Simon Hardy Butler
Simon Hardy Butler

Ain’t Boycotting Roger Waters

In the wake of developments relating to a new documentary by Ian Halperin about Roger Waters, I have one thing to say about the musician and his ridiculous anti-Semitism:

Pink Floyd rocks!

Wait a sec … was I supposed to say that? Aren’t we all expected to boycott the former Floyd frontman owing to his villainous exercises in bigotry, such as the Star of David-adorned pigs displayed at least one of his concerts?

Here’s my perspective on that: Nope. No way, nohow. And I ain’t deviating from that position, either.

Some time ago, I mused on my feelings about Waters and his prejudice in relation to his work with the great, often psychedelic band for my Times of Israel blog, and I hold to my viewpoint now as I did before. Although Waters may want to avoid buying things associated with a country — Israel — whose raison d’etre I support, I don’t recommend boycotting him or his music in turn. Why? Not just because I like it. Oh, no.

It’s also because I believe the two don’t go together.

Art and commerce are strange bedfellows, to be sure, yet one does not inform the other when it comes to quality. Great melodies may sometimes be spurred by the need to make money, but their identity, their character, isn’t derived from the presence of moola. They follow separate paths. They’re not one and the same.

My appreciation of Waters and his efforts with Pink Floyd — a band I was introduced to in college by my dear friend Mike — is not limited to its context in the marketplace. I’m not going to dispute its chord progressions in light of Waters’ support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that serves to isolate the state of Israel from the rest of the world economy. Instead, I’m going to continue to listen to them, to appreciate the harmonies, songwriting, musicianship, bass lines. I’m going to continue to rock out to “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” and other standards of the genre. I’m not going to let Waters’ intolerance—reprehensible as it is—get in my way.

You shouldn’t, too.

Sure, you could make the argument that just as, say, a bottle of wine is a product sold by Israel that a CD containing a variety of songs is a product by Waters … and that both are of the same stock. I, however, think art doesn’t abide by the same rules. It’s something to be enjoyed in a different way, relished, savored, consumed—but not lost like a piece of food or a drop of drink is. It’s something that lasts. That’s why Pink Floyd is still played on the radio today. That’s why people still go to see Waters in concert.

The Star of David appearance at the star’s performances is vile, and anyone who argues that its presence is merely anti-Zionist rather than anti-Semitic muddles fruitlessly through absurd sophistry and junk philosophy, as I’ve indicated before. Still, we needn’t dismiss this individual, who has created great music, from the public perspective; rather, we should embrace him as we did in the Floyd years, crave the melodies he presents, applaud his playing … and do just that. If we give his views credence, we’re exposing ourselves to something anathema to his art. That wouldn’t be a good thing. That would be worse than BDS.

We don’t want that to happen. I’m sure it won’t. Like Pink Floyd’s kids, we just need to be left alone.

And remaining comfortably numb about it won’t do a thing to prevent a mistake in the future.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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