lone Hitlers to keep people in line. There is a multitude of Hitlers out there, dancing on the screen, keeping the public in line.
Auschwitz was never completed. Its construction continues to this day. Auschwitz is everywhere. Everyone must work in order to buy a Lady Gaga album. Everyone had to work to buy a David Bowie album in the seventies. Everyone had to work in Auschwitz. Before being removed from the ghetto of Warsaw and taken to the camps, Jewish prisoners fought an armed insurgency against the Nazis. In the end, Hitler told Germany that the insurrection was crushed. During the 1970’s in England, an anarchist guerrilla group called the Angry Brigade blew up train tracks, shot prison guards, burnt politicians’ offices, destroyed banks, bombed the media, and torched army recruiting offices. In the end, the sound of David Bowie drowned out their actions.
On the first of May, 1971, the Angry Brigade said this after bombing an upscale boutique: “We have sat quietly and suffered the violence of the system for too long. We are being attacked daily. Violence does not only exist in the army, the police and the prisons. It exists in the shoddy alienating culture pushed out by TV films and magazines, it exists in the ugly sterility of urban life. It exists in the daily exploitation of our Labor, which gives big Bosses the power to control our lives and run the system for their own ends.”
The three artists in question, Gaga, Bowie, Hitler, are like all artists. But they have far more power than the others. Every artist who makes a film in Nazi Germany, every band who plays for money, and every singer who soothes the minds of her troubled “monsters” is a professional who keeps people in line. Hitler worked for the Nazi capitalist machine. Gaga works for the international capitalist machine. She gives it money. She keeps them entertained at home. In this world, art is used by capitalism to perpetuate itself. It uses the stars to stay alive and in return gives the stars what they ask for. For Lady Gaga, it was fame. For David Bowie, it was fame. For Adolf Hitler, it was fame.
In conclusion, the author of this article would like to make a simple request. Every artist reading should tattoo this phrase on their wrist: Art is Auschwitz.