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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 
Marshalling The Youth Vote

Kevin at Catch has all the info on Eminem's new video (and a bunch of links if you want to see it.) It would appear that Marshall has pulled no punches and it also appears that MTV is airing it this afternoon. That in itself is amazing.

From Salon's review:

...the just-released video for his new anti-Bush song "Mosh," makes "Fahrenheit 9/11" look like a GOP campaign spot, and it will almost certainly reach an audience that wouldn't think of shelling out for a documentary.

The beautifully animated video, which is directed by Ian Inaba, opens with a classroom. At the front is a man in a blue suit, his face buried in an upside down children's book that says "My Pet," with a picture of a bush. Just as the man is revealed to be Eminem, the scene changes, and we see the singer taping up newspaper stories to a wall -- "Sick Wounded Troops Held in Squalor," says one. "Civil Liberties at Stake," says another. "Bush Knew," says a third.

In five minutes, Eminem manages a furious indictment of the administration that will likely resonate among many troops in Iraq as well as disaffected kids here at home. In one scene, a smiling soldier returns home from Baghdad, only to be handed a notice announcing that he has to go back. As Eminem sings, "fuck Bush," the soldier mouths the words.

Then we see a woman walking home in the rain, carrying groceries and an envelope. Inside is an eviction notice. As she reads it, we hear Eminem saying, "Maybe this is God just saying we're responsible for this monster, this coward that we have empowered." The woman looks at her TV, where Bush is speaking over a banner that says "Tax Cuts." She looks at her terrified children, then back at the screen, which says, "Breaking News…Terror Alert."

It all ends amazingly earnestly, with Eminem leading a black-clad army to the voting booth. Once again, Bush proves he really does have wonder working powers -- by behaving even more callously and irresponsibly than the most outrageous rapper, he's turned music's foremost enfant terrible into a role model of civic engagement.


I don't know how much impact something like this has, but it's a big mistake to underestimate the pull of popular culture. Eminem is an icon for a large swathe of young disaffected men, some of whom, as the review mentions, are in Iraq getting shot at as we speak.

One of the reasons that we may expect a nice uptick in voters this year, particularly young voters, is the extent to which the election has found its way into the cultural zeitgeist. It's not confined to its usual little corner of the media universe --- it's everywhere. It is culturally significant to people who are usually uninterested (meaning non-fundies) and it has insinuated itself into the media in such a way as to take on Big Event proportions.

We've had high hopes before in this regard and were sorely disappointed. 1972 is a compelling example. However, the media did not have the kind of pervasive influence it now has and people were not connected the way they are now. It was a political time, to be sure, but the strongest energy among young people went to cultural and lifestyle revolution. Politics was as much a matter of style as substance. Indeed, one of the stongest strains in American youth culture encouraged people to drop out entirely. There is nothing like that happening now.

The current culture war is not generational, it's mostly urban vs rural. And popular culture is omnipresent and dominating --- the internet bringing an entirely unprecedented new wrinkle. The conditions for a high turnout among people who don't usually tune in to politics but who've been drawn by the buzz into the conversation has never been higher. This could be the election that merges the general "audience" with the electorate and makes it one.

From the way it looks a week out, we may actually have the culture warriors a little bit on the run for the first time in many years. I may have my problems with Eminem, but I've got to be honest. I consider him to be far less dangerous than the leadership of the modern Republican Party. If he can help get out new voters, I welcome his help.





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