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Open Thread: M.I.A.'s new video "Born Free"

M.I.A. is not shying away from controversy in her new video, the latest in epic music videos that would never get aired on TV, and weren't made to (a phenom that doesn't look like it's going away any time soon). Cinematic but super violent, it's definitely a commentary on oppressive military governments and cultural profiling. To M.I.A.'s disappointment, it was banned from YouTube within a day of being posted.

Trigger warning: Contains graphic beatings, gun violence, and carnage.

Here's a description of the video from Gawker:

As the video starts, a group of soldiers [clearly marked as US military -Kj] ransack an apartment building, bypassing an old man smoking crack and barging in on a couple having sex. When the soldiers find a young man and start hauling him out of the building, it seems like it's going to be another tired video about the brutality of war. Then the young man is thrown into a bus and we see that it's full of other red-headed young men. Ah, a twist. As the bus pulls away, some ginger militants can be seen throwing bottles at the bus in front of a mural that depicts red-headed men holding guns aloft.

When the bus arrives at its final destination, a dusty minefield, the military men tell the carrot tops to run across a minefield. When they don't budge, we see the officer in charge shoot what appears to be a 12-year-old in the head at point blank range. It is graphic and shocking. As the men run across the field, the soldiers pursue both on foot and in an armored van while shooting at their prisoners. One of the runners hits a mine and we see his body explode. Finally the soldiers catch up with the initial man from the apartment building and they beat him, presumably to death. There is no happy ending or redemption here. The movie just ends.

It's violent, no one can argue that. But what's the message? Is it effective?

Jen on Disgrasion doesn't think so: "Yes it's a metaphor, but it's also–as people have already pointed out–a South Park episode from 2005. A very funny South Park episode that made me giggle. Is that the desired effect of "Born Free," to make people giggle at genocide? No? Then pick a better metaphor." The Awl called it "faddish political pastiche."

Then again, it's hard to not see parallels between the US military arresting out people based on appearances in the video...and the US military arresting people based on appearances in real life, right now.

One thing's for sure, everybody has a different opinion. What's your take?

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Comments

25 comments have been made. Post a comment.

ugh

I found it incredibly sensationalized. Not only is the song kind of bad but the video seemed like something a pretentious art school student with a budget would make for their sophomore video final. As such, it takes a rather one-sided issue (genocide is bad) and somehow muddles it with awkwardly excessive stylization.

I won't lie, I giggled out a "WHAT?!" at the person-explodey part because it was so over the top (slow-motion being the big ol' Hollywood tipoff). And of course I was horrified by my reaction, but it's all MIA and director Gavras got out of me, which I found even more horrific.

I feel like this was the music video equivalent of an exploitation film. Yeah, it masquerades behind a message of anti-genocide, or at least genocide awareness, but it seems more like an exercise in extreme style. Even if it has a political message, it's still basically a music video (despite its plodding 9 minute length) in its stylistic execution.

Was anyone else concerned by the choice of redheads? It seemed like a way to say "Hey white people, we know you're a big chunk of MIA's audience. Here's what would happen if genocide happened to YOU! Isn't it BAD when it happens to YOU?!"

And is anyone else concerned this may be MIA's attempt to regain some edginess lost by "Paper Planes" being in every single movie/trailer/probably even popsicle ad since 2007? It's not a good song (by my standards at least) but it's creating buzz. And when you use a stylized depiction of genocide to create buzz, well...what the fuck.

I know this extrapolation is really lengthy and muddled itself, but I've been thinking about it a lot since I first saw it yesterday.

M.I.A.

My friends told me to watch/not to watch this video for obvious reasons. Surprisingly or not, it has left an impression.

I watched it thinking how little we see of violence by the state, which although graphic and sensationalized by slow motion effect, is still what happens in this country and around the world. I would say this is an important reminder that shouldn't be so quickly dismissed.

I also thought the use of redheads was effective. Of course, we still have all the privileges that come with being white now, but in England, redheads will still get beat up for something as stupid as their hair color, remnants of a past where redheads were killed for being thought as witches, and other stupid things. By choosing a group now considered normal, but with a distant history of persecution, adds to the discussion.

Of course, art is not an academic paper or comment thread to a blog. It is meant to provoke and explore extremes. Anything else would be playing to the conventions of our time. It is interesting to read other blog threads of people who are obviously threatened by M.I.A.'s use of white people as a persecuted minority. It is relevant on many fronts. I guess she could have hosted a panel discussion on modern methods of state genocide, but that is not her role. And more people will see this, because of the controversy and that it is not a high-minded academic bit or blog post, and think about it. Which, whether we label her as a sell out or not, MIA has done a lot to raise awareness on issues she cares about.

I see a lot of people gripping about how obvious and cliche the metaphor is in this video, which would be a criticism of the pretentious. I don't know what M.I.A.'s intentions were, but I don't think it was to seek approval from art history majors, although they may be a segment of her audience. I think she wanted to show the horrors of state-sanctioned violence to people who care more about staying-cool aesthetics than about working to stop injustice. Heres looking at you, hipsters. Yes, they may complain about the obvious, but in doing so, will show their apathy for things of importance.

i haven't read any of those

i haven't read any of those threads, but the persecuted people aren't "white people". I mean, they are white, but it isn't their whiteness being targeted, and frankly that's the weirdest thing to me.

More than Hype

Patrick, I don't think MIA's only motive is hype. I'd say she's more than an Adam Lambert. Give the video more of a chance.

Is it not possible that red heads were used only to emphasize how arbitrary every genocide is? I don't think MIA is simply trying to make white people feel especially uncomfortable by giving them a taste of their own medicine, as you seem to suggest ("Isn't it BAD when it happens to YOU?!").

This is a topic that should make us all feel uncomfortable, whether or not its representation is perfectly tailored to your tastes.

The fact that the video is

The fact that the video is heavily premised on a South Park episode shouldn't weigh in on it's credibility (Hello, South Park is chock full of social commentary).

The video conveys the arbitrary but nonetheless systematic ways that both race and otherness are produced. The gingers are villified, or at least, suggested to be so and thus worth grouping together to exterminate. The military in the video functions to showcase just how genocides are perpetrated - through the diligence of those that accept this othering of gingers/production of race in Zimbabwe/nationality as one unmarked ethnic default in a state of many nations, etc.

There are also elements in the video included to, I think, mitigate the (im)morality of the state intervention that are particularly telling for feminist purposes. The inclusion of drug abuse and two non-body-conforming individuals having sex are meant to elicit judgment or repulsion and thus complicate reactions.

This is exciting work coming from M.I.A. who has not been quiet about her father's involvement with the Tamil Eelam movement in Sri Lanka, a country ravaged by Civil War, corruption and a level of state-sponsored genocide of its minority population (oops, opinion)! Sometimes these mockumentary-type videos are necessary to illuminate the non-sensical yet highly-motivated workings of oppression. Killing gingers? That's ridiculous. Now let's apply the logic elsewhere ...

Killing gingers? That's

Killing gingers? That's ridiculous. Now let's apply the logic elsewhere ...

So, she's sending an important message out to all the pro-genocide people in the world? This isn't even an anti-violence or anti-war video, it's just anti-genocide. It's so over the top with the buses and the landmines and the dragging people from their homes that there's no other message to get out of it. I don't think it's a message that anyone watching her videos really needs to hear.

It reminds me of a Lifetime movie. It's needlessly heavy-handed and no allegory is allowed stand on its own. Everything must be hammered into your big dumb head to make sure you didn't miss the point.

"It's so over the top with

"It's so over the top with the buses and the landmines and the dragging people from their homes that there's no other message to get out of it."

If by 'over the top' you mean realistic portrayal of what happens in countries with bureaucratic authoritarian governments. In those places, believe it or not, people have been taken from their homes by military police and imprisoned. The point is to show that it happens, because we're so sheltered from it in the West.

?

Except for the fact that this shit does happen in the west and especially in the US. No need to 'other' people/regions. State-sanctioned violence runs rampant in these parts (the west) as does police violence/exploitation. come on now.

I didn't say that it doesn't

I didn't say that it doesn't happen in the West or the U.S. What I said is that we're more sheltered from it, especially in the States, which we are. Our mainstream media shields us from the reality of war, genocide, and state violence, both here and abroad, except for when it's somehow convenient for them to show it to us, which is rare.

Saying that things happen differently in different parts of the world isn't 'othering', it simply acknowledges that some Westerners have the privilege of not having to see or deal with state violence on a daily basis. It acknowledges that some Westerners have the privilege of not having to live with personal or social memory of an ethnic cleansing, dictatorship, or guerra sucia. Don't accuse a commenter of 'othering' if you can't even be bothered to actually read and comprehend what she's written.

A Supportive Perspective

As Shaamini notes, M.I.A. has been and has reasons to be highly political, even though she saw a lot of popularity with her last album, so I don't think she has to "regain edginess". I don't think she ever stopped caring about these things.

Secondly, I don't see using highly graphic depictions of genocide is necessarily a gimmick, particularly in the context of M.I.A. I see it as a straightforward commentary on the things we DON'T see on the news. I also had a twitch when the kid was shot in the head and the older boy got caught in an explosion with his body parts flying everywhere, because the only situation we're used to seeing that in is supergory humor-horror flicks. In those cases, it's even meant to be humorous because of the extent to which they take it.

In this case however, I think the artist is representing what actually happens in war. It's not supposed to be funny. And these are the things that we're largely sheltered from, but which would likely impact how we view a particular situation or war in general. These graphic images are inherently political. To call this a gimmick is potentially ignoring the importance of that truth.

Regarding the redheads (or "gingers" as everyone likes to call them), if M.I.A.'s use of a South Park theme here indicates that perhaps she DOESN'T WATCH South Park, I would be incredibly happy. In addition, prejudice against redheads is actually quite common in the UK (if you read some threads from that area of the world), so it was probably one of the most easily readable metaphors for racism (and homophobia and all isms) - I think it was quite affective.

In direct response to Patrick when he said, "Hey white people, we know you're a big chunk of MIA's audience. Here's what would happen if genocide happened to YOU! Isn't it BAD when it happens to YOU?!", I would say yeah. The point the artist was trying to make is that we're VERY USED to seeing police brutality videos, war photos and videos, etc about people who aren't white. Psychologically this likely separates a lot of people from the reality of the situation - personalizing these issues by showing something more familiar (a redhead), it a perfectly reasonable way to help people empathize and suggest that they should try putting themselves in other people's shoes.

I'm surprised at how many people think of this video as simply a thoughtless over-the-top gimmick or who are confused about the redhead message (or who are for that matter, critiquing the music). I think the video says a lot about media representations of war and the military, about racism, and about our perception of all of these things. I think however, that the widespread negative reactions to this video have said a lot more.

*In the time it took to post this, two more comments have been made (shoot, the site is slow right now!) and it seems I might be repeating a bit. Apologies!

this was my reaction when i

this was my reaction when i saw it (the quotes are me but i feel weird pretending i'm just writing it now).

"i sense that this MIA video is supposed to be thought provoking, but i can't really for figure out what thoughts it's supposed to provoke.

is it supposed to make me think of the horrors of ethnic cleansing? ok. why? and then why use a group of people who are at times at the receiving end of bigotry, however uninstitutional, but are not an ethnicity? is it supposed to be reminiscent of witchhunts, where redheaded people were actually considered evil? is it supposed to make me think of the conflicts between england and ireland, the latter being known for red hair?

it just seems sensational for no reason but to be sensational."

so yeah, i just don't get the redhead part. it's too in between. i feel like if it had been people with blond hair and blue eyes, the stereotype of privilege, it would read less 'giggly' and south park-referencey (there is also a popular catherine tate skit in a similar vein). or if an actual white ethnicity had been used (though i suppose you could argue that it was). or an appearance that is not ethnically tied at all, like being tall (arguably).

and because there is nothing really to it in the end, that is, i don't think it's really making people think about anything they didn't already think about. because there is nothing really to it in the end, it just seems like trying to generate publicity though "controversy".

Let's all put on our thinking caps!

As tempting as it may be to interpret this video in broad terms or to make shallow judgements in haste because of the obviously inflammatory subject matter, I think it might behoove us to take a moment to don our critical thinking caps. Ok, I'm ready. Are you ready?

As many have already pointed out, the film overtly depicts the perpetration of racist military action, i.e. genocide. Having come that far it would be a shame if we decided to leave it at that, concluded that the film entertains no more significant lesson than "genocide is bad, m'kay...", and proceeded to contest the film on grounds of personal taste. I doubt any of us are content with taking the easy route, however, so we must forge ahead.

A few details seem to demand attention:

Americans are cast specifically and ostentatiously as the perpetrators.

Men* with red hair are depicted as both victims and rebels.

Northwestern Europe, e.g. the UK, is both home to a significant proportion of people with red hair, and harbors a not insignificant amount of prejudice toward redheads (1).

M.I.A. is a citizen of the UK.

The United States is currently involved in military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, both countries with long histories of marginalization and oppression along ethnic and religious lines.

The United States military has a history of violating the rights of people in both these countries resulting in relatively little censure, whether from its own judiciary or from among the international community (2) (3) (4).

British leaders continue to support the United States in its military endeavors (5).

What, then, can we derive from these facts about the film and its context? First, it seems appropriate to acknowledge that while the film's audience is global, it is the product of an essentially British sensibility. By casting redheads as the victims of systematic violence, M.I.A. doesn't merely reverse the roles of privileged and marginalized, she superimposes the visages of British citizens on the bodies of the oppressed. In this sense, the film functions as more than just repudiation of genocide, it becomes a challenge to the British public. The film asks: would we stand idly by if it were our own countrymen* with American jackboots at their throats? If not, why do we allow it happen to others? Is it because they look different from us? Or maybe that we can ignore that which we never have to confront?

As an American, the film forces me to confront an overwhelmingly negative portrayal of my fellow citizens and ultimately myself. It's difficult to digest such virulent criticism, but upon reflection I can't contend that it's entirely unwarranted; our collective lust for cheap petroleum resources, the greed of corporate contractors and grasping politicians, and an insidious apathy have contributed to this thoroughly regrettable image of ourselves. Because this depiction of American soldiers really does make me feel uncomfortable, I have to ask myself: is it founded in reality (see above)? What can I do to change it? As good citizens we have a responsibility to hold our government and our military accountable when poor decisions lead to the flagrant disregard of human rights.

Perhaps M.I.A.'s little film project tempts such easy dismissal because otherwise we'd all have to take seriously its inherent imputation.

* I think it's interesting that M.I.A. uses only men to symbolize the oppressed in her video (I'm not sure how much Romain-Gavras had to do with the decision), and our culture's masculinization of war-related tragedy in general, when one considers that women and children are overwhelmingly the most victimized by armed conflict.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_hair

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Graihb

(3) http://www.salon.com/news/afghanistan/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwal...

(4) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/apr/07/wikil...

(5) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/03/prime-minister-defends-briti...

Oh, eew. That sounds way

Oh, eew. That sounds way more condescending than I meant it to, which was zero. I just wanted to make the point that there exists a tendency (of which I am as guilty as anyone) to never move beyond our gut reaction to of a piece of "art" (especially when it comes to interwebs message boards), and that while are gut reactions are in no way illegitimate, we can get a lot more than we might expect from something otherwise regarded as pap.

Apologies all around.

ugh

Also my interwebs proofreading skillz need some work...

Nice

I thought this was a great interpretation. A bit snarky to start, but yeah, i really like your reasoning.

"Faddish political pastiche"

Thanks, Arthur Sanchez, for that awesome mansplanation. The video is so heavy-handed that I don't think anyone really needed an analysis of what M.I.A./Romain-Gavras are trying to say in this video. The message comes through loud and clear - they practically beat it in with a sledgehammer.

I'll give M.I.A. the benefit of the doubt and assume that her biggest motive for creating this video was to raise awareness of genocide, rather than her upcoming album. If that's the case, I don't think she succeeded, because the only thing I get from this video is gratuitous stylized violence. That is the key - stylized. It does not look real, because it is not real. Most media consumers are desensitized (as Shaamini said) to this kind of multi-cam, slow-motion, staged and stylized violence, no matter how graphic; I think if M.I.A. really wanted to show the reality of genocide, she should have used REAL footage of REAL people and REAL genocide. Not actors running from other actors in slow motion.

And while I understand that the use of redheads is supposed to make white people care more about genocide (I don't think it was meant to invoke the violence/persecution that redheads around the world have actually experienced, as a previous commenter pointed out), frankly, I think that's kind of pathetic. Really? White people only care about genocide if it's happening to other white people? And M.I.A. should cater to this ethnocentrism? No. M.I.A. has enough of a global audience that she can get away with doing whatever the hell she wants, and if she talks about genocide, people will listen. She doesn't need to resort to this kind of gimmicky crap.

"The point the artist was

"The point the artist was trying to make is that we're VERY USED to seeing police brutality videos, war photos and videos, etc about people who aren't white."

Maybe, but whenever I think of overused police state/authoritarian/war imagery I think of how incredibly common World War II (specifically Nazi and Holocaust) images are in our culture. Maybe next it's fictional works like 1984 and Brave New World - all of which involve mostly white people. I think that's WHY we hear so much about these instead of, say, the Rwandan or Armenian genocides or other races' takes on the police state and genocide. Maybe Gavras and MIA are sub/consciously continuing this trend of making people care by making it about white people.

But that's so incredibly horrible because the race involved in a genocide shouldn't alienate people: it's fucking GENOCIDE. This isn't failure on a governmental level of a police state exterminating a minority; this is systematic failure of all of humanity in its indifference to suffering.

The use of stylized violence is also inadequate. By now, I think most of humanity is conditioned to think that slow motion = cool. Maybe they were trying to depict genocide with stereotypical Hollywood over-stylization as a parody of film violence's detachment from real violence? If this is the case, the result is (appropriately) awkward and hard to take seriously. It seems, like a good Hollywood film, they removed any subtlety or nuance from the video that could lead to a more meaningful epiphany (but is the mere existence and shittiness of genocide an epiphany to anyone at this point?).
I'd like to give them that much credit, but there are too many flaws with this video that I just can't buy it.

Maybe this would be more effective with real documentary footage of genocide - I know bands have done this or something like this before (lookin' at you, Rage Against the Machine and I think System of a Down [GUILTY PLEASURES I SWEAR]).

"but is the mere existence

"but is the mere existence and shittiness of genocide an epiphany to anyone at this point?"

I really hope not, and luckily I don't think that's the case. Everyone knows genocide is bad, right? That's why it seems just a little off to me to focus too heavily on the genocide-y aspects of the video.

"The use of stylized violence is also inadequate. By now, I think most of humanity is conditioned to think that slow motion = cool."

I agree that the Hollywood-esque nature of the violence seems pretty inappropriate. I don't know for sure, but I kind of have a sneaking suspicion that it is actually supposed to come across as "cool". 'Cause teenagers and young adults just love violence and even systematic racist murder sells records nowadays.... On the whole, I don't think the video was executed very well, either politically or by standards of good taste, I just think we can take more away from it than just "Isn't genocide bad? This could be you!"

"But that's so incredibly horrible because the race involved in a genocide shouldn't alienate people: it's fucking GENOCIDE."

I agree with you entirely.

using real documentary

using real documentary footage of genocide for a commercial music video would likely be considered highly exploitative, and would come under attack as a result, especially by victims groups. Also, Armenians are white people, so I wouldn't say whiteness had anything to do with the genocide not being well-known, but rather the fact that it happened post WWI. It is also interesting that you assume 1984 and Brave New World are primarily made up of white people---most certainly this is the case in film adaptations, but in the books one is likely only to infer that based on the authors' backgrounds themselves, and thus assume that the main characters and population (living in future dystopias) are white as well.

I don't really care why

I don't really care why M.I.A./Romain-Gavras made the video, I was actually trying to point out that calling this video a comment on genocide seems overly simplistic - there are more factors involved than just the race/ethnicity/ginger elements. I feel like the fact that it's Americans perpetrating the crimes (however stylized) should be more important than the fact that the victims are gingers. Shouldn't this video make us question at what point we have to take responsibility (as Americans or citizens of the global North) for our own complicity in acts of violence like these that actually occur all over the world?

Again: genocide is easy, scrutinizing ourselves is hard. It's not about ethnocentricity, it's about justice. What have you/we/I done to promote justice around the world lately?

Just a side note... I'd really appreciate feedback/criticism based on the actual content of my ideas, rather than just on the gender I happen to identify as... I would never demonstrate so little respect for anyone - in fact, I have promised before and I will promise again to never do so.

Hey Arthur, for what's it

Hey Arthur, for what's it worth, I really respect and agree with your ideas. I'm frankly really disappointed that people are being so dismissive of this video. Why is this video 'heavy-handed', or 'gratuitous', but Lady Gaga and Beyonce's "Telephone" video is considered perfectly acceptable, and just oh so clever? Ugh, I think that's exactly what M.I.A. is commenting on.

Seconded...

Web content manager here, and I completely agree that arguments, rather than people, are to be critiqued, a sentiment that will feature prominently in a revised commenting policy we're working on. I don't think it's just a side note, and I'm glad you brought it up, especially since you took the time to comment back on your own posts.

****

I really liked taking the presence of US military in the video as a jumping off point, and I thought your interpretation from there was really good. I didn't want this video to be as easily dismissable as so many people thought it was, and now I have reason not to.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

A lot of assumptions.

"I'll give M.I.A. the benefit of the doubt and assume that her biggest motive for creating this video was to raise awareness of genocide."

I think you're making a massive assumption here that doesn't take into a account that M.I.A. isn't just an ideologue or activist -- she's an artist. And I think that this video is way more complex, and that she deserves far more credit than you give her. My reading of the video is that M.I.A. wanted to show how horrible and frightening state violence is. I also think that M.I.A. was commenting on media, and I'd go so far as to say that the stark violence of this video is a direct response to "Telephone" video by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.

"The only thing I get from this video is gratuitous stylized violence."

I didn't feel the violence was stylized, and I honestly don't understand how anyone could see it as such. I think it's subjective though, and that there's no right answer here, it's just a matter of how the individual interprets it.

"I think if M.I.A. really wanted to show the reality of genocide, she should have used REAL footage of REAL people and REAL genocide."

Here, you're continuing with your assumption about what M.I.A.'s purpose was, which I think is terribly misguided (though you claim it's obvious), and you're telling M.I.A. what she "should" have done with her video, which is simply unfair. No one can say what anyone "should" do with her work/art. And moreover, I feel you're making assumptions about what's "real" and what isn't. First, to use such "real" (I think you mean documentary or news footage?) footage has the potential to be exploitative.

Second, what is "real"? What counts as "real"? And in terms of violence, how does anyone who hasn't witnessed such violence or genocide know what "real" is, or what violence really looks like? I really, sincerely hope that you do not know from first hand experience what such violence looks like. I admit that I do not.

"And while I understand that the use of redheads is supposed to make white people care more about genocide (I don't think it was meant to invoke the violence/persecution that redheads around the world have actually experienced, as a previous commenter pointed out), frankly, I think that's kind of pathetic."

I didn't see it that way at all, and again, you're making an assumption, this time about the way that M.I.A. allegedly sees white people. When I watched it, I though that she chose to make red heads the target in order to show how absurd it is to inflict state violence/genocide/hate of any kind on a group of people for any reason, especially a physical or superficial reason, like haircolor. Or texture. Or skin color. Or nose shape. Etc.

Finally: "mansplanation"
This is just fucked up. Mansplanations are certainly a very real phenomenon, but there was nothing sexist or male-entitled about Arthur Sanchez's response, who has every right to object to you dismissing his ideas based on what gender his name suggests.

Points

"When I watched it, I though that she chose to make red heads the target in order to show how absurd it is to inflict state violence/genocide/hate of any kind on a group of people for any reason, especially a physical or superficial reason, like haircolor. Or texture. Or skin color. Or nose shape. Etc." and "My reading of the video is that M.I.A. wanted to show how horrible and frightening state violence is."

I agree, this is also how I interpreted the use of redheads in the video. And here I'm going to express something that is based on my personal privilege of liberalism, political cynicism and education: I find it unspeakably maddening that "genocide exists" is even something that needs to be expressed through a ten-minute-long pop music video. I mean, who the fuck DOESN'T know that state violence is horrible and frightening? Do people still not understand that police states exist? Did Abu Ghraib just not happen, or something? What about Vietnam, Chemical Ali or the fucking Holocaust?!? (Seriously, you have no idea how hard it is for me to refrain from typing this entire paragraph in caps lock.) Is this video really going to snap anyone out of some Allied Forces of Good vs Axis of Evil political myth dream? I don't think so. I also think that the majority of M.I.A.'s fans have the same liberal, cynical, educated privilege that I do, so this video is really just preaching to the choir.

Yes, my analysis was based on assumptions, because hell if I know what the artist(s) meant to say/question/indicate with this video. Maybe they didn't intend for the video to be this kind of "hey white people, do you care about genocide yet?? Look, disturbing violence!" shockfest, but I think that is one way that it can and will be widely read.

Lastly, I apologize to you, Arthur Sanchez, for the "mansplanation" comment. It was an irrelevant and unwarranted personal attack. As you can tell, I'm pretty frustrated by some of the reactions to this video, but that pejorative was uncalled for.

"Do people still not

"Do people still not understand that police states exist?"

I don't want to demoralize you, but no, people do not understand that police states exist. Being Puerto Rican, and being a doctoral student in a Latin American Studies program, I have a personal connection to this issue and I've also studied this formally.

But I can't say the same of my students. I can't describe how hard it is to stand in front of a classroom full of undergraduates who seem to be entirely unaware of genocide and state violence and try to make them care. From what I've seen both in and out of class, yes, it is surprisingly possible to not know anything about state violence, and regardless of your age, it's very possible to use your privilege to fill your mind with other things and not pay attention to the world around you. I can say this without malice because I pass for white and possess a certain amount of class privilege, and am guilty of having done so.

"I also think that the majority of M.I.A.'s fans have the same liberal, cynical, educated privilege that I do, so this video is really just preaching to the choir."

I don't know about that. I think you'd be surprised at many people listen to music without paying attention to it, and how many people have no interest in listening to music for its political content. I'd actually be willing to bet that M.I.A. has a fair number of fans who are oblivious to what she stands for. If women can listen to misogynistic mainstream rock and rap songs and then admit "oh, I guess I just pay more attention to the beat than the words", people can do the same with M.I.A.

"As you can tell, I'm pretty frustrated by some of the reactions to this video...."

Me too. Especially the comments that imply that the video depicts something that doesn't actually happen. And I have a hunch that if M.I.A. were a male artist, the video wouldn't be getting so many of those types of responses.