Magazine article Insight on the News

Reviewer Turns a Deaf Ear to Evils Behind Communist Rap. (Fair Comment)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Reviewer Turns a Deaf Ear to Evils Behind Communist Rap. (Fair Comment)

Article excerpt

During the last weeks of May, Dick Cheney, Robert Mueller, Donald Rumsfeld and, for all I know, Willard Scott once again warned of modern-day threats to America. Meanwhile, a piece by David Segal of the Washington Post inadvertently reminded us of a time when our primary foe was communism--and that not a few journalists were oblivious to the wretched nature of this movement.

Segal, who covers pop music and really oughtn't wander far from that genre, earned his "Useful Idiot Award" with a May 22 article that dealt cluelessly and flippantly with Oakland-based communist rapper Raymond "Boots" Riley, who leads an outfit called the Coup. Plenty of critics, Segal among them, chose the Coup's Party Music as one of last year's best albums.

Riley is politically noxious. He refers to this country as the "United Snakes" believes that "the American flag ... stands for oppression, slavery and murder" and asserts that before the state-controlled economic system he desires to be achieved, "there's going to be a fight from the people who traditionally maintain profits, and it's not only going to be a fight of words.... It's going to be a fight where people are attacked"

In 2001, Riley intended the cover for Party Music to depict him setting off an explosion and fire at the World Trade Center as "a metaphor for destroying capitalism--where the music is making capitalist towers blow up" The artwork was shelved in the wake of the Sept. 11 atrocities, a bow in favor of sensitivity but an act of hypocrisy nonetheless. The terrorists behind 9/11 shared Riley's hatred for the American system, but their actions showed the real-life consequences of this hatred.

Yet Segal repeatedly declares that he finds Riley's work amusing. He calls the World Trade Center cover art "jokey" and a bit later describes a track called "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" as "tongue in cheek." In his most elaborate encomium to Riley's supposed wit, Segal states, "Most radicals are insufferably dull and humorless. Riley, on the other hand, sells communism not just as a way to seize the means of production but also as a shortcut to the all-night dance bash of your dreams. Riley thinks Bolshevism can be a hoot, and even if you consider that cockamamie, his attempts at persuasion are wry and winningly subversive."

Suggested summer reading for Segal: The Gulag Archipelago. "Genuine pariahs are now a rarity in pop music," Segal salivates, "and the Coup is among the very last. …

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