Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rapper Run-in Run-Down

In my last post I recounted an atypically fruitful discussion that I had on Twitter with the rapper Murs. Since I enjoy rap music, but disagree with the vast majority of the ideals expressed by rappers in their music -- and therefore on Twitter -- I'll often post (necessarily) pithy replies to their tweets.

Recently many of them posted messages regarding Troy Davis and Occupy Wall Street, and on both issues I find myself dissenting from the views that virtually all rappers are espousing -- namely that Occupy Wall Street is a good thing and that the execution of Troy Davis was an injustice. And so, as usual, I posted messages responding. But typically rappers don't respond to my responses for whatever reason (too busy, uninterested, unwilling to engage in debate, etc.), which is understandable and expected.

This week, however, I seem to have struck a nerve. Murs, Sole, and Saigon all engaged in stilted (due to Twitter's character limit) political arguments, and the producer Blockhead and the rapper Killer Mike also responded to tweets of mine, though not to engage in debate.

Saigon posted a tweet decrying the fact that the black and/or hip-hop community had already stopped discussing Troy Davis. He then tweeted "Where do we go from here?", to which I responded "Shoot cops in parking lots in broad daylight less often? It's a start." Though that retort is obviously sardonic, it does make a legitimate point, I think. Namely, that the "injustice" of the Troy Davis execution was nothing of the sort, and that the hip-hop community needs to stop making causes and martyrs out of those who should simply change their behavior if they want different results and treatment from the justice system. If the hip-hop or black communities make a cause célèbre out of every execution of a back man, even in unexceptional, ordinary cases -- as this was -- it will be hard to draw attention to true instances of injustice and racism. It's the Boy Who Cried Wolf conundrum. 

Saigon went on to make the point that the system was hypocritical because, while cop-killers get executed fairly regularly, cops who kill innocent civilians don't get executed ever (or very rarely). To quote him exactly: "okay smart guy, how many cops were executed for shooting innocent unarmed blackmen? Answer me that one... How many?"

I don't know the number, but I assume it's somewhere around 0-2, say in the last 50 years. But, I would argue, that's as it should be as cops killing innocent civilians happens extremely rarely, if ever. Even the cases that blacks typically cite as being instances of "cops killing innocents" you could count on one hand, and even with those the facts are usually in dispute i.e. it isn't clear whether cops really did kill an innocent person, or act inappropriately. But, even if we were to grant all of these cases, still, cops killing innocent black men in the streets is an exceedingly rare occurrence, and so executions of the perpetrators should also be exceedingly rare. Which is essentially what I tried to hint at in my next 140 character response: "Don't know.. Probably a lot fewer, since cops killing innocent ppl virtually never happens. Your point?", to which he replied "so U never heard of Sean Bell, or Amadou Dialling [sic] or countless others, u look like a grand wizard anyway. Beat it."

Of course there aren't "countless others". The others are highly countable and, as I said, could even be counted on one hand. And that's only alleged instances, and most of them have dubious evidence of police misconduct.

Meanwhile, Sole, of Anticon fame, was tweeting that CNN wasn't covering the Occupy Wall Street protest sufficiently, and that if Americans wanted the real story they would have to tune into Al-jazeera. I had seen reports consistently on every mainstream network I've watched in the last 3 to 4 days, so I'm sure CNN has had similar, reasonable levels of coverage.

I took this to mean that Sole believes that the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon is a very large, significant, important movement (when it's not, it's a bunch of over-privileged liberals without jobs, but with money, complaining vaguely and imprecisely about capitalism) that deserves more mainstream media coverage than it's receiving. After the first day or two of the media pointing out that, yes, there are people holding signs, shouting protests in unison, obstructing street traffic, having occasional run-ins with police, and they are concerned about wealth inequality, greed, corporatism, capitalism, etc. what more is there to say? The public knows you're there, we know what you're saying. And? There is no more story except to say "yep, they're still there." So minimal amounts of media coverage are logical and justified from a neutral media outlet, and large amounts of coverage reveal a particular ideology (mostly "America is bad") at play.

This is essentially what I said to Sole: "A small % of privileged liberals are protesting vaguely and imprecisely about capitalism? @CNN should extensively cover this why?" to which he replied "that's what they said about the Arab spring. And I ain't no &$%#ing "liberal." U stick to your fantasies, I'll stick to mine."

So he raises two issues:
1) Likening the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Arab Spring, an analogy I will happily accept in one sense, but on opposite grounds. The so-called "Arab Spring" actually was nothing of the sort, and was overblown by the media and various sorts of talking heads. So the media not making the same mistake this time around is evidence of the media learning from its mistakes, if anything. Then, of course, I could also simply point out that while there is an analogy that can be made, it's pretty limited. In many ways Occupy Wall Street is nothing like "the Arab Spring".
2) The semantics of "liberal", which he clearly doesn't understand. To prove he doesn't understand he goes on to say "the word weasel liberal is a weasel word. republicans are the ones who are liberal. i just want folks to kill what they eat." He seems to be conflating classical liberalism, which really does correlate with the values of the right, to what "liberal" has actually come to mean today -- and has meant for the last 40-50 years in popular usage -- which is essentially just "on the left of the political spectrum".  All academics on this subject recognize this distinction and shift in usage. Still, nothing I said really hinged on him being a "liberal" in the first place (even though he is one, as a matter of fact.)

After some uninteresting tangential exchanges, Sole concludes our discussion with: "its all good. i perused your blog to arrive at my opinion of you. its old white man [stuff] to me. we barbarians are at the gates". Not the most nuanced conclusion (though Twitter doesn't really allow nuance), but not especially objectionable either, really. My views have been shared by many an old, dead, white person. But the insinuation that "old" and "white" are synonymous with "bad" and "wrong" is indicative of the character of the shallow, leftist thought that Sole traffics in. Jel and Moodswing 9 made some great beats back in the day, though, so I'll still listen to his music.

No comments:

Post a Comment