Talk about grasping for straws. The far right has set their sights on a new gripping issue to whine about... the guests invited to last night's "Evening of Poetry" at the White House. The poetry jam featured a number of guests, including Alison Knowles, Kenneth Goldsmith, Elizabeth Alexander, Rita Dove, and Billy Collins. But two of the guests immediately sparked controversy as soon as their names were announced... hip hop stars Common and Jill Scott, whom the radical right are claiming incite violence and racial bigotry with their lyrics. It really goes to show just how out of touch those on the far right really are with modern culture.
The Internet exploded in the past few days with complaints about the two rappers having been invited, their charge being led by -- yep, you guessed it -- Fox News' shoebox of talking heads. Last night, Jon Stewart tore these pundits a new rear end on The Daily Show (here's the full episode, this issue is at the start of the show, up to about the 11:40 mark or so), pointing out that Fox News' Sean Hannity, ranting and raving about Common's lyrics allegedly endorsing cop killing, conveniently left out the parts of the lyrics that directly defied his allegations, and didn't seem to recognize his own blatant hypocrisy on the issue. That video really showcases just how desperately Fox News supports something one minute, only to turn around and despise it the next, as soon as it's convenient to their obvious political agenda.
I'm not a huge fan of hip hop. The artists I do listen to have largely positive messages, for the most part anyway. I occasionally listen to The Roots, Mos Def, Kanye West, and... yes... Common. You could go through the lyrics from any of these artists and find something to make controversial, but you'll need to put some effort into the controversy itself. Of course, in doing so, you openly expose your own ignorance, your own lack of comprehension of what the song is about, let alone what the message of the full body of work is attempting to transmit.
Sean Hannity doesn't understand black culture, and he never will. I'm not saying he's incapable of understanding it, or that he isn't smart enough to process it. I'm saying he never will, and neither will any of these other prolific provocateurs. In order to comprehend something, you first need to be willing to expose yourself to it. I don't like American football, but I can't really say I understand it either, because I've never put forth any serious effort to do so. So I can freely say I dislike the sport. I can give you a seemingly endless list of reasons why I find it dull, boring, and uninspired. But you wouldn't want me to try and serve as a referee during a game, would you? The same rule applies to pretty much everything, particularly in the world of entertainment. Until you really understand something, you don't deserve to be a critic. and it couldn't be any more obvious that the people attacking Barack and Michelle Obama for inviting Common and Jill Scott to the White House Poetry Jam have absolutely zero understanding of the music they're attempting to critique.
Until these "Poeters" take the time to expose themselves to black culture, to listen to the music they're criticizing and truly comprehend the breadth and scope of the body of work of an artist, they don't have an opinion. Not an opinion worth listening to... they don't have an opinion at all. Because the difference between an opinion and a steamy mess of rectally-spewed vitriol is pretty easy to detect. As my dad used to joke when I was a kid: "It looks like. It smells like it. It feels like it. It tastes like it... better not step in it."