‘Let Freedom Ring’: The Jan. 6 Insurrection and Leadership as an Acoustic Art

Ralph Bathurst reflects on his article, “Josh Hawley Meets Igor Stravinsky: A Leadership Symphony,” which was published in Leadership. His reflection appears beneath the paper’s abstract.

In this essay I explore two leaders: the composer Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) and United States of America Senator Joshua Hawley (b. 1979). These two offer an opportunity to re-describe leadership as an acoustic art thereby enriching the field beyond its current ocular orientation. Through this discussion, then, I invite readers into the world of music. The year 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death, and in that same year, Hawley came to international fame through the 6 January invasion of the United States Capitol building by people protesting the confirmation of Joe Biden as the 46th President. I offer a polyphonic analysis of Hawley and Stravinsky by operationalizing the music construct of tonal pairing which allows two tonalities to play together. I conclude the essay by noting the ubiquity of Manicheanism, a belief system that affords leaders an ability to characterize opponents as being evil. I mitigate this deleterious system by proposing that symphonic leadership calls for diversity and difference. Leadership as an acoustic art has implications for understanding the current war in Ukraine and China’s role on the international stage, including her relationship with the United States of America.

I wrote this paper as a way of making sense of the January 6, 2021, invasion of the United States Capitol by rioters protesting the confirmation of Joe Biden as the 46th President of United States of America. The two main characters of the paper – Joshua Hawley and Igor Stravinsky – come together in the context of rioting in the name of freedom.

After the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring May 29, 1913, Parisians rioted. Almost 100 years later Joshua Hawley raised his fist and salute of a gathering tide of activists readying to storm the Capitol building.

My paper is experimental. I bring Hawley and Stravinsky together using a music approach. I hope that the writing is an example on how to write differently in our discipline, and in the process explore difficult, sometimes unrelated, yet relatable fields.

Current events give my approach more urgency, such as the March indictment of former president Donald Trump for his alleged role in a scandal relating to hush money payments. This is but one of several other potential charges he is facing and is enlivening supporters and rivals in their quest for political dominance, further dividing their country. This paper explores the ground from which these protests and subsequent investigations have grown and seeks to unravel the claims which leaders use to animate their followers.

Unexplored in the paper is the rise of ignorance as a viable brand among leaders. Many of the current members of the United States Congress have received advanced degrees from prestigious universities yet reveal an apparent inability to grapple with complex issues, resorting instead to making grand statements with little intellectual integrity. The United States of America appears to be leading the world in this turn towards promoting conspiracies over conversation, stifling curiosity and freedom.

What is the role of a university education? Some leading contenders for high political office in the USA appear to have learned little from their tertiary studies. Or, if they have embraced the arts of learning, they hide their knowledge beneath unsubstantiated claims; conspiracies that leave the electorate ignorant and willing to act without conscience at the behest of their political masters. How might we, as leaders, address the rise of ignorance and its threat to liberal democracies across the globe?

Also alluded to though not explored in detail is the relationship between violence, religious adherence, and politics. Blood shed by those who espouse religious beliefs is justified when political opponents are deemed to be “evil.” Yet actions of this kind cannot be considered “Christian” by any measure, even though those who commit such acts, display their errant beliefs with pride.

In the words of the Eagles, a popular country rock band in their 2007 album Long Road Out of Eden, “All the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools.”

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Ralph Bathurst

Ralph Bathurst lectures in management and leadership at Massey Business School’s Albany campus. As a musician and music educator, Ralph explores how music aesthetics intersect with leadership theory and practice. Prior to his academic career, Ralph was also a minister and chaplain, work experiences that now inform his observations about how religious ideas background leadership rhetoric.

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