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Noted poster artist dragged into local election fracas over charges of anti-Semitism
10.15.2014
01:45 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
Politics

Tags:
Derek Hess
Kent Smith
Mikhail Alterman


 
Amazing the trouble that a reaction-baiting local TV news segment can work up, isn’t it? In Euclid, a small city to the east of Cleveland, Ohio, the race to send a representative to the state house in Columbus recently got a healthy injection of political punk art—not always the most welcome addition to a candidate’s resume. The controversy stems from a book that one of the candidates wrote in 2008, a book of good old-fashioned pamphleteering called Please God Save Us. The text of the book is by current Euclid school board member and possibly future state representative Kent Smith, and the art is by renowned master of the punk rock poster idiom, Derek Hess.

On September 22, a markedly one-sided news segment by political reporter Tom Beres on local station WKYC all but accused Smith of being a virulent anti-Semite—over a book that has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism—because Hess (not Smith), in order to land a specific point about specifically extremist brand of Republican thinking—incorporated a modified swastika in some of the images. Predictably, it isn’t all that difficult to get the vox populi tut-tutting if you show an older voter a picture of a swastika and refuse to explain the full context. The WKYC segment explains that Smith is listed as an author of a book that does have a weird kind of swastika-ish symbol on the cover and then cuts to some older women saying (and this is a quotation), “I find it very disturbing, I find it insulting,” etc etc. Basically a respectable TV station said “Boo!” to some random shoppers in a retail mall and got them to say “Eek!”
 

 
Kent Smith finds himself in a tough race with Republican Mikhail Alterman and Independent Jocelyn Conwell, a race that would be a shoo-in for the Democrat if not for some gerrymandering shenanigans from 2010 that put portions of impoverished (read African-American) East Cleveland and predominantly affluent and Jewish Beachwood into the previously unified 8th district of Euclid. Alterman is an interesting guy, a former metal DJ at WRUW, the radio station of Case Western Reserve University—hey wait, don’t you reckon Alterman has to have purchased more than a few pentagrams in his day? Does that make him unfit for office? (For the record, Cleveland.com, the online presence of the Plain Dealer, enthusiastically endorsed Kent Smith on October 3, saying that Alterman is “armed with lots of ideas but some don’t make sense.”)

I spoke with Smith on Sunday evening. He insists that there isn’t anything to the charges, reasoning that the book has been in circulation for a while without anyone objecting to any anti-Semitic content: “Mr. Alterman and the Ohio Republican Party are not objective book critics or art reviewers,” said Smith. “The reason they are offended by the positions taken in the book is because those positions run counter to their Far Right, Tea Party agenda for Ohio and this nation. Please God Save Us has been in circulation since 2008 and not one professional, impartial reviewer found it to be antireligious or anti-Semitic.”
 

 
The fuller context you need to know is as follows: Kent Smith is a responsible and accountable representative of his community; the book was an expression of Democratic anger directed at the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, and Smith is being branded an anti-Semite for images he did not draw in a book that has zero to do with Judaism. But more to the point, the book has been out for six years now. It was conceived in 2006, not long after the bitter defeat of John Kerry, when liberal anger over the excesses of the Bush administration was at its peak. The book was released on July 4, 2008, the heady days of Obama’s first presidential run, and received positive notices from many quarters, including the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Weekly, Real Detroit Weekly and Juxtapoz. The book received national coverage for a brief period, and to be frank, nobody said diddly squat about any anti-Jewish sentiment in the book. Kent Smith has run for office several times since then and the issue has never come up because it’s completely clear that the charges of anti-Semitism are utter nonsense.

The book has ten chapters, which tackle themes like opposition to creationism, opposition to fossil fuels, opposition to the Iraq War, support of stem cell research, and a few other topics like that. Where’s the substance to the anti-Semitism charge? Alterman threw a stinkbomb into the middle of the race as a kind of Hail Mary pass, but the tactic reeks of desperation and threatens to sully Kent Smith.
 

Kent Smith and Derek Hess
 
And what of Derek Hess, self-described “superhero + overrated artist” (the verbiage comes from his own website). Angry, oh so angry, intemperate, irresponsible Derek Hess? Come now, this is rank silliness. Hess is a gifted graphic artist of whom it can safely be said that moderation is not his strong suit. But who really gives a tinker’s damn about the political agenda of Derek Hess? He’s not running for anything. He’s an internationally acclaimed artist whose work the Louvre in Paris has calledune remarquable série d’affiches” (a remarkable series of posters); the museum has acquired some of Hess’ posters. Derek Hess is not an amateur, he’s not a crank, and he’s not a joke. If anything, the decision of Derek Hess to choose Smith as a co-author can only reflect positively on Smith.
 

Mikhail Alterman
 
Let’s talk about the “swastika.” It isn’t really a swastika, to begin with. You can see it on several of the images on this page—it’s a swastika that Hess has (rather cleverly) modified with some care to make a specific point. In the book, which probably nobody involved in this whole fracas has even read, Hess explains that the symbol in question, which variously appears on a U.S. flag where the stars would normally be and as a kind of elongated cudgel, is a “Crosstika,” elaborating further that the hideous red Republi-creature is holding a “half swastika, half cross” that is designed to “create blind faith and allegiance, much as the swastika was used by Nazi Germany.”  In other words, Hess is linking the swastika with the extremist right wing, which makes sense insofar as the original Nazis were an extreme and hyperconservative reaction to left-wing/collectivist political groupings like Marxism, socialism, and so forth. In other words, Smith and Hess aren’t advocating anything at all with respect to the stupid swastika.
 

 
One might ask, what is Mikhail Alterman’s objection to anti-fascist art? Why is he hostile to outspoken denunciations of fascism or movements that bear some similarities with fascism? Does every political objection have to take the form of “candidate X” strayed within 1000 feet of “annoying object Y”—is that where all thought processes have to end? Does anyone, Alterman included, really want a world like that? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

As Smith said to me, “Neither Derek Hess nor myself are anti-religious – any religion. But we both strongly disagree with Republican Party positions on the economy, environment, going to war over trumped up claims and faulty intelligence, freedom to marry and women’s reproductive rights.  Please God Save Us is a rebuke to the Far Right and I do not back off from what I wrote.”
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Social Schizophrenia, Social Depression: What does TV tell us about America?
10.13.2014
02:02 pm

Topics:
Politics
Pop Culture

Tags:
Charles Hugh Smith
R.D. Laing


 
This is a guest post from Charles Hugh Smith. Read his essays daily at his Of Two Minds. Smith’s latest book is Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

The difference between what we experience and what we’re told we experience creates a social schizophrenia that leads to self-destructive attitudes and behaviors.

What can popular television programs tell us about the zeitgeist (spirit of the age) of our culture and economy?

It’s an interesting question, as all mass media both responds to and shapes our interpretations and explanations of changing times. It’s also an important question, as mass media trends crystallize and express new ways of understanding our era.

Those who shape our interpretation of events also shape our responses.  This of course is the goal of propaganda: Shape the interpretation, and the response predictably follows.

As a corporate enterprise, mass media’s goal is to make money—the more the better—and that requires finding entertainment products that attract and engage large audiences.  The products that change popular culture are typically new enough to fulfill our innate attraction to novelty—but this isn’t enough. The product must express an interpretation of our time that was nascent but that had not yet found expression.

We can understand this complex process of crystallizing and giving expression to new contexts as one facet of the politics of experience.
 

 
The Politics of Experience

It is not coincidental that the phrase politics of experience was coined by a psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, for the phrase unpacks the way our internalized interpretation of experience can be shaped to create uniform beliefs about our society and economy that then lead to norms of behavior that support the political/economic status quo.

Here’s how Laing described the social ramifications in Chapter Four of his 1967 book, The Politics of Experience:

“All those people who seek to control the behavior of large numbers of other people work on the experiences of those other people. Once people can be induced to experience a situation in a similar way, they can be expected to behave in similar ways. Induce people all to want the same thing, hate the same things, feel the same threat, then their behavior is already captive - you have acquired your consumers or your cannon-fodder.”

For Laing, the politics of experience is not just about influencing social behavior – it has an individual, inner consequence as well:

“Our behavior is a function of our experience. We act according to the way we see things. If our experience is destroyed, our behavior will be destructive. If our experience is destroyed, we have lost our own selves.”

How the media shapes our interpretation affects not just our beliefs and responses, but our perceptions of self and our role in society. If the media’s interpretation no longer aligns with our experience, the conflict can generate self-destructive behaviors.

In other words, mass media interpretations can create a social schizophrenia that can lead to self-destructive attitudes and behaviors.

Social Analysis of TV

By its very nature as a mass shared experience, popular entertainment is fertile ground for social analysis.

Here’s a common example: what does a child learn about conflict resolution if he’s seen a thousand TV programs in which the “hero” is compelled to kill the “bad guy” in a showdown? What does that pattern suggest, not just about the structure of drama, but about the society that creates that drama?

Analyzing entertainment has been popular in America since the 1950s, if not earlier.  The film noir of the 1950s, for example, was widely deemed to express the angst of the Cold War era.  Others held that the rising prosperity of the 1950s enabled the populace to explore its darker demons—something the hardships and anxieties of the Depression did not encourage.

Many believe the Depression gave rise to screwball comedies and light-hearted entertainment featuring the casually wealthy precisely because these were escapist antidotes to the grinding realities of the era.

Even television shows that were denigrated as superficial in their own time (for example, Bewitched in the 1960s) can be seen as politically inert but subconsciously potent expressions of profound social changes: the “witch” in Bewitched is a powerful young female who is constantly implored by her conventional husband to conform to all the bland niceties of a suburban housewife, but she finds ways to rebel against these strictures.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Cartoonists document Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement


Art by Luis Simoes
 
The last few days have seen no small amount of drama in Hong Kong, as disenfranchised students are calling attention to their lack of political freedoms. The students have taken up umbrellas to protect themselves from the massive amounts of tear gas the riot police have used as a means of restoring order. 

On Facebook you can find two groups dedicated to recording the scenes at the the Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, and Admiralty areas of Hong Kong. Urban Sketchers Hong Kong (USHK) and Sketcher-Kee have both been in existence for about a year, and have responded to the recent unrest with vigor. Its members have been posting sketches featuring unfriendly police, tense protesters, and poetically empty or chaotically crammed urban vistas dominated by umbrellas and the color yellow. 

At the moment the protests are in a bit of a lull, as protest leaders have met with government officials and agreed to meet for talks starting on October 10. Student leader Lester Shum has said that the protests would continue until “practical measures [have] been forged between the government and the people.”

USHK cofounder Alvin Wong emphasized to Hyperallergic‘s Laura C. Mallonee the value of documenting “the biggest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong history,” no matter the risk. As Wong Suede of Sketcher-Kee says, “We want to use our ability to make awareness for the public, to share our observations, experiences, and thoughts via the Internet to the world. ... We hope we can support and encourage the protesters who are fighting for Hong Kong … since we are also protestors, we hope it may [achieve something] for the whole movement.”
 

Art by Rob Sketcherman
 

Art by Collins Yeung ART
 

Art by Wink Au
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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John Cleese: FOX News viewers are too stupid to realize that they are stupid


Be afraid, be very afraid…

For some years now, I have been fascinated with the Dunning-Kruger effect. I believe it was some Internet writings by Errol Morris that first turned me on to the idea around 2007. It’s incredibly useful, I feel like I find a use for it almost every day. If nothing else, it’s a spur to humility, because we’re all susceptible to it. Some, ahem, far more than others.

In a 1999 article called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University came to the conclusion that the qualified are often more skeptical about their own abilities in a given realm than the unqualfied are. People who are unqualified or unintelligent are more likely to rate their own abilities favorably than people who are qualified or intelligent. In the paper, the authors wrote, “Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.”

However, people with actual ability tended to underrate their relative competence. Participants who found tasks to be fairly easy mistakenly assumed that the tasks must also be easy for others as well. As Dunning and Kruger conclude: “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”
 

 
Charles Darwin put it most pithily in The Descent of Man when he wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” As W.B. Yeats put it in The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Apparently there is a scientific grounding for that line.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is unusually suitable in describing the many frustrating positions and rhetoric of the Republican Party. My favorite (if depressing) example of the Dunning-Kruger effect comes from the mouth of George W. Bush in the days before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. As Bob Woodward wrote in Plan of Attack:
 

The president said he had made up his mind on war. The U.S. should go to war.

“You’re sure?” Powell asked.

Yes. It was the assured Bush. His tight, forward-leaning, muscular body language verified his words. It was the Bush of the days following 9/11.

“You understand the consequences,” Powell said in a half-question. …

Yeah, I do, the president answered.

 
Yeah, I do, the president answered. What on earth could that utterance by Bush possibly mean? Could it not be clearer that what was in Bush’s head at that moment and what was in Powell’s head at that moment had very little to do with each other? In effect Powell was taking Bush’s word that Bush had seriously considered the consequences of invasion, when to be frank, all available evidence, both at the time and later on, suggests that Bush was foolhardy about what the actual consequences of invasion might be.
 

 
Earlier this year, the research of Dunning and Kruger was referenced by a relatively unlikely source: John Cleese, the brilliant comedian who famously portrayed one of the single most obtuse and supercilious characters in TV history, Basil Fawlty. Cleese believes FOX’s viewership is too unintelligent to put the proper brakes on their own thought processes: “The problem with people like this is that they are so stupid that they have no idea how stupid they are. You see, if you’re very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you’re very, very stupid, you’d have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are.”

Apparently Cleese and Dunning are pals—he says so in the video, anyway. Here, have a look:
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Pirate Radio, Revolution and the rise of Radio Študent

00radiostu00.jpg
 
In the folly of my youth I was once involved with a student anarchist group. Alas, this hapless caucus of surly fellow radicals were more inspired by the swagger of The Sex Pistols and The Clash than by any reading of Kropotkin or Bakunin.

On those odd occasions when we met to discuss plans for the overthrow of capitalism, ahem, we did fire up a few interesting ideas. One such was to start an illegal radio station to broadcast revolutionary hymns (and punk rock) across the west end of Glasgow. Unfortunately, we never had enough radicals willing to take responsibility for setting the thing up and it all came to naught. Our lax attitude was (sadly) best summed up by a leather-jacketed Joe Strummer wannabe who kept asking, “Where’s all the free stuff?”

If only we had been a bit more like Slovenia’s Radio Študent who knows where we could have gone?
 
01radiostu10.jpg
 
Radio Študent came out of the political turmoil and student unrest of the late 1960s. Established in May 1969 by a handful of radical students at Ljubljana University, the station originally broadcast for just three hours a day, offering its listeners a potent mix of music and politics—an alternative voice to the country’s heavily censored and state controlled media. The station’s popularity grew during the 1970s as Radio Študent became the main source for dissent. With the influence of punk, the station attracted more journalists and campaigners and Radio Študent played in a major part in the movement for Slovenia’s independence in the Revolution of 1989.
 
02radiostu20.jpg
 
Now Radio Študent has over 250 contributors and broadcasts 24 hours a day. Though money is tight, people become involved with the station “because they believe in what they are doing.”

If you have an interest in radical media or in finding out how others have successfully created their own revolutionary outlet, then Siniša Gačić‘s short documentary on Radio Študent is a must.
 

 
H/T Voices of East Anglia

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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#RepublicansArePeopleToo campaign is a masterpiece of bad marketing, a rich tapestry of idiocy


 
Who the fuck didn’t see this one coming?

The general answer, of course seems pretty obvious—the perpetually clueless and tone deaf Republican Party—but the person in particular, apparently, to blame for this completely idiotic SCREAMING OUT FOR MERCILESS RIDICULE campaign is one of Mitt Romney’s former advertising guru “Mad Men” (and we all know how well that turned out), a Texan named Vinny Minchillo.

Minchillo hopes that his new “grassroots” campaign, on Facebook and on Twitter with the hashtag #imarepublican, will make it harder for people to demonize Republicans, as he told The New Republic:

“On social media, I’ve been called every name in the book,” Minchillo said. “It’s become socially acceptable to talk about Republicans in the most evil terms possible and that doesn’t seem right. We wanted to do this to really remind people that Republicans are friends, neighbors and do things that maybe you wouldn’t expect them to do.

“People, I’m afraid, think that Republicans spend their days huddling over a boiling cauldron throwing in locks of Ronald Reagan’s hair. … We thought let’s get out there and show who Republicans really are: regular folks interested in making the world a better place.”

Minchillo is clearly operating under the delusion that there’s something sly, clever or tongue-in-cheek about what he’s doing. I wonder how he’s going to feel when he watches Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, John Oliver, every pundit, Twitter, Facebook AND THE ENTIRE INTERNET trash this nonsense like it’s the stupidest thing anyone has ever thought up?

#SoylentGreenIsPeopleToo!

See how that works, Vinny?
 

 
MEMO TO THE GOP: If you need an advertising and social media campaign to convince a HUGE swath of people who already think you’re a bunch of fuckin’ assholes that you’re really not fuckin’ assholes, perhaps you’ve got a larger problem on your hands? If you have to TELL other people that you’re just like them, perhaps their perception that you’re not just like them is justified because you wouldn’t really need to point that out in the first place, now, would you?

It isn’t easy being a Republican these days.

There are people who will stick up for Genghis Khan before they’ll defend a Republican. (“Genghis was just misunderstood.”)

We love political discourse. We encourage political discourse. But when did “Republican” become a dirty word?

Here’s the deal: before you post another bullying comment, think about this:

Republicans are people, too.

And you know what? Some of them don’t even have tiny shriveled penises or require motorized scooters to haul their asses around. Many Republicans aren’t racists! Some of them are under the age of 65 and are not angry white males who watch Fox News all day long and shit in Depends diapers. WHICH IS EXACTLY THE PERCEPTION THAT THIS RISIBLE CAMPAIGN IS REINFORCING! All anyone is talking about is “the problem” that this is supposed to be combating!

If this isn’t the equivalent of a gigantic Las Vegas marquee-sized “KICK ME” sign on the back of the GOP, I don’t know what would be.
 

 
It’s the most ridiculous thing in… days to come out of the fetid swamp of what passes for ideas in the Republican Party. If hapless Vinny saw this goofy campaign as a way for him to jockey for position for the 2016 Presidential race, Vinny, I hate to tell ya, brah, you done goofed. This is the worst!

Here are a few choice comments taken from what are probably the most consistently intelligent forums on any political or news blog, Talking Points Memo. Just some random recent comments, I’m not digging deep for any of this:

I believe all Muslims are suspicious and should be rounded up into internment camps. #ImARepublican

Why, yes, my tattoos include swastikas #ImARepublican

“Redskin” is a term of respect, honor, tradition. #ImARepublican

My father punched me when I was a kid, and I TURNED OUT FINE! Right? RIGHT?! #ImARepublican

I am stupid, evil, and utterly devoid of humanity! #IamARepublican

I prattle on endlessly about the necessity for common citizens like me to own guns in case the government infringes upon the people’s rights, and then I vote for referenda that infringe upon people’s rights. #ImARepublican

Of course I’m a hypocrite. #ImARepublican

Disenfranchising minority voters is OK by me! After all, they’re not white like I am. #ImARepublican

I don’t think everyone deserves health care. #ImARepublican

My party will soon be demographically insignificant. #ImARepublican

I pledge allegiance to the Kochs… #ImARepublican

You get the idea. Here’s my favorite because it communicates SO MUCH:

I think this guy should be making decisions that affect millions. #IAmARepublican

 

 
It’s a mite (Mitt?) early for the memes to be showing up in any real number yet, give it a few hours (or even a few more minutes), but the ridicule on Twitter for the #ImARepublican hashtag is pretty good already.

And here’s the motherload of LOL, the video. You’ll note that it’s important for them to have you know that Republicans shop at Trader Joe’s(?), use Macs(?) and “have feelings, too”(?)—and yet there are apparently no members of the LGBT or Muslim communities in the GOP whatsoever. What. there were NO pics of fabulous drag queens, buffed WeHo boys or anyone with a beard and turban in the stock photo database?
 

 
For some reason that video reminded me of this classic Tom Tomorrow cartoon:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Fascist Groove Thang’: How the BBC banned Heaven 17 for ‘libeling’ Ronald Reagan
09.24.2014
05:57 am

Topics:
Music
Politics

Tags:
BBC
Ronald Reagan
Heaven 17


 
In 1981, the BBC banned Heaven 17’s debut sinlge “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” on the grounds the song’s lyrics were possibly libelous to President Ronald Reagan.

The couplet that caused the Beeb’s legal eagles such wrinkled brows was contained in the song’s third verse:

Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan’s president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing

Reagan’s president elect… A fascist god in motion?

Now, this may all sound like the kind of poetry exercise Rick from The Young Ones might have concocted in his overheated imagination—indeed try saying the lyrics in your best Rick the People’s Poet voice and you’ll see what I mean… Let’s not forget, this was the 1980s, when the drum machine was king and the fictitious “Rick” was far closer to how many on the Left actually behaved than most would care to admit.

Even the language of student rebellion had changed little since the late 1960s: everyone was a “fascist,” “the pigs” were in charge, “the man” had his finger on the a nuclear trigger and Armageddon was imminent. If you don’t believe me, just pick up any review, by say Angela Carter, from back then, and you’ll be hard pushed to get through more than a few paragraphs before the woe-is-me hand wringing fears of Baby Boomer nuclear annihilation is apparent.

“(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” was very much of its time, with the lyrics contain the expected tropes on racism, fascism, Adolf Hitler, nuclear war, cruise missiles and a call to “unlock that funky chain dance.”

And to a man the nation asked, “Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Unlocking our funky chain dance to stop nuclear war?”

Heaven 17 were formed after Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh split from the Human League and teamed-up with singer Glenn Gregory. Among the early songs they worked on together was “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang.” In an interview, Martyn Ware discussed how the song was written:

The lyrics of the song reference Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan and include a wry joke about cruise missiles. Ware recalled to us how the track evolved into denunciations of the UK and US political leaders:

“We started out jamming together loads of these cut up titles and coming up with ridiculous lines for the song, like, ‘Heart USA. I feel your power.’ What the hell does that mean? I mean, really, what does it mean? We just thought it was a comedy song. I know people will read meaning into it.”

Ware continued:

“Then, as we got more into writing the lyrics, we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have some real world people in there?’ We were obsessed with Reagan coming into power and the specter of Margaret Thatcher coming into power and those were some very genuine concerns. The whole world was going to be blown to smithereens. It seems a little melodramatic now, but it was a genuine thing at the time if you remember. So we thought, ‘It’s time for action here. We’re all political people. It’s time to walk the walk.’ So as it evolved, the songwriting – it only took two days to write – it turned into this really bizarre hybrid of politics and dancing and comedy and black American soul influence.”

The BBC has always had a strange relationship with pop music. In 1969, they banned The Kinks’ song “Plastic Man” because it contained the word “bum,” (or “ass,” as you Americans know it). Just a few years later in 1972, they were happily piping out Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” with its lines about “giving head” to the Beeb’s Radio 2 grey-haired Daily Mail-reading middle aged listeners.  Now, they were quaking that The Gipper might possibly, maybe, well you just never know, sue the ass off the Corporation for some rather juvenile political pop posturing? What would Rik have said?

The single made number 45 in the charts and was a favorite of clubs at the time. In 2010 (almost thirty years later), Heaven 17 performed the song live on BBC Radio 6—as Reagan had been dead for six years the Beeb probably felt safe from litigation.
 

‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Become a citizen of Laibach’s global state
09.23.2014
07:21 am

Topics:
Music
Politics

Tags:
Laibach
NSK


 
Wasn’t the nation-state supposed to have withered and died by now? Weren’t we supposed to be a merry crew of free and autonomous subjects, all pursuing our personal dreams with similar but slightly different songs in our hearts, rather than a graying herd of bigoted, suburban, debt-burdened, government-ID-clutching suckers?

Friends, it’s 2014: time to turn in your driver’s licenses and demand something better. For citizens of the universe who are committed to interplanetary cooperation, there’s always the Hawkwind passport, but for earthbound internationalists, there’s never been a better time to join the NSK State. As the world’s first global polity, the NSK State is a “state in time” that “denies the principles of (limited) territory as well as the principle of national borders.” And anyone can apply for an NSK State passporteven you!
 

IRWIN billboard, London, 2012
 
The NSK State emerged from the Neue Slowenische Kunst (“New Slovenian Art”) collective, which had been formed in 1984 by the band Laibach, the visual artists’ group IRWIN, the performance group Scipion Nasice Sisters Theater (now Noordung), and the design group New Collectivism. In 1992, the same year that Yugoslavia dissolved and Slovenia was admitted to the United Nations, these groups founded their own transnational state, “a utopian formation which has no physical territory and which is not to be identified with any existing national state.” (According to this fascinating article about the sudden demand for NSK passports that arose in Nigeria in 2006, the NSK State “was conceived as almost the opposite of the new Republic of Slovenia.”)
 

The NSK State passport
 
As of this writing, bearers of this handsome document are actually entitled to like zero of the rights and privileges that accrue to citizens of regular, border-determined countries, so if you have any of those, you might want to hold onto them. Among other important disclaimers to keep in mind: “Ownership of this passport shall not constitute membership in the NSK organisation” and “the NSK State passport is not a legally valid document.” The good news is, the passport’s a steal at €24; the bad news is that unless one of the state’s temporary embassies or consulates is coming to a physical location near you, you’ll have to send cash in a registered letter or pay for a bank transfer to Slovenia to get one.

Laibach released Spectre, its first album of the decade, earlier this year.

For more information about the NSK State, see its official website and YouTube channel.
 

Laibach’s video for “Drzava” (“The State”)

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Witness ‘Simpsons’ actor Harry Shearer’s total transformation into Richard Nixon


 
Between playing bassist Derek Smalls in the immortal metal spoof This is Spinal Tap and voicing dozens of characters on The Simpsons, Harry Shearer has been a key performer in two of the most oft-quoted entertainment franchises in living memory. For his latest project, however, Shearer’s the one doing the quoting. He’s re-enacting, verbatim, moments out of the presidency of the disgraced Richard M. Nixon, recasting the tragic president as a comic figure. The series, created in collaboration with Nixon scholar Stanley Kutler, is called Nixon’s the One. It already ran in the UK on Sky Arts earlier this year, and will soon be webcast weekly on YouTube’s My Damn Channel, starting on October 21st.

The scripts are taken from Nixon’s actual White House tapes—those notorious recordings that figured so heavily in the Watergate investigations that left his presidency and his legacy in utter ruins—and shot in a fly-on-the wall style that makes viewing feel like eavesdropping. A teaser was released about a week ago, in which Henry Kissinger is played by British actor Henry Goodman:
 

 
To play the former president, Shearer underwent some serious transformation—prosthetics, makeup, wig, the whole megillah, as this photo sequence attests.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Hat Trick Productions Ltd.

Terrific work, but this can’t go unsaid—is it maybe a little much? Shearer’s voice isn’t his only great gift as a performer, he has a marvelously expressive face, and it seems a shame to obscure ALL of it with latex appliqués. It strikes me that he could have made a better-than-credible Nixon just with the addition of a nose and some jowls. One possible reason for the full-face prosthetics could have been to DE-age the actor—this surprised the shit out of me when I looked it up, but Shearer is 70 years of age. Nixon, in the time period being recreated, was around 60.
 

 
About a month ago, to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, Shearer released a similar verbatim re-creation of the unsettlingly awkward moments leading up to Nixon’s resignation speech. I’ve included the actual historic footage for comparison. The way Nixon tries to casually goof around with the news crew makes him seem more like your embarrassing perma-bachelor uncle trying to flirt with a waitress than the leader of the free world about to abandon his career in the face of nearly unanimous public contempt. Shearer’s take on that massively uncomfortable frisson works quite well as cringe comedy.
 

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
White House memo suggests Nixon ‘neutralize’ Johnny Cash, 1970
Wasted Richard Nixon talks, slurs his words to Ronald Reagan on the telephone, 1973
Reefer man: Did Louis Armstrong turn Richard Nixon into his drug mule?
Let Nixon play Nixon: Listen to tricky dick tickle the ivories, on a composition by Richard Nixon

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Wattstax’: The ‘Black Woodstock’ music festival


 
The Watts Riots are often referred to by lefties as “The Watts Rebellion.” While both are technically accurate descriptions, “rebellion” is considered the preferable word by sympathists, since “riot” has a negative connotation. For me, the word “riot” lacks any moralist stigma, since rioting has historically played a necessary role in the resistance of oppressed people. I also think “riots” paints a more identifiable picture.

In addition to less explicit economic discrimination, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles was plagued with racist attacks from both white gangs and and a militarized police force (sound familiar?). The 1965 events that incited the riots are convoluted, but (briefly) a black man was arrested for driving under the influence, his brother (who was was a passenger), left to inform the man’s mother, who showed up to the arrest. There was a physical altercation, all three black citizens were arrested, and onlookers from the neighborhood began throwing things at the cops.

Eight days later, 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries and 3,952 arrests. 600 businesses were destroyed and over $40 million was done in damages over a 46-square mile-area.
 

 
In 1972, Stax Records put on a concert featuring their artists to commemorate the riots. Tickets for the Wattstax music festival (held in the massive L.A. Coliseum) were sold for $1 each to keep the event affordable for working class Los Angeles residents. Mel Stuart, who had just directed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (a box-office bomb, despite its classic status), documented the concert in Wattstax, the electric results of which you see below. Wattstax has been shorthanded as “The Black Woodstock,” but it’s so much more.

The film is something greater than a record of fantastic concert footage, though the performances from artists like The Staples Singers, Isaac Hayes and The Bar-Kays are mind-blowing. It’s the interviews with Watts residents, who reflect on their lives and politics and what has and hasn’t changed since the riots, that really make the film. Richard Pryor serves as a kind of Greek chorus, and his interactions with the crowd are hilarious and full of humanity. You’ll notice that nearly the entire audience defiantly stays seated during Kim Weston’s rendition of the national anthem.

If you want a good clip to sample, there’s a fantastic bit starting around the 38:30 mark where Richard Pryor riffs on black identity (and pork). It then cuts to The Bar-Kays (looking like a heavenly choir from outer space), who do a blistering version of “Son of Shaft.”
 

 
Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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