August 12, 2002
Narco News Announces Award: The
Journalist-of-the-Year for 2002 is...
to September 11th
The Rapper "With a Plan to Ambush this Bush
Administration" Conquers the Music Charts
By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
Immedia Summer 2002
(THIS STICKER MEANS: Don't Let Your Parents
Read This Essay, Kids, Without Supervision)
As the countdown to the anniversary of the September 11th attacks begins, a lot of people will be claiming to speak for America. They will purport to tell us what it all meant, what it all means, and they will be mostly full of shit. If you are dreading this predictable spectacle as I am, click your TV off, "turn your head away from the screen" as the late Jeff Buckley sang, and tune in to the counter-discourse that more kids are listening to than any other in the Summer of 2002.
Based on measurable sales, more people are listening to this report than to any to new music album in history: The album is titled, "The Eminem Show."
Today, The Narco News Bulletin announces the First Annual Narco News Award for Journalist-of-the-Year to the author of the report-of-the-year, the singer-songwriter Marshall Mathers.
That a rapper has offered better, more accurate, and more detailed journalism on the State of the Union post-9/11 than those traditionally thought of as "journalists" is obviously a damning indictment of the media industry and its "journalistic" response to world events over the past 11 months.
"The Eminem Show" throws down the gauntlet: It is a challenge to all of us who consider ourselves to be authentic journalists - or authentic creators in any field - to rise to higher standard.
In our view, the Authentic Journalist must accomplish three tasks:
First, he or she must report accurately, in great detail, on important events and overlooked truths in society, no matter the personal risk to bring the story to the public.
Second, he or she must communicate complex issues and connect with the public in a manner that everyone - not just the over-educated classes - can understand.
Third - because journalism, as a craft, is in a state of emergency and suffers from widespread corporate and self-censorship of the most basic truths - the Authentic Journalist of today must open the door for the larger public, for Civil Society, to speak for itself. The Authentic Journalist of today has to reject the caste status imposed on him and her by the media industry, and spread his and her "free speech" rights to everyone.
By resisting and triumphing against multiple lawsuits and legislative initiatives against his Free Speech, and by openly challenging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations against Authentic Speech on the airwaves, Marshall Mathers has opened the door for millions to begin to speak freely again.
But more importantly, while virtually everyone else with a loud microphone in the commercial media has shrunk from the duty to report on America's post-9/11 syndrome, and the totalitarian State it invites, a rap musician - and shame on everybody else - was the only reporter in the mass media to meet deadline.
The Biggest Selling Music Album of All Time Met Deadline While Others Froze in Fear
We already know what the official discourse on the 9/11 anniversary is and will be: These politicians, pundits and "journalists" won't be speaking for the victims, the dead and wounded of that day. And who is, as a matter of record, legally speaking for the dead? The lawyers! According to U.S. court records, there is a growing wave of civil lawsuits on behalf of the estates of 9/11 victims against U.S. government negligence prior to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade. We haven't heard much about these litigations, but when these cases get to the discovery and deposition stages, not to mention the trials, then it will be time to tune in again.
The politicians, pundits and "journalists" who claim to speak for America obviously won't be speaking for the thousand or more Americans rounded up and incarcerated without due process after that attack, whose names will finally be made public on August 17th, thanks to the Constitution-restoring August 2nd court order by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler.
Let's cut through the bullshit: These people - the politicians, pundits and "journalists" who are no more than TeeVee talking heads and house eunuchs of the mass media - will be speaking, if for anyone, only for the minority that they have always vied to speak for; the minority that buys the ads and the politicians.
So, the question remains, even regarding this sub-group of America: Who is the authentic spokesperson for, ahem, White America?
Until now, I would have answered that question without hesitation: George W. Bush, the spokesman for the White America that I know and fear; of the commerce-hypnotized techno-tranced wound-up mechanical clones whom I escaped, five years ago, by ducking South of the Border. I hate those people! That post-human species that - whether their presidential election is stolen or their airplane is hijacked by knife-wielding mafiosos - they sit still, they dial 911, they wait for inept authority figures to save them, they don't rock the boat, and thus they have allowed a kind of media-induced fascism to now send the former United States of America hurtling toward its final suicide mission.
I had abandoned all hope for those people. But now a 29-year-old white American has come forward, diagnosed America's post-9/11 syndrome, and declared: "This looks like a job for me/so everybody, just follow me/'cause we need a little controversy."
This youngster - Marshall Mathers - has just spent the first half of the summer symbolically assassinating the Vice President on MTV, and he has ripped the microphone of a nation from the hands of the stale thieves who stole it.
With the conquering success of "The Eminem Show" - an album released on May 26 that broke the all-time first-day (284,534 sold), first week (1,394,530 million sold), one month and two month and every other yardstick for music sales (4.3 million - four platinum albums-in-one - sold in the first nine weeks, shattering all previous records, even before its most impressive single has been released) - Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. Slim Shady, a.k.a. Eminem, comes to announce, "just look at me like I'm your closest pal, a poster boy, the muthafuckin' spokesman now for White America."
I demand a recount so y'all can count my "Americans Abroad" absentee ballot: I vote for Marshall. He speaks for me. Eminem actually has a domestic policy for the nation! Did I mention that he assassinated the corrupt Vice President on MTV?
Marshall Mathers Electrocuted the Court-Appointed Vice President Dick Cheney for 41 days in a row on MTV
The video for the first single from "The Eminem Show," an already mega-hit called "Without Me," features our hero electro-shocking Dick Cheney's pacemaker as he sings
I know that you got a job Ms. Cheney
but your husband's heart problem's complicating
So the FCC won't let me be
or let me be me, so let me see
They try to shut me down on MTV
But it feels so empty, without me
So, come on and dip, rum on your lips
Fuck that, cum on your lips, and some on your tits
And get ready, cause this shit's about to get heavy
I just settled all my lawsuits, FUCK YOU DEBBIE!
Debbie is Eminem's mom, by the way, for those of you whom, like me, came late to the Eminem Show, the mother who sued her son Marshall for $10 million dollars after he said in a song that "my mom smokes more pot than I do." (His lawyer, Paul Rosenberg, replied: "Truth is an absolute defense to defamation charges.") She got an out-of-court settlement of $25,000 from the son who makes a million bucks every time he sneezes. And now, all his lawsuits settled, Eminem, that is to say, Marshall Mathers, is taking on bigger targets. Singing of himself as "Slim Shady," as is his trademark, in the third person, he raps:
Yeah the man's back
With a plan to ambush this Bush administration,
Mush the Senate's face in and push this generation,
Of kids to stand and fight for the right to say something you might not like
Paging Ari Fleischer: How can he say such a thing at a time like this?
Paging America: How can he not?
The Eminem Show openly challenges the post-September 11th official discourse - unquestioned for eleven months now in the mass media's simulated version of journalism - with various rap-journalistic references to planes hurtling toward the World Trade towers and a dancing Osama Bin Laden in the album's first video, among other scoops. Pundits and critics have tried to squeeze 9/11 "response" from recent musical works by Bruce Springsteen (his first week sales for "The Rising," despite all the cover-of-TIME hype and laurels from liberals, were just 40 percent of what "The Eminem Show" accomplished in the same time period) or by Steve Earle's inconclusive ballad for "Johnny Taliban," but Eminem is, so far, the only songwriter to truly offer a political and social counter-discourse.
Bin Shady: Eminem as a dancing Osama Bin Laden on the blockbuster video for the song "Without Me"
The Eminem Show's first single, "Without Me," was the most persistent song to dominate the MTV Top Ten Video countdown list this summer: It reigned for 41 straight days, 17 of them as #1. On Latin American MTV, it remained between #1 and #5 during this same period. Kids all over the world are now learning English through these lyrics. And for Eminem - "Yo! I want everyone to listen to the words of this song" - it's all about the lyrics. Which is no diss on the music, either. It is catchy and "it stays stuck in your head for days and days."
The Eminem Show, kids, is about words, and not just the dirty ones.
"Without Me" was a fun and danceable single with a compelling video that, it bears repeating, assassinates the Vice President. Two weeks ago, it was replaced by "The Eminem Show's" second single - "Cleaning Out My Closet," a dramatic ballad addressed by Eminem to his mom that may well dominate the second-half of the summer as "Without Me" did the first (the "video," shot on film, is a take-out from his upcoming Hollywood movie production, "8 Mile," directed by "LA Confidential" and "Wonder Boys" director Curtis Hanson, and set to invade a theater near you this autumn) - but both these singles, however fabulous, are merely palate cleansers for Marshall Mathers' magnum opus single to come: "White America."
Scene from Mathers' Upcoming Movie, "8 Mile," Directed by Curtis Hanson, with Kim Basinger as Marshall's Mom
With this work, Marshall Mathers has rekindled the Romeo and Juliet love affair between white American youth and black America. Like Elvis before him (and he's more politically conscious than Presley, who, after all, was no songwriter or poet), Mathers rips down the color wall - it's the economy wall, stupid! - that the Orwellian official discourse of a self-proclaimed "multi-cultural" society has carefully rebuilt in recent years, one credit-card at a time. He scratches the skin of the young white American and finds our secret black soul intact, awakened, pissed off, and back with a vengeance.
But I am late, oh so late, two or three years late, to the Eminem bandwagon, because I've been out of the loop, livin' la vida expatriate "from somewhere in a country called América," that is, the América with an accent.
A year ago, a very nice white girl named Mim Udovitch rescued me from a billionaire narco-banker's lawsuit by writing a very nice profile about me for Rolling Stone. During those interviews, she mentioned to me the existence of this guy, Eminem, who had also faced lawsuits for speaking his truth.
Now I'm listening to Marshall Mathers' song "White America," and remembering Udovitch's published observations in the New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2001. Today, my friend and colleague Udovitch's essay seems prophetic. Udovitch wrote:
If you know one single thing about Eminem, besides that he is white, it is that he is one of those artists people fear create an evil that will, if allowed free rein, destroy civilization and corrupt American youth. Despite his enormous popularity ("The Marshall Mathers LP" has sold eight million copies, and his previous album, "The Slim Shady LP," four million), he is a figure of ill repute, someone whose work is, or at least has been called, worthless, exploitative and offensive. And it is offensive. It is very offensive. It is intentionally offensive, as many great works of art are, and have always been and -- since I like offensive art and basically would like to see popular music provoke the class warfare that the frightened gatekeepers of the 1960's promised me when I was a child, damn it -- I personally hope will continue to be.
And Udovitch also wrote:
On the simplest level, this is because, unlike many black rappers whose lyrics would outrage white America, if white America could understand them, Eminem's accent, enunciation, idiom and, to use the term of art, flow are clearly intelligible to pundits; to children, if they hear him; to everyone. On a less innocent level, it is because he comes from a world that is not supposed to exist, the world of the white underclass. On a very, very ugly level, it is because a white suburban kid identifying with Eminem is basically, as Eminem is regarded to have done, turning "black," thereby muddying the pools of cultural and racial and class separation
Yo! Now let's hear from Eminem again, from 2002's "White America," with props to 37-year-old Andre Young, the one and only Dr. Dre, whose chronic clouds of marijuana smoke, street cred, and genius as a producer, made Mathers' first two albums instant sensations. Here, the impish lily-peroxide blonde Marshall wants "everybody to listen to the words of this song," so, listen up:
See, the problem is I speak to suburban kids/Who otherwise woulda never knew these words exist/These moms probably woulda never gave two squirts of piss/'Til I created so much muthafuckin' turbulence/Straight out the tube right into your livin' rooms I came/And kids flipped when they knew I was produced by Dre/That's all it took/And they were instantly hooked right in/And they connected wit me too 'cause I looked like them/That's why they put my lyrics up under this microscope All I hear is lyrics lyrics constant controversy/Sponsors workin' round the clock to try to stop my concerts early/Surely hip hop was never a problem in Harlem/only In Boston/After it bothered the fathers of daughters startin' to blossom/Now I'm catchin' the flack from these activists when they raggin'/Actin' like I'm the first rapper to smack a bitch and say faggot/Shit, just look at me like I'm your closest pal/A poster child/the muthafuckin' spokesman now, for
I could be one of your kids
Little Eric looks just like this
Erica loves my shit
I go on TRL, look how many hugs I get
TRL is MTV's "Total Request Live" show, hosted by Carson Daly, where members of the studio audience, together with Internet messages, vote to determine what videos get played. Airplay issues get decided in that coliseum. And for any rapper whose lyrics violate FCC regulations against George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" as regularly as those of Eminem, cable television, and particularly MTV, is the battlefield through which to march to your public.
Eminem has a difficult - albeit profitable - relationship with MTV, a symbiotic parasitical mutual dependency, and it means that certain lyrics get changed in order to get the videos on the air. What words gets banned and what words make it on the video provide an interesting analysis of what ideas are considered threatening to the social order. The first is MTV's ban on positive references to marijuana.
On "Without Me," Marshall raps:
Well if you want Shady, this is what I'll give ya
A little bit of weed mixed with some hard liquor
On the MTV video, "a little bit of weed" becomes "a little bit of me." But the liquor reference is left in, and so is the graphic with props to the brand name of an absolutely popular vodka. Like, huh? And the above quoted instructions to the infamous queen of Parental Advisory stickers, Lynn Cheney, to "Fuck that, cum on your lips, and some on your tits," is wiped clean with the insertion of "Jump back, wiggle a bit, and jiggle a bit." Not since Mick Jagger sang "let's spend some time together" rolling his eyes on the Ed Sullivan Show has an act of media censorship been so self-referential. As the Eminem fan knows, wiggle and jiggle are not from the boy wonder's usual lexicon.
Still, MTV's Standards and Practices department, so obsessed with drugs and sex, did allow - have I mentioned this yet? - Marshall to electro-shock an actor impersonating Vice President Cheney and leave him twitching on the floor. In the sausage-making control rooms of the zeitgeist factory called MTV, we gotta give this round to Eminem, distracting them enough with a little bit of weed that he still got to assassinate Ms. Cheney's husband while Double Standards and Malpractices were busy wiping off the Second Lady's breasts.
Caveat Emptor: Now, before you run out and buy "The Eminem Show," which I truly would like to gift-wrap and bequeath to every bored kid in America, which includes almost every kid in this godforsaken land, including your kids, you should consider what a feat it is to really offend anyone in this day and age. Because almost the entire media diet offered us in Gringolandia is at least mildly offensive to somebody, and as a result we're all inoculated. Forty years ago, Lenny Bruce was dragged in and out of court for spewing dirty words, sexual references, radical politics, and for shouting "nigger nigger nigger nigger" to take the hate out of the term. Lenny Bruce encouraged then-President John F. Kennedy to appoint two "niggers" to his cabinet, to say "nigger nigger nigger" on national TV, and said, "when that beautiful day comes, you'll never see another nigger kid come home from school crying because some motherfucker called him a nigger." The bar is much higher now. In an offensive media world, it is very difficult to crack through with a good offense. And that fact alone makes it a worthy challenge. Eminem is our very own Lenny Bruce for - guess what, kids? - a new, even more, censorious era.
The overexposed techno-artiste who goes by the name of Moby (he's a descendant of Herman Melville. What's next? Some young Kennedy will change his name to "Oswald," in order to launch his musical career?) has become a spokesman for the opposition to Eminem. Mr. Melville, after the February 2001 Grammy Awards show duet that Mathers did with Elton John, told the press that Eminem is "a misogynist, a homophobe, a racist, and an anti-semite."
"Me and Elton Played Career Russian Roulette": Eminem's 2001 Grammy Awards Duet with Elton John
In other words, if you want to offend the elite who have destroyed the New York City of my birth - a city that only 25 years ago had class consciousness - to offend those people, like Moby, with their lame yuppie lifestyles, who reveal their puritan tendencies to us over and over again through their holier and more-offended-than-thou postures, those are the four fault-lines to shake: Misogyny, homophobia, racism and anti-semitism, mere slogans which have come to have as little meaning as the words that are offensive to the people who spout those kinds of terms.
The misogyny and homophobia charges are at the heart of the Eminem controversy - he doesn't deny the controversy in it and neither would I - and they deserve a closer look. But Moby could not be more clueless or wrong to accuse Marshall Mathers of racism, when Eminem offers the best cure for racism that popular music has offered for decades. And, being familiar with Eminem's lyrics dating back to when I was sued for my Free Speech - he provided the soundtrack for our successful legal defense against the biggest financial institution on earth - I just don't know what Moby's anti-semitism charge is based on. Maybe the accusatory words simply play like a loop in Moby's brain, like a boring disassociated techno-track.
The knee-jerk nature of the aging lyrics cops has become robotic, automatic. They've lost all sense of context, even as the kids of America have gained the ability to decipher context better than their parents precisely because a few good self-referential teachers like Bart Simpson, Buffy Summers, the South Park kids and Eminem have slipped through the censors' nets.
Spike and Buffy: 'Nuff Said
Second Lady Lynn Cheney, not to be out-cummed, released a statement responding to the new Eminem album by saying she wouldn't respond but that, anyway, the guy is sexist and homophobic (unlike the feminist and gay-defending Bush administration for which she stands?).
With a confederacy of dunces like Mr. Melville and Ms. Cheney united against him, yes, I vote for Marshall Mathers, the mobyfuckin' spokesman now for White America.
Why? Because I am a pioneer of the fastest-growing class of white Americans: The children of single-mother households, unsupported or barely supported by runaway fathers, growing up on fifty cents to the dollar of wage-earning potential, having a lot of unsupervised time on our hands, and a decided lack of paternal brutality that was and remains epidemic in two-parent homes, having to go out on the street with our latchkeys to find the citizen-forming brutality we were deprived of in the home.
Imagine, for a moment, if, today in 2002, Abbie Hoffman returned to shout, as he did in the 1960s, "kill your parents!" (Abbie said his mom, Florence, always thought that was pretty funny, because most parents have dreamed of killing their children, too.)
Marshall Mathers: In the Lineage of Abbie Hoffman and Lenny Bruce
In a nation's sea-to-shining-sea underclass of single-mom homes, "kill your parents" can only mean no more or less than "kill your mom." And this is a central theme to all three of Eminem's albums, including the latest. In the video for "Cleaning Out My Closet" he sings the lyrics, written as an open letter to his mother, and sung on film to an open grave, in a rainstorm, the lighting and color tones are like something from Rembrandt, brown and gold, as he shovels dirt into trench. (Roll over Britney: We like you, too, Ms. Spears, but Marshall has outdone you in the pop ballad genre with this video and song.)
American society pays a lot of lip service to defending the iconic shrine of the suffering single mother. And this same America basically leaves these moms to fend for themselves under difficult circumstances and in an economy in which men still have almost twice the earning power as women. Never mind that the children of these single moms are completely unseen and unheard. They - we - are like 'Nam vets. Nobody really wants to know what we've done or tour the blood-and-shit-stained tiger cages we have survived. If commercial journalists address our reality at all, they always do so with condescension.
Pop-psychology offers us a completely inadequate menu of self-help groups and absurd codependency languages and mistaken diagnoses and snake oil therapies to try and make sure that our rage is well contained and thus will have no political potential to punch out the teeth that bit us. Fuck that shit. We only have one disease: being raised poor under capitalism. The rest of the diagnoses are disguises to hide us from this terrible truth and the obvious corresponding cure of revolution.
How is it that even some normally enlightened colleagues can understand the concept of generational rage when it is directed against parents in general, but they cringe if Eminem or another rapper socks it to the only parent he ever had: his mom. And then, again, by proxy, to his ex-wife, Kim, the mother of his daughter, Hailie Jade, for whom he recently won joint custody. And when a racially mixed group of men sing together, in defiance, as they do on The Eminem Show, about the "bitches on my dick," this becomes very threatening to the poetry police. Oh, censors, right, left, or dyslexic, are so predictable and they want the world to be just like them: boring.
Marshall Mathers knows that out-of-the-closet misogyny - as if fear and hatred of women doesn't exist in newsrooms and boardrooms and other places where language is oh so enforced and clean - is one of the only things that can possibly offend the comfortable editorial class anymore, it works like a charm every time, and so why would he shut up about it now? Mathers and his alter-ego Slim Shady are better journalists than most of us who hide behind that title in order to gossip about other people. Eminem brings us the reality as he and so many of his public have lived it, and doesn't sugarcoat the daily truths of the American underclass.
I mean, would anybody out there seriously argue that the world he describes of young men bitching about bitches doesn't exist? Of course not: The problem is that we're not supposed to admit it except when using very clinical pop-psychology language that strips the fist and the dick and the clit and the rage and the godawful truths from the photo.
In this talk-show world we supposedly talk about every taboo. But that simply is not the case. Sally Jessie, Stern, Imus, Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, Judge Judy ashes, ashes, all fall down. In the simulated "real world" defined by media, we can only talk about the roughest parts of life - sex, drugs, disease, violence, the broken American family - either at circus-like and demeaning Jerry Springer type brawls or, even worse, in pseudo-clinical terms chosen by postgraduates and Queen Oprah that are designed to take the power out of social dynamics that are, at their root, quests to regain powers lost. The format by which the media, the medical and psychiatric professions, the law, and other institutions, limit the discourse about what goes on behind closed trailer-park doors - through the act of denying their tens if not hundreds of millions of residents uncensored voice and a respected seat at the microphone - only serves to intensify and ghettoize the damage done. It's a vicious cycle and Eminem has arrived, like the black rappers before him, to break it.
On "The Eminem Show's" second single, "Cleaning Out My Closet," now rising up the charts, he sings:
"I'm sorry Mama, I never meant to hurt you
I never meant to make you cry
I'm cleaning out my closet"
I got some skeletons in my closet/and I don't know if no one knows it/so before they throw me in my coffin and close itI'ma expose it/I'll take you back to '73/before I ever had a multi-platinum sellin' CD/I was a baby, maybe I was just a couple of months/My faggot father must have had his panties up in a bunch/cuz he split I wonder if he even kissed me goodbye/No, I don't on second thought, I just fuckin' wished he would die My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn't/till I grew up/now I blew up
Beyond the absentee "faggot father" (in a moment: is that really so darn "homophobic" or harmful to say? Or is it more harmful to bite our tongues?), another icon up on the chopping block of "The Eminem Show" is the heterosexual boyfriend or stepfather - can you spell patriarchy, kids? - that moves in with the single mom. In one of the new album's most brilliant moments, Marshall samples the 1980 Aerosmith blockbuster "Dream On," for a rap titled "Sing for the Moment."
This Aerosmith song was young white trash America's anthem when Marshall was seven. His generation remembers Joe Perry's guitar lead like mine memorized the lilting twanging riffs of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." (An interesting factoid: Although Aerosmith's Steven Tyler gave Marshall Mathers permission to sample "Dream On," Mathers has said in a radio interview that he also wanted to sample a George Harrison song on the new album but the Harrison estate denied permission.) In any case, opening sales on "The Eminem Show" have already conquered the Beatles and Aerosmith and the aforementioned Elvis and everybody else even in their pinnacle moments. Marshall raps:
These ideas are nightmares for white parents, whose worst fear is a child with dyed hair and who likes earrings/Like whatever they say has no bearing/it's so scary in a house that allows no swearing/to see him walking around with his headphones blaring/alone in his own zone, cold and he don't care/He's a problem child, and what bothers him all comes out, when he talks about his fuckin' dad walkin' out/cuz he just hates him so bad that he blocks him out/if he ever saw him again he'd probably knock him out/His thoughts are whacked, he's mad so he's talkin' back/talkin' black/brainwashed from rock and rap/He sags his pants, do-rags and a stocking cap/his step-father hit him, he socked him back/and broke his nose, his house is a broken home/there's no control, he just lets his emotions go C'mon, Sing with me Sing for the years Sing for the laughter Sing for the tears Sing it with me if just for today Maybe tomorrow the good lord will take you away
This album cost me twenty bucks. It costs fifteen on the Internet. Or can be downloaded for free. And it's been better therapy than any medical authority has ever offered me for many times that price.
Back to Moby's "homophobia" canard: Was that really so "homophobic" of Marshall to call his absentee pop a faggot? Or have we lost the perspective that an insult is supposed to shock and wound the recipient if he is weak enough to let it bother him? Yes, there is no denying that kids have been beat up and lynched for being gay or suspected gay, and that dynamic must be fought and destroyed. And gay, obviously, does not mean cowardly or that gay men are not real men. To the contrary, it takes real balls and ovaries to be out of the closet as gay or a lesbian, and even more gonads to be a drag queen, like the ones in New York - props to Jayne County and Jackie Curtis and Quentin Crisp - who taught me and countless others in our youths that the best defense is a good offense.
Stonewall - kids! - was about hurling bricks, not banning words. It was about offense, not defense. Therefore, be fruitful and offend. It is a much faster route to liberation than some doomed attempt to censor certain words.
Stonewall Riot Queens Ivan (First from Left) and China (Second from Right): Veterans of Domestic Wars
In this complex context-filled world of ours: What better insult could be launched at a man who thought himself heterosexually potent enough to breed, but not to care for his offspring? It's a verbal kick between the legs, and damn it, excuse me if I thought that words were supposed to be the alternative to violence. What if we call some white trash redneck Klansman a "white nigger"? Is that, per se, racist? Is there no perception of context anymore among the (over)-educated classes? (A mind is a terrible thing to send to a university.)
In any case, the attempt to ban harmful words has never stopped harmful deeds. And those of you who insist otherwise are more responsible for the lynchings and beatings - because you, yeah, you, give the word its power through censoring it - than the kids or artists who use the bundle-of-sticks word. What? You're offended? J'accuse! I accuse you, and not Eminem, of feeding the terrible dynamic in which gay bashing occurs, because - Lenny Bruce 101 - you give the word its power.
So, yeah, sue me. It's 2002, kids, we have to rethink a lot of bullshit right now. And as Marshall's little red lyric book sez: "Bullshit doesn't pay. "
Is it "homophobic" when, on a Dre-produced sure hit from the new album, "My Dad's Gone Crazy" (derivative perhaps of Ray Stevens's '70s pop hits "The Streak", or "Guitarzan", or Stevens' sickest ever, "Everything is Beautiful", very funny and gimmicky stuff, featuring the voice of little Hailie Jade), Marshall raps:
" with my framed autographed glasses with Elton John on my drag wall/I'm out of the closet, I been lying my ass off/All this time me and Dre been fuckin' with hats off," to which Dre replies: "Suck it, Marshall."
Is that statement anti gay? Pro-gay? Intolerant? Tolerant? If anything, is it an advertisement endorsing gay male unprotected interracial sex? Or do we need more context to answer those kinds of questions? Okay, let's go, the song continues:
" so tell Laura and her husband to back off/before I push this muthafuckin' button and blast off/and launch one of those Russians and that's all/blow everything EXCEPT Afghanistan on the map off."
Marshall, a couple verses later, explains that there is "more pain inside my brain than the eyes of a little girl/inside of a plane aimed at the World Trade."
...It's like my mother always told me/ "rana rana rana rana rana rana rana and codeine and/goddammit you little muthafucker/if you ain't got nothin' nice to say then say nothing"/Uh, fuck that shit bitch eat a muthafuckin' dick, chew on a prick and lick/a million motherfuckin' cocks per second, I'd rather put out a muthafuckin' gospel record/I'd rather be a pussy-whipped bitch, eat pussy and have pussy lips glued to my face with a clit ring in my nose then quit bringin' my flows/quit givin' me my ammo, can't you see why I'm so mean?/If y'all would leave me alone this wouldn't be my M.O./I wouldn't have to go "eenie meenie miney mo, catch a homo by his toe," I don't know no more/am I the only fucking one who's normal anymore?
I mean, what has that faux-alternative yuppie accuser Moby done to help us understand the roots of the rampant homophobia or misogyny in American culture that he claims to deplore? I personally think Marshall is much closer to finding the cure. Moby and his ilk just want to repress words, kids, and what kind of sorry excuse for an artist is that?
Eminem, by way of contrast, wants to let it all hang out and throw our repressed American memory back in our faces. He says, hey, you don't like this? This make you squirm? Good! Take off your blinders and deal with the enraged generation y'all have created with your censorship and false politesse Ask not, White America, for whom this generation tolls this generation tolls for thee.
And as for Moby and the rest of the "refined" musical artists, what leadership have any of them shown - in the way Marshall Mathers does on this new album - to confront the totalitarian response of the United States government to September 11th? Concerts for firefighters and cops anyone? A stupid Paul McCartney song? A politically stripped "all-star" video version of "What's Goin' On?" that bleeps out the "picket lines and picket signs" and has Marvin Gaye spinning in his tomb? The formerly great Springsteen praying to "the lord?"
Perhaps I should be a little easier on Springsteen than the others, since his new album, "The Rising," also consists of of journalism - which has long been his M.O. - and he does at least strive to capture the voices of the voiceless. But it's the over-hyped reactions of the "liberal" establishment to his new work that make me to want to hurl, because these same timid "critics" have so far been speechless regarding the real pop culture story of the Summer of 2002: "The Eminem Show." Earth to Bruce: When the Confederacy of Dunces is lined up in your favor, that's when you must start to worry.
Anyway, if you put much hope in Springsteen's new work to help us out of the post-9/11 syndrome, you're bound to be disappointed, like my friend and colleague in Authentic Journalism Danny Schechter, "the News Dissector," reported on his weblog last week: "One last note as Springsteen mania continues to roll across America. I am one those Bruce loyalists who produced two stories on him for ABC's 20.20 with many other interactions over the years including on the 'Sun City' record I helped organize with Steve Van Zandt. Thanks to a pal in the entourage, I was able to score a ticket at the last minute for the opening show of the new tour Wednesday night in Springsteen country, New Jersey," writes Schechter.
He wanted to believe! But, the Dissector reports, "sad to say and I say it with sadness, it was a bit flat and predictable for me... There seemed to be a whiff of pandering to the post 9/11 mood of righteousness as well."
Of the 15 songs on Springsteen's "The Rising," only two -- "Into the Fire" and "Empty Sky" -- could be considered at all as directly reporting on the September 11th story, but each of them in a disappointingly apolitical manner. The Nation's Washington correspondent David Corn took some time off from his capital games of waging McCarthyist attacks on "conspiracy theorists" to praise Springsteen's new album as an "explicit response" to 9/11. "Having assumed a large and possibly risky task - responding to 9/11 with pop music - Springsteen works small," Corn admits: "No questions, no answers." Of course, the Cornography column in one of my otherwise favorite magazines (full disclosure: one of the only mags I still write for) likewise has failed to ask any questions or provided any answers during the past 11 months either. Journalists and entertainers must do both in times of moral crisis. Post-9/11, in terms of the over-40 crowd in the 21st Century, Mike Ruppert has outdone David Corn at journalism and and Elton John has outdone Bruce Springsteen in the boomer pop music niche (who woulda thunk it?). "Goodbye yellow brick road, where the dogs of society howl!" And the rapper Marshall Mathers beats all of us in the field of journalism. (Would somebody in New York please messenger a copy of "The Eminem Show" to Schechter to cheer him up?) The world is upside-down, kids, and maybe for the better. Thus speaks Narco News.
I think, almost a year after September 11th, we have a right to expect questions and answers from those with spectacular terrain, be they pop stars or politicians or journalists. And that Corn and others so desperately proclaim that a needle equals a haystack in finding "9/11 response" where there is none indicates their creeping fear that the public is way ahead of the pundits on this matter of setting America back on course. When it comes to "explicit lyrics" on America's post-9/11 syndrome, "The Eminem Show" stands alone.
The careerist "journalists" are lost, oh so lost, and everybody except for them knows that already (Colleagues: If Narco News has linked to you or praised your work, we're not counting you as part of of the problem: you know who you are, and, please, keep it up). But journalism comes in many forms, including melody and rhythm, and I am particularly disgusted with the house whores of that pimp, the music industry, who have been AWOL in what, not long ago, was their fucking job: To write and sing the discordant counter-discourse, to provide the conscientious rhythm for journalism and other trades to "fight the powers that be." But all they've offered us, so far, has been lame harmonizing with Bush and Company.
Just for kicks I went to Moby's website to view his diary entries after September 11th, recalling that he lives in one of those downtown Manhattan neighborhoods where they kicked all the people like me out to make room for members of his caste, figuring that, from Ground Zero, he might have said something intelligent. Here is what we get from this fakir commenting on the September 22nd Bush speech to the nation: "I loved the fact that Giuliani and Pataki got the biggest round of applause."
Ahem. Can I have a witness, please? Because all politics are local: Giuliani destroyed my city. Giuliani should be electrocuted in effigy on MTV with Cheney, not praised. In another of Moby's diary screeds, he waxed poetically about the former World Trade towers, "aesthetically, I really loved them." Yeah, of course: bald, ugly, square and over, just like him.
Meanwhile, Marshall Mathers is talking to the kids who will have to fight in the idiotic wars that Bush has called on their shoulders. In "Square Dance," also on the new album, he proclaims he is "no friend of Bush" and raps:
Oh yeah, don't think I won't go there/go to Beirut and do a show there/yah, you laugh until your muthafuckin' ass gets drafted/while you're there in Baghdad thinkin' the crap can't happen/till you fuck around, get an anthrax napkin/open the plastic and then you stand back gaspin'/ fuckin' assassins hijackin'/Amtracks crashin'/all this terror, America demands action/next thing you know you've got Uncle Sam's ass askin'/to join the Army or what you'll do for the Navy/You, just a baby, getting' recruited at eighteen/You're on a plane now eatin' their food and their baked beans/I'm twenty-eight, they gon take you before they take me/Crazy insane or insane crazy?/When I say Hussein, you say Shady/My views ain't changed, I'm still inhumane/wait, arraigned two days late, the date's today, hang me!
This is called a counter-discourse. And I think what bothers the upper-crust critics most is Eminem's talent and guts to offer one, and their fear that his class-struggle discourse will take hold among the youth, and that, more than the sex or sexist or justplainist-and-ism stuff, drives most of the complaints from the privileged classes. In spite of - and in many ways because of, ha ha ha - this hapless opposition to Eminem, he is now the first artist to crack through the post-9/11 media spectacle and suggest with a sufficiently loud microphone that all is not as portrayed in America by its mediating tyrants.
America, like hip hop (like journalism, kids!), Eminem informs us, "is in a state of 911."
Mathers' counter-discourse, unlike Bush's, has a domestic policy - a united white and black underclass - and there are so far 4.3 million, soon to be ten million, little red lyric books out there (the first Eminem album to include written lyrics) being read and re-read as kids of all ages listen to the tracks over and over again. And if you sincerely want to understand the context and the subtleties and the humor and how they mix with the rage, and why the rage is absolutely legitimate and in fact necessary, if you want any standing to offer serious critique of how he allegedly impacts the youth of America, you must approach "The Eminem Show" in the same way that your 13-year-old kid receives it: reading the little red lyric book and listening, over and over, until you get it. And unless and until you do that, what intelligent thing could you possibly have to say about this music to which you have not really listened?
And to those who have a problem with that, well, y'all can hang me, too. I'm with Shady, and I know he's less alone than Bush when he concludes "White America" by shouting:
"So to the parents of America/I am the derringer/aimed at little Erica/to attack her character/the ringleader of this circus of worthless pawns/Sent to lead the march right up to the steps of Congress and piss on the lawns/of the White House/and to burn the flag and replace it with a Parental Advisory Sticker/to spit liquor in the face in this democracy of hypocrisy/Fuck you, Ms. Cheney! Fuck you Tipper Gore! Fuck you with the freest of speech this divided states of embarrassment will allow/Fuck you!"
If you had told me in October 2001 that by summertime 2002 there would be a counter-discourse to the official post 9/11 tyranny and that it would be the fastest selling musical album of all time, I would have said you were crazy, over-optimistic, much too American, with an overdose of "can do" spirit. Which is, of course, what makes Marshall Mathers more American, in the best sense of the word, than the Court-Appointed President Bush.
Meet the new spokesman for White America, Marshall Mathers, who reminds us that dissent is the highest calling of love and patriotism, " aw, I'm just playin' America. You know I love you."
September 11th? Ashes, ashes, all fall down. We've been fed a year of bullshit. It's time to rebel, kids! The world is a shocking place. The hour has come to shock back. The counter-discourse to Bush has begun in rap and rhyme and music. Be an Authentic Journalist - whatever your creative outlet, pursue it authentically, without fear, like Marshall Mathers, kids!, with the freest of speech this divided states of embarrasment will allow - and our topsy-turvy nation that calls itself America will soon, if not already, be up for grabs again.
Al Giordano reports on the drug war and democracy from Latin America. His bilingual internet site The Narco News Bulletin, www.narconews.com, was the first online newspaper to win, from the New York Supreme Court in December 2001, the same First Amendment rights as the New York Fuckin' Times. Al receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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... Because Journalism is in a State of 911