Newspaper cultural critics often seemed to be bringing their politics and not just their artistic senses to the table when judging the "best" products of 2006. Friday’s Weekend section of The Washington Post compiled a set of lists of the best in art, music, and movies, and some of the Post critics were dropping some liberal (and radical, even Marxist) politics into their choices. The music critics were the most political. Curt Fields had two liberal/radical Bush-hater favorites on his Best list:
7. Dixie Chicks. The trio had several quality moments, including its defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice" single and the intriguing "Shut Up & Sing" documentary. But best of all was the way the Dixie Chicks appeared onstage at some of their live shows to the strains of "Hail to the Chief."...
9. The Coup, "Pick a Bigger Weapon." This Oakland, Calif.-based act mixes revolutionary politics, humor and sweet beats. Smart and catchy, a rare double. Plus, it has the song title of the year, "Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy."
The lyrics are smart? The New York Sun reports one lyric: "See they tryna break us so they don't have to break bread / 'Cuz Uncle Sam ain't the banker, he's the butcher / We're all on Punk'd with no Ashton Kutcher."
Believe it or not, these rappers are the darlings of several Post critics. On December 21, in the Post Style section, music critic J. (for Josh) Freedom du Lac listed his ten best discs of 2006, and guess who made that list, too?
Number one, the Dixie Chicks. Mr. Freedom claimed the reader should forget "about the controversy that enveloped the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines popped off about President Bush in 2003. Forget the backlash, the evaporating airplay, the protests, Toby Keith, the death threats, the naked magazine cover, the politics -- all of it." He just loved the music. (Lots of people did.) But he also described their political anthem "Not Ready to Make Nice" as "one of the great singles of 2006."
If you doubted politics was all over the list-making Mr. Freedom also loved the Marxist rappers of the Coup:
The Coup makes insurgency sound like a party by matching synth-funk jams and swirling psychedelic soul with Boots Riley's clever, anarchistic wordplay. A satirical, seditious rapper, Riley is a fighter and a lover, having proved that a call to arms can coexist with booty calls. He hurls poetic Molotov cocktails at the usual suspects (capitalist pigs, President Bush, the CIA); but he also spikes this Marxist manifesto with lusty lyrics. "I'm a walking contradiction, like bullets and love mixing," he raps. The end result: Songs such as "Baby Let's Have a Baby Before Bush Do Something Crazy." Pillow-talkin' about a revolution, indeed.
This tendency to love these communist artistes is long-standing at the Post. In 2002, Brent Bozell elaborated on the America-hatred, and noted the Post music critic David Segal lapped it up:
Plenty of critics, Segal among them, chose the Coup’s “Party Music” as one of last year’s best albums.
Riley is politically noxious. He refers to this country as the "United Snakes," believes that "the American flag…stands for oppression, slavery, and murder," and asserts that before the state-controlled economic system he desires is achieved, "there’s going to be a fight from the people who traditionally maintain profits, and it’s not only going to be a fight of words…It’s going to be a fight where people are attacked."
A year ago, Riley intended the cover for "Party Music" to depict him setting off an explosion and fire at the World Trade Center as "a metaphor for destroying capitalism – where the music is making capitalist towers blow up." The artwork was shelved in the wake of the September 11 atrocities, a bow in favor of sensitivity but an act of hypocrisy nonetheless. The terrorists behind 9/11 shared Riley’s hatred for the American system, only their actions showed the real-life consequences of this hatred.
Yet Segal repeatedly declares that he finds Riley’s work amusing. He calls the WTC cover art "jokey" and a bit later describes a track called "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" as "tongue-in-cheek." In his most elaborate encomium to Riley’s supposed wit, Segal states, "Most radicals are insufferably dull and humorless. Riley, on the other hand, sells communism not just as a way to seize the means of production but also as a shortcut to the all-night dance bash of your dreams…Riley thinks Bolshevism can be a hoot, and even if you consider that cockamamie, his attempts at persuasion are wry and winningly subversive."
By the way, J. Freedom du Lac gets his name from the finest in hippie history. Harry Jaffe of Washingtonian magazine reported earlier this year:
'Freedom,' he says, 'as in "just another word for nothing left to lose." ' Janis Joplin's take on the Kris Kristofferson song was an anthem for his parents, who were San Francisco hippies. Says du Lac: 'I was born on Haight Street.' As in Haight-Ashbury," Jaffe wrote. Du Lac's mother is Chinese, his father French.