Using Casey Kasem To Hate America
Norwegian rap group Gatas Parlament created a music video recently for their song, "Kill Him Now." Early on in the video, it talks about killing President Bush and, under pressure from the United States government, the Norwegian government banned the video. However, because of this little thing called the internet--which has a way of spreading around various types of speech that people find distasteful--the video can be viewed in full with English subtitles on iFilm.
The existence of the video brings up some interesting questions about freedom of speech, particularly when that speech is being used to possibly advocate murder. The other question, of course, is whether or not the damn video is any good.
The most controversial part of the video is the beginning and the end. At the beginning, you have a news announcer reporting that the (real) site killhim.nu has raised enough money to hire an assassin to kill President Bush. At the end of the video, we see the actual killing of Bush--or, the implied killing of him, through some juxtaposing of images of the president with images of an assassin carrying what appears to be a missile-launcher.
But this video isn't just about hating Bush, it's about hating America as a whole. The group has a litany of complaints about U.S. foreign policy dating back before Bush's presidency. These complaints run by quickly, accompanied by graphs that appear to be very informative, though I can't say for sure since they're not in English. Mixed in with these graphs and the lyrics and various other images, though, is what perhaps is the real source of the group's hatred toward America: clips from Saved by the Bell. Particularly, clips from the episode of Saved by the Bell that involves a dance competition.
Now, the group might have some fair criticisms about U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps they have some legitimate beefs with President Bush--I know, personally, I haven't been the biggest fan of his. However, I really would expect Saved by the Bell is the true source of their ire. Because, in case you've never seen the show, it's bad. I mean, it's really bad. And if I were watching that show and took it as any sort of indication of America--especially if I were watching an episode guest-starring Casey Kasem, for god's sake--well, I would probably hate America too. I'd be wondering just how we might bomb it right off the face of the earth.
So is the video any good? Well, actually, it kind of is. I mean, it seems like a decent rap song, despite the fact that I can't understand the lyrics. Something a bit along the lines of a Norwegian version of Sage Francis, perhaps, who I quite like. I mean, they seem to have some talent for this rapping thing, whatever you may think of the substance of the song. Again, I say this with the caveat that I'm kind of guessing, since the actual sound of the lyrics is gibberish to me. (Though fun gibberish, I must say. It's an interesting language.)
The other question is whether or not the video goes too far and whether it should be allowed to be seen. This is a trickier question. Personally, I'm loathe to infringe on free speech rights, but there are always certain limits, and those limits generally come into play when the free speech puts someone else at risk of harm. I remember the trial awhile back of some anti-abortion activists for making up wanted posters of abortion doctors and basically calling for their killing on websites. They were found guilty of making illegal threats that went beyond free speech and the ruling was upheld--just barely--by an appeals court. Much like the appeals court, I was very divided on the decision, but ultimately leaned more toward finding them guilty. They were basically advocating the killings of private citizens, and that went too far in my mind.
Yet, I feel a bit more lenient toward this video. Now, I realize that my political beliefs may influence that view, but I would argue it's more the fact that I think politicians and other people who have made a conscious decision to put themselves on a public stage are a bit more fair game, as well as the way the threat is carried out in the video. Basically, I find the video to be more a skit than an actual call for Bush's assassination. Basically, I don't see it as a true threat, but rather as fiction. That's how it's played in my mind, which is the real dividing line. They talk about an assassin being hired, but they don't explicitly call for someone to go out and kill Bush.
It's a fine line, without a question, and I think the band purposefully walked that line in a very careful manner. So I say let the video play, if for no other reason than for the fun of hurting your head by watching a rap video that attempts serious critiques of U.S. foreign policy while interspersing it with clips of a Saved by the Bell episode guest-starring Casey Kasem. If it's an attempt at subversion, then . . . hats off to you, Gatas Parlament.
(Cross posted to Blogcritics.org)