Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Imagine There’s No Unity

by Lee Ballinger And Dave Marsh

“United We Stand,” America’s ever-present new slogan, does have a ring of truth. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine put it best four days after the September 11 attacks. “Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to all the people and their families affected by the attacks on Tuesday,” Morello said. “The loss of innocent life is just terrible….The pain felt across the country demonstrates the lesson of Tuesday’s events: that the taking of innocent life is devastating to a society and terribly wrong.”

In the wake of the terror, a spirit of togetherness emerged from New York City and captured the imagination of the country. “We, the gruff New Yorkers who reputedly step over street people indistinguishably drunk or dead, are doing heroic, selfless things,” said a September 13 email from Sub Verse, a hip-hop label with offices a few blocks from the World Trade Center.

But the unity built around sympathy, fear, or even anger only goes so far, definitely not as far as unity around giving the government a blank check for the bombing of Afghanistan or for anything else. Steve Harvey, TV star and the top-rated DJ in Los Angeles on KKBT-FM, has repeatedly told his listeners that we cannot trust our government to take us into war, that he will not allow his own son to be sacrificed, and that we need to focus on our own problems, such as homelessness.

How can we unite with a government that gave out $15 billion in aid to airlines that had refused to give severance pay to laid-off workers? The same airlines were silent when the Massachusetts governor’s chauffeur was made head of security at Boston’s Logan Airport last year and they still refuse to reinforce cockpit doors because it’s “too expensive” (what’s that $15 billion for?). For Chrissakes, the Department of Energy proposes that we allow our food to be canned with radioactive steel, while the Treasury Secretary calls for an end to Medicare and Social Security. Who can unite with that?

The restless whispers over such facts might become a scream if the American people knew how deeply their government has been involved in the rise of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, how hard the CIA worked to promote a distorted Islamic fundamentalism at hundreds of Pakistan-based religious schools attended by guerillas, and how deeply our government has been involved in international drug dealing (60% of US heroin now comes from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border area and the CIA’s Charles Cogan admitted guilt in 1995: “There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the….Soviets left Afghanistan.”)

The world is most certainly divided but not between Americans and Arabs. The fundamental division is between wealth and poverty. According to the UN, 35,615 children worldwide died of hunger and hunger-related diseases on September 11 and on each day since. 447 billionaires now have more wealth than the poorest 2.75 billion people on the planet put together. And it’s not only everywhere else. In America, this is reflected in millions of homeless people, tens of millions of people with no health insurance, and a shift in spending from education to prisons.

In other words, the average American has a lot more in common with the average Arab than with the people who run the U.S. government. The average Arab has a lot more in common with the average American than with the likes of Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi construction tycoon who is one of those 447 billionaires. If Americans and Arabs could both divide from the governments, corporations, and organizations that offer us only war and poverty, then we could unite to imagine a peaceful and prosperous world.

The first step in that process is communication, both among ourselves and with the rest of the world. Our primary means of communication is music. So it’s no coincidence that there has been a great increase in music censorship. It began right after September 11, when the 1200- station broadcast behemoth Clear Channel Communications banned all music by Rage Against the Machine and issued a don’t-play list of 150 songs, ranging from Nena’s anti-nuke “99 Luft Balloons” to John Lennon’s sublime “Imagine,” with its lyric “I hope someday you’ll join us/And the world will live as one.”

Clear Channel protested that it wasn’t really a ban but its true colors were revealed October 1 when the company fired Davey D from his post as Community Affairs Director at KMEL/San Francisco. For over a decade, Davey D, the world’s foremost hip-hop journalist, has put controversial issues and personalities on the air at KMEL. Will Steve Harvey at Clear Channel-owned KKBT be the next victim of the chain’s sleazy quid pro quo with the government? (On September 13, just before the Clear Channel censors went into action, the FCC declared its intent to lift all ownership restrictions on broadcast chains).

On September 14, the Secret Service closed down Rage Against the Machine’s website. Other musicians who voiced opinions not approved by the government came under pressure to retract them. Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys apologized (kind of) because he asked during a Toronto interview: “What has our government done to provoke this action that we don’t know about?” Moby apologized (definitely) for saying that the people of New York had been “failed” by the FBI and CIA who “exist solely to protect us from this sort of atrocity.”

There was also censorship by omission. On September 11 the highly political metal band System of a Down had the most popular album in the world. But while right-wing talking heads you’ve never heard of got unlimited face time, System of a Down was ignored. Perhaps that was because frontman Serj Tankian was insisting that we try to actually understand world events: “No one in the media seems to ask why did these people do this horrific act of violence and destruction?”

As for hip-hop, it was invisible despite the fact that rap stars donated millions of dollars to relief efforts, while others organized concerts or town hall meetings. As Davey D put it in his FNV newsletter, “Because of the narrowcasting in news coverage, the average person as no idea what Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli, or KRS-One is thinking.”

Now we are officially at war. Music, which is fundamentally for peace, will come into increasing conflict with the government. That’s all to the good, but if we don’t find effective ways to support musicians, the sound of silence will become deafening.

Lee Ballinger and Dave Marsh are the editors of the excellent Rock and Rap Confidential. This is the lead article from the October Rock & Rap Confidential. The entire October issue focuses on music’s relationship to war and terrorism. They would be happy to send you a copy. Just email them at rockrap@aol.com with your name and a postal address.

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]