I was at the gym, walking on the treadmill- what passes for exercise among the aged- watching an array of flat screen TVs. MSNBC, NBC, ESPN, a couple of broadcast stations. No Fox, this is SWPL land. And I was overwhelmed. Idiot sports, idiot entertainment, idiot news. All aimed at people with at least some post-secondary education. The mass stupidity of America is shocking.
Unless you have been able to completely escape this deluge of anti-information, you will have heard of the recent death of actor Davy Jones, best known for his role on the 60’s TV show “The Monkees“. The Monkees were assembled for a TV show about a Beatles-type band, copying the Richard Lester directed “Hard Day’s Night”. They proved popular enough to appear live, but nobody would mistake this for anything other than highly commercial entertainment.
A certain sort of person likes to feel superior to this sort of thing, and a free tabloid called the Stranger made a mocking reference, which upset a lot of people. The strong reaction to this shocked the sophisticates, who could hardly believe so many silly people actually loved the Monkees.
Well, us sophisticates know a real artist, don’t we? A trangressive genius who goes to war against bourgeois respectability. A man like Tupac Shakur, who appeared 16 years after his death last week at the Coachella music festival in the form of a hologram. Shakur was, as we all know, the ultimate gangster rapper, from the mean streets of the East Bay and a family of Black Panthers.
Or do we? Shakur was not what he appeared to be, or was marketed as. His aunt, Assata Shakur, was indeed a criminal and terrorist, now living in Cuba, but more of the champagne radical sort like our dear leader’s good friend Bill Ayers than a real ghetto criminal. His mother and father were also Black Panthers, but more poser types than real gangsters.
Shakur himself was none of this; he was a highly successful child actor. Moving to Marin City north of San Francisco, he attended the lovely Tamalpais High and wrote his own greatest role, that of a sinister but brilliant street gang leader. He was no such thing, and people who are don’t like it when middle-class people pretend to be them. Things got out of hand, and attacks and shootings on people not inclined to play in his pretend rule got out of hand, and in a few years he was killed.
Just how does pretend ghetto posing get to be such big business? If I knew I would be relaxing on my yacht and not writing this. There is a man who does know and is probably relaxing on his yacht right now, Jerry Heller. Heller was a pop music mogul of the 60’s and when he heard the original gangster rap group, NWA, he knew white suburban teenagers would eat it up, or more exactly, buy a lot of CDs at Sam Goody’s. NWA were more blue-collar than ghetto, but they were a lot closer to the street life than the Communist revolutionary family of Shakur. There is nothing quite so bourgeois as a Communist revolutionary.
Things like the Black Panthers and Tupac Shakur come about not so much organically, as because there is an audience for them. “Give the- people- what they want!” goes an old Kinks song, and so people who make stuff for white people who want to be scared and awed by the power of the black man give it to them.
The ultimate in dissent- black power revolution from the ghetto- is manufactured for us just like any other consumer product.