Despite all his rage, Billy Corgan is still just rattling the cage of American politics—much to the infinite sadness of Gen X-ers still holding onto their Siamese dreams of mid-’90s alt-rock Smashing Pumpkins greatness.
On Thursday, he slammed “socialist” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and accused liberal activists of infringing on free speech. “The tactics in the social justice warrior movement are to stifle and shut down free speech,” the singer said Thursday during an appearance on Infowars, the online network run by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
“And I would argue in the world that I live in, which is the bareknuckle world, they’re leveraging their position because they don’t have power.”
The Smashing Pumpkins co-founder, songwriter, guitarist, producer, author, poet, tea shop owner, and pro wrestling mogul went viral Thursday as he took aim at the 2016 presidential race, “social justice warriors,” drones, political correctness, and Bernie, among many other hot topics. Confirming several times over that he loves America, he invoked heavily alarmist language to warn of the country’s impending ruin.
“To be talking in America in 2016 about, you know, Mao is a good idea and a socialist is running for President and that’s okay, and we’re going to go back to these kinds of crazy tax rates and completely disempower the innovators in our country,” he said, “because the new class, the new technocratic class, wants to keep their position and they want to keep everybody else from coming in the game. I mean, it’s crazy to me.”
Corgan may also find it crazy that his comments immediately went viral in spite of the assertion by Infowars host Lee Ann McAdoo that a vast liberal conspiracy is actively censoring conservative news from trending on Facebook.
“They can take your free speech and hide that line of code so it never trends, or the algorithms will just shut down and you won’t be able to reach your audience,” she claimed. Elsewhere in the interview, McAdoo also called the methods of liberal activists “totalitarian” and dropped gems like, “It’s this whole cultural racial thing where you can’t say anything if you’re white!”
Corgan passionately agreed with the latter point, as he did with just about every conspiracy theory McAdoo served up during their 36-minute chat. All things considered, he went pretty easy on liberals and progressives this time around compared to his visit to Infowars last month when he sat with Jones, called “social justice warriors” Maoists, and compared them to both cult members and the KKK.
Corgan, 49, has come a long way since forming the Smashing Pumpkins with James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin in the fall of 1988. Who could’ve guessed that the grunge-adjacent frontman of one of alt-rock’s most respected outfits would go from touring the world with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in his signature “Zero” tee to calling for artistic censorship 20 years later while wearing several layers of outerwear, a scarf looped around his neck, and a monogrammed Chicago Bulls cap on his bald pate?
Not that Corgan would likely admit that what he advocated for on Infowars was any such form of suppression of expression. Railing against mainstream propaganda that, he says, has manipulated people into “enslaving themselves to a system,” Corgan suggested that film and television programs be ideologically vetted in the name of an open society.
“Here’s a new show, are we comfortable with these concepts? Here’s a movie where the director of the movie has openly called for open borders. Are we okay with that?” he offered. “Are we okay with the messaging in the movie? Is that okay? Do we want to participate in that on a cultural level?”
“I’m not calling for boycotts,” he added. “I’m an artist. I’m calling for an open, free society that deals with these ideas equally and fairly and that collectively, in the right use of the word, we can come to a better cultural point of view.”
On the eve of the release of 1998’s electronica-infused Adore, in an atypically personal interview with the Los Angeles Times, a 31-year-old Corgan described a then-recent revelation concerning his public persona.
"One of the best things that [then-girlfriend Yelena Yemchuk] ever said to me as a friend was that my problem is that I have no archetype, no identity, so it makes it hard for audiences to know how to relate to me," he said. "She was referring to how there always needs to be your Madonnas and your [Marilyn] Mansons and your Leonardo DiCaprios. There is a human need to have certain buttons pushed."
Two years later the Smashing Pumpkins would break up, famously falling victim to backstage infighting and clashing egos. Corgan formed a new band, Zwan. It lasted two years, one album, and a world tour. Somewhere in this post-Pumpkins period of un-tetherings and new beginnings, Corgan found a little faith, a streak noticeable in his songwriting.
The man who’d once crowed with arrestingly aggressive anthemic angst that “Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty, just like me,” began singing a different tune with Zwan. In “Declarations of Faith,” Corgan did exactly that: “I declare myself/declare myself of faith.”
Alas, Zwan went up in flames after releasing the religiously-inspired album Mary Star of the Sea, but Corgan rolled through to his solo career. He started blogging, airing dirty Pumpkins laundry from the past, and penned a book of poetry. Corgan reimagined himself yet again with TheFutureEmbrace, his shoegazey first solo album.
It’s no shock now to recall the full page ad in the Chicago Tribune Corgan took out in the summer of 2005, announcing his desire to reunite the Smashing Pumpkins. At the time, it was certainly a needlessly public declaration—particularly since he would go on to “reunite” the band by completely replacing Iha and Wretzky with new members.
“Many have assumed that the decisions I have made over the last few years have been to try to get away from something,” he wrote. “But what I have been really trying to do is find that same kid again, the one who believed he could change the world with a song.”
In 2007 the re-formed Smashing Pumpkins headlined the inaugural Live Earth benefit concert spearheaded by Al Gore as one of over 150 musical acts playing for the cause: to increase awareness of global warming. But somewhere in the few years that followed, Corgan flip-flopped on his position on climate change—hard.
“I believed at that time that the planet …was warming,” he wrote three years later in a 2010 Q&A session on Facebook, where he later deleted his entire page. “Until I did research and found out it was all an orchestrated scam. Planet has gotten colder [in the] last 10 years. Hence the not so subtle change in the media from saying ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change.’ It is all connected to trying to make us all pay more taxes for our ‘carbon footprint.’ In essence, you should be taxed just for breathing. Good scam. Anyway, let’s avoid politics here because it will just get dumb fast. So don’t bother asking any more of those types of questions. I’ll save that stuff for my twitter. I love when people tell me to shut up, as if I too am not a citizen of the Earth. Eco-fascists need not apply here. I won’t listen to you.”
In the last several years, Corgan’s political streak blossomed, along with his varied extra-musical interests. There’s the tea house he owns in his native Chicago, the professional wrestling promotion he founded, and the spiritual website he launched in 2009 (Everything From Here To There) with a holistic tone and a theological foundation.
“This is not a place of judgment, nor a place of making proof,” the website declared. “We begin with the idea that there is a God. We begin with the undying belief that there is a unifying intelligence that manifests itself in Every-thing.”
“The purpose of this website is to discuss openly and without fear concepts of Mind-Body-Soul integration,” the site promised. “Mind-Body-Soul integration is the primary focus of this site, and how it can best manifest in our daily life.”
Shortly after debuting that blog, Corgan used it to proselytize passionately against President Obama, accusing POTUS of being party to a H1N1 virus propaganda campaign designed to frighten the masses. It launched him into the rarified echelons of celebrity anti-vaxxers and presaged the onslaught of Corgan’s current golden age of shouting incendiary political views from the rooftops.
How far the heroes of grunge America have evolved from their angst-filled youths. While Corgan’s been busy paying Alex Jones regular visits and praising Donald Trump for his chaotic impact on the presidential election, his ex-pals are firmly rooted on the other side of the aisle. Former flame and collaborator Courtney Love jumped aboard #TeamHillary last month, Tweeting a selfie with the Democratic frontrunner. Meanwhile, Nirvana and Foo Fighters musician Dave Grohl helped re-elect President Obama in 2012 by hitting the fundraising trail.
We’ll surely hear more from Corgan en route to Election Day. Unless, that is, the socialist Maoist cultists win, or the social justice warriors successfully murder free speech in America. In that case, Corgan warned, we’re doomed. “Once we lose that lane of free speech in this country, it’s over,” he told McAdoo on Infowars, at one point lamenting that public figures like him can’t slip up and blurt out the n-word or commit grossly sexist acts without being lambasted for it. “It might still be called America, but it is OVER.”