Monday, January 22, 2007

"Punks" and The Game - Note: Edited

The Wire is violent, nasty, profane, and filled with the sort of thing that causes middle-aged women to write nasty letters to executives about the state of television nowadays. Many of the characters are amoral drug dealers, playing "The Game" of selling poison to addicts...and while some are antagonists, many are surprisingly sympathetic, despite being killers and thieves. It doesn't necessarily show them being brought to justice, and some are heroes to their younger counterparts, being powerful, respected (in their own right), and wealthy beyond the means of almost everybody else in their community.

It's also one of the best shows on television. The reason is simple: it provides an unflinching window into a society and way of life that most people misunderstand, if not choose to ignore. It shows the decline of the American city; why, and how. If it's "sexy", it's because violence and machismo has always remained so.

It is not, however, that original.

People often forget that the whole point of "gangsta rap", at least before it became a means to flash one's wealth, was doing the same thing in the early 1990s as The Wire does now. It shows White America what is happening in its cities, under its nose, while it busies itself with other cocerns. It holds a mirror to aspects of life and living that people like to ignore: aggression, hate, alienation, tribalism, violence, and the desire to prosper in the face of adversity, society, and its laws. In that, it's very much like punk music's wild scream of alienation in the face of staid conformity.

It is, thus, extraordinary that a self described "punk" would write a jeremiad against rap music that could have just as easily issued from the mouth of Pat Robertson. Never mind the alarming lack of knowledge of lines of causation, or the citation of masses of totally unnamed 'studies' that purport to prove that media causes rap- as if David Simon, Ed Burns, and HBO are responsible for the violence in Baltimore. Never mind that the foundation of similar studies on video game violence are highly questionable at best.

No, what really bothered me is that this "punk"'s arguments almost certainly echoes the reactions of others to his own genre of choice! Has he never read the similar complaints about the youth-corrupting elements of punk music? Hell, even of ROCK music?

Post was temporarily edited until I settle an issue brought up in the comments thread. I've removed anything that could be considered remotely libelous; although I would thoroughly disagree that a word I've written is anything of the sort, I have no interest in being on the business end of Warren Kinsella's apparent penchant for lawsuits.

Oh, and for the record? I'm not anybody he knows personally. I don't know him personally. I only know him from his position as a public figure and from his public statements. If commenting on and critiquing public statements is now grounds for legal action, it's news to me, and rather scary at that. Still, better safe than sorry. At least for now.

Further Edit:

I did a quick scan of Canadian Cerberus' breakdown of Canadian libel law. My position is that all that I'd written falls under Fair Comment:

“Comment” does not mean merely “opinion”. Comment is something which can reasonably be inferred to be a deduction, inference, conclusion, criticism, remark, observation, or the like. Fair comment protects only comment or opinion; it does not protect statements of fact.

Fair comment must be a comment on a matter of public interest. In general this consists of two broad categories: matters in which the public in general has an interest, and matters submitted to public attention and criticism. Matters of public interest are very numerous. It is a matter of public interest on which everyone is entitled to make fair comment whenever a matter is such as to affect people at large, so that they may be legitimately interested in, or concerned at, what is going on, or what may happen to them or to others. “Public interest” is not to be confined within narrow limits

The burden is on the defendant to prove the truth of the facts upon which the comment is based. The defendant must also prove that the subject-matter is one of public interest, that the words are a fair comment on it, and that the views expressed are ones which could honestly be held. The plaintiff has the burden of proving malice.

Anything written as a column for a newspaper, especially on an issue as sensitive in Canada as culture and gun crime, certainly comes under the category of "public interest", and the specific comments I'd made about his own comments certainly fit under that criticism/comment/opinion/whatnot category. what statements of fact I'd made are also easily verifiable as truth: the "top ten" does mention Public Enemy in a positive light, a skeptical American judge really did throw out the lion's share of anti-media (specifically anti-video game) studies as largely worthless, and correlation really isn't causation.

Nor, for the record, do I actually hold any malice against the man. (The comment he made later about Canadian conservatives' helplessness in trying to smear Stephane Dion was actually pretty good.) I'd be interested in seeing the justification that he could pull out for any claim that malice did exist. Malice I reserve for, say, Dick Cheney.

And unlike Marc Bourrie, I haven't charged him with any crime. He hasn't committed any crime- just, in my opinion, some very poor judgement.

Another Edit: unless, of course, this is about that horrible stabbity punks comment. It was satiric hyperbole intended to show that punk rather treasures its horrible violent bastards, nothing more. It is certainly not advocacy, as I am not, in general, a horrible violent bastard.

(I figured that would be obvious, but I suppose not, hence why it was pulled.)

Just to be clear: wrongheaded column or no, nobody should do violent things to Warren K. Including NWA.

And no, the irony of this isn't lost on me. Were it not for the fact that I am in no position to pay lawyers to go to town for the next few months or so, I'd find the whole thing really, really funny.

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