Sunday, July 04, 2010
The year is 2010, and a black democrat is in the White House. As you can imagine, it’s becoming more and more difficult for Rage Against the Machine to viewed with any degree of relevancy. Oh sure, some “musicians” in RATM’s position might decide that the time is right to inflict another terrible album onto the masses, but after some quick thinking, they remembered their penchant for empty political posturing, and thus the Sound Strike was born, to protest State Bill 1070 in Arizona.
I am not going to argue about the merits of the bill one way or the other. But what I am going to argue against is the overall inanity of the artists who have chosen to boycott the state as a result of this bill. The list contains a curious number of bands who aren’t even currently active (Nine Inch Nails, Throwing Muses, Tenacious D) as well as a few whose presence on the list I find genuinely disappointing (My Morning Jacket in particular.) Michael Moore and Maroon 5 are also on the list, which if anything seems unfair to the other 49 states that they’re choosing to NOT boycott.
As an Arizona concert promoter succinctly pointed out, this boycott basically only hurts the people actively supporting (both financially and politically) the majority of these bands. In response to the points raised by the promoter, Conor Oberst recently answered back with his own open letter. I decided to give Oberst’s letter the Fire Joe Morgan treatment that it so richly deserves. His actual words are in bold.
I read your letter and I do understand where you are coming from. You bring up valid points. I personally regret any of the collateral damage the boycott is causing you, other like-minded arts promoters and the fans in Arizona. A boycott is, inherently, a blunt instrument. It is an imperfect weapon, a carpet bomb, when all involved would prefer a surgical strike.
Did you want your war analogies brought up before your appetizers? Because they're ready immediately. It's an interesting tactic of basically leading with “we’re destroying everyone in your shitty brown-people fearing state.” Do go on...
I agree with you in part, and the radio host you quoted, that the authors and supporters of SB1070 could give a shit whether or not my band, or any other Artist, ever plays Arizona again. The only thing, clearly, that these people care about is Money and Power, that and the creation and preservation of an Anglo-Centric Police State where every Immigrant and Non-White citizen is considered subhuman. They want them stripped of their basic human rights and reduced to slaves for Corporate America and the White Race. They are engaged in blatant class warfare. It is evil, pure and simple.
Oberst math lesson: “Only thing” equals several things. And possibly another thing!
Oberst grammar lesson: Use capitalization whenever the hell you feel like it.
I have on many occasions spoken my mind from stage. I have offered organizations table space by the merch booth. I have donated a dollar-a-ticket, or the entire guarantee, to different causes. I have registered voters. I have played on behalf of political candidates.
“These actions allowed those organizations to raise money for their causes. They helped my supported candidates get elected, and in general they provided a forum for people who may not have known each other at the beginning of the day to connect and join forces to affect positive change for their community. Obviously, that was all pretty fucking dumb.”
Sadly, this time, I fear none of that is enough. If I return to Arizona to pay lip service to a roomful of kids at the Marquee it will do absolutely no good for anyone.
Hey, remember in the 1960’s when Bob Dylan went down to Mississippi to “pay lip service” to kids during the civil rights struggles? What a rube he was! He obviously would have been much more effective singing his protest songs from coffeehouses in the Village. I can’t believe that asshole thought it did any good by confronting the issue at its source, when he should have just boycotted the South! Too bad his foolish fuck ups rendered him a mere footnote in how to integrate activism and music.
What I can do is to help organize, and play my small part in, what I hope is the largest and most effective boycott this country has seen in a long time. To work it will have to involve members from all sectors of society. The Sports Industry, the Entertainment Industry, the Tourism and Convention Industry, other State and City governments, private businesses and individuals from around the country and the world---all of whom, by the way, are already participating in the boycott. Much of the Artist end of the boycott is symbolic, I acknowledge, and no real threat to the economics of the State. But it is an important part none-the-less for awareness and messaging. The Boycott has to be so widespread and devastating that the Arizona State Legislature and Governor have no choice but to repeal their unconstitutional, immoral and hateful law. It has to hurt them in the only place they feel any pain, their pocketbooks.
Did this dumb simpleton proofread his letter? He readily admits this boycott has “no real threat to the economics to the state,” but one sentence letter claims it has to hurt said said state’s legislature in “their pocketbooks,” which he just acknowledged won't happen. This is not like withholding a giant events on the scale of the Super Bowl or massive conventions that states build their budgets around, where those travelling to the state are staying in hotels or spending multiple days supporting the economy. This isn’t even a massive event like Lollapalooza; it’s a lot of little rock shows by bands who enter and leave the state within the same day, and the powers that be couldn’t give a fuck about such short trips that are inconsequential from an economic standpoint. The only point where it will get any recognition at all by state higher-ups will be after rock clubs, promoters, caterers, stage crews, etc, have already slowly bled to death. Congrats, asshole, you’ve ruined the lives of the very people who allow you to tour in the first place. Go fuck yourself.
What I would encourage you to do, if you haven't already started, is to organize with all the local businesses you can to put as much pressure as possible on your State Government until the Law is repealed. An economic death rattle is the only cry of outrage they will hear.
“I don’t live in your state, but please allow me to tell you how to handle your local politics. I suggest you complain to them when our actions put you out of business.” What a piece of shit. He should have the word “economic” taken away from his vocabulary. He can have it back when he learns to use it properly.
I realize that the people of Arizona did not vote on SB1070 and I empathize with the anger and frustration you all must feel. I applaud what you are doing with Viva Arizona and do wonder if there might be a way to reconcile both our efforts while maintaining the integrity of each. After all, we are trying to achieve the same thing. But just as you may feel the boycott is an empty gesture, I fear that if we return to business as usual (under the guise of some civic movement) that this will all devolve into the typical grandstanding that is political activism in music. It might make us feel better but won't do a damn thing to change the minds of the radical, racist minority that seem to have controlled Arizona politics for decades. In short, it will lose its teeth.
Playing in Arizona = “guise of some civic movement.”
Staying away from Arizona=GENUINE civic movement, apparently.
I have to be honest. I always considered Bono pretty untouchable in the category of most self-delusional “activist,” but Oberst is pulling out all the stops here and approaching with Super Saver-like speed.
Just this past week, the little town of Fremont Nebraska passed a very similar, almost more radical, city ordinance. It was co-authored and championed by Kris Kobach of Kansas who helped write SB1070. I was outraged, saddened and embarrassed for their town and my state. I am already in the process of organizing a fund-raiser for the NE chapter of the ACLU who is suing the town of Fremont. Our situation requires immediate legal action and a campaign for public awareness (there has been very little press on this). Charlie, I promise you, if this Fremont law had been passed Statewide instead of in a rural town of 25,000 people, I would be the first to call for a boycott of my home state. This way of thinking and legislating is so dangerous, and such a threat to our basic ideals as Americans and Humans, that we cannot stand by and do nothing. We cannot play on as if nothing is wrong. This is not just about Arizona. I am not just skipping a tour date. This is not going to be easy for anyone.
So it's worth setting up a fundraiser in Nebraska to protest a city ordinance, but if that ordinance had been passed state-wide, you would stay away completely? Get fucked, asshole. Seriously, this feels like a contest to see how many different ways this you can show yourself to be an abject fool. A nice touch letting Nebraska know that they’re on notice though, tough guy. Why not cut the bullshit and just say that all Red States are on thin ice?
Here's a little-heard about a small state called California. In 2008, the state passed an amendment in 2008 known as Prop 8, which reversed the State Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex couples to legally marry. The amendment (which was passed by the voting public, as opposed to Arizona 1070) was protested by an overwhelming majority of musical artists, yet mysteriously nobody on the Sound Strike roster has argued for a boycott of the state. It’s fortunate to know that the civic minded artists haven’t passed up any paydays in LA, San Fran, or San Diego.
Charlie, I consider you a friend and you have always been great to my bands and me. I have played for you many times and I hope to do so again soon in New Mexico or anywhere else. I sincerely look forward to the day when I can return to Arizona and this will all seem like a bad dream. But I can't come back now. I'm sorry. I hope you will understand.
“Charlie, feel free to drive your sorry ass 8 hours from Phoenix to Albuquerque if that works for you. Otherwise, assuming the actions of myself, Joe Satriani, and that guy from System of a Down don’t cause your business to go under, I’d be glad to let you work on setting up a show for me down the line. I truly hope we can agree on an occasion where it becomes more beneficial for my image to venture into enemy territory. But for right now I really need to milk this stunt for all it’s worth. I hope you will understand. Though I honestly couldn't give a shit either way.