- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

Rap patriotism

"A former Marine, [1980s rap star M.C.] Hammer poses in front of the Stars and Stripes on the cover of his comeback album, 'Active Duty,' and has been popping up on U.S. television to fly the proverbial flag in his new … role of unofficial spokesperson for hip-hop.

"Marxist [rap] duo the Coup have not been so fortunate. Since hitting the headlines last September, when they had to withdraw unintentionally prophetic album artwork depicting the [World Trade Center] exploding, they have become the music industry's loudest dissenters. They announced that anybody wearing the flag, which they described as 'violent gang colours,' would not be admitted to their shows. Predictably, they have not had quite as many invitations to appear on TV as Hammer. …

"Crucially, though, the Coup and the handful of other anti-war rappers sell relatively little, and to a predominantly white, liberal fan base, a sub-genre known as backpacker hip-hop. …

"There are good reasons, after all, why rappers are less inclined … to take an anti-war stance. New York is the hub of the hip-hop world, and rappers are famously protective of their 'hood.' … 'I have a renewed sense of patriotism,' announced Queensbridge rapper Cormega shortly after September 11. 'I've never been more proud to be American.'"

Dorian Lindsey, writing on "Draft Me," in Tuesday's London Guardian

New 'Animal Farm'

"As the country expanded ethnically in the 19th and early 20th centuries, an unwritten pact was struck. The people who had come here earlier didn't insist upon their ethnic identity as primary to being American, and we newcomers didn't publicly insist on ours. Previous immigrant identity … was built on the idea of public assimilation, not separatism, and certainly entailed no demand that America divest itself of its historic character.

"But since the 1960s and '70s, the pact has been broken. On the one hand, the country has cast off its particularity and embraced an even more expansive universalism; on the other hand, the newer groups, in imitation of the divisive identity politics practiced by black leaders, take advantage of that universalism not only to promote their identity of origin, but to seek political power and public goods on its basis.

"In doing so, they undo the very nature of the society upon which their own freedom is based, and push us over the line to a new form of political organization no longer equality of persons before the law, but group rights, group representation, group consciousness, complete with demagogy, intimidation and the naked exercise of group power. That mind-dulling slogan 'Diversity is our strength' is worthy of the barn wall in 'Animal Farm,' along with … 'Some Animals Are More Equal than Others.' …

"Diversity is not benign, but belligerent and full of resentment, forcing us to erase every historical memory and to drive any sense of a collective and particularly American peoplehood out of public life."

Carol Iannone, writing on "Broken Melting Pot," in the Jan. 23 issue of New York Press

Eternal adolescent

"When 'Rebel Without a Cause' reached theaters on Oct. 27, 1955, its 24-year-old star had been dead for 27 days. But James Byron Dean, who had died … on Sept. 30, on a rural highway in central California, would be a bigger star dead than he had been alive. And, of the three movies he made in less than 17 months, it was 'Rebel Without a Cause' that would preserve him … as the eternal misunderstood adolescent.

"Shooting 'Rebel Without a Cause' from dusk to dawn in the spring of 1955, restlessly racing his new Porsche Speedster along the crest of the Hollywood Hills when he wasn't needed on the set … Jimmy Dean drove the way he acted. Recklessly."

Aljean Harmetz, writing on "Dangerous Rebel," in the February issue of Premiere

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