On terrorism

There have been some frankly awful analyses of the attacks in Paris a week ago, and the fallout from them. Either from surprisingly from my side, the left and anarchists seemingly serving our masters by wanting to take freedom of speech away like desperate young Tankies also doing a very good impression of hand-wringing liberals, or the sadly inevitable Islamaphobia, attacks and rhetoric that’s lead to the frankly silly proposal from David Cameron to try and spy on us all. Security theatre and unworkable solutions mixed in with xenophobia and fear. Which unsurprisingly those supposed watchmen of the left are completely ignoring. No surprise there, because I suspect they secretly like the idea of terrorism or totalitarianism? And don’t get me started on that staged ‘walk’ and the hypocrisy within.

This is why the few good responses are so important, especially in the fact of the ludicrous and financially involved Fox News, that blithely puts out the #foxnewsfacts that Britain and France are full of Islamic no-go zones, shariah law and police enforced Muslim dress codes and in fact Birmingham is completely muslim (as someone who actually has been to a Muslim country unlike seemingly Steven Emerson I can emphatically say this is NOT the case). Cue much-needed pisstakes from Brummies and Brits….but Fox doesn’t care, the necessary lies have gotten out.

Russell Brand does a good job in these videos of debunking Fox and the prevalent ideology…I’ve had so many arguments over the last week it’s not true (and invented the maxim that ‘All Facebook groups attract the exact opposite of the group title’ in the process because it seems those in Gay groups are hardly evern queers, and those in left/Anarchist groups are anything but.), since it seems on both sides the shutters have gone down. You have the non-ironic religious talking about ‘radical Islam’ being all about blood thirsty war, then the progressives bleating on about free speech being somehow lesser if you don’t agree with it, because ‘Charlie Hedbo was a right-wing paper’. I see very little proof of this, but I see a lot of people jumping to conclusions just seeing a single cartoon, just like the terrorists did in Paris. In fact if you bother to look up the work of one of the victims Cabu you see a different story, and if you bother to find out what those ‘obviously’ racist/misogynist/anti-immigration/anti-semitic covers were about, you might find out that they weren’t what you thought. But that’s harder than jumping to a conclusion isn’t it?

And there are a few other good analyses from The Guardian and FirstLook which are well worth checking out for giving a nuanced persective, rather than preaching to the choir – especially Glenn Greenwald’s article, which points at some of the real criticisms that are worth pointing out, that Charlie Hebdo along with all the other press seem to think it’s fine to criticise or mock Islam, but other faiths are not OK. Charlie Hebdo did mock others, and in fact fired one of it’s employees over ‘anti-semitism’ tellingly, so certainly not to the same degree or relish. That is a problem, but rather than shutting down speech as those at say, Jacobin want in a strange reversal of ‘I’m not racist but…’ to ‘I’m not defending terrorism but’, speech should be extended to ALL religions and ALL politics, to be truly an ‘equal opportunity offender’. Nothing should be sacrosanct, and people should stop constantly looking for offence, and only measure the things that are definitely hurting them…I don’t think a silly cartoon is ever one.

And anyway, satirical magazines like CH are nowhere near as terrifying or as outwardly evil as the Fox News piece mentioned in this, where Judge Jeanine Pirro tells people to go kill and bomb:

All of this is a sideshow, even the bleating about the obvious ‘new’ cover (what were they going to do, put out a blank cover? I did laugh at the grimly ironic the guy quoted from the Paris mosque saying ‘It’s not funny, and unpleasantly provocative considering all we’ve been through the last few days’ – ah poor lamb, so hard for you, not being shot in the head. Bless.) The important thing to remember is the right to free speech, even if that free speech isn’t what you agree with, and that free speech also doesn’t mean it’s speech without consequences or response. Hate speech and calls to violence are still wrong (classic fire/theatre example) but that’s already enshrined in law in most places.

Free speech works not just both way, every way – and I find it odd when groups from the left and LGBTQ blindly criticise such speech (a good question is to ask Why? Why are you criticising this? Are you secretly happy these people were killed? Does it make your ‘radical’ wannabe-terrorist genitals secretly tingle like some hanging judge? What’s your point?) when they are benefactors of such freedoms too. Or have y’all forgotten Gay News being banned? That we had to fight for our publications in the fact of ‘it’s offensive, it’s obscene, it’s blasphemous’ too? (in fact the Mary Whitehouse Gay News court case was about blasphemy, about a fairly mild poem.)

The other thing to remember is the true causes of this terrorism, and not to ascribe, blame or ask all muslims to ‘fix’ it. I made that mistake early on, although I do find the silence of many slightly odd, I think many are scared in the way the neighbours of the killers were scared into silence?

Uderzo - Charlie Hebdo response
(Albert Uderzo is a childhood hero of mine, spending days copying Asterix and Obelix, so I shed a tear over his response, you can see his upset and anger. Perfect.)

It is something we all need to fix together. All the terrorists come from poor backgrounds, people who have little to lose and have forsaken society or been forsaken by it, that have experienced discrimination and racism. Lack of opportunity is classic breeding grounds for extremism, be it Islamic terrorists or fascists. And as Russell says, the wars and drone attacks that most just ignore, as well as not feeling like you’re part of society (and probably a dash of second or third generation immigrant cultural dystopia/disenfranchisement to boot) lead to people getting radicalised. Give the youth of all backgrounds opportunities, makes people feel party of society, make people feel loved and not feared, and stop killing people in the Muslim/Arab world for pointless wars over oil – these are how you fix this. Not scare legislation that won’t actually change anything, or attacking people for who they are.

Gentrification: The Horror Movie

Doesn’t this look like some Ballardian dystopian horror fiction? Something out of American Psycho? So much so, someone has recut it with that footage:

The real horror is the vapid emptiness of the vision, and the pure naked greed, like the reviled yuppies in the 80’s, but that was a local phenomenon. And the fact these gated estates in the sky do nothing for the local community apart from possibly employ the odd doorman or cleaner (doubtful, more likely imported like the owners from the Far East or Eastern Europe). That’s if they even live there – most of these places still have the proverbial shrink-wrap plastic on because they are empty, they are junk bond investments from abroad, oilygarchs and Far Eastern investors wanting a bolt hole when things go wrong in their own country, usually.

But the soul is slowly being sucked from London by developments like these – ‘a new addition to London’s world-famous skyline’ indeed. Like we need more? And like CentrePoint, when the markets or fashions change, these will be completely empty towers in the sky. Not before they have consumed the local nightlife due to spiralling rents, though, and lack of customers. I wandered past the Covent Garden Apple store recently, massive and more like an art gallery, and suddenly realised I’d been to the Gardening Club that used to be under it…full of hooray henrys, was there for someone’s birthday and it was deeply odd – but strange that even such a posh club gets the heave-ho. That’s not recent (looks like it went 4 years ago) but kind of endemic of the sort of social shift J.G. Ballard was talking about – glossy shops, expensive gated communities, Patrick Bateman land. (videos via The Guardian/Ian Fondue)

This pain is like a glacier moving through you

I make no secret of my love of John Grant, seeing him perform Glacier last year was probably the best moment in a gig, his voice blew right through me and lifted me up. I seem to be hearing a lot of him lately, what with the excellent documentary on Iceland that’s just aired, the symphonic gigs in November (really, really wish I’d gone now) and most recently Mary Anne Hobbs repeating her Three Minute Epiphany today with John saying it goes out to those who have difficulty with this time of year. It’s from October with John Grant on ‘How To Beat Your Demons’ – a wise man indeed, and a must listen, she then played Glacier, which I admit I sang along at the top of my voice.

I’d never seen the video, not sure if it’s official (doubtful due to a few of the clips) but I think it’s hard to express what the song and others that John Grant has, but this video goes pretty close. It’s basically a gay rights primer – a little US-centric, but it’s OK, I felt like crying anyway… ;-) But if you’re interested in LGBTQ rights or history, watch the video, it’s like LGBTQ Rights 101.

Like with the hip hop post, here’s another culture that I feel strongly about, and am part of – but I’m glad that most of the time LGBTQ are pretty open about accepting all-comers and don’t usually fret about appropriation unless it’s mocking them, or others claim they invented it. If we did, most metrosexuals and hipsters would be toast (yeah from baseball caps, beards, plaid, low slung trousers and vests, all be stolen at some point when the straight men want to get laid and seem less blokey, or want to be different..! Even ‘throwing shade’, ‘sashay’ and such like have entered the lexicon now…mostly thanks to the regal and legendary RuPaul).

I own hip hop, and you do too

Another day, another person having a go at Iggy Azalea. I’m not opposed to that, she’s an awful pop rapper, but then again it’s that hypocrite Q-Tip trying to lecture a rather skewed picture of hip hop history, pretty sure him and Tribe were middle class kids from Queens? Anyway I’m sure those that grew up in the Bronx in the 1970s would be surprised to find it was all black, no latin or white people at all. BTW I used to LIVE and BREATHE ATCQ until I heard Georgie Porgie and then had the gall to turn that into a moan about how their record label ‘censored’ them (saved their careers from being immediately stillborn, more like). Iggy is no great rapper but he’s not in a position to lecture anyone. So ‘Hip Hop was for EVERYBODY’ apart from Georgie Porgie and us (and I quote) ‘fucking faggots’, eh Tip?

It’s all come from the Azealia Banks video I had a big row about on Facebook. Apart from the whole ‘I’m done with cursing people now’ (that lasted ooh, all of 5 minutes, Azealia? :-P) those comments about TI I had to stop the video and take a sharp intake of breath – it’s obvious she gets really upset with Iggy & co. taking ‘her’ culture away or getting fame and fortune with what she sees as a purely black art-form. Also as an aside, I’d really not use Nicki Minaj as a role model, who created the worst video and the worst song of the year by far and along with Meghan Trainor, Iggy and others are just setting up more body image issues for teens (now it’s big butt, and skinny hips?).

But I digress: It raises the question: how long does a culture have exclusive ‘rights’ – if at all – to what they create? In a sentence, who owns hip hop?

Mashup artists and DJs we know about cross-pollination, sampling, inspiration. Hip-hop is nearly 40. FORTY YEARS OLD! Does that still mean certain communities have exclusive rights to it? If black artists paint impressionist pictures can I say ‘no, that’s a white French thing. Are you white and French? Well, then get the fuck out’? If that’s ridiculous, and it is – then why is it still OK for others to try and earmark today’s and yesterday’s popular culture? They can critique it, point out where it’s stealing their style, promote their versions, and bring the forgotten history to light, I’m all for that. I’m usually the first to point out blatant steals that don’t really add anything, and to point out the history of those dusty, sneaky samples, or the origins of the iconography.

But it worries me when people say ‘don’t do it’ since so many things, from rock & roll and popular music culture to mashups, drum and bass and DJing/scratching wouldn’t exist without cultural crossed-wires and blatant appropriation. In fact hip hop is ALL about the appropriation, is that one way only? So should have Joe Cocker (RIP) told Dr Dre to fuck off sampling his funk track for California Love? Or someone told Joe not to have done it in the first place, because he was white, and it’s a bit funky?

I do have sympathy cos I hate the commercial, usually white rip-offs from Elvis to Miley, as they tend to be poor copies with no soul of the original, but I don’t think you can play the cultural appropriation game forever, especially we’re not talking ritual headdress or sacred religious icons, we’re talking an art-form created in a racial melting-pot of a city and an ex-colonial island? There’s a lot of erasure of other identities in that idea of black history also – that toasting came from Jamaica where it was a mix of African, British, Chinese/Asian (Leslie Kong for instance, African Chinese owner of a studio) and Latin, and that the Bronx was also a mixture, as was the whole of New York. The four elements had a rainbow of people, especially in B-boying and graffiti, and I suspect the others in the story of rapping and DJing has been erased to create this history (It’s fairly improbable like the supposed ‘lack’ of female MCs there were no latin, asian, mixed or white DJs or rappers AT ALL? Not even when it spread uptown? REALLY?). I totally understand why it’s there, and why it’s important. It’s important to feel like you own something when it’s all been taken away, but it’s even better to share it, and accept that you can’t expect to keep a strangle hold on anything forever.

A good example of the benefit of sharing culture is bastard pop & bootlegs (later became mashups), which I was part of when it started . If this idea of appropriation and ‘owning’ culture was an enforceable rule, it still would be a few 40-something white geeky British blokes playing to each other in a basement, probably. It would have been smothered by us keeping it so close to our chests and not allowing anyone else to play, and it would have fizzled out. Not sure I’m totally down with how it’s gone now, but it’s a hell of a lot healthier for the fact that people ‘appropriated’ our culture, spread it and made their own, from different races, cultures and countries. That made it stronger and helped it survive, and new forms popped up (not sure you can blame us for the multimash though!).

The way I see it hip hop is the same…I think people have taken for granted that hip hop will not die, but for a long time this was a real issue, in the early years the support was precarious and small from all sides, and everyone was welcome because it was ‘all hands to the deck’ – now it has the luxury of turning people away, or trying to. It could go that way again, and if you make people feel that they are guests in their own culture, what they grew up in (as I did in my teens listening to hip hop in the charts, hip-house and the like) then they might not stay to help it grow. It’s my culture too, for many years I didn’t feel confident in saying that I also am a part of hip hop – in fact for a long time the widely accepted homophobic and misogynistic language shut me out…it makes me so sad when people throw out insults like faggot as Azealia did (yeah sadly Tip isn’t alone in that one), and makes me alive when I listen to Run The Jewels or Kate Tempest or B.Dolan or Sage Francis or whoever.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to fight for my place, and screw anyone who thinks a queer white man can’t be a hip hop lover. I should be embarrassed to be proud and part of something I love? I shouldn’t be a guest in my own House? So I say: I own hip hop, but we all own hip hop. Deal.

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