Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peter, Paul, Mary, and Rush: Part II - Judgment Day

Paul Krassner & Nancy Cain said "well done and rare, simultaneously."

But Phil Proctor said "Michael, you know I love and appreciate you, but you are so wrong on this issue, it fucking staggers me. This is Nazi-style propaganda disguised as parody. Think it over."

Baron Dave Romm said "A fair point. I praise lots of political satire, when I agree with it. I haven't said anything about 'We Hate the USA' except to note that some of it came from Limbaugh whom I dismiss pretty much out of hand."

Michael Simmons said "Utterly refreshing. The politically correctums of any ideology or religion are a pain in the ass."

Someone named Julia said "NICE ONE!!!:) where can one find the republicans with this now infamous cd? I WANT IT!!! LOL&HAPPY NEW YEAR"

Lee Quarnstrom said "Hey, could it be that Puff the Magic Dragon is a DRUG song? Nah, just kiddin'."

Anonymous said "Being a Tennessean, I dislike a pointedly racial satirical song sent out as a Christmas gift by one of my representatives. It might be a clever piece, but at this time of such overwhelming serious issues facing our country it smacks of stupidity to think anyone but a racist will find it funny. Read the lyrics." and another Anonymous said "I defend free speech in every way I can. Something has to incite violent action before I will decry it. This doesn't. But fuck, oh fuck, that singer is crap. Not the sweet voices of the original saccharine garbage, but just crap. It's like listening to a chainsaw taking your arm off. It's painful." A third anonymous said...

"Bush’s Magic Tax Cut lives in DC
And funnels through our pocketbooks an oil subsidy.
Texaco and Enron loved that rascal Bush,
They filled his PACS
With money sacks
That came up to his tush!"

Ken Carman said "I'm curious. Did Yarrow actually say such satire should be banned? 'Unacceptable' is an 'unacceptable' substitute, and not a synonym. If he did: point made. If he didn't, you're point has the consistency of what drops out of the most southward portal of a moose going north. As far as the sickly sweetness that one poster mentioned, yeah PPM can be that from time to time, especially after 'Reunion,' but give me that post strained elderly vocal harmonies anytime over some of the more slick vomit drenched in cliched pedal steel Music Row puts out. Talk about something being stupidly sweet and banal. That stuff will give your brain cavities."

And my favorite. Jeff Norman said "Peter Yarrow can kiss my big black ass."

In Puff the Magic Dragon Offended by 'Barack the Magic Negro' Song, President-elect Not So Much by ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, he mentions that in an interview with Paul W. Smith of WJR Radio in Detroit, Obama was asked about the song and he didn't seem too concerned about it.

"I have to do this because Rush is on our radio station," Smith said. "We're going to see him tomorrow. You've heard the parody song 'Barack the "Magic Negro?'"

"You know, I have not heard it but I've heard of it," Obama said. "I confess that I don't listen to Rush on a daily basis. On the other hand, I'm not one of these people who, who takes myself so seriously that I get offended by -- by every -- every comment made about me. You know, the -- you know, what Rush does is entertainment, and although it's probably not something that I listen to much, I don't -- "

"But you said not every day, so you do listen a little then, and why wouldn't you?" Smith interrupted.

"I don't mind, I don't mind, I don't mind folks poking fun at me," Obama said. "That's part of the job."
Just about everything offensive in the song comes directly from David Ehrenstein's original article from the LA Times, Obama the 'Magic Negro, in which Ehrenstein explains the history of the phrase...

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.
Can't blame modern Republicans for resurrecting a phrase that's been around for decades. Blame Ehrenstein for that.

I'm afraid the whole definition of racism is changing, and we're going to have to usher in a new era in which it's okay for whites to make fun of blacks, simply because you can't stop us from making fun of the president.

Imagine Tom Lehrer on stage, finishing off a rousing rendition of Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, saying "The LA Times has called our president elect 'Obama the Magic Negro.' I can't help but wonder if Al Sharpton were a member of Peter, Paul and Mary, what would he think of the Times article? I have a modest example..." And he sings the song.

Or Kenan Thompson playing a dynamite Al Sharpton, as he has many times on SNL, reading the article in the Los Angeles Times, getting hit on the head, the video gets all wavy, and when he wakes up, he's dreaming he's Peter, Paul, and Mary singing Barack the Magic Negro. Tell me you wouldn't laugh. Context is all it takes, and if Saturday Night Live had the balls it used to have, they'd do it this week.

Lehrer's a major genius and I'm certainly not saying Barack the Magic Negro comes close to matching his lyrical dexterity. Paul Shanklin isn't as articulate as Lehrer, as funny as Weird Al, as off-beat as Luke Ski, or as Jewish as Allan Sherman. Nevertheless all the problems with the song can be explained away by the concept: It's poorly recorded because it's a home recording by Al Sharpton, it's not well written because Al Sharpton is an idiot, it's not well sung because Al Sharpton can't sing, and it's politically incorrect because it's Al Fucking Sharpton.

Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel is a song from South Park. In it, Cartman sings "Dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of clay, but I'm not going to play with it 'cause dreidel's fucking gay. Jews - play stupid games. Jews - That's why they're lame."

Taken out of context, this song could be played at a Nazi rally with every skinhead pinhead singing along, taking the damn thing seriously. As a Jew, that should piss me off.

But it doesn't because it's Cartman, the biggest asshole on the planet earth, one of the greatest characters in animation history, racist, fascist, manipulative, totally hilarious, and anyone who thinks the creators of South Park are ACTUALLY racist is just being a dick. They've created a CHARACTER who thinks such things and they dare to give him voice. If Nazis decided to use the song for their own nefarious purposes, and I'm surprised they haven't, that's good reason for getting angry at the Nazis, not Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who were just being funny.

It's good old "one step removed" humor, probably invented by Andy Kaufman when he first appeared on Saturday Night Live lip synching to the theme from Mighty Mouse. What made it funny was that he played it as a person who didn't think it was funny, who thought lip synching to Mighty Mouse was a performance actually worthy of national television, and it was, but only if you got it. Springtime for Hitler too; it simply can't be removed from its setting in The Producers as something that's deliberately the worst musical ever produced.

I understand there are people who just don't get it, who never have, and never will, find things like South Park funny. Not to beat a conundrum slowly but the humorless deserve a reasonable explanation for what's the big deal. Here it is.

Cartman doesn't hate Jews because they control the world's banks. He doesn't hate Jews because of all the killing in Gaza. He hates Jews because they play with dreidels and dreidels are lame. Who can argue with that? He's a five-year-old [actually eight-year-old] racist who only hates things a five-year-old [actually eight-year-old] would hate. Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel is funny because it's Cartman and Barack the Magic Negro is funny because it's Al Sharpton. Either song, taken out of the context of the character singing them, could easily be misinterpreted as racist, and racism is bad, mmmkay, like the word fuck, you should never say it or even type it, I get that. I also think one of the best ways to get rid of something is to make fun of it and to say fuck all the time.

Magic Negro #2

Decide for yourself what's funny. Here are MP3s of Peter, Paul, and Mary doing Puff the Magic Dragon, Paul Shanklin doing Al Sharpton doing Barack the Magic Negro, the cast of South Park doing Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel, the great Luke Ski doing Stealing Like a Hobbit, Frank Sinatra doing the theme from The Addams Family, the theme from The Perfect Storm as sung by Elton John and written by Tim Rice, and a mystery song just because I love you. Crank it.

CONTEST: Please submit lyrics to "Oprah the Magic Negro."


Monday, December 29, 2008

Peter, Paul, Mary, and Rush Limbaugh

Democrats Dancing to Rush Limbaugh

In Defense of Barack the Magic Negro
by Michael Dare

Republicans are being raked over the coals for a CD called We Hate the USA, which, like Team America, lampoons liberals with such songs as John Edwards' Poverty Tour, Wright Place, Wrong Pastor, Love Client #9, Ivory and Ebony, The Star Spanglish Banner, and the song that's caused the greatest stir, Barack, the Magic Negro (written by Paul Shanklin). As usual, the entire concept of satire is at stake.

Peter Yarrow, who wrote Puff, the Magic Dragon, the song satirized in Barack, the Magic Negro, says "What might have been wearily accepted as 'the way it was' in the campaign, is now unacceptable. Obama is not a candidate. He is the President-Elect, and this song insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for him, as well as those who did not -- and taking a children's song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism."

Oh really? I can't use a children's song to make fun of the president? A gracious but heartfelt fuck you. I'll use Frère Jacques and Brahms' Lullaby to make fun of the president if I want to, and there's nothing Peter Yarrow, Brahms, or the legal representatives of the Jacques estate can do about it. To rise above mere parody, satire has to be making a point about society in general, which includes absolutely everything, including Puff, the Magic Dragon and Barack Obama. There have been dozens if not hundreds of parodies of Puff, the Magic Dragon over the years, including Buff, the Horny Dragon and Puff, the Magic Tampon. If Puff, the Magic Dragon is good enough to make fun of lesbians and hippies, then why isn't it good enough to make fun of Obama? It's not racist to make fun of the president just because the president is now half-black and they happened to parody a song by Peter, Paul, and Mary. If that were true, nobody could make fun of Obama at all for the next 4-8 years without fear of appearing racist. Fuck that. I sure as hell intend on making fun of Obama, not because he's black, but because he's president.

Nobody seems to have actually listened to the songs which, if sung on South Park or SNL might seem suitably satirical, irreverent, and "commentary" on racism, not racism itself. I withhold judgment on the song Barack the Magic Negro until I hear it. Unlike some people who put down Michael Moore movies without bothering to see them, I like to decide for myself.

Hell if I'm going to contribute to any Republican Committees to get my copy of the official CD, so off I slipped to Pirate Bay looking for the bittorrent. No hits on Barack the Magic Negro.

Okay, the big guns, FrostWire, a new version of LimeWire that works pretty damn well. Up it pops, and what a surprise.

The file is called "Rush Limbaugh Parody- Al Sharpton - 'Barack the Magic Negro'.mp3." Yep, Limbaugh's behind this mess, and far be it from me to defend such a self-righteous scumbag, but the song is worth a listen before any knee-jerk condemnation.

In it, Al Sharpton sings, "The guy from the LA paper said he made guilty whites feel good. They'll vote for him and not for me cause he's not from the hood." Pretty sharp satire, actually. Al calls Obama an "interloper's dream," and it becomes clear this is a satire of AL SHARPTON, not Obama, and totally on the money. If SNL or Bill Maher had impersonated Al Sharpton doing this song, everyone would have laughed their asses off, especially when Al forgets what song he's singing, complains about the lack of buffets, and can't think of anything else bad to say about Obama except "Yo mama is so fat" jokes. Bad taste? You bet. Racist? Gimme a break.

Could all the songs on the CD be like this? I decide to check out one more. I'm so far on the left of the immigration problem, I think we should give California and Texas back to Mexico, so The Star Spanglish Banner looks like it might be up my alley. Off to Frostwire again. I download the file. It's a virus. Damn those Mexicans.

In conclusion, it's only the fact these songs are being distributed by Republicans that has everyone off their rocker. Far be it from me to defend Republicans, but they've got the same satirical rights as anyone else, Al Sharpton deserves it, and nobody should be called racist simply by finding Barack the Magic Negro funny. I'm not and I did.

NEW RULE: If the fact that Obama is black puts black humor off the radar, let the fact that Obama is only half black put black humor only half off the radar.