FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Censors Go Global

by Dave Marsh

The Czech Republic just passed a law giving anyone “promoting drugs” up to five years in prison. So much for the Velvet Revolution. Pathetically ineffectual President Vaclav Havel, a leader of the Velvet Revolution, is currently hospitalized. But when two dozen Czech artists turned themselves to the Prague cops on July 2, ratting themselves out by handing over “incriminating” CDs, Havel was on the street. He offered no support to the critics of this regime.

The Czech law says that anyone who encourages or, supports “the abuse of habit-forming substances other than alcohol through the press, film, radio, television, publicly accessible computer networks, or or in any other comparatively effective way” gets one to five in the slammer. Come to think of it, Havel, dying of lung cancer as the result of very public use of the addictive substance tobacco, probably should turn himself in. He could write his next book on the back of the 6,000 signature petitions handed to him on July 1 by Art Against Censorship, a group that staged a Prague concert against the new law.

Czech cops took the demonstration seriously enough to investigate lyrics like Hudha Praha’s “Everybody smoking marijuana.” Yet not only has Havel been silent, so has the international media (even though Hudha Praha, for instance, records for Sony), with the exception of an article buried in the back pages of Billboard. If a communist regime had done such a thing…ah, but in Havel’s new Czech Republic, a journalist was threatened with five years in prison for advocating socialist revolution, so there’s no need to worry about that.

Here in the States, we worry about relatively slight incursions on the First Amendment–and we should. No farther away than Mexico, the stuff of John Ashcroft’s repressive dreams happens regularly. On July 18, Baja California radio stations promised in writing to air no more narcocorridos, corridos (polka-beat ballads) about the dope trade which outsell almost any other popular music in northern Mexico and, among Chicanos, in parts of the U.S. Southwest, too. (For a gripping explanation of all this, I recommend Elijah Wald’s book, Narcocorrido and its CD soundtrack, Corridos Y Narcocorridos [Fonovisa, Mex.]) A radio industry representative in Baja said his clients wanted to help “in eliminating themes that go against good, moral customs and apologize for violence.” He didn’t say whether the stations would oppose the governments of Mexico and the United States which create the violence, support and benefit from the drug trade, and behave immorally every single day, often in collusion with each other.

Baja’s censorship presents a NAFTA dilemma. U.S. stations operate under no such restrictions. But as Wald stresses, few Mexicans use the drugs the narcocorridos discuss. Drugs are an export product and the importers are all Yankees, as are the users.

In easier times, the Yanqui government’s hypocrisy on drugs and censorship made me laugh and cringe. Now, smiling is out of the question. U.S. troops will invade Colombia-although the news takes a backseat to Palestine and Pakistan, it’s still just a question of when. The pretext will be the drug trade. The true target will be advocates of socialist revolution.

Meantime, in Miami, hiphoppers Busta Rhymes, Ja Rules and Ashanti played a benefit for Janet Reno campaign for Florida governor. I guess they don’t know that Reno made it plain both as Dade County (Miami) DA and as U.S. attorney general that she advocated ruthless suppression of poor people who get caught making their living selling drugs, and of the poor (but not rich) people who use them.

To quote a song Tipper likes, it’s a small world after all.

DeskScan
(what’s playing in my office)

1. The Complete John Lee Hooker, Vol. 4: Detroit 1950-51 (Body & Soul, Fr.) – The most important blues reissue series in memory. Beautiful sound, annotation that seems to get better (Neil Slaven starts out this time with the fact that, in the third year of his recording career, Hooker had already made 164 sides!). He never sounded better than he does here-at his peak, he’s a nastier Muddy Waters.

2. The Rising, Bruce Springsteen (Sony)

3. Love That Louie: The Louie Louie Files (Ace UK)–Includes a dozen important Louies, rarities like Jack Ely’s “Louie Louie ’66,” source material (“One for My Baby,” “El Loco Cha Cha”), and sequels (“Have Love Will Travel”). Arguably the greatest rock’n’roll anthology of all time. Or, I guess, the worst.

4. Africa Raps (Trikont)–Hip-hop jes grew to cover the entire planet. When it got ALL the way back to everybody’s original home, it grew beautiful, important, relevant, all-encompassing again. (www.trikont.de)

5. Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz, Nappy Roots (Atlantic)

6. The Dark, Guy Clark (Sugar Hill)

7. “Sway” and “Moonlight Mile,” Alvin Youngblood Hart from Songs of the Rolling Stones, All Blues’d Up (Compendia This Ain’t No Tribute series)

8. Try Again, Mike Ireland and Holler (Ashmont)

9. Adult World, Wayne Kramer (MuscleTone)

10. 18, Moby (V2)

11. 1000 Kisses, Patty Griffin (ATO)

12. Living in a New World, Willie King and the Liberators (Rooster Blues)-“Talk about terror,” sings the West Alabama activist-bluesman, “I been terrorized all my life.” The freest, most compelling music King has made.

13. Que Pasa?: The Best of the Fania All-Stars (Columbia/Legacy)

14. Millionaire, Kevin Welch (Dead Reckoning)

15. Keep on Burning, Bob Frank (Bowstring)

Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. Marsh is the author of The Heart of Rock and Soul: the 1001 Greatest Singles.

He can be reached at: marsh6@optonline.net

 

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail