And now for something completely identical

by Ted on March 31, 2005

The next sideshow will be M.I.A., the musician whose debut album irresponsibly, cynically flirts with terrorism and the Tamil Tigers. It’s a dumb, easy-to-understand storylet, centering on a pretty woman with an album to sell. It’ll allow cultural conservatives to bash the media, ressentiment conservatives to bash hipsters on the coasts, and national-defense conservatives to bash her lyrics. Straying conservatives, stunned at the unprincipled recent clown show in the Republican leadership, will rejoin the flock after being shocked by the cherrypicked quotes from Democratic Underground. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess that she was grown in a vat by TownHall.

I predict that Michelle Malkin will be one of the first out of the gate on this one, followed closely by National Review. O’Reilly will be demanding to know why she’s afraid to do his show by next Friday. Wizbang will employ the macro that hits popular left-wing blogs, notices how few have denounced her, and wonders why we don’t all move to Terrorvania because we seem to love it so much. The woman that Glenn Reynolds will declare to be “the authentic face of the modern Left (for real this time)” will be on the cover of Time in three weeks. The right will get to enjoy a few weeks of red-faced fury, and the controversy will make M.I.A millions of dollars.

Range time.



John Emerson 03.31.05 at 8:26 pm

I’ve always thought that the Tamils deserved more credit for their role in the development of suicide bombing. Just because they’re insurgents in a small, relatively unimportant country, they shouldn’t be dissed.

Perhaps they should join the Chechens and the Basques and form a consortium of terrorist groups speaking exotic languages. The Axis of Just as Evil, Thank You.


Kieran Healy 03.31.05 at 9:04 pm

Watch it with that “Range Time” stuff, or the Du Toit Nation of Riflemen will be back to “dominate you intellectually”: again.


Keven Lofty 03.31.05 at 9:06 pm

But it’s a damn good song.


Cryptic Ned 03.31.05 at 9:48 pm

Which song?


fyreflye 03.31.05 at 9:59 pm

Now, now; what on earth could possibly have made you so…cynical?


jet 03.31.05 at 10:22 pm

I think she made the rounds 6 months ago. At least I think I read about her flava filled, explosive lyrics a ways back.

But the “Range Time” thing is hilarious. Du Toit only says that when he’s close to a coronary. So let me tell you, I’m rolling here that the fact that conservatives are going to come down hard on a rapper promoting suicide bombing in that paradise SE of India as a means of political change, and that pisses you off? What next, you’ll blow your top because conservatives think murderers and rapists should go to jail?

Maybe if liberals joined the conservatives in condemning a loud voice promoting something antithetical to Western values, they wouldn’t get so much mileage out of it. And I don’t mean you, Ted. I’m saying if Hillary made air time to plug her distaste for suicide bombing rappers like the R’s do, then the R’s wouldn’t have such a neat tool.


Cryptic Ned 03.31.05 at 11:12 pm

See, Jet is already taking this as a serious threat to Western civilization rather than a completely unimportant and unserious phenomenon, and he hasn’t even been told to by Tom DeLay.

Just the suggestion is enough.


bi 03.31.05 at 11:32 pm

Next up: a song that praises the bombing of Hiroshima. I think the con-servatives are going to like that.


Juke Moran 04.01.05 at 12:19 am

Or the Axis of Kick Your Ass, Emerson Jet.
Promoting the state of mind that results in what you’re afraid of most.
Which is not suicide bombings per se, but people whose courage shames you, who’d rather die than capitulate to your greed, and don’t mind taking you with them.


gypsyfrocksbedlam 04.01.05 at 1:06 am

She may be culture war cannon fodder, but there’s nothing cynical or irresponsible on that record. If you want to read way more about it than you might have thought possible for anyone to write about someone whose album wasn’t even released back when the thread was started, go here — in which you’ll find an array of perspectives, musical, political and otherwise, including first-person accounts from people on various sides of the Sri Lankan conflict.


ogmb 04.01.05 at 1:13 am

yeah freedom fighting def’ly jumped the shark in ireland, 1922.


Dan 04.01.05 at 2:17 am

I bought the album, and it kicks the shit out of anything Charlie Daniels or Lynrd Skynrd ever did.


azad 04.01.05 at 4:29 am

but… she’s ENGLISH!!!


rea 04.01.05 at 6:41 am

Funny, we never seem to get to tar the whole right with te lyrics from some skin-head neo-nazi band, although such things certainly exist, and are about as mainstream as this person . . .


KCinDC 04.01.05 at 7:43 am

Of course, Rea. That’s part of the rules. The left must spend all its time condemning obscure clowns like Ward Churchill, but the right can’t be expected to say anything negative about outrageous statements by people who actually have political influence, like Sun Myung Moon, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, or even various members of Congress.


Uncle Kvetch 04.01.05 at 10:08 am

I’ve heard 3 or 4 tracks and I think she’s phenomenal. “Bucky Done Gun” is getting indie radio play in the US at the moment, and I literally can’t sit still when it comes on. I really, really hope you’re wrong about her becoming the focus of the next kerfuffle, Ted.

I’m still unclear on exactly how she’s expressed pride in, or solidarity with, the Tamil Tigers. The Slate article only refers to it in passing. (I realize that in the current climate she doesn’t actually have to come out and say “Yay, suicide bombers!” to set off the next round of culture-war hysteria.)

Just wondering: has she had a lot of commercial success in the UK?


jet 04.01.05 at 10:42 am

Uncle Kvetch today: “Who cares if MIA supports the Tamil Tigers, her music is da bomb.”

Uncle Kvetch 1939: “Who cares if Mussolini supports the Nazis, he makes the trains run on time.”

Choice quotes from M.I.A.:
“Freedom fighting Dad bombed this pad / Called him a terror put him on wanted ads / Daddy M.I.A. missing in action / Going to start a revolution” — M.I.A. “FREEDOM SKIT”

“That’s why I wrote the song ‘Sunshowers,'” Maya says over the phone from Berlin before a gig. “You can’t separate the world into two parts like that, good and evil. Terrorism is a method…”
— M.I.A. Eye Interview


des von bladet 04.01.05 at 10:47 am

Gosh, Jet, M.I.A. is running a country? Which one? I’m pretty sure it isn’t actually Italy, or I’d’ve heard…


Robin 04.01.05 at 10:53 am

“Uncle Kvetch today: “Who cares if MIA supports the Tamil Tigers, her music is da bomb.”

Uncle Kvetch 1939: “Who cares if Mussolini supports the Nazis, he makes the trains run on time.””

That’s unfair, adding the “who cares”, especially. Aesthetics is a different issue, for not wholly clear reasons. Would you have people shut out Ezra Pound or Dostoevsky for their deeply anti-semitic views. How about Mayakovsky or Brecht for their Leninism? The list could go on. . .

We can still like her music even as we condemn her so far still opaque defence of the LTTE.


bi 04.01.05 at 10:56 am

jet: there’s a special place in hell for your ilk.


monica v 04.01.05 at 11:04 am

I had the same objection as Azad. For a sec I was confused and thought I’d missed the bit about her being American.

I thought it was a tacit agreement that each nation had to find their Real Face of the Left within their borders. Who changed the rules?


rbyrne 04.01.05 at 11:24 am

On the original post: In our postmodern age, artists have wholeheartedly embraced critical resistance to the intentional fallacy. And they’re right to do so, particularly with a first record as rich and complex as MIA’s (and in her case, I’m also including the astonishing “Piracy Fund Terrorism” bootleg that’s circulating at an MP3 blog near you…) First timers (even one as steeped in the “hip-pop” apposite waters of Sri lanka and UK art school) tend to pull from whatever resources they have to get the track (or the poem or the painting) out of their head and into the cultural mix. To read the various bits of this record as MIA pushing an “agenda” (yes, I’m talking to you, jet) are silly in the extreme. If she’s still on the Tamil tip on the next record, you’ll know that she’s going the Manu Chao route. If she cranks out a record about the industry and fame, she’ll be taking the Bowie route. It’s too early to say. So just enjoy the cultural zeitgeist as it floats blessedly close to pop culture for the first time in a long time…


Paul 04.01.05 at 12:19 pm

Come on, you’ve gotta love anyone who calls their first CD Piracy Funds Terrorism.

Maybe if liberals joined the conservatives in condemning a loud voice promoting something antithetical to Western values

You’re sounding remarkably like Tipper Gore these days, Jet.


Ted 04.01.05 at 12:45 pm


If this becomes the next Most Important Thing In The Media Universe, I will not be be upset because the true face of the Left has been found in a Sri Lankan dance musician. I don’t know why you can’t give people to the left of you the goddamn benefit of the doubt re: do we want to get blown up or not, but I guess you can’t be too careful.

I’ll be upset because it’s such an obvious sideshow. It will have no concrete effect other than selling a bunch of M.I.A. records. Look at what making Marilyn Manson TMITITMU did for him. It sold a bunch of terrible records and made him a household name. It’s as predictable as the tides.

And you’re pre-emptively buying it. And you’re pre-emptively castigating dat ol debbil Hillary for not denouncing it. (Incidentally, if we’re honest for a second, it wouldn’t satisfy right-wingers for a second if Hillary denounced it. You’d keep looking until you found someone whose opinion was more pleasingly enraging. That’s how Ward Connely became the authentic face of the Left.)

I love modern political discourse.


Uncle Kvetch 04.01.05 at 12:58 pm

Hey, no biggie, it’s not the first time Jet’s put words in my mouth and/or thoughts in my head.

I would attempt to defend myself, but he’d just respond by calling me “Cap’n” and telling me to “lighten up.”


Iron Lungfish 04.01.05 at 1:13 pm

M.I.A. is actually pretty damn good – certainly much better than Slate gives her credit. Her dad was/is a Tamil Tiger, she sympathizes with the Tamils, and her lyrics reflect this (in an incredibly fuzzy manner – the references to terror in her songs are so oblique you have to strain to get offended. This is not Marilyn Manson-esque shock rock). If she were Palestinian and sympathizing with the much-more-widely-recognized oppression of Palestinians while chucking passing references to bombs and refugee camps in her music, would you be quite so ready so be incensed?


Kriston Capps 04.01.05 at 1:43 pm

Ted, there’s a far more likely candidate in the running for the conservative outrage treatment—n.A.T.o. She’s a pop(ish) singer from the Svengali who brought the world t.A.T.u. She sings in Arabic, she dresses like a (busty) Chechen suicide bomber (apparently), she travels with an entourage that carry fake AKs, and her first single is “Chor Avon”, which means “black widow.” Made in a lab to give Bill O’Reilly an erection.

In second place comes Immortal Technique, a hip-hop guy whose stuff is run-of-the-mill but inflammatory. You can seek out a singled called “bin Laden” (produced by Green Lantern) that involves some pretty funny lyrics about starting an insurgency in NYC. The chorus alternates between “Bin Laden didn’t blow up the projects” and “Bush brought down the towers.”


Dan 04.01.05 at 1:45 pm

Shorter Ted Barlow: Let’s nobody do anything interesting because Michelle Malkin might get mad.


jet 04.01.05 at 1:53 pm

Uncle Kvetch has never once, to my knowledge, been “fair” to someone he disagrees with on here. His usual style of argument is to wait until the thread is dieing down, misinterpret their argument in the most obscene way, and then bash them for that. So if I used his own style and hurt his little feelers, I’m deeply sorry. I mean really….what…you don’t believe me? Maybe next time, Robin, you can stand up for someone that Kvetch is kvetching to in the same manner.

I always like a good joke. Contact me sometime, maybe we can put together something that’s actually clever. And what makes you think I’m a Christian? The fact that I piss in the cheerios of people who voice support for suicide bombing whenever I get the opportunity? I would have thought it very liberal ideal to stand up against random violence, reguardless of the cause.

I misread your post regretfully. I first read it to mean that all that would happen after MIA was on the cover of Time. But you were meaning it would put her on the cover of Time. I do agree with you 100%. It would be kind of Orweilien if MIA is propped up to be much more than she is, just to beat the left up. But then again, all people on the left have to do is agree she’s a nut, instead of whining about the label. When Ward Churchill made the pages, all we heard from talk left radio (Garofalo couldn’t have stood up for him more), academia, etc is how the Right is making him a target for political purposes in a semi-defense of him. Not that he’s a nut and they are right he’s a nut, and they should stop blaming him on us because they have nuts too (as CT did).


r. clayton 04.01.05 at 2:19 pm

and the controversy will make M.I.A millions of dollars.

If she wants to make millions of dollars, then that’s got to be her hope. The second thought I had while listening to Piracy Funds Terrorism is “This woman has less talent than Madonna does.” (The first was “I wonder where Annabella Lwin is these days?”).


Uncle Kvetch 04.01.05 at 2:22 pm

Jet, I’m going to respond after all. I don’t know why, really, I just feel compelled to.

If you look at my first comment, you will see that I was asking for someone to fill me in on exactly what was controversial about M.I.A., because up until this morning, all I knew about her was that I really liked her songs. The Slate article made a passing reference to her support for the Tamil Tigers–something I knew nothing about–but gave no details. Rather than wading through several thousand comments on the thread that Gypsyfrocksbedlam linked to, I thought I would take the lazy route of asking if somebody here might be so kind as to bring me up to speed.

Your response was to call me a fascist.

When taken to task for this, your response was that this is exactly the kind of thing I do all the time, so I deserved it.

I guess that’s all I want to say. I had 3 or 4 more paragraphs written for this comment, but to what end…to “clear my name”? I think the people who read CT regularly can judge your notion of “fairness” for themselves.


KCinDC 04.01.05 at 2:29 pm

No, apparently the next outrage is about the idiot who threw salad dressing on Pat Buchanan — supposedly clear evidence that the left is more violent than the right.


Robin 04.01.05 at 2:36 pm

“If she were Palestinian and sympathizing with the much-more-widely-recognized oppression of Palestinians while chucking passing references to bombs and refugee camps in her music, would you be quite so ready so be incensed?”

There are huge differences. While the SL state has been thuggish and while the discrimination of the 1960s/70s and pogroms of the 1980s are unconscionable, it has made large strides, offering autonomy, ethno-federalism, strong, official apologies, among other things. Moreover, the LTTE wiped out other Tamil groups (the EPRLF, e.g.), has mowed down Tamil student demos at Jaffna university, has ethnically cleansed the Muslims in the east, suffers from a cult of personality akin to the Sondero Luminoso, and has strong fascistic tendencies. The opportunities for a secular-binational SL is not being opposed by the SL state at this point, and LTTE has opposed elections in LTTE controlled areas.

Btw, this video of Sunshowers does play up some LTTE imagery

Jet, I don’t follow kvetch, and I’ll be happy to condemn all misrepresentation manufactured strawman arguments. The main unfairness is to compare an appreciation of an artist with some stupid views with appreciation for a fascist dictators administrative results. Her musical talent is not essentially tied to her views on the LTTE, while Mussolini’s making the trains run on time is tied to making Italy more and more unfree.


bi 04.01.05 at 2:44 pm

_I always like a good joke. Contact me sometime, maybe we can put together something that’s actually clever._

I don’t need your help for that, thank you very much.

_And what makes you think I’m a Christian?_

Nice straw man.

_The fact that I piss in the cheerios of people who voice support for suicide bombing whenever I get the opportunity?_

Yet another straw man. You sure love making straw men don’t you? Send me a few million of them, then I can find out what it means to clutch at straws.

_I would have thought it very liberal ideal_ …

Oh, because I detest half-baked arguments like those you make, suddenly that makes me a liberal.

… _to stand up against random violence, reguardless of the cause._

What on earth is “random” violence as opposed to “non-random” violence?


jet 04.01.05 at 3:15 pm

Uncle Kvetch,
I simply saw an opportunity to walk in your footsteps and took it. You said something that could, at the far reaches of rationality, have been totally misinterpreted, so I misinterpreted it. Like I said, if my purposeful unkindness hurt your feelers, maybe you’ll take pity on the next person you feel like doing the same. As for me, I enjoy our little game of traded unkindnesses, kind of like venting to a friend. We can not like each other and still be friends, right? I mean, I wouldn’t hesitate to give you a ride or pull you out of a burning car, or whatever ;)

I hate to keep wasting your time by not being clear enough. My response to Kvetch was purposefully misinterpreting him and casting his words in the worst possible light. That seems to be his favorite method of argument, and I try to be accommodating.

I wasn’t calling you a liberal, I was making claim that my ideas were liberal. And a gang related school yard shooting is random violence. A suicide bomb going off in a crowded market is random. The Battle of the Bulge is not random. And you’re the one who alluded to me being a Christian (and going to hell), apparently based solely upon my most evil and heinous crime of mocking Uncle Kvetch (certainly this follows in the spirit of the Grand Inquisition, how Spanish of you). Oh, and I’d praise the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Approxametely 100,000 civilians in occupied Japanese lands were dieing every month from starvation and murder by the Japanese. Somewhere between 500 thousand to 1,000 thousand US soldiers and 10’s of millions of Japanese would have died in a US invasion of mainland Japan. At the end of the war, Japan had lost around 350,000 civilians. Japan had one of the lowest civilian casulty figures in the war, especially based on how large a part of the war Japan was. So those two bombs saved hundreds of people for every one they killed. In real life, Dostoevsky’s morality question turns out to have a real answer.


Nirav 04.01.05 at 3:16 pm

Oh. Crooked Timber does not a very good resource about modern pop music make. MIA is interesting for a number of reasons, very few of those are her politics. Check out her mixtape with Diplo, “Piracy Funds Terrorism” (which you can get probably get from TurntableLab), those rough mixes of her songs make a lot of sense in context of the Baile Funk, Baltimore club music and icy hip-hop. Lots of intersections with cool things that are happening in music around the globe, and she stands in a relatioship with UK grime that I haven’t really sussed out yet.

She’s actually a filmmaker and a visual artist by training, makes her own clothes, etc.

I’d never thought that politics (unless your music is a vehicle for your politics, like Crass, Born Against, or Skrewdriver) was a great reason for reason to dismissing an artist outright.

The hype surrounding this record is probably unwarranted, but then again, isn’t most hype?


bi 04.01.05 at 3:26 pm


Oh, I get it now. If it’s called “Battle of _X_” or “War of _X_”, then it’s non-random.

Or do you mean something else? Can you actually give a _general_ standard of what’s random and what’s non-random instead of just picking ad-hoc examples?

Otherwise, I hereby proclaim the LTTE’s struggle as the “War of the LTTE”. And since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki clearly don’t follow the pattern of “Battle of _X_” or “War of _X_”, it follows that they’re _random_ violence, so they’re 100% Wrong.

(Incidentally, the “somewhere between 500 thousand to 1,000 thousand US soldiers and 10’s of millions of Japanese would have died in a US invasion of mainland Japan” claim is disputed.)

_(certainly this follows in the spirit of the Grand Inquisition, how Spanish of you)_

Oh, OK. Suddenly “Spanish” has become a swear word because the Spanish citizens didn’t have the courage to vote a bunch of liars back into office.


bi 04.01.05 at 3:29 pm

_You said something that could, at the far reaches of rationality, have been totally misinterpreted, so I misinterpreted it._

Why won’t you stop praising yourself for being a total idiot?


jet 04.01.05 at 3:49 pm

I had a fun response to bi, but in the greater intererst of CT I’ll refrain. But I can’t refrain from this one little excerpt (In the spirit of a perpetual alcoholic, my deepest apologies Ted).

bi, if you don’t think the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan have anything to do with a particular “War of X”, you might want to be careful how you wield that “idiot” word.


Paul 04.01.05 at 4:11 pm

Jet, I think you should make it your special mission to contact every Senator and demand that they speak out about the dangers this woman poses. Now, they might ignore you at first, so you’ll have to call them repeatedly, but don’t stop–our way of life depends on it. Do it, Jet. Do it for America.

(Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to Arular.)


Uncle Kvetch 04.01.05 at 5:42 pm

I had a fun response to bi, but in the greater intererst of CT I’ll refrain.

Let me guess: you were going to call him/her a serial child rapist.

You should have gone ahead with it, Jet. That would have been hilarious. Bi was just asking for it, anyway.


mg 04.02.05 at 2:19 am

Say, jet, have you considered stopping being so accommodating, as you put it? It’s really annoying, not to mention out of place as often as not. IMHO.


luci phyrr 04.03.05 at 1:53 am

Hmmmm…salad dressing and Pat Buchanan. It’s Saturday night, why not?

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