KENNEY IS A FACIST: Interview with Graphic Artist Adam Warner
by Mark Janz
Calgary graphic artist and musician Adam Warner wears his heart on his sleeve....quite literally. Purchase his gear at Tigertail
While this COVID-19 pandemic has had the majority of us physically burrowing away in social distancing and some often much needed relaxation, our minds are anything but taking it easy. We have seen so much infectious investment in issues including racism, and a resounding battle cry across our social media to rally together in the pursuit of positive change. While this pandemic has us here at R Planet going through some serious live music withdrawl, it no doubt has blessed us with the chance to pause the show and focus our attention to issues that truly matter. While I have been elated to see so many of my friends, family, and fellow humans raising their voices to these complex issues, I could not help but notice one of my friends and fellow musicians using their talent to spread another message:
JASON KENNEY IS A FASCIST.
It's bold. It's commanding. And growing up as an Albertan in a conservative family, I knew it was controversial. Here is the thing about controversy, though; everything meaningful that has happened throughout history has been controversial. Not everything controversial has been meaningful, but the landmark ideas presented in the past by everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Virginia Woolf have been ANYTHING unanimously everybody's "jam." So while the R Planet team all hold our own personal opinions on everything from political to social issues, and while no two of us are the same with our thoughts on the leaders of both our province and country, we ALL admire the spirit Adam Warner is exuding into something he is passionate about saying.
For readers who may not be aware, what specifically does your slogan “Jason Kenney Is A Fascist” refer to? (many of our insights show a large number of readers below voting age)
It means Jason Kenney is a fascist in conservative’s clothing. I’m being very literal with the word fascist too – it’s not hyperbole, or like a style choice. The UCP are the extreme right, trying to divide Alberta in order to tighten their control of it. It plays into a bigger movement happening in Canada with Erin O’Toole and the CPC. That’s probably a larger conversation but point is, it’s scary shit, and what’s scarier is that a lot of Canadians seem asleep on it right now. Or distracted. It’s easy to point to Trump down in the US and be like “at least we’re not that bad”. But it’s time to wake up – we have our mini-Trump right here in Alberta and his name is Jason Kenney.
Many musicians take to songwriting to fight for positive change, I’m curious what got you inspired to create these graphics and gear as a vehicle for promoting positive resistance?
It’s funny you mention that because I started paying attention to the name Jason Kenney when bands were talking and singing about him at Calgary shows last year. Remember going to shows?! You don’t really hear too many politician’s names getting thrown around on stage, or watch the whole crowd chant “Fuck Kenney” very often, so I started to read about him. The more I learned the more disgusted I became, and now here we are. In the same way, I hope the gear that I’m making rubs off on people and at the very least, gets people to pause for a moment and start doing their own research, and maybe even eventually join the “Fuck You Kenney” chorus line.
You are involved with many musical projects, including Red Deer Run and Atticmaker, and I’m wondering if future music will also see you expressing this energy?
Ya for sure. RDR tackles a lot of issues in our songwriting, but lyrically our themes are baked in imagery and metaphor. It’s there you just have to dig for it, which is something I love about art – it’s really up to the viewer or listener to form their experience. Atticmaker is more straightforward, lyrically at least. Our song Last of the Dinosaurs is about dismantling the patriarchy and fucking the status quo and I think that comes across pretty obviously, like even in the name haha. Chatting with the band while we’ve been on our COVID hiatus, we definitely see ourselves getting even punchier with our subject matter. Punk music has always been political and we’re stoked to be a part of that tradition.
Your website for this gear KenneyIsAFascist.com says that your objective is to raise awareness to Albertans about these issues that impact them. If you were speaking to a newly eligible voter who is only beginning to pay serious attention to the political realm of the province, what would you tell them about Kenney and the UCP?
Kenney and his cronies are populists among other things, which means they are good at firing up their base, regardless of whether whatever they’re saying is true. They abuse, and then pretend to care for the working class, and have continually shown they only support the richest of the rich, their campaign donors and cohorts. They are racists – they refused to fire a racist speechwriter and curriculum advisor, and are bigots generally. They’re continually terrible to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as elderly and disabled Albertans. They’ve gutted and want to privatize healthcare, during a fucking global pandemic no less, and they’ve officially stranded our schools, teachers and students when they needed them most. That’s just the tip of the iceberg if you can believe it!
So just read deeper into whatever they tell you because there’s a very good chance it isn’t true, or it’s been spun heavily to suit their needs. They’ll say whatever they think conservative Albertan’s want to hear.
I’d also say the provincial government impacts your life more than you may think it does. It’s worth your time to learn about our government’s policies, how they affect you and your fellow Albertans, and how you can get involved to make your voice heard. You have way more power than you might think you do, and of course you’re at your most powerful when you get out and vote.
It’s no mystery that much of Alberta still leans towards the UCP, and many voters have voted that way for decades. What would your conversation look like from your end with a dedicated conservative voter?
I think the majority of Alberta lean conservative, but I’m not sure I totally agree that the majority of Albertans are still with the UCP. Kenney’s approval rating is in the low 40s so he’s now the second least favourite Premier in all of Canada.
I think the conservatives who’ve voted blue for decades are starting to put the pieces together and see Jason Kenney and the UCP for what they are. They are not cutting taxes. They are not providing jobs. They are not capable of revitalizing a dying oil and gas industry. They do not have Albertan’s best interests in mind, period.
Most importantly, to me anyway, is that Jason Kenney is a bigot. He’s a racist, misogynistic homophobe – basically just a terrible fucking person. Anyone who continues to support him despite these things, just because he’s a so-called conservative is complicit in all of the above.
Some of your latest work uses the slogan “Support Teachers, Not CEOs.” Can you tell me what got you inspired to create that line of gear?
My partner and I were just appalled by the fact in Alberta, schools and teachers were really left to their own devices to figure stuff out with regards to opening up this fall during COVID. No extra funding, no plan, no support at all from the provincial government. Meanwhile, the UCP are handing out a $4.7B tax break to their corporate buddies, so it’s clear where their priorities are and that’s just really gross. These stickers are a way to show solidarity with our teachers, and to raise a humble amount of money for organizations like SOS and the ATA.
Do you find you get a large amount of debate, negating, or general backlash for this work? Or for the most part have you been met with a lot of support?
Ya, I mean I’ve run into a few trolls for sure, but it’s mostly positive. This has actually been a huge community building exercise for me, especially outside of my typical artsy networks. I’m meeting a ton of new people that are teachers, healthcare workers and social workers, etc. People are pissed at what the UCP are doing to our province and it’s been amazing having these conversations with a huge variety of humans from across Alberta. It gives me the sense that we’re uniting and ready to fight back – I’m hopeful anyway.
Do you think you would ever use your gift of graphic design to comment on Canada’s government on a national level? Or would you say you find the provincial situation more pressing?
Great question! I’m actually going the other direction with my communication skills. I’ve joined a municipal-level organization called Look Forward Calgary who’s working to make Calgary a more progressive and inclusive city. It feels like it’s where I can make the biggest impact and it’s been amazing meeting and learning from the people who’ve been doing this work for years.
Reports from Elections Alberta in 2019 showed the highest voter turnout since the 1980s (with 70% of eligible Albertans voting in the last provincial election). With more Albertans hitting the voters’ booth, what would be your advice to them when deciding who to vote for?
The biggest thing is do your research! Find candidates that believe in some of the same major things you do and then start digging into what they’re policies and track records are. Talk to your network about what you’re learning and get involved in the larger conversation across social media, or wherever. Avoid voting strictly along party lines because that’s a big reason we’re in this mess. Oh and don’t vote for Jason Kenney – he’s a piece of shit!
Imagining you had a chance to sit down with Kenney, what would you say?
Fuck you Kenney, haha.
A MESSAGE FROM THE FOUNDER
Message from R Planet’s founder K. Beige: “In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, R Planet Magazine had decided to take a break from posting our articles at the beginning of June like we would normally do to make room for the voices that need to be heard at this time. As we aspire to be future leaders in the music industry and art scene, we understand the influence black culture has had on why artists like us have been and are to create and continue to push the boundaries. Us as a collective and a growing community plan to use our voice and platform to help those who have been marginalized, and those who have been ignored for many years. All of us together need to come together to make this world better again."