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Poetry or propaganda?
October 1, 2002 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Poetry or propaganda? Gov. James E. McGreevey [of New Jersey] has called for the resignation of the state's poet laureate, citing a poem critical of Israel that Amiri Baraka read at a festival earlier this month. "Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed," read a line from the poem, which was cited by the Jewish Standard weekly newspaper. "Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day? Why did Sharon stay away?" Read the poem in question here.
posted by orange swan (112 comments total)

 
I love Salon's "some have called the remarks anti-Semitic." As opposed to the others who consider it an unbiased and reasonable speculation, one assumes.
posted by MattD at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2002


He strongly rejected the criticism, denied he is an anti-Semite, and said that criticism of Israel does not amount to anti-Semitism.

Certainly true, however, implying that there is a vast secret cabal of jews who can both coordinate secret messages about attacks to all its members, and control all the media to cover up the effort, is plenty anti-semitic. Also, completely stupid.
posted by malphigian at 9:23 AM on October 1, 2002


I never really understood this claim about Israelis staying away. Were there 4000 Israeli nationals working at the WTC? Did they not show up for work? Or is he talking about American Jews? I see many Jewish names on the roster of the dead. How did this get started? What's the deal there? Was there some kind of discernible, specific group(s) that didn't come to work that day? Someone fill me in.
posted by luriete at 9:24 AM on October 1, 2002


I'm no poetry connoisseur, but that was a pretty awful piece. Maybe it's interesting as a spoken word thing if the delivery was right, but based on the content, it reads like a child's interpretation of the world after reading indymedia for several hours.

That said, the piece isn't something I would take too seriously, it seems (and I would hope) the author was playing a role of someone taking a simplistic view of the world and letting thoughts get tinted by that lens.
posted by mathowie at 9:25 AM on October 1, 2002


Geez, does Baraka always write in Ebonics? That piece is a screed poorly wrapped in artsy pretense.
posted by Ayn Marx at 9:26 AM on October 1, 2002


I'm still trying to get over the line "Like an owl exploding".

I've never seen an exploding owl, though I imagine it would be quite a sight.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:30 AM on October 1, 2002


yikes, what a bilious litany of hate. Before I read it, I was certain the reference to the 4000 jews would be ironic and the NJ governor missed the joke. However, after reading it, I'm pretty certain the poet believes that ludicrous and diseased lie.
posted by pejamo at 9:32 AM on October 1, 2002


From the poem:
Who say Dahmer wasn't insane

Huh? Nobody, last time I checked. What's interesting is that the usual asinine claim is that 4000 jews stayed home that day. Looks like he rewrote this legend to be a "sizzling indictment" of Israel. Intellectually dishonest, to say the least, though it does give him plausible deniability on the anti-semite accusation. There are also negative reference to the Nazi and Klan killing of jews in the poem.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:33 AM on October 1, 2002


Here's the story on the 4,000 jews lie. Finally, an answer to the question "who believes crap like this?" Well, for one, the poet formerly known as LeRoi Jones.
posted by yhbc at 9:34 AM on October 1, 2002


I see many Jewish names on the roster of the dead.

luriete: I was at ground zero during the reading of the names, and noticed that there were quite a few Jewish (sounding) names. I also noticed the infrequency of Muslim-sounding names.

It only reinforced my contempt for hatemongering rumors and the stupidity of conspiracy theorists.
posted by reality at 9:35 AM on October 1, 2002


You don't make former black nationalist and current communist Amiri Baraka (né LeRoi Jones) poet laureate without having some idea there will be controversy. You get what you pay for. In general I like his stuff that I've seen anthologized.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:36 AM on October 1, 2002


Great. Now the Poet Laureate has failed in his duties. I guess this year's Poet Laureate will be tainted by the crowning of the second-place winner. God, the Poet Laureate competition is just a shadow of its former self.

To be honest, though, this sort of works out good for everyone. The poet expressed himself, and according to the rules they can't take away his title or award money for excersising his (albiet ignorant and silly application of) freedom of speech. The governor looks like he's doing his job of appeasing the angry people, the poet looks defiant among... well, I guess poetry circles, or something.

Everyone thinks they condemned who they wanted to condemn, and nothing actually got done that affected any aspect of anyone's life in anyway whatsoever. And here we all were thinking after yesterday's events that New Jersey politics had taken a turn for the worst.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:38 AM on October 1, 2002


If this guy is the poet laureate of N.J., imagine how awful the competition is.

Also: Maybe it was the fault of the transcriber, but the fella's name is Liebknecht, not Liebneckt.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2002


I smell a relevancy hound.
posted by oflinkey at 9:47 AM on October 1, 2002


I thought Eminem would have done a better job writing this. At least if he were offensive he'd have come honest.
posted by Electrin at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2002


While we're on the topic, can't we just dissolve New Jersey and give half to New York and half to Pennsylvania? I don't really see a need for it to exist as a separate entity. We used to watch the local news in NYC and take bets on which part of New Jersey was on fire that day. We wouldn't always have a winner, but that was just on those days when nobody remembered to pick Jersey City.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:56 AM on October 1, 2002


Awful, awful
writing

Appalling
anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic
slander
posted by matteo at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2002


can someone please help me understand why there is a need for a "poet laureate" anyway?

if the idea is to encourage interest in the arts, there are many more cost effective and grassroots-focused ways to achieve that goal than giving cash and meaningless titles to well-connected hacks.
posted by nobody_knose at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2002


I also noticed the infrequency of Muslim-sounding names

reality, but that's not the big lie being propagated here.
(But this lie does provide a diversion from other possibilities)
Note even luriete's question above, assuming that there must be SOME basis for this atrocious lie that he/she just hasn't heard about.
SO the big lie becomes an established myth. It's SO outrageous that people assume that there must be SOME truth or it would not be out there. Straight from the propaganda textbook.
posted by HTuttle at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2002


Ljubljana: If this guy is the poet laureate of N.J., imagine how awful the competition is.

This was an ignorant statement to make. Baraka is a respected playwright and poet and an important voice of the radical theatre, regardless of how the PC police may be feeling about the expression of his thoughts on Israelis, Jews and the World Trade Center bombing. That he, with his politics, would even agree to be something as mainstream as "poet laureate" is perhaps a little amusing; your sweeping, uneducated dismissal of him is not at all.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2002


Tom Friedman was interviewed on CNBC recently and when asked about the 4,000 Jews staying at home rumor, mentioned that when relatives of the dead filled out some sort of offical form (not sure exactly what), there was an option to state your religion. 18% of those who filled in the option stated they were Jewish. Friedman pointed out this shouldn't be too much of a surprise since that is approximately the same percentage of the Jewish population in the tri-state area (15-18%).
posted by gwint at 10:05 AM on October 1, 2002


Dude. I like poetry, and I like anything to do with the Black Panthers, and that poem just...sucks. When you include recycled anti-Semitic red herrings like "Someone told the Jews to stay home!" it really undermines your teeny shred of credibility. Oh well. Next year they'll get some Hallmark card writer as their poet laureate.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:05 AM on October 1, 2002


Who read this crap?
Who give a crap
bout poet laurete who write like crap?
Who Who Who?
Horton hear who
but don't care bout no poet laurete
Boo hoo hoo

PS - lay off NJ
posted by ElvisJesus at 10:05 AM on October 1, 2002


JollyWanker: ...and all that excuses this piece of anti-semitic work?
posted by PenDevil at 10:08 AM on October 1, 2002


I didn't read this as anti-Semitic, I read it as just plain anti-white. If you read the biography referenced above, it says that his "Black Nationalist Period" began in 1965, when he "solidified his hate for whites with the death of Malcolm X." Which I take to mean that he somehow managed to blame all white people for Malcolm X's murder. This from a presumably friendly source.
posted by coelecanth at 10:08 AM on October 1, 2002


I read it the same way coelecanth... far moreso than any other angle.
posted by Witty at 10:11 AM on October 1, 2002


the ones who wasted... Princess Di

It's all the damned media's fault!
Amazing what you can take out of context in a very long, very complex poem.

If you think the poet is saying there's some vast Jewish conspiracy behind everything, you really didn't read the poem. Early on in the poem, I thought, great, another rail-against-the-man diatribe. But by the end of it, the "who" behind everything listed seemed to be hate itself. Now, it still doesn't answer every question (who own the oceans? being especially problematic), but it's probably a lot closer to the poet's intention than this supposed anti-semitism, which just reeks of knee-jerk reactionary rhetoric.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:11 AM on October 1, 2002


Dear Amiri,

RE:

"Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers"

The same people you accepted $10,000 from to be a poet laureate. That's who.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:11 AM on October 1, 2002


can someone please help me understand why there is a need for a "poet laureate" anyway?

Well, the Library of the Congress has something to say about it:
"The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress serves as the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. "

If nothing else, Amiri Baraka has more people talking about poetry than they were last week. I actually think Baraka has written a lot of excellent work, but clearly this poem is awful on many levels.
posted by gwint at 10:13 AM on October 1, 2002


Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza

This is poetry worthy of a poet laureate? If so, where do I sign in order to rhyme?
posted by milnak at 10:16 AM on October 1, 2002


I don't think that extracting one line from a long poem could possibly "prove" anything valid.
That jewish weekly published the lines,
"Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?"

but of course omitted the lines
"Who put the Jews in ovens,
and who helped them do it
Who said "America First"
and ok'd the yellow stars "

The poem is just about "the devil" in all of us - and is errm, written pretty badly, imho.
posted by ruelle at 10:20 AM on October 1, 2002


I liked the poem. I'm Jewish and I don't think he was anti-semitic in intent or in effect. It seemed to me that Baraka recognized the history of repression that the jewish people have suffered through and drew parallels to the problems africans have had to suffer through.

But what is disturbing to me is I'm seeing people toss around accusations of anti-semitism like they were pieces of rice at a wedding and frankly I think it cheapens the term to use it against anyone and everyone who dares to question or criticize the actions of the Israeli government or of Israelis.

It makes it sound like all Israelis and all Jews are thinking the same things. The majority of jews (60% or so) don't choose to live as separatists in Israel and some tend to think the Israelis are doing a disservice to themselves, not to mention the rest of us

Some of the Israelis are a bit over the top, and who knows what they would or would not do in order to get the Palestinians out of Palestine?
posted by Babylonian at 10:20 AM on October 1, 2002


Eyes wide with horror,
An owl explodes. Jews rejoice.
Feathers everywhere.

-- Basho Baraka
posted by ptermit at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2002


Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza

If we're talking about rhyme,
KRS-One can kick Baraka's ass every day of the week
posted by matteo at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2002


But what is disturbing to me is I'm seeing people toss around accusations of anti-semitism like they were pieces of rice at a wedding and frankly I think it cheapens the term to use it against anyone and everyone who dares to question or criticize the actions of the Israeli government or of Israelis.

This is true, but Baraka took a specifically anti-semetic urban legend ("4000 jews stayed home on 9/11"), and changed it ("4000 Israelis stayed home on 9/11") so it sounds like an Israeli plot. It's akin to taking a copy of "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and changing it to "Minutes and Notes of the Likud". The source remains utterly despicable.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:26 AM on October 1, 2002


Pfft. It's an ignorant statement to call a shit poem a shit poem? I don't care how many academics and self-hating whities are kissing this guy's pompous ass, if the above referenced drivel is at all indicative of his writing "ability," New Jersey would be better off not having a poet laureate.

It never ceases to amaze me when assholes like this come off with these "You devil whites, you shay ofay cracker Satans, you pale-faced demons: I condemn you because you are racist."
posted by KiloHeavy at 10:26 AM on October 1, 2002


Babylonian: Pray tell how would an attack on the WTC by Israel would get Palestinians out of Palestine? If the answer is "It would get American support behind Israel", last time I checked they already had it.
posted by PenDevil at 10:29 AM on October 1, 2002


Am I the only one who reads Somebody Blew Up America in the same manner I'd read A Modest Proposal? He talks about Exploding Owls in the end, and titles the piece as he does. The poem reads like an illiterate fool pointing fingers all over the place. Looks to me this isn't anti-semitism. If anything it's questioning the intelligence of Americans -- or anyone accusingly going around shouting Who? Who? Who?

If Baraka actually believes his poem literally, well he just looks to be yet another exploding owl. However, one could also interpret the poem as written by a man who poses as an exploding owl when really he's just having a giggle at their expense. Yeah I know his bio indicates past anti-white sentiment, but I'm giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.

"First of all, Israel and Judaism are not the same, and to hide behind Judaism every time someone criticizes Israel is a charade," Baraka said. "Anything that I said in that poem can be referenced."

I think from an artistic standpoint, Baraka is having a joke on the entire societal reaction to not only Nine Eleven but every major conspiracy theory in the past century. Many stretch and go out of their way looking for that owl. Where there's smoke many assume there to be fire, but sometimes it's all smoke & mirrors.

"Who own what ain't even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain't the real owners "


Who watches the watchers? Indeed. Who are the puppet masters pulling Georgie's strings? We all hear these kinds of questions all the time, and oftentimes they come from mouths that mean to sound coherent, but some ears hear them as insane fruitcakes.

Did Oswald really kill Kennedy? We may never know for sure, but you know what you believe. Each and every one of you. People who disagree with you may just sound like exploding owls from your perspective, and you may seem equally crazy to them.

Baraka (either purposefully or inadvertently) is telling the story of Chicken Little, running around frightened that the sky is falling, yet simultaneously telling the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes. Pointing fingers doesn't always shine light on the truth. Sometimes it shines light on lies which too can make the truth more revealing. Baraka is peeking behind the curtain to see if it's the Wizard of Oz or just an invisible midget under there. Or an exploding owl. He's causing people to think and feel, and if that's not doing a poet laureate's job, I don't know what is.

I enjoyed Ani DiFranco's Self Evident too, and I believe both forms of expression have a place in this, what I still boldly demand is a free country.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:33 AM on October 1, 2002


gwint: Oh, well, if the LOC thinks a good idea, then it must be!

Seriously, does anyone really doubt that the $10K would have been better sent funding a few summer writing camps or book clubs for underprivileged kids?

I don't think most folks who want to write need to have some guy they may have never heard of serve as a "lightning rod" for their creative impulses.
posted by nobody_knose at 10:34 AM on October 1, 2002


I dunno. If I write a poem which says:

"Who has the aliens stealing your ovaries?
Which educated stupid denies TimeCube?"

Does it make those statements more valid if I then write about how the Nazi's killed people and how bad the Klan was? Just because he happens to write something that is true, this does not convey credibility to something which isn't, and dosen't mean he isn't a conspiracy theroist or something. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
posted by Snyder at 10:35 AM on October 1, 2002


Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn't mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn't do no good.
-Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Kilo, it's an ignorant statement to call something shit because it *appears* to be poorly written.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:40 AM on October 1, 2002


Can you say agitprop?
posted by gordian knot at 10:41 AM on October 1, 2002


To be called "The poet Laureate of New Jersey" seems to me to be sufficient punishment for any one person to bear.
posted by Postroad at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2002


Kilo, it's an ignorant statement to call something shit because it *appears* to be poorly written.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:40 AM PST on October 1


Well, it's a matter of taste, innit? Twain does good "bad" writing, skillfully wrought to say more than it appears to say. Baraka's poem comes off as sloppy and poorly thought out, not as something that captures "the quality of being sloppy and poorly thought out". In my opinion. Maybe it's better when recited by the author.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:49 AM on October 1, 2002


Every time someone says "anti-Semitic" they have nothing else to say.

Every time someone says "anti-Israeli" they have nothing else to say.

Read the old testament, the Jews weren't always victims. Read the newspaper, the Jews aren't always defending themselves. Read the social columns, Jews don't always intermarry freely. Read the financial times, Jews don't always use money honestly.

To criticize Jews doesn't mean you are anti-Semitic. To criticize American Women doesn't make you a misogynist. To criticize democracy doesn't make you a psycho-Stalinist Dictator bent on world destruction.

If you hate someone because of their nose, or their taste in hard candy, that's crazy. To condemn a culture for it's historical warmongering, its internal economic imperialism, its racist and religious discrimination, well now, that's just fair game.

P.S. Some are Catholic, Hindu, Atheist, Jain, Buddhist, Baptist, Jew - doesn't matter, most groups which have followers take them bad places.
posted by ewkpates at 10:50 AM on October 1, 2002


'It is a strange courage
you give me ancient star

Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part."

-W.C. Williams

(a real New Jersy poet.)
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on October 1, 2002


This was an ignorant statement to make. Baraka is a respected playwright and poet and an important voice of the radical theatre, regardless of how the PC police may be feeling about the expression of his thoughts on Israelis, Jews and the World Trade Center bombing.

A couple of times a month, my wife and I open a bottle of good wine, and read each other poetry (I know it sounds a bit goofy - but those on the list with mates or lovers should try it ... it adds curious enrichment ...). It just so happened that we were doing this last night. I read her Odysseus Elytis, she read me Octavio Paz. got up this morning, and followed the link to Baraka's piece - and the juxtaposition is just too much. It isn't so much a poem as it is a bucket of swill scooped out of a sewer and poured all over the street.

It is not becoming part of the "PC Police" to say a piece of art is garbage. Simply because someone has a reputation does not mean they are necessarily any good, and most certainly doesn't mean every piece they produce is great art (I hope, for instance, it's not "PC" to criticize the important body of work from Maya Angelo's "Hallmark period").

What is "ignorant" is to think that any piece of work should be honored, or accorded some special consideration, because a poet is considered "important" within some specialized sub-segment of the arts world. I actually think there is a place for the role of the poet laureate - but I also think this guy abused that role so badly that he's not only not made the point he was trying to make in the poem (whatever the hell it was), but has managed to have the population calling into question the whole concept of the poet laureate itself.

Seems like he'll quickly be returned to the circles of the "radical theatre" (and he'll probably have even greater status now that he's an artistic martyr) ... but he's leaving a legacy of not only not raising "raising the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry" ... but of giving a good deal of ammunition to those that don't think any arts should receive public funding.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:54 AM on October 1, 2002


Maybe it's better when recited by the author.

That's how we can settle this. Let's have a poetry slam face off between Baraka & Gov. James E. McGreevey. The winner gets a date with Ani DiFranco.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:55 AM on October 1, 2002


Which educated stupid denies TimeCube?

Now that's funny.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:55 AM on October 1, 2002


The winner gets a date with Ani DiFranco.

The winner?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:57 AM on October 1, 2002


ewkplates: While you have valid points the poet does not criticize them on any of the points you mentioned.

Rather he is accusing the Jews of having some world wide conspiracy that secretly alerts other Jews of impending attack while leaving everyone who isn't a Jew to perish.

Also there has never been a history of people making accusations of some wide ranging Buddhist conspiracy, or the Hindu control of American media.
posted by PenDevil at 11:01 AM on October 1, 2002


to those of you generous enough to believe that the poet might have been assuming the voice of ignorance ironically, or as some kind of poetic device:
"Baraka, who told the New York Times that reading the Internet had convinced him that Israel knew about Sept. 11 beforehand, said he had no intention of stepping down and defended his message."
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:04 AM on October 1, 2002


Oh, he read about it on the internet. Okay, then.
posted by yhbc at 11:06 AM on October 1, 2002


ewkpates, well said.
posted by Witty at 11:12 AM on October 1, 2002


Okay. So. He's an idiot. I still think when looked at from a point of view the poet may not have intended, it's actually not a bad piece of work. It just makes the whole jewish conspiracy thing look that much more insane and absurd. If he was trying to defend the anti-Israel postion, he failed gloriously.

"And now on BBC1, the penguin on top of your television set will explode."
posted by ZachsMind at 11:15 AM on October 1, 2002


{Waits patiently for fold_and_mutilate to infiltrate the thread and declare Amiri Baraka a lone righteous figure in Bu$h's Amerikkka}
posted by dhoyt at 11:29 AM on October 1, 2002


Baraka's defense is on point, that anti-Israeli sentiment does not equal anti-semitism, although the two often go hand in hand. This fact does not make him less of an idiot for his wild, antisocial conspiracy theorizing, or a better poet. Firing him for this, however, is equally silly.

"If you hate someone because of their nose, or their taste in hard candy, that's crazy. To condemn a culture for it's historical warmongering, its internal economic imperialism, its racist and religious discrimination, well now, that's just fair game."

The problem comes when you "condemn a culture" rather than a nation, and when you dont specify what culture you are condemning. It's that kind of slip that breeds bias.
posted by Kotch at 11:51 AM on October 1, 2002


I'm basically with Kotch on this. I'm Jewish, and for what it's worth, I don't see this poem as anti-semitic. It is anti-Israeli, and it does munge facts, and to be honest, I'm not sure what the poet is trying to say, exactly. Maybe he should be criticized for an unclear message, but then, T.S. Eliot took a lot of shit for "fear in a handful of dust," and that didn't mean that his poem was bad, or that he was spouting simplistic propoganda. This is, I think, meant to be a complex work, deliberately playing with truth as a way of talking about playing with truth. I'm not sure what it's saying in the end, but I think it's faulty to call it simply anti-Semitic.
posted by bingo at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2002


ewkpates:

The anti-semitism term is often thrown around when someone is critical of israel in any way, and that is nonsense.

However, when your "criticism" is based not only on an obvious lie, but on a lie that would require jews to have a powerful (superhuman, even) cabal of secret information networks to pull off, and would require that all the jewish media people, financial people, and government people actually did have a secret society acting in secret collaboration.... well that most certainly is anti-semitic, bigoted, and ignorant. If I say Jews have horns and eat babies, am I just being critical?
posted by malphigian at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2002


Please don't judge Baraka on the basis of this one poem. Occasional verse is usually not an author's best work. I'd compare Baraka to Pound (though Pound was the better poet): both men of poetic brilliance who frequently betrayed it through overwrought political lunacy. (Sad and telling that both fell victim to what an aging and semi-repentant Pound called the "suburban prejudice" of anti-Semitism.)

And in general it's silly to take poets seriously as commentators on world affairs. That's not what they're for.
posted by languagehat at 12:03 PM on October 1, 2002


To wonder if a small group of people may have had foreknowledge of an event and yet did not alert the authorities is not the same as suggesting "Jews have horns and eat babies"

I sometimes wonder what people's definition of 'anti-semitism' is, exactly
posted by Babylonian at 12:07 PM on October 1, 2002


if anti-semetism is an overused term,
heres a better one: blood libel
posted by insertobscureculturalreferencehere at 12:10 PM on October 1, 2002


To wonder if a small group of people may have had foreknowledge of an event and yet did not alert the authorities is not the same as suggesting "Jews have horns and eat babies"



-"a small group people"? "an event"?
are you kidding?
posted by insertobscureculturalreferencehere at 12:15 PM on October 1, 2002


I wonder if you people would say the same thing about Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg. Leroi Jones, aka, Amiri Baraka before he converted to Islam, isthe last of the Beats.

I'll admit he was better before he changed his name.
This isn't the first time Baraka has been condemened for his poetry.


Here, read this:
Baraka and two others were stopped by Newark police and charged with
unlawfully carrying two firearms, which Baraka later said were planted, and
for resisting arrest. During the arrest, Baraka suffered injuries that required
several stitches. The trial that followed stirred legal controversy not because
of the all-white jury presiding over the case, but the admission into evidence
of the poem "Black People" published in the Evergreen Review shortly following
his arrest.
THE COURT: Just a minute. This [the poem's] diabolical prescription
to commit murder and to steal and plunder and other similar evidences -

DEFENDANT JONES: I'm being sentenced for the poem. Is that what you
are saying?

THE COURT: - cause one to suspect that you were a participant in
formulating a plot to ignite the spark on the night of July 13, 1967

to burn the City of Newark and that -

DEFENDANT JONES: You mean, you don't like the poem, in other words.


That's from here.
Poetry Previews.

You can also read more about him on The Beat Page
May I suggest you read a little of his poetry before mocking him? Maybe
you people have never heard of him, but he's considered a very influential
Beat Poet. Just because some crappy little state like New Jersey made him
a poet laureate isn't all he his.
posted by nyxxxx at 12:15 PM on October 1, 2002


I also noticed the infrequency of Muslim-sounding names

yeah, only several hundred muslims were killed in the attacks. highly infrequent. ironic that you substitute your own specious insinuation while decrying another.
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:16 PM on October 1, 2002


To wonder if a small group of people may have had foreknowledge of an event and yet did not alert the authorities is not the same as suggesting "Jews have horns and eat babies"

Babylonian: 4000 Jews is not a "small number". You can't seriously be saying this is reasonable? Considering the necessary falsified names on the death roster (including, I might add, someone I know), the fact that all 4000 jews would have had to say "Yes, Masters of Zion, we won't tell any of our goy friends here at work", and the rest of the media cover up -- you actually think its that different? As I said, to be true would mean there actually is a massive secret jewish cabal.
posted by malphigian at 12:18 PM on October 1, 2002


And in general it's silly to take poets seriously as commentators on world affairs. That's not what they're for.

Poetry is the crystallization of experience, thought, and emotion. World events are part of human experience, and if a poet enters the political arena with political comments, then yes, I'd consider that what he or she says should be taken just as seriously as if it were in an essay or speech.
posted by orange swan at 12:20 PM on October 1, 2002


Maybe you people have never heard of him, but he's considered a very influential
Beat Poet.


And Michael Tippet has a knighthood. So what? Look, I'm not going to dismiss Baraka outright, but this particular piece doesn't interest me in reading more of his work. I've got other fish to fry.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:20 PM on October 1, 2002


If this guy is the poet laureate of N.J., imagine how awful the competition is.

This was an ignorant statement to make. Baraka is a respected playwright and poet and an important voice of the radical theatre

If Baraka is a respected playwright and poet and an important voice of the radical theater... imagine how awful the competition is.
posted by kindall at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2002


On reflection, that was needlessly obscure (and badly spelled):
Michael Tippett
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2002


If Baraka is a respected playwright and poet and an important voice of the radical theater... imagine how awful the competition is.

That was my thought too - imagine how awful radical theatre is ... :)
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:34 PM on October 1, 2002


Babylonian: 4000 Jews is not a "small number". You can't seriously be saying this is reasonable? Considering the necessary falsified names on the death roster (including, I might add, someone I know), the fact that all 4000 jews would have had to say "Yes, Masters of Zion, we won't tell any of our goy friends here at work", and the rest of the media cover up -- you actually think its that different? As I said, to be true would mean there actually is a massive secret jewish cabal.

You're taking something I said and making assumptions about it. I didn't say the theory of the 4000 israelis not showing up was reasonable, nor even plausable. 4000 is not really a small group at all, and they are not the small number I was referring to. What I do think is within the realm of possibility is that Israeli intelligence agents regularly track the activities of muslim militants here in the US and know quite a bit about what is going on. Israeli intelligence has a reputation for being some of the best in the world, and it would not suprise me if they knew more about what was going on in muslim communities than our own keystone kop FBI. If the US had foreknowledge of an upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor and let it happen to justify getting into WWII, then who knows. I'm not saying it's true, I'm just saying that IMHO it's not "anti-semitic" to wonder.
posted by Babylonian at 12:35 PM on October 1, 2002


Combine this with the Hip-Hop lyrics generator linked earlier, and you'd have a great Eminem song.
posted by oissubke at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2002


"What I do think is within the realm of possibility is that Israeli intelligence agents regularly track the activities of muslim militants here in the US and know quite a bit about what is going on."

This isn't what Baraka's poem is suggesting, my friend. It is suggesting that 4000 jews, not Israeli intelligence, were aware of the plot. Whereas your "wondering" may not be anti-semetic", his certainly is.
posted by insertobscureculturalreferencehere at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2002


You're taking something I said and making assumptions about it.

Babylonian: Apologies. You quoted me when I *was* talking about the same 4000 jews rumor this poet referenced, I assumed you were talking about the same thing. How was I to realize you were talking about your own theory?

I agree entirely that theorizing that Israeli intelligence might have forewarning is not anti-semitic. It does seem implausible to me, but that is offtopic at this point.
posted by malphigian at 12:53 PM on October 1, 2002


The problem with conspiracies is that they require more organization than most groups are capable of.

The problem with the Internet is that it turns the cramped, uncreative output of twisted minds and turns them into "rumors" that more than conspiracy chat-page visitors have heard about.

The problem with even beginning to talk about Israel is that nobody knows as much as they'd like to. This politicized brand of anti-semitism would be comical if we had not already seen what this kind of thinking is capable of producing.

I wish anti-semitists were right. I'd be making millions on the stockmarket (and hoarding it), growing fat on delicious babies, and goring my detractors with my horns. Anyone seen Love and Death?
posted by Kotch at 1:10 PM on October 1, 2002


Apparently there is some kernel of truth to this story of some Israelis (or at least people working at an Israeli company) in the WTC being forewarned of some kind of attack. Strangely, I never heard the results of the investigation into this.

His bit about the Israelis caught filming the WTC with excitement seems to be based in some truth also.

So if Israeli intelligence might have known something beforehand, and there have been suggestions that some israelis in the WTC may have had some sort of warning of something, is it only the 4000 number that turns the theory into a "Jews have horns and eat babies" anti-semitic diatribe?

Or is it just JFK-type grassy knoll conspiracy theory based upon some seemingly real facts? I love JFK theories. These theories often revolve around the Mafia and exiled Cubans, due to Kennedy's involvement with these groups. But I don't think that makes me an anti-Italian bigot or a red-baiting cuban hater.
posted by Babylonian at 1:30 PM on October 1, 2002


It is suggesting that 4000 jews, not Israeli intelligence, were aware of the plot.

Well, we *know* every Jew in the USA has been issued their very own official Mossad hotline phone and network switch.

The full depths of the evil plot is revealed here. Scroll down for a historical look at the complete line of phones that have been issued through the years. Love the one that was "offered in limited supplies to teenage Jewish girls only during the 1967-1973 years."

That said, there's no doubt that Mossad knew something was up: "...two senior experts with Mossad, the Israeli military intelligence service, were sent to Washington in August to alert the CIA and FBI to the existence of a cell of as many of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation.

"They had no specific information about what was being planned but linked the plot to Osama bin Laden and told the Americans that there were strong grounds for suspecting Iraqi involvement," said a senior Israeli security official.
posted by mediareport at 1:34 PM on October 1, 2002


Babylonian: Your first link refers to some employees receiving some vaguely worded IM that "something bad will happen in two hours". The WTC is not mentioned nor were any airplanes or terrorists. Basically you could claim anyone who came into work and said to themselves "Today is going to be a shit day" had forewarning of the attack.

The second link refers to the Israeli employees who were filming ground zero from the roof of the building they worked in. Of course ignore the facts that thousands of New Yorkers have been filming and photgraphing ground zero, the fact that they're Israeli's is somehow cause for concern. And the reason why you haven't heard anything more about it is that they were probably either released or deported (they didn't seem to have permits).

The third link refers to Israeli Intelligence warning the US of 'large scale terror attacks' happening sometime in the future. I could've told them that and basically the US knew this already. Following attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and the attack on the USS Cole the CIA knew Al Queda were stepping up attacks on US targets already.
posted by PenDevil at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2002


First, what is with the Jersey bashing? I'd put New Jersey up against any state in the nation and see where the comparison comes out.

Personally, I think the poem is written hastily and poorly. It's trying to evoke a feeling of anger - yelling at no one and everyone for answers they know they'll never get.

But it's based heavily in the wrongs America has done - almost celebrating in the author's self-perceived ability to 'peel the skin' back and expose the country as the evil institution it is for stepping on Indians, blacks, and the like throughout its history.

As for Israel - being anti-Israel is not anti-Semetic..

The problem I have with the poetry culture - and maybe it's just bias for never being able to break into it myself - is that once a poet has 'made a mark', they can almost do no wrong. It's like a painter whose gallery showing is all blank white 'paintings', each titled something introspective and the cultural elite eat it up as innovative avant guard.

Maybe Baraka is trying too hard to live up to his peers' writing, like Howl..

I mean, he's going all over the place, and then comes down to the Devil.. it's not just America or Israel that he attacks, though.. but seems to be lashing out at a lot of different things.

It's poorly constructed, especially for a Beat-generation style poem.
posted by rich at 1:48 PM on October 1, 2002


Mediareport: those phones are tres retro. Where can I apply for one?
posted by PenDevil at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2002


The second link refers to the Israeli employees who were filming ground zero from the roof of the building they worked in. Of course ignore the facts that thousands of New Yorkers have been filming and photgraphing ground zero, the fact that they're Israeli's is somehow cause for concern.

PenDevil, you're being kind of foolish. The evidence of an Israeli spy ring operating in the US is about as conclusive as evidence about spying gets. It's moronic to insist they don't spy, really. We've talked about this at length here before (and now I have a chance to make good on my promise to fluffy1984 at the end of the thread).
posted by mediareport at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2002


Oops, I meant this thread.

Bottom line for me: Maybe the Mossad did its best to warn incompetent US intelligence services. Or maybe the Mossad gave just enough of a warning to cover its ass while withholding crucial information they'd received from their spies in the US. Possible goals? Seems obvious from the "strong grounds" mentioned above (strong grounds that have yet to materialize in public, that is): to enrage US sentiment against Iraq - and, I'd have to add, the Palestinian people. I'm not sure that's what happened, but given what we know about how ruthless the Mossad can be, it's hardly out of the realm of the possible.

Pray tell how would an attack on the WTC by Israel would get Palestinians out of Palestine? If the answer is "It would get American support behind Israel", last time I checked they already had it.

I remember seeing clear signs of a shift in American media in favor of the Palestinians in the summer before 9/11/01. I remember one of my reactions that day was, "How stupid can terrorists get? This isn't going to help the Palestinian cause." Later, of course, I read that bin Laden apparently hadn't given much of a shit about the Palestinian cause before then.
posted by mediareport at 2:09 PM on October 1, 2002


I'm reminded of what an Irish-American cab driver here in New York City claimed shortly after the attacks: He tried to get me to believe that the night before the attacks there were no Pakistani cab drivers in lower Manhattan (that is, near the towers). I responded with the same approach as mulphigan at the beginning of this thread in regards to the Israel/Jews lie: "Are you trying to tell me that 7000 Pakistani cab drivers kept a secret? No way. Seven hundred--no, seven, people couldn't keep a secret, much less 7000. As my dad would say, that's a huge crock of shit." (Yes, if I remember correctly, there are about 7000 Pakistani cab drivers in this town).

It's a bunch of wacked out punkass talk. Baraka's always been a prime example of assholish behavior masquerading as street-ness.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:15 PM on October 1, 2002


Okay if we assume the men were spies, what point did filming the towers after they were destroyed serve? I'd understand if they were stealing WTC blueprints or asking architects what weak points the WTC had?

I just think they were a bunch of wide eyed gobsmacked immigrants taking pictures of aftermath the greatest terrorist tragedy to happen on US soil, although I can already hear people typing the words 'gullible' in response. And as I mentioned before, hundreds if not thousands of New Yorkers had been photographing and videoing the site already. Why suddenly when Israeli's do it is there some suspicion?
posted by PenDevil at 2:20 PM on October 1, 2002


I remember seeing clear signs of a shift in American media in favor of the Palestinians in the summer before 9/11/01.

yes and now we have this. I tell you, sometimes I could swear Bush is trying to make the problem worse
posted by Babylonian at 2:22 PM on October 1, 2002


Yes, okay, okay, we've seen your website, Babylonian.
posted by dhoyt at 2:28 PM on October 1, 2002


Babylonian: How is that law mentioned in the article you linked to indicative of Jewish knowledge in the WTC attacks?

And I think there has been efforts (I might be wrong here feel free to correct me, I can't find the article at the mo) to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since 1995, 5 years before Dubya came to power.
posted by PenDevil at 2:36 PM on October 1, 2002


The bill re:moving the embassy to Jerusalem is not related to the WTC. I just find it indicative of the Bush administration's post-9/11 shift from being mostly slanted towards Israel yet working for peace, as the US has been accused of in the past, towards a new policy which seems to be helping the Israelis cement their occupation into permanant status. Moving the embassy is almost like officially recognizing that Israel owns the occupied territories, if you read the details in the article.
posted by Babylonian at 2:41 PM on October 1, 2002


remember that game you used to play as a kid,
"made you look" or even better "made you flinch"? where someone does something to elicit a certain response knowing it will automatically elicit said response every single time. then gloats over their victory. remember that? remember how pointless and stupid you finally realized that game was, because flinching, or blinking isn't a stupid thing to do, but pretending to poke someone in the eye only to laugh about your "real" intent once you got them to believe the other "pretend" intent is a stupid thing to do.

i'm not saying he's a stupid person, but one needs to be aware of the reactions to one's work, and if a smart one ought to craft said work in light of it's sensitive nature.

i didn't get anti-semitism or anti-white [whatever white is] as much as i got crazy old man yelling about all that has been done wrong to people forever and then looking for a connection, a/the wrongdoer [who could be singular]. maybe its ignorant pretense and an a priori distaste for the other[s]. i don't know, but i'm pretty sure that pointing wildly out at the world looking for the devil won't get you anywhere. and i am completely unconvinced of this poem's [a loose term apparently] worth poetically or socially, it feels bitter and accusatory, yes; insightful, no.
posted by bluefish at 3:17 PM on October 1, 2002


MidasMulligan: Dear Amiri,
RE:
"Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers"

The same people you accepted $10,000 from to be a poet laureate. That's who.

No doubt my next observation is going to be a SHOCKING revelation to some, but what the hell....

Although sycophancy can be readily purchased in the business world; elsewhere, not everyone hands over their balls when the check is signed.

dhoyt: {Waits patiently for fold_and_mutilate to infiltrate the thread and declare Amiri Baraka a lone righteous figure in Bu$h's Amerikkka}

Hi there. Actually, when I saw my name, and that the thread was about poetry, I though I'd come in and tell you a little limerick about gun shy dogs. You know, those hounds who flinch before a shot is fired.

Alas, it looks like you're already familiar with the breed.

But hey, since I'm now here, let's talk poetry, folks....

Some of my own favorites:

Glory be to God for dappled things, like the color rising in the faces of those beholding words not lukewarm...

Hmmm, I may have gotten the exact wording wrong there, but it does seem to fit the thread.

Or perhaps:

"So much depends
upon
warmongering Bushies
glazed with rain water
beside the white
chickens"


Or even:

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow ...uh...minds...
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?...


Hmph. So much for my recollection of the poetry of my youth. But of course the referenced poem, by Baraka, is extremely powerful. Real poetry's task is to awaken and challenge the reader, as he obviously has done in this work (and no, the place of real poetry is not as something pleasant to be read soothingly back and forth over wine as the VCR rewinds...but then again, to some, romance novels = literature, right?). Baraka's poem obviously evokes emotion, even from the many folks in this thread who don't know trochee from tripe or Dylan from Dylan, and whose grasp of American history is washed white as Frost's snowy wood.

It is the truth (unpleasant as always, to some) contained in Baraka's poem that outrages.

Ah, now I remember. The thread above really evokes this poetry memory:

He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Whic our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

The Unknown Citizen -- W. H. Auden

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:00 PM on October 1, 2002


Moving the embassy is almost like officially recognizing that Israel owns the occupied territories, if you read the details in the article.

The problem is that you relate this as a "post-9/11 shift" when Bush stated that he intended to work towards moving the embassy in 1999 during his campaign. You also fail to point out that Bush had prevented the embassy move once before the 9/11 attacks (May 2001) by invoking a "security" clause. The clause is part of a bill Congress passed in 1995 which stated the embassy would be moved by May 1999 (which obviously didn't happen since Clinton also promised the move during his campaigns and also invoked the same waiver Bush has invoked.)

That is what makes your claim that there has been a "change" in policy a bit specious...the policy has been and continues to be the same in regards to the embassy move.
posted by RevGreg at 4:49 PM on October 1, 2002


until this latest round, the embassy did not move. the president(s) blocked it before.. after 9/11 it was no longer blocked.. hence the change
posted by Babylonian at 5:07 PM on October 1, 2002


what point did filming the towers after they were destroyed serve?

Oh, for christ's sake, PenDevil. The facts as reported in the American Jewish newspaper The Forward are as clear as facts about spies get. Stop frantically denying them; you're bleeding credibility in gushing streams. The men worked for Urban Moving Systems, a "moving company" that immediately closed up shop after 9/11 and whose owner flew back to Israel. A company New York state later found had "no discernable assets" and a P.O. box for a home office. A company the Jewish newspaper says was called called "a front for the Mossad" by an intelligence official (unfortunately but understandably anonymous). Did I mention the men were carrying $4,000 cash and at least one box cutter? And that one of them owned two passports?

I don't know what it all means, but I damn well know that your explanation - that they were "wide eyed gobsmacked immigrants" taking pictures in order to...what? document the tragedy for their grandchildren? - is complete horseshit.

Instead of accusing us with, "Why suddenly when Israeli's do it is there some suspicion?" try asking yourself "Why suddenly when Israelis do it are *you* bending over backwards to ignore evidence and exonerate them?" Would you be working so hard if they were, say, Iranian?

Do your research next time before spouting off in certainties, PenDevil. Anyone who doesn't think these 5 guys were spies is either a liar covering for hard-line Israeli conservatives or is just being foolish. And let's not forget the *two other groups* of Israelis caught with photos and descriptions of a nuclear power plant and an Alaskan pipeline (it's at whatreallyhappened.com, but scroll down for the Oct 3, 2001 Miami Herald story). I can't wait to hear how you plan on exonerating them.

Sheesh. The cover-up on this one worked *really* well. Thank God for Nexis.
posted by mediareport at 5:28 PM on October 1, 2002


Although sycophancy can be readily purchased in the business world; elsewhere, not everyone hands over their balls when the check is signed.

Yes - that foolish business world, where people actually attempt to please the clients that pay them ... actually feel some sense of responsibility - indeed, even gratitude.

Tell me, was it an act of "sycophany" when, for instance, the company that sold you your computer actually delivered a computer that satisfied your desires?

Although saying

"Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers"


may be quite a hip sentiment in the "radical theatre" world, elsewhere, not all middle American taxpayers feel like funding some idiot to say it to them.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:53 PM on October 1, 2002


until this latest round, the embassy did not move. the president(s) blocked it before.. after 9/11 it was no longer blocked.. hence the change

Your claim that is has not been blocked since 9/11 is false. The blockage must be renewed every six-months and has been renewed every six months since the bill passed in 1995. Since 9/11 there have been two suspensions, one in December 2001 and one in June 2002 which means that it HAS been suspended until December of this year. It most likely will be suspended again at that time...Clinton played the same game, promising to allow the move and then suspending it at the last minute claiming that the region was too unstable.
posted by RevGreg at 6:31 PM on October 1, 2002


MidasMulligan: What a ridiculous comment. I paid for my computer with my freakin' money. I don't owe NEC, Sony, the motherboard maker whose name I can't recall, Philips, Netgear, etc., anything else, except maybe a modicum of basic respect (but you should have that for people anyway), unless they screw me over in the future. No one who buys products has to suck up to the owners of business. You don't think so? Today's personal computer was brought to you at least partially by spending from the federal govt., so I guess you should never criticize the government, by your logic (even if your online name is "MidasMulligan").

Heavens. I'm not particularly fond of Amiri Baraka, mainly because of some race-related comments in obscure-ish music book (too convoluted to get into), and I'm not going to get into the debate here. I have that bias, and know nothing else much about him. But come off it.
posted by raysmj at 6:37 PM on October 1, 2002


I call this reading: Two for Foldy; my favorite troll.

"come to our well-run desert
where anguish arrives by cable,
And deadly sins
May be bought in tins
With instructions on the label"


-Auden, "Flight into Egypt"

------------------------------------------------------------------------
"And if something of the autocratic pose,
The paternal strictness he distrusted, still
Clung to his utterance and features,
It was a protective imitation."

-Auden.

any response Foldy..... HUHUHUHUHUH?
i thought not.
posted by clavdivs at 6:47 PM on October 1, 2002


Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
(For Kellie Jones, born 16 May 1959)

Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
On the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus...

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there...
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.
Just so's you know Brother Leroy/Amiri didn't spend his whole career ranting about politics.
posted by languagehat at 7:59 PM on October 1, 2002


People who disagree with you may just sound like exploding owls from your perspective

I smell a new metafilter tagline! Metafilter: People sounding like exploding owls.

All joking aside, when was the last time Metafilter analyzed a poem? Felt like I stumbled into MetaReader's Club.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:14 PM on October 1, 2002


may be quite a hip sentiment in the "radical theatre" world, elsewhere, not all middle American taxpayers feel like funding some idiot to say it to them.

All the more reason why we need it. With "middle American taxpayers" who think Octavio Paz is the length and breadth of "good" poetry, I'd say we need it more than ever, although it sounds as though it's going to take a significant investment to overcome ignorance like yours.
posted by JollyWanker at 9:01 PM on October 1, 2002


All the more reason why we need it. With "middle American taxpayers" who think Octavio Paz is the length and breadth of "good" poetry, I'd say we need it more than ever, although it sounds as though it's going to take a significant investment to overcome ignorance like yours.

I see. So people that don't think Baraka is worth a crap are ignorant, eh? That Paz is clearly deeply limited in comparison to the awe-inspiring breadth of Baraka. Yep - most of America - and other places (like the the Nobel Prize committee) - are equally ignorant. In fact most of even the modern poetry establishment would very likely not think Baraka was even in Paz's league. Good thing we've got you to enlighten our foolish minds. Heaven knows what we'd do without important voices in radical theatre.

MidasMulligan: What a ridiculous comment. I paid for my computer with my freakin' money. I don't owe NEC, Sony, the motherboard maker whose name I can't recall, Philips, Netgear, etc., anything else, except maybe a modicum of basic respect (but you should have that for people anyway), unless they screw me over in the future.

Er, maybe you ought to actually read a comment before you call it ridiculous? Of course you don't owe NEC, Sony, or Netgear anything other than a modicum of respect. Of course you paid for your computer with your freakin' money. That was exactly my point. The NJ taxpayers pay the tab for the poet laureate with "their own freakin' money". Yet apparently taking this into account is called "sycophancy".

Ridiculous as it sounds - you just made my point quite concisely. NEC and Sony should feel a responsibility to you, should feel gratitude towards you - you paid them. Apparently in some people's eyes this is big business selling out, and Baraka is some sort of noble, highly ethical voice in the wilderness for not selling out in a similar way.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:43 PM on October 1, 2002


MidasMulligan: Of course, most Americans don't know from Octavio Paz either. Most couldn't give a rat's ass about poetry either way, even the self-parodic identity politics crapola of HBO's Def Poetry Jam or the grand masters whose name they can drop at cocktail parties. It's strange when a major North American poet - whose work is not read by most people, even if the name is well-known (at least among Americans with a Mexican heritage and those with a high level of education) - can sort-of be called a sell-out or something. That's gonna send kids to the poetry table at Career Day.

Anyway, I get what you're saying now, even if it's all pretty convoluted. I dunno, though. I expect all those companies to treat me nice if I call, and not put me on hold for two hours, with constant recorded interruptions about how sorry they are to keep me on hold. But that's because we more or less have a contractual relationship, at least until warranties expire (some of them already have, for the record). Otherwise, legally, they owe me nothing at all, besides respect - which, sad to say, is sadly lacking in too many interactions these days, everywhere. I do expect people to be nice to me immediately after a purchase, though, contract or no. Also, clerks and business owners are usually wanting me to purchase products from them again, or so economic theory has it. I'm just not sure about theory v. reality sometimes.
posted by raysmj at 11:34 PM on October 1, 2002


Midas: Oh, and I'd argue here that part of the "contract" between the state and poets laureate is usually that they be left alone to do what they do. (It seems to be part of a legal contract here besides.) Otherwise, there's no point to government funding of the arts in a democratic society, really. (And sure, you might get a "Battleship Potemkin" out of a controlling government, but that was produced in the days before tighter Soviet control of art. Or at least that's an extremely brief version of the story I've heard.)

The problem here, inasmuch as there can be said to be a problem, lies as much with the governor and his staff as anyone else. I barely know anything about Baraka and I know he's a fairly radical cat. Surely they checked him out, right?
posted by raysmj at 11:56 PM on October 1, 2002


Aha, radical blame assignment uncovers the truth at last-- Whitey done done it agin! Who'da thunk it. Evocative, yes, but logical, uh, well you'll have to dig out the evidence yourself, and confront some folks who are none too amused by your accusations. No question, we gotta thank Mr. Baraka for laying out the character evidence on Whitey that makes it tough to believe anyone else woulda done it. From the artistic standpoint, the poem works, in that it evokes a certain way of thinking, provokes a definite emotional reaction, and is certainly getting people to talk and reflect on its theme. From a political standpoint, this piece is either a joke or a disaster- along the lines of the immortal:
Put one more S in the USA to make it Soviet,
One more S in the USA, we'll live to see it yet.
When the farms belong to the farmers, and the factories to workingmen,
The USA when we take control will be the USSA then.
(We'll live to see it yet ... can I get a rise out of you on that one, Midas? ;)

Midwestern taxpayers must be less uptight about funding art than you folks in NYC, because we're proud of our library named after Cleveland's own Langston Hughes. I guess with so many people in NY, youse guys have to save the food stamps for people who make babies, not words. Beauty should be a purely commercial endeavor in any event, as anyone who has ever visited Manhattan surely realizes!
posted by sheauga at 1:14 AM on October 2, 2002


Alas, poetry is talked about and it therefore becomes classic in one sense of the word or other. Haha. Joke's on us.
posted by crasspastor at 1:21 AM on October 2, 2002


Mediareport: Yeah I seem to be wrong about those dudes being totally innocent, apologies, but thanks for the rant, it was my first on Metafilter... now I feel truly accepted.

Anyway the point still bears repeating, has anyone shown any evidence of Mossad having specific knowledge about the attack? So if they were spies were they taking back pictures to their Mossad overlords to report on a job well done?

And the reason I was (wrongfully) defending them was that it seemed an Israeli couldn't get within 50 metres of the WTC without being accused of being part of some huge conspiracy.
posted by PenDevil at 1:48 AM on October 2, 2002


raysmj: That's gonna send kids to the poetry table at Career Day.

I looooove that!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:45 AM on October 2, 2002


All the more reason why we need it.

Yeah, people always need what they don't want. Uh, right.
posted by kindall at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2002


"library named after Cleveland's own"

troll, troll,troll. Hughes was born in Mississippi. While he did go to highschool in clevland, the revered term "clevelands own" is hardly fitting.

you f@$#&^ with NYC sheaugaa, now it's time to get a bite from me. Hughes died in NYC. he suffered more then you and I will probably ever know. he was hounded by the anti-commi committes, suffered a racist society yet still created beauty that LeRoi will only dream of.

Beauty should be a purely commercial endeavor in any event, as anyone who has ever visited Manhattan surely realizes!
your kidding right. if so, i dont think it that funny.
(no offense to cleveland, as drew says, cleveland rocks.)
posted by clavdivs at 9:03 AM on October 2, 2002


Highschool in Cleveland can be an eternity, clavidivs. (Unless you are studious, athletic, or have concert tickets.) Yes I am grouchy about the commercialization of art and ongoing calls to starve artists. Artists and writers suffer way too much, unnecessarily.

Mr. Baraka's poem itself is the offline version of a troll, but for some reason, it has not flushed out compelling evidence from our readers that Israelis destroyed the WTC. My guess is this is because there isn't clear and compelling evidence out there on the net, just a few anecdotes and a lot of generalized antagonism. An alternate reading of this poem might be that the rationale for blaming Israelis can be built out of racist attitudes ... racism being something that Islam rejects, and something that people have certainly discussed this year in New Jersey. At any rate, the next time someone points out that a considerable number of Saudis supposedly don't believe that Saudis were responsible for 9-11, the Americans who have read Baraka's poem will have gathered an inkling as to what's going on. A positive outcome from that 10K investment by my lights.
posted by sheauga at 6:01 PM on October 2, 2002


I have no vested interest about possible Mossad knowledge of the attack. I did not respond to this point. The point is false and seems what i call juxta-huckstering. I reject this poem for no historical insight, nor does it juxtapose history to my liking. It take this poem down on one point as an example:
..."who forced Opium on the Chinese"

Forced?, does LeRoi mean the brits stuck the opium pipe in their mouths? Yes, the brits waged war to protect the flow of tar into and out of china. so did many countries including ours. But breaking down the stats, the facts (as i learned them in university) was we contributed about 10% to the opium trade. I believe we where the first to stop such trade in the "dark chests of death" (opium came in big balls, stored in chest.) So LeRoi blames us for 10% of the opium addiction in china....ok. see, he couples "facts" with hysteria as to cover his tracks, most likely to keep his harangue intact.

for political horror shows rebound, i prefer Peter Scott Dale.

and a fine book, from the chinese perspective is "Daughter of Han" by Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai. one of the best books i ever read.

I once had a wonderful conversation with Gwendolyn Brooks about political subjects. Leo has written some good things, let us give him that. The point? she really had no advice other then a smile. and asked me what i thought.

Me: is it perspective, the environment, circumstance.
Ms. Brooks (smile) "perhaps you will find out some day.

I'm still trying and fail mostly. I feel you doubled back on your response but a least you responded. i do agree about art and commercial side.

I was such a loud mouth ass (still am) when i came to MeFi. But i love this place. My hope is that you may read T'ai- t'ai's book and perhaps we could have a real conversation sometime. one that is not filled with animosity and mistrust. It's not about the horror show leroi brings up, i find his presumption repugnet. I look for the change, the redemption, the pit-faced struggle. I feel this is what people need.
posted by clavdivs at 7:55 PM on October 2, 2002


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