Hip Hop Fridays: Columnist Jason Alston Responds to Hans Zeiger Re: "The Leftists From Hell"
The media's attacks on hip-hop have traditionally been hysterical, uninformed, and one sided. Now, thanks to "Seattle Times" columnist Hans Zeiger, we can add un-American to that list.
Zeiger's recent column demonizing the art of hip-hop goes far beyond the typical "oh my God, the kids will hear this and shoot up their schools" style panic. In his column, Zeiger actually has the nerve to suggest that fans of hip-hop music aren't worthy of their right to vote.
Zeiger made his bigoted remarks in response to the Hip-Hop Summits that are taking place around the country. The goal of these Hip-Hop Summits is to register young hip hop fans to vote and get them interested in politics in time for the November elections. In what I find to be a very pro-American move, the summits are encouraging hip-hop fans between the ages of 18-30 to get off their tails and take an active role in the functioning of our American government.
But the un-American Zeiger has a problem with members of the hip-hop culture actually exercising their right to vote and finds it a shame that nearly 250,000 young people have registered to vote as a result of the summits. In his column, Zeiger states that, "Voting is not meant to be cool for gangster rappers, or hip for the young, or unconscious of its heritage." Here, Zeiger displays an elitist mindset that the power to vote should be limited to folks who have squeaky-clean backgrounds and the benefit of the best education.
Zeiger is even bold enough to state that the summits are nothing more than, "an effort to register young gangstas to vote." Here, Zeiger makes the gross assumption that fans of hip-hop music are all hoodlums and degenerates. On the contrary, there are hip- hop fans from every walk of life and most of the young people who listen to hip-hop music and attend these summits are not involved in criminal activity.
To back up his unpatriotic belief that hip-hop fans should be denied their right to vote, Zeiger employs the typical technique of attacking the artists, specifically those artists who are slated to speak at the summits.
Not a fan of hip-hop himself, Zeiger likely relies on google searches to look up the most offensive lyrics of the artists he attacks so that he can plug those lyrics into his column and use them to prove his points. This style of attack is always misleading. For instance, Zeiger uses three Eminem lyrics to make the rapper look like a violent, raving lunatic. The problem here is that I could use three quotes from Em to make him appear to be a loving father and an artist with a genuine interest in the well being of his fans.
Using this quote from his album "Infinite," I can even try to convince people that Em is a devout Christian. On "Infinite," Em says, "But in the midst of this insanity/ I found my Christianity/ Through God and here's a wish he granted me/ He taught me how to cope with the stress/ and hope for the best/ instead of moping depressed."
Eminem is neither a raving lunatic nor a devout Christian, but to understand this, one must be acquainted with a full survey of Em's music and his life story, not just a few quotes from his commercial albums.
Zeiger also uses the quote-the-most-offensive-lyric technique to demonize the group Bone Thugs-n-harmony. This leads him to quote a satanic line from the song "Hell Sent." But Bone wrote "Hell Sent" over a decade ago while they were still teenagers. Now in their early 30s, the Bone Thugs have matured a bit; their last album, 2002's "Thug World Order," contained only a few references to violence. "Thug World Order" did however contain two songs dealing with spirituality and dependency on God, as well as two songs encouraging youths to stop being lazy and work harder, which legitimizes their appearance at the summit.
Zeiger groups these and other artists at the summit under the label of "gangsta rappers." Included in this grouping is the uplifting lyricist Reverend Run from the legendary group Run-D.M.C. The fact that Zeiger would actually refer to Reverend Run as one of the "top-40 bards of Sodom and Gomorrah" proves that he lacks even basic knowledge of the history of hip hop and is in no way prepared to judge the art form or its fans.
Zeiger also attacks Reverend Run's brother, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Simmons founded the Hip-hop Summit Action Network in 2001 as a way of mobilizing at-risk youths and helping them channel their discontent for society into positive social action as opposed to crime and apathy. But Zeiger doesn't seem to understand this and refers to Simmons' logic as, "twisted social thinking." Zeiger apparently thinks at-risk youths would be better off if the criminal behavior and social apathy that they're prone to (and were prone to long before the appearance of gansta rap in the late 80s) were allowed to fester unchallenged. Now that's "twisted social thinking."
After an entire column of deliberately deceiving material, and the assertion that the politics of the Hip-hop Summit Action Network are, "leftist, but we're talking the left side of hell," Zeiger completely unravels his un-American agenda, one conjured up in the right side of hell. In the closing paragraph of his column, Zeiger states that, "Voting is a great privilege to be entered into only by citizens who understand the gravity of the issues they hold in their hands."
This is completely un-American and completely untrue. Voting and participation in American politics is the right of any American citizen who is at least 18 and not a convicted felon. It doesn't matter how aware or unaware of the issues you are, or what kind of music you listen to, or even how mainstream or far-out your personal beliefs are, if you are at least 18 and not a convicted felon, it is your right, even your duty, as an American citizen to participate in the election process.
In his close, Zeiger says, "thank the Devil that Eminem's fans are being registered (to vote)." That's completely uncalled for. If Zeiger finds fans of Eminem despicable, that's his business. But no matter how despicable he may find them, most of Em's adult fans are law-abiding citizens who deserve their right to vote.
I myself find the white-supremacist National Alliance to be a despicable bunch. But I'd never insist that law-abiding National Alliance members shouldn't be voting and it's the work of Satan that they are. The American election process is designed, at least in theory, to ensure that all law-abiding, adult citizens of this country can be heard. America's election process also tries to see to it that cooler heads prevail and dangerous people stay out of office. That's what makes America great and I wouldn't have it any other way. As a "conservative activist," you'd think Zeiger wouldn't want it any other way either.
Oh well, at least Zeiger's comments gave me a chance to use all this "un-American" jargon against a conservative; they've been using it against us liberals for years. Hip-hop fans, Zeiger's comments should illustrate how important and significant your right to vote is. So please, be ready to cast a ballot this November.
Jason Alston is Youth Columnist with The Henderson Daily Dispatch in Henderson, NC.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com
Friday, August 6, 2004