Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Music: Fleetwood Mac & State of the Blog

This is a video of Fleetwood Mac doing Rhiannon on Midnight Special in 1976, i.e. Stevie Nicks at her Stevie Nicks-iest. I was a little kid when this originally aired but once I started listening to music I would have cut off my arm before giving this a chance... Fleetwood Mac were anti-Punk, most often invoked as the name of everything uncool. They were so seventies (back when that was a high insult, i.e. the eighties). But I really love early Fleetwood Mac now. Some of Nicks' solo records are amazing too. It is interesting to see your own tastes change.

Anyway, this is dedicated to Beth, who also rings like a bell through the night.


There has been a definite uptick in the old hate mail lately. My recent essays on Michael Jackson's death and Marwa el-Sherbini's murder inspired some... extreme responses. I suppose that is in part because the blog is reaching a wider audience than it had previously, which is great. But I cannot help but think that these two people--Jackson and el-Sherbini-- represent something larger for the people who responded so vehemently and hatefully. I have followed the internet conversation about el-Sherbini's murder and have heard Jackson invoked bitterly, more than once, as a reason why the US mainstream media has largely ignored her murder. But I think that is an oversimplification. Jackson is a global icon and his death was bound to overshadow most other news stories. Yes, I agree that much of the Jackson coverage has been ham-fisted and sentimentalized to the point of nonsense. But, Michael Jackson notwithstanding I doubt anything could have persuaded the mainstream US news media to pay attention to the murder of a Muslim woman in Europe, even when her murder is so emblematic of the growing Orientalist and Islamophobic sentiment throughout the continent. Perhaps especially because of that. The details of her case just do not fit within the prevailing Western narrative about Islam and/or Arabs (wherein women are oppressed and helpless, men are savage and unyielding and the West represents the pinnacle of civilization). In fact, when the murder is mentioned--outside of the Arab and Muslim/mah blogosphere--it is often described as "inciting" Muslim hatred toward the West, a handy inversion of the actual dynamics of this crime, which retrofits it into the aforementioned narrative (helpless, savage, civilized, blah, blah, blah...). It is my understanding that el-Sherbini's murder received a good deal of attention in the mainstream media in Germany, where it occurred, and throughout the continent, to varying degrees, but I have no way to verify that. Still, I have read that some Europeans have viewed the Arab and Muslim response to el-Sherbini's murder as a hysterical over-reaction. It is in response to that notion that I refer to the hate mail I received when I wrote about el-Sherbini, in which her murderer was described as a "hero"--akin to Thomas Jefferson (!)-- for murdering a pregnant Muslim woman in front of her son and husband. Apparently, she was trying to "take away his freedom of speech." I wish I was exaggerating.

I have added several links to my original post to essays about el-Sherbini so if you haven't been back to the post to see them, I'd encourage you to check them out. UPDATE: My original essay on el-Sherbini's murder has been cross-posted at Racialicious.

Compared to the stabbing death of a pregnant woman, one might assume that a post about Michael Jackson would not engender such an emotional response... but one would be wrong. When I wrote about Michael Jackson I hoped I was clear about my affection for his music and how important I understood he was as an international figure, especially for people of my generation, who grew up with Off the Wall and Thriller. But appealing to that shared sense of history was not enough to soothe his more ardent fans who only heard my criticism. For these folks, despite Michael Jackson's own characterization of his actions with young boys (in the Bashir interview for e.g.), they cannot countenance any suggestion of sexual impropriety with children. And they are more than willing to both create (to my mind) fantastic excuses for his lack of adult boundaries and to demonize the children in question: both of which I find completely unacceptable. Since it was cross-posted at Racialicious Latoya moderated away the worst of them but did mention that some of the rejected comments made her sick. The bottom line for me is that, as far as Jackson is concerned, it is a moot point, because he is dead. But the Peter Pan mythology that is being so agressively constructed to retrocatively explain and excuse his behavior has a dangerous legacy in the present. This model of benevolent, ageless child-man, who is a loving peer to children instead of an adult presence, is part and parcel of the narrative people who sexually exploit children tell themselves. Giving it a global stage is dangerous. And I will not stop saying so.

I'm not complaining. I knew I was opening myself up to personal attack because I wrote from my point of view as an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. But as a result, I was also contacted both on and off-thread by other survivors who thanked me for speaking up. And that balances the other stuff. Shout out to the survivors.

As for my feelings about the turn the post-mortem conversation about Jackson has taken, Shafiqah of the great blog Possum Stew described them perfectly on the Racialicious thread when she wrote,

"I strongly question this continuing apologist approach that frames these children as scheming liars, while infantilizing the ADULT who has hurt them. Michael Jackson hurt little boys…buuuuut Michael Jackson is the one who needed the world to comfort him? It’s Michael Jackson who needed our empathy? It’s Michael Jackson whose pain was on par with or trumped that of the children he damaged? Michael Jackson who had suffered enough? Michael Jackson who needed a fucking hug? Seriously? HELL NO."

(Seriously, go read Possum Stew)

Finally, I want to acknowledge the new readers and followers who have come on the scene in the last while. Welcome. Don't be shy about posting responses and introducing yourselves. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Both posts were wonderful. It is just a sad fact of life that there are too many nutters out there. Islamic Nutters, Anti Islam Nutters and Michael Jackson Nutters.

    They seem to have nothing in their own live and attach to something with almost homicial zeal. It is scary.

    As to the whole punk music thing, I got into almost all music even when I was a punk. It confused a lot of people, including my father who thought it really strange how I could be listening to Christian Death or Social Distortion one minute, then blasting Mozart's Requiem the next.

    What can I say........good music is good music whether you listen to in in a slam pit or in a suit and leather chair.

  2. Ah, I do so love the view from the top of my high horse. Self-righteous indignation suits me soooooo well. I was mad as the dickens when I typed that comment; sparks were flying off my fingers as they hit the keys. It was GLORIOUS! Mwuhahahahaha! ::: does Evil Fiqah dance :::

    Anyway, thanks for the update, and the post. Try to keep your head up regarding the recent influx of hateration (<-- yes, it's a word now)in your direction. Because you never know who you might touch, you should never underestimate your impact. Alright, that's enough Oprah-y schmaltz for one comment.

  3. @Abu Sinan
    Thanks for your kind words. Yeah, I had much broader musical tastes than most of my friends on the scene too. I horrified them more than once with some of the stuff I liked. Ha.


    Self-righteous indignation? I have no idea what you are talking about. I always try to be modest and reasonable myself. :)

  4. The older I get the more I like Fleetwood Mac. The live album they put out a few years ago is tremendous. My wife and I knew we were officially in the territory of "old" when we actually went to a Fleetwood Mac concert. It was fantastic.

    Very lively blog, by the way! Please keep wandering into these controversial topics. The best thing about the internet is that we don't have to listen to fucking lame corporate talking heads anymore.

  5. Thank you for visiting my blog. I see we're both fans of Racialicious. Good stuff over there.

    Michael Jackson was a such a lost soul - he died a long time ago. I truly believe that. However, he will be immortalized. I don't know if the allegations of child molestation are true, but, do believe something inappropriate happened. Like many, I believe he was an awesome talent, but something went terribly wrong for him following "Thriller". Those were his best days. He was a train wreck waiting to happen from that point forward.

    I read about the pregnant woman who was stabbed. So horrific, and just another example of the violence exhibited towards women. Unfortunately, the human appetite was getting its fill of MJ, and had little time or interest in the issues which have more meaning and impact on our lives.

    I enjoy your blog, and hope to visit more in the days and weeks ahead.

  6. Ya know, Joe, I am watching and re-watching this video for all the wrong reasons. Namely, I am equal parts horrified and fascinated by the artistry that went into Stevie's feathered locks. Seriously, that's a lotta time, effort and Aqua Net. I mean, I know it was the seventies, and everybody was high, but c'mon. Was this "Jhirmack bounce-back beautiful hair"? 'Cause no sir. Do not want.

    I'll be sweet now. Hell is hot.

  7. @Fiqah
    I know: it is strangely mesmerizing, isn't it?

    The 70s were a strange time. Everything was brown, orange and yellow.