This week, the world’s greatest rock and roll band announced a 2019 U.S. tour. The Rolling Stones will play to packed stadiums across the country, starting at Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium in April and ending at Chicago’s Soldier Field in June. They’ll be at the Rose Bowl on May 11.
After more than 50 years of extraordinary success, it’s fair to say the Rolling Stones are not just a band, they’re marketing geniuses. So it’s interesting that the name they chose for this tour is “No Filter.”
It says something about where we are in America today. The freedom to speak without watching every word is now so edgy that there’s a rock and roll tour named after it.
One measure of our hyper-heightened sensitivity is that TV shows and movies from the 70s or 80s can be shocking in their language, and I won’t give any examples of it here. But you can experience the sensation of shock for yourself. Watch the Mel Brooks classic, “Blazing Saddles,” and see if you don’t shake your head every 45 seconds and repeat, “You couldn’t do that today.”
In the early 1960s, comedian Lenny Bruce was beyond shocking in a buttoned-down and highly censored entertainment industry. At that time, performers were actually arrested for obscenity, which was probably better than the kind of censorship we have today. At least if you’re arrested, you get a trial.
“No Filter” tells us that these longtime legends of the music business have identified the cause of a feeling of confinement. Rock and roll music sells freedom from confinement. People will pay a lot of money for two hours of feeling like they are defying society’s demand for conformity.
This is why chamber music doesn’t fill the Rose Bowl.
In 2016, many people who voted for Donald Trump told reporters and pollsters that they liked the fact that Trump said whatever he wanted to say. It’s interesting that Trump chose Rolling Stones tracks to play over the sound system at his rallies. “No Filter” is a pretty good description of every speech Trump has given since he came down the escalator into the presidential race.
In October, an organization called More in Common published a report titled, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape.” The researchers conducted a poll of 8,000 people, including 30 hour-long interviews and six focus groups, between December 2017 and September 2018.
The study assessed that 25 percent of Americans are conservatives, 8 percent are progressive activists, and everybody else is part of the “exhausted majority.” Two-thirds of Americans share “a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”
The researchers found that Americans of all ages and backgrounds have one thing in common: everybody’s sick of political correctness.
Asked whether “political correctness is a problem in our country,” the answer was “yes” from 74 percent of respondents ages 24 to 29 and 79 percent of Americans younger than 24. “Yes” was the answer of 79 percent of whites, 75 percent of African-Americans, 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics, and 88 percent of American Indians.
“It seems like everyday you wake up something has changed,” said one individual in Oklahoma, described as a 40-year-old American Indian, “You are on your toes because you never know what to say. So political correctness in that sense is scary.”
It’s especially scary if you’re worried that saying the wrong thing could end your career and you might never work again. Among people who make more than $100,000 per year, 70 percent said political correctness was a problem. Among people who make less than $50,000, it was 83 percent.
The one group that strongly supported political correctness was progressive activists, but even there, nearly a third agreed that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” The pollsters didn’t define political correctness, so it’s possible that not everybody had the same thing in mind when describing it as “a problem.” But certainly there’s something about the policing of speech that is making nearly all Americans feel very uncomfortable.
And that is a very healthy reaction. It’s un-American to group people by characteristics from birth. Maybe it takes a British invasion to make us see it.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.