Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Again, this may not be as important as the bank bailout. But it ties in.
Dear Thomas Fuller:
I was appalled at your unbelievably lazy attempt-hatchet-job on M.I.A. today. You and the Times should be ashamed at such half-ass drek.
Do you have the slightest understanding of popular music or what it means to make "political art," and how complicated a term this is? Did you LISTEN to a single song by M.I.A.??? You wouldn't know it reading your article! All you do is quote a notorious piggybacker who popped up a while ago with some sad attempt to politicize and capitalize on her success.
I find it interesting that instead of actually quoting the musician herself (she is NOT a "rapper," by the way), you quote an interview with Tavis Smiley. Has the Times fallen that low that you can't even get your quotes yourself? Is this recession reportage? I'd be embarrassed for you if I wasn't so outraged. M.I.A. is a brilliant artist who was practically exiled from the United States by the Bush administration during the making of her last album because they, like you, labeled her some sort of dangerous terrorist advocate. Did you even know that? Do you like being in such despicable company? She deserves better than this in her introduction to many readers who had likely not heard of her prior to the Grammys or your limp screed.
The truth is that there are NO direct political statements in M.I.A.'s music, of any kind. Mentioning the word "tiger" or the group "PLO" does not constitute a political program. What M.I.A.'s music does, consistently, is to problematize ideas and assumptions in pop music and culture alongside analogous social or political concepts. As good artists do, she LOOKS CLOSELY, and always keeps her terms ambiguous-- she does not trumpet specific messages.
I can understand that such nuance might be beyond someone such as you, who has no interest in paying attention and wants to simplify the endeavors of artists to black-and-white, yay-or-nay. But this is what art is actually FOR. So fuck you.
How does this relate to the crisis? Easy.
American culture is now being unveiled as one massive play of appearances with no underlying substance or material. A news article without reporting still "looks" like a news article. Utterly worthless assets are packaged to "look" like assets. An aircraft carrier, a "Mission Accomplished" banner and a president "look" like victory.
A strict Marxist might argue that this is our cultural institutions inheriting their devious form from our capitalist structure. But I would argue the opposite. I say that capital in the States takes its form from Hollywood, from TV, from our invincible popular culture.
The "American dream" was shaped as a series of desire-images from the inception of film. There has been an endless and increasingly drastic deferral between here and there, reality and dream, material and value.
I believe that Obama is genuinely committed to peeling back this facade. But the "panic" that speakingcorpse is speaking against is a real thing-- it is fear of the Real, fear of what lurks behind the screen. One fears great repercussions if the game is up, if we have to see what is really there. Don't be surprised if we never get around to facing it, no matter how dire things get.