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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

A Warning for Oliver Anthony

They don’t think you know, but I know that you do.

Screen Shot 2023-08-15 at 2.37.39 PM
Oliver Anthony performs "Rich Men North of Richmond" (Screenshot taken from Twitter)

If you have any social media presence at all, by now you’ve likely seen Oliver Anthony’s breakout performance of a song he wrote titled, “Rich Men North of Richmond.” 

The overnight sensation has been nothing but humble and grateful, and how he’s wrestled with his instant success has only made him more endearing to his growing number of fans. After he went viral, he had to actually create a Twitter account: he chose the handle @AintGottaDollar, which is nearing 350,000 followers. Shortly thereafter, he announced he’d be uploading the song to all major streaming platforms and would perform for free at Morris Farm Market in Currituck, North Carolina on August 13 and stream his set on Rumble. That hot summer afternoon, hundreds packed the market to watch Anthony perform “Rich Men North of Richmond” live for the first time.

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But I have a warning for Oliver Anthony: the rich men north of Richmond are coming for you. Your rebuke of the ruling class has instantly become an anthem for millions who’ve had these emotions weighing on their hearts but couldn’t find the words themselves. Oliver, you can’t do that; they won’t let you do that. If "all this damn country does is keep on kickin' them down," you're no exception.

How much do you want to bet that corporate journalists are picking through Anthony’s life with a fine-toothed comb? Thankfully, it appears Anthony’s digital life is limited given his sudden need for a Twitter account. A social media history always makes it easier for journalists to embark on these search and destroy missions—and they never have to leave the comfort of their office or homes. Sadly, Anthony’s lack of social media presence won’t cause them to call off their dogs—they’ll dig into his personal life and drudge up anything, no matter how old, to nip this budding star. They’ll tie Anthony to any persona non grata and ‘conspiracy theory’ they can to discredit him.

In fact, it’s already begun. Rolling Stone’s story of Anthony’s rise is centered around its embrace by “right-wing influencers,” who “are losing their minds over a new country song.” The story mentions Dan Bongino and Matt Walsh by name. We all know what Rolling Stone thinks of personalities like Walsh and Bongino, and we all know that by invoking their names Rolling Stone is trying to chill “Rich Men North of Richmond” fever.

Over at National Review, Executive Editor Mark Antonio Wright tells his readers right up front that he doesn’t “understand the adulation on the right for this song’s message.” He fell short of Kevin Williamson’s infamous “the truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die” line, but came close: “you live in the United States of America in 2023 — if you’re a fit, able-bodied man, and you’re working ‘overtime hours for bullshit pay,' you need to find a new job.”

“And if you go home and spend all night drowning your troubles away,” Antonio Wright continues, “my friend, that’s your fault, not Washington’s. Not that Washington is helping any — it’s not. But when we waste our lives, it’s still our own fault.”

It seems Antonio Wright’s main gripe is that the song is a bit of a downer: “He [Anthony] should consider singing about what makes America a great land — a land of opportunity, not of guaranteed success.” If Antonio Wright ever considered coming down from the ivory tower that is his high rise office in Midtown Manhattan, he might find real downers have been pushed on the working men and women of this country by an alliance of public and private power. 

Apparently, bemoaning that reality—the death of about three quarters of a million Americans—is nothing short of ingratitude: shut up, take your Oxy, and vote for Nikki Haley. That’s the message. They don't think you know, but I know that you do.