by carl wilson

O Kinsella, Where Is Thy Sting?

I have no desire to get into a nerd-war, but a couple of simple and amusing points about Kinsella's attack. (Again, see his Aug. 27 entry.) J. Kelly Nestruck actually did a nice job of dealing with WK's dismissal of the article. (Thank you.) Which leaves it up to me to parry the personalized part. [... keep reading ...]

He makes like he's never heard of me before, and it's probably sincere. He's probably forgotten that he actually asked me for help with his book, in this email:

-----Original Message-----
From: Warren Kinsella [mailto:warrenkinsella@XXXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2003 10:34 PM
Subject: Hey there

Just read your bit in today's Globe. It depressed me because it said so (apparently) effortlessly what the rest of us can't just pen in a day. Or two or three.

For me, this is a problem, 'cause I'm writing a book about punk for Random House. Would therefore like to take you to lunch to pick yer brain. What say you?


The lunch never happened. I said okay, he said he'd follow up (in an 8/8/2003 email that reiterated "I really enjoy your stuff"), no doubt he got busy and lost track, and neither of us thought much of it. But it's a funny-sad case study in human nature that the same critical style that one admires at a distance can so easily become the mark of a "poseur ... prissy arsewipe ... Moron-With-A-Thesaurus" and "nancy boy" when it's directed at oneself. I sympathize, but it's unfortunate.

Aside from the fag-bashing tone (very punk, I'm afraid), none of this bugs me much, because it's such familiar schoolyard anti-intellectual stuff. But I'm disappointed, because I thought Kinsella would be more prepared to engage in a serious discussion of punk's political culture. His book's not brilliant, but it's a hell of a lot smarter than his reaction to criticism.

I don't believe Kinsella's without principles - his work against the far right has been admirable (cf. his previous book Web of Hate). I imagine he saw his Liberal work as an extension of that campaign against the right, and thus of his punk past. But Kinsella doesn't want to talk about that. He just wants to claim I'm "jealous."

His source on my jealousy, his "buddy," is, if my guess is right, kind of a richly ironic one - a former fellow Globe editor who has a grudge against me because we're around the same age and I've done okay in the job while he ended up leaving after an ugly conflict with some of our managers. I actually think his buddy was wronged in some ways, but I'm sure he wouldn't believe that. Oh, and the guy also did some music writing. So if jealousy is the issue... well, I'll leave it there.

Finally - am I a token counterculturalist at the Globe? Sure. You can find me on the same page of your Globe lexicon as "Salutin, Rick," our token Marxist. (And a very talented writer.) But I don't think either of us is wrong to play that role. I don't think my column subverts capitalist hegemony or anything, but if I can use a mainstream platform to get some attention for creative work and ideas that might otherwise go unheard - perhaps to expand the dialogue a bit, and have some fun doing it - that's fine. I'm not the one claiming to be punk. So the Globe and I are in a relationship of mutual exploitation, with me as the reluctant cool-hunter, I guess, and the Globe as reluctant sugar daddy. It will do for now, though maybe not for always.

(In case you doubt the "reluctant" part of the Globe's sugar daddydom, it seems worthwhile occasionally, like now, to mention that my job is as an editor in another section of the paper, and the column is something I do as unpaid extra work. Maybe it's attracting all kinds of "edgy" ad revenue, but I sure haven't heard anything to suggest that. Every week that passes without it being unceremoniously axed feels like a bonus to me.)

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Monday, August 29 at 3:07 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (23)



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Posted by Daniel on September 16, 2005 4:34 PM



Carl, I hope you keep these last few posts on your website because they're hilarious.

Posted by Mike on September 7, 2005 10:07 PM



>> as for the "personal" attacks, i'd also add this: the only people who will be reading warren kinsella's rock book are people who know who warren kinsella the politician is. kinsella may have played (and still plays, apparently) in a punk band, but nothing that anyone outside of calgary or nardwuar remembers. he is not a music writer of either int'l or cdn renown.

Agreed. I find it very hard to believe that Random House would have even been interested in publishing such a book without Kinsella attached.

Posted by DW on September 2, 2005 10:08 AM



jealousy? bullshit.
i've written a rock book and have been reviewed: favourably, negatively, and occasionally with a deserved sting. it's usually painfully obvious when a reviewer is jealous that another rock writer beat them to the punch. in this case, i don't detect an ounce of jealousy in carl's column. all i see is a carefully argued (and long overdue: the fallacy of punk purity has been allowed to go unchecked for far too long)refutation of the book's various points.

as for the "personal" attacks, i'd also add this: the only people who will be reading warren kinsella's rock book are people who know who warren kinsella the politician is. kinsella may have played (and still plays, apparently) in a punk band, but nothing that anyone outside of calgary or nardwuar remembers. he is not a music writer of either int'l or cdn renown. (he did, however, write an excellent book on cdn neo-nazis that i enjoyed about ten years ago.) he's known primarily as a political bulldog for chretien. i'd hazard to guess that the foreign market for this book is nil: the market of punk books is already overflowing. THEREFORE, warren kinsella's punk book is ultimately more about warren kinsella than anything else, and because of that, i think personal comments are entirely fair game.

i found the review very engaging and it didn't mince words. too bad it only ran in the toronto paper. it was nowhere to be found in the quebec edition (continuing my ongoing beef with the globe's national editions ignoring mr. zoilus).

Posted by barclay on September 2, 2005 9:53 AM



Wow, I had no idea Kinsella was such a self-righteous arsehole. Even worse is that I cherish my Hot Nasties single and have since I was in high school. I don't know. Maybe I should chuck it at him when he comes to town. Actually, no. I'll gob on him instead!

Posted by Gbro on September 1, 2005 3:52 PM



I just don't want to get tricked into paying dues.

Keep up the thoughtful articles though. There's not very many journalists out there who actually take ideas seriously. Or at least write as if they do.

Posted by wsam on August 30, 2005 12:22 PM



Thanks for that nice parsing of the issues, wsam. And I'd like to think there aren't any "outsiders" to these forums. There's no membership list.

Posted by zoilus on August 30, 2005 12:08 PM



I’m an outsider to this forum but I'm going to comment anyway. So there.

The original article was interesting because it historically placed punk as a product of a certain time and mentality, as it surely is, drawing parallels to its counter-weight: the conservative backlash and neo-conservative ascendancy.

From this perspective Kinsella becomes an interesting figure because, as the article made clear, he is an ex-punk who ended up working for a government some Canadians feel was less than progressive and had much in common, implicitly, with many conservative trends. Rightly or wrongly. Chrétien’s liberals, if not neo-conservative, were fiscally conservative and did represent the Canadian status quo. What, if anything, this has in common with punk is an interesting, legitimate question.

Maybe punk is symptomatic of the same causes which spawned Thatcher and Reagan (rather than as a reaction to them). An anti-authoritarian sentiment enthuses both, though punk might be the less articulate. It is not Kinsella's fault he decided not to investigate these parallels but a critic cannot be faulted for wishing he had.

As for the personal attacks, they make Kinsella look petty. Is this what they mean when they say literature is so nasty because the stakes are so small? (And he shouldn’t talk: he lives in the beaches to boot. The Beaches is no place for a punk. The beaches is a place for people who want a home away from Muskoka).

As for him personally: what’s punk about making a living off your old governmental insider status? There’s nothing wrong with it, I don’t think, but it’s not punk.

Stealing an election, nihilistically scorning objective truth and the ‘reality based community’, invading a country basically because you can. Now that’s punk.

As the article tried to bring up, those are interesting connections to make. Too bad Kinsella avoids them. I guess it’s easier to crassly attack someone’s sexuality for using big words and appealing to the ideas of way out thinkers like Freud.

It’s like arguing with someone in grade four.

Posted by wsam on August 30, 2005 12:04 PM



You're right about the headline, Marco - I made an analogy between Kinsella and Rove that I think is legit, in the column, but the headline flattens them out as being exactly the same, which wasn't the point. Kinsella is certainly anti-neocon; my point about the neocon side of punk was meant to question whether he was being wise to fly his punk colours so proudly if he wanted to consider himself 'progressive' - that his enemies are even more punk. And the third level was that despite its middle-leftism, the Chretien regime and his role in it had a punk aspect that I think is counterproductive and abets the neocon point of view. I was trying to indicate a point of intersection that creates confusion, not reduce everything to one big Them.

Posted by zoilus on August 30, 2005 11:03 AM



Kinsella is notorious for these lame flame wars, but also for suing other bloggers for libel when they criticise him. He is truly not worth thinking about.

Posted by ian on August 30, 2005 8:08 AM



Are you pretending to be Ginny again? I thought I got to be Ginny this week!

Posted by Dixon on August 30, 2005 7:46 AM



I know that you can't always pick your headlines and photograph captions in the newspaper industry, but I must admit I found the references to "Karl Rove" and neoconservatism a bit overwrought and even irresponsible. Even if the Liberal and Republican parties do represent the status-quo-maintaining elite in their respective countries, so, as Kinsella fairly points out, does the Globe and Mail (with or without the sassy ramblings of Leah McLaren). If you worked at the Daily Worker and had "comrades" rather than "colleagues", your use of a Bush-Chretien analogy might be a little more convincing.

Posted by marco on August 30, 2005 7:28 AM



An addendum to my post above and in further response to #2: Why reduce all male critical rejoinders to a cheap metaphor about penis size? And out of curiosity, what would two female critics be methaphorically warring over? Oh, and for the record I don't really want man-breasts. Just a figure of speech.

Posted by originalspin on August 30, 2005 6:08 AM



Kinsella is a shit.

Posted by ginny on August 30, 2005 1:03 AM




I admire your forebearance in the face of nasty meanness.

Music & politics -- vexed. I'm with you in the self-critique implicating punk in the ascendancy of psycho-conservatism. I lean toward classic rock in my blame-gaming -- sexist, macho, cult-of-individualism '60s rock. Which I love.

The brilliant, charismatic lead singer of the approximately punk band I was in during college is now a strict anti-tariff neo-liberal in economics and a Republican in politics. We share fond memories of our shows together.

Nice article. Sorry about the flame-arama.

Posted by John S. on August 29, 2005 11:20 PM



judging by the other recent post on kinsella's blog we now know carl that all you need do to dispense with your prissiness is to start lifting heavy weights while listening to Minor Threat and wearing an anti-Bush tee. until it hurts. that'll beef up yer mug.

sure sounds punk to me... participating in some lame lifestyle section newspaper jizz on fitness. in our daily house organ of national self-hatred.

but to the main issue at hand:

i've been following kinsella's "I, Punk" act for some time, uneasy, but willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. mainly because of his writing on the canadian far-right. but all the bits I've read from the book are barely Punk 101 in their usefulness, and, as carl rightly emphasizes, the really interesting story -- how did he go from punk to politics -- goes hardly mentioned. this is a pretty fair point. basically all carl's fair points get waylaid in favour of pretty juvenile mouthiness in kinsella's response. only serves to confirm one of the empowering appeals of punk in the first place: the right to be an asshole.

and warhol=hippy? wha'?

punk is an inkblot, and anyone who wants to assert otherwise, that there be a one true punk spirit, is playing a grade school game of musical ontology. get a life. punk's just a name, a category, a stupid one that stuck for the wrong reasons. only a fool who gives their job description as "occasional shit disturber" (who's the pretentious one?) would bother being beholden to it.


Posted by cf. on August 29, 2005 10:39 PM



Oh yuck. What rats' nest is under this rain barrel i just tipped over?

Just for the record, I haven't read the Pitchfork review of the NPs album.

Posted by zoilus on August 29, 2005 10:34 PM



I'm grateful for that 3rd post. Really. Didn't want to be alone on the comments page with creepy ol' Number 2. Thought I was going to get nightmares tonight. I'm relieved.

Posted by Dixon on August 29, 2005 9:44 PM



Maybe I'm missing something here but just because a critic doesn't love a book is it necessarily because of an unfulfilled desire to be published? If I'm critical of a bad tit-job is it because I secretly harbor a desire for man-breasts? Maybe Kinsella misses some key points, maybe not, I don't know I haven't read the book. But I've gotta defend the right of a critic to say whatever the fuck he wants. And really, who gives a shit about a book on Canadian punk that will never be read by anyone but rock-nerds and is likely to be remaindered within 18 months anyway?

Fact is, as Kinsella himself points out, Wilson can write like hell; agree with his ideas or not. And for the sake of his integrity I should hope that a latent jealousy of booking bloggers doesn't infect his nationally published opinions. I for one will give him the benefit of the doubt until I have reason to think otherwise.

Posted by originalspin on August 29, 2005 8:29 PM



"I have no desire to get into a nerd-war"

Yet you seem to have had no problem what-so-ever picking up your light saber of doom now did you?

That's okay. I'm going to go take my no good punk self back to my basement and roll some 99 sided dice in just second. I promise to make this as quick and painless as possible.

I just wanted to inform you that your mother called and she wanted me to tell you that your grounded for fighting on the blog-o-sphere-playground. Hopefully, next time when you decide to have a "my penis is longer than yours" fight you can do it somewhere that is less lame. Oh by the way, I read your article on Warren and it was pretty pointless. Kinda like the comment I'm leaving here only I'm pretty sure I'm having more writing it. I think someone needs to give you a pity book deal so you can slowly stop being a jealous asshat. On that note, I would love to hear your opinion on how bloggers are getting book deals these days. It must be really frustrating watching people like Stephanie Klein, Wonkette and various other bloggers turn into authors eh? I mean that's gotta cut pretty deep. I mean it hurts right?

It stings a wee bit?

Deep down in side all you want to be, is to be loved. And maybe to be a rock star...and Carl, I get that. I do. We all want to be special and unique snowflakes. But best of luck on the first one.


p.s. Which reminds me. I find it amusing you changed your opinion on the New Pornographers album after the Pitchfork review was released. That's all I'm going to say about that. After all, I'm worried about your penis shrinking from the comments sure to make their way to your site.

Posted by Christie on August 29, 2005 7:12 PM



But he has such wise and sensitive eyes. You can't tell me you're not a little jealous of those eyes. Why, you've even gone and published the only extant photo of him with sunglasses! You've covered his eyes, Zoilus! I think that proves it.

Now be a good littleprissyboynancy-er-arsewipe-um, and go seek some professional help.

Posted by Dixon on August 29, 2005 6:39 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson