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Richard Morris’ ‘Tyler: The Creator, or an Old Skool Sexist?’

Amid the ongoing internet brouhaha surrounding Tyler The Creator’s lyrical content, this article from the website Soundblab is the best I have read on the subject so far, and pretty accurately nails the problems I have with Tyler’s approach to writing about sex and abuse. Yeah, I get that he’s still a kid so hasn’t had a great deal of real life experience in these areas, but like so many of the other excuses brought up in this debate, that’s still pretty weak. Richard Morris writes:

Now, there are three arguments being put forward to explain, excuse and otherwise justify Tyler’s lyrical concerns. These arguments are the same ones which get put forward time and time again when hip hop artists produce dubious lyrics: he’s just reflecting his background; he just repeating what’s everywhere in hip hop culture; he’s playing with a persona. A moment’s reflection is all you need to work out that that last excuse can’t exist with the first two. Either Tyler is honestly reflecting where he comes from and the culture he’s surrounded by, or he’s concocted a character as satire or narrative aid. It can’t be both.


However, if you still want to buy into any or all of those arguments listed above, fine, but I have a question for you: where are all the songs by female artists about attacking and raping men? If that seems a ridiculous thing to ponder, ask yourself why. Why does it make sense for a man to rap about raping a woman but not the other way round? The answer, when you pick it apart, is probably that there would be no audience for those kind of songs. Similarly, there’s not much call for songs where gay artists have a go at straight people. No one would buy into that kind of stupid prejudice. Gay activists would condemn it as counter-productive.

Tyler, the Creator has identified an audience and, with the media’s help, he’s milking that for all it’s worth. That audience is primarily made up of white young men. A couple of weeks ago, Hamish MacBain took Tyler to task in the pages of NME, pointing out that Odd Future had bypassed the traditional hip hop audience, instead crossing over quickly to the kind of alternative music fans who read Pitchfork, the Guardian and, hey, Soundblab. It’s exactly these alternative, typically liberal-leaning fans who repeatedly let hip hop artists off the hook when it comes to misogynistic and homophobic lyrics.

For me the problem is not so much that these excuses are not applicable - it’s that twenty years after the release of Death Certificate we’re still having the exact same debate. We’ve not moved on. It’s disheartening to see that popular hip-hop has devolved into a negatized musical format whose primary function is to piss off suburban parents, and where shock tactics outweigh genuine insight. Much of the blame for this can be heaped on the feet of the media, but surely the music is just as much at fault too? Because to me Tyler’s lyrics do not feel in any way transgressive. Really, they don’t, they’re the same old thing I have heard countless times before. If you do think they are transgressive, then I would say you are part of a social group that has thankfully never been subject to the threat of rape or abuse. Tyler’s lyrics simply re-enforce the status quo, and as such they’re just boring.

Read all of Richard Morris’ excellent article here. Soundblab also has another article defending Tyler’s lyrical content, by James Bray, which you can read here.


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
09:34 am
Adam Curtis on the death of Bin Laden

Regular DM readers will know by now that we are big fans of the documentary maker Adam Curtis. He deals with current events and how they fit into a broader scheme of social and political history. Just the other day Richard posted the trailer for his upcoming documentary “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” which is to air on the BBC soon.

Curtis yesterday published an article through the Guardian about the death of Osama bin Laden, and what that means for the global political spin-machine. In it Curtis addresses the bogey-man status of Bin Laden and how his death will impact on the ongoing Western cultural narrative of “Goodies” vs “Baddies”:

Journalists, many of whom also yearned for the simplicity of the old days, grabbed at [the Bin Laden story]: from the outset, the reporting of the Islamist terror threat was distorted to reflect this dominant simplified narrative. And Bin Laden grabbed at it too. As the journalists who actually met him report, he was brilliant at publicity. All three – the neoconservatives, the “terror journalists”, and Bin Laden himself – effectively worked together to create a dramatically simple story of looming apocalypse. It wasn’t in any way a conspiracy. Each of them had stumbled in their different ways on a simplified fantasy that fitted with their own needs.

The power of this simple story propelled history forward. It allowed the neocons – and their liberal interventionist allies – to set out to try to remake the world and spread democracy. It allowed revolutionary Islamism, which throughout the 1990s had been failing dramatically to get the Arab people to rise up and follow its vision, to regain its authority. And it helped to sell a lot of newspapers.

But because we, and our leaders, retreated into a Manichean fantasy, we understood the new complexities of the real world even less. Which meant that we completely ignored what was really going on in the Arab world.

Curtis neatly sums up, in one statement, just why there is so much distrust for politics and the media in this day and age, be it from the right or the left, the fringe or the more mainstream:

One of the main functions of politicians – and journalists – is to simplify the world for us. But there comes a point when – however much they try – the bits of reality, the fragments of events, won’t fit into the old frame.

The article is highly recommended reading and you can view the whole thing here. I especially love Curtis’ work on the effect of the media in propagating certain cultural memes, particularly oldstream media, which tries to pretend it has no effect on politics and society even though it has a huge impact on how we think and function. If you’re not aware of Curtis’ work and his sharp insights (or even if you are) here’s a segment he produced for Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe on media and political paranoia:

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
01:01 pm
No, you are not dreaming: Glenn Beck’s crew expose James O’Keefe as a lying sack of shit (again)

Okay, admittedly I’m not in the habit of applauding the actions—or integrity—of Glenn Beck or anything the guy’s even remotely connected with. Clearly to readers of this blog, I have a rather low opinion of the man. I think Glenn Beck is bad for America because he fills the heads of ignorant people who aren’t sophisticated enough to be able to evaluate an information source, and who know nothing whatsoever about history, with shit. He fills their heads with shit. If Glenn Beck were hit by lightning, I would start believing in a loving, interventionist God concerned with America’s future.... but I digress.

It’s just hard for me to say this, I guess, uh, what I’m trying to say, but there is something on Beck’s news website, The Blaze, that demands to be read if you want to understand exactly what is going on with the “undercover NPR Muslim sting” video the rightwing is all up in arms about. I’m not kidding, it’s essential reading and it’s smart stuff. How (or why) this news analysis was financially underwritten by Glenn Beck, I really can’t say, but what Scott Baker wrote there, examining if the videos were edited in a misleading fashion along with Blaze video producer Pam Key, and what Emily Esfahni Smith wrote there about whether or not the means justify the ideological ends, where LYING is involved, I can find little fault with.

However, because writing something nice about Glenn Beck is difficult for me, I think I’ll just take the easy way out and quote Ken Layne posting on Wonkette:

Whenever that James O’Keefe guy puts out another heavily edited video against some liberal bogeyman, both the White House and the Washington/New York media quickly fire everyone involved — because the only rational way to deal with claims made by partisan pranksters is to simply punish anyone targeted. That’s why Shirley Sherrod was immediately fired by the White House while the Lame Stream Media nodded approvingly and only Wonkette bothered to look at the allegedly damning video closely enough to see that Breitbart’s crew had carefully edited it to make Sherrod sound like a raving racist. Likewise, the firing of NPR executive Ron Schiller and his CEO boss was cheered by the liberal media and got solemn nods from Democrats in Washington. Only Glenn Beck’s reporters at his website, The Blaze, bothered to watch the unedited footage and note that the various bombshells in the video were taken out of context (the opinions of others made to look like the opinions of Schiller, for example) and that Schiller’s pro-Republican statements were (obviously) all cut out of the video released by O’Keefe.

Here’s the unedited section with Ron Schiller discussing the opinions of a senior Republican lawmaker and a major GOP donor. While Schiller seems to agree with the characterization of the Tea Party people at the end of this anecdote, it’s obvious he is quoting Republicans uneasy with the teabaggers here:

There’s a lot more of this on The Blaze: eight sections of raw video with written commentary by a video producer from the website. She finds numerous instances of editing to make Schiller sound like he’s replying to completely different statements (a bemused reaction to something about restaurant reservations is made to look like a response to implementing sharia law worldwide), and she also finds sections where the audio has clearly been switched from another part of the video, as well as the complete removal of many instances of Schiller and his colleague praising either Republicans or the Fox News audience.

There were pretty much only two news sources to pick this up from, Wonkette and The Blaze. What does it say about the rest of the media (no matter their supposed bias or supposed lack of one) who gave this story and that dweeby, sleazeball James O’Keefe a pass, AGAIN???

Hell, isn’t it obvious why Andrew Breitbart stayed away from this stinker? Yes it is, because James O’Keefe is a lying sack of shit and Breibart knows it. A sleazy non-entity who should be treated as one! Why wasn’t it Salon or The Nation or MSNBC who looked into this video, first? Shouldn’t the name James fucking O’Keefe have caused anyone to sit up an notice on the Left??? It took Glenn Beck’s crew to get the truth out? Yes, it did! I did wake up in Bizarro World again, didn’t I?

But the truth will out in the weirdest places sometimes. Good on Scott Baker, Blaze video producer Pam Key and Emily Esfahni Smith for having the courage and journalistic integrity to out one of their own, or perhaps they don’t count clown boy James O’Keefe as one of their own. You know, a real investigative journalist.

Baker’s conclusion:

Anyone looking at the edited version of the Project Veritas video would be concerned about the conduct and views expressed by the NPR representatives. But should we also be concerned about the deceptive nature of some of the video’s representations? Some will say no — the end justifies any means, even if unethical. Others may be bothered by these tactics and view similar projects with a greater degree of skepticism.

In our posting yesterday on the ethics of undercover journalism, we found a range of views. One interesting view is held by Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard. Barnes believes it is always wrong for a journalist to lie: “It‘s dishonest for anyone in journalism to pretend to be someone they’re not.”

But Barnes also believes this applies only to journalists. “This rule doesn’t apply to folks outside the profession,” he told The Blaze. Barnes views the O’Keefe production as a “political hit job and a quite clever and successful one at that.”

Barnes may not realize that O’Keefe describes his work as “investigative journalism,” and thus by Barnes definition — unethical.

And that is only on the issue of going undercover. But even if you are of the opinion, as I am, that undercover reporting is acceptable and ethical in very defined situations, it is another thing to approve of editing tactics that seem designed to intentionally lie or mislead about the material being presented.

As you might expect, the comments on THIS ONE are fascinating and to be fair, all over the place. That’s not typical of what I’ve seen on the boards there at all.

One of the posters (“CaptainKook”) even writes

“O’Keefe is, ultimately, lying to YOU when he publishes these faked edited and dishonest scam videos. WHY whould you willingly choose to believe a guy who YOU KNOW IS LYING TO YOU???”

This is a very good, penetrating question not just for far right conservatives who cheer the likes of James O’Keefe and Lila Rose on even knowing that they are basically liars who they happen to agree with, but to the left who let them get away with it just long enough for their version of heavily edited reality to become the de facto truth.

I mean James O’Keefe lying, right? Who’d have thunk it?

That the answer was Glenn Beck’s crew at The Blaze is as surprising to me as it probably is to you, too. But there it undeniably is.

You can’t explain that!

Via Wonkette/The Blaze

Posted by Richard Metzger
04:40 pm
Job Losses in the News Industry Significantly Outpace Losses in the Overall Economy
07:17 pm



This is, uh, a little depressing! Earlier this morning I read that in 2008 over 50,000 new US college graduates held journalism degrees and 60% of them were still out of work. The ones who are working are probably being paid minimum wage or interning. The old joke about a theater degree qualifying you for a job as a waiter can now be used with just about any creative industry for the set-up now.

You read that Obama and Congress “want” to save the newspaper industry, but HOW? The magazine business model is defunct too. If newspapers are reeling from the problem of being rendered “yesterday’s news” the moment they get printed by the relentless churn of the 24 hour Internet news cycle, how difficult would it be to edit a monthly magazine these days with a 90 day lead time? It’s a fool’s errand.

Aside from a few magazines that deserve to be read in print (Vanity Fair, Vogue and The Economist come to mind) there’s not a whole lot of excuses left to print on dead trees and so the idea of paying $60,000 or $120,000 for a print ad in a glossy magazine will also go the way of that same dinosaur. And that of course sets off an entire print industry food chain spiral of death in every career path from media buying to driving a newspaper delivery truck. The main problem—and it’s an insurmountable one—is that most people choose to get their information in the freshest, easiest, most up to date manner possible and that is not via print media.

In 1995 I personally subscribed to SEVENTY magazines and got five daily newspapers delivered to my office(oh those lazy hazy daze of expense accounts!). By 2005 I was buying just a monthly issue of MOJO at the newsstand and I haven’t bought a copy of that now in over two, almost three years. So I’ve gone from being print’s best customer to not spending a cent in the arena. As in ZERO cents and NO dollars. I’m simply not interested. It’s not like I read any less, I read far more! It’s just that I tend to be reading it off a monitor, not the pages of a newspaper, magazine or—I’m almost ashamed to say—book.

When VIBE magazine got shuttered last year, a wag on Gawker made the comment that if you had any plans to make a career writing about music for a living you could effectively FORGET IT when people were more interested to read the public’s Amazon reviews than “professional” record reviews in a magazine. Ouch! But it’s true. The entire gestalt of print is passe, it’s just that simple. How do you get around something like that? You don’t. And lest you think I’m saying “Bring it on” or laughing at the death of print, I’m not, I certainly don’t see what’s coming next as an improvement or anything, but as a former journalist and publisher myself, I just can’t see any way out of it.

From Unity’s press release:

UNITY 2009 Layoff Tracker Report shows sharp quarterly spikes in job losses

MCLEAN, Va.  ?

Posted by Richard Metzger
07:17 pm