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.
STATE OF THE BLOG:
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.