A while back my dear mother wrote a paper for a conference on media and culture. The topic she chose was essentially on how pop culture quiets the general public by selling them escapist fantasies and distraction.
Here’s the abstract. Despite all the big college words, I think it does a great job in diagnosing part of what’s wrong with the world these days.
“One nation under god”: Big Meech, Larry Hoover & Co.
This paper, an exercise in althusserian interpellation, will explore instances in the evolution of the spectacular, negativist use of one basic dimension of citizenship, solidarity, within the premises of the contemporary popular culture industry. The claim is that the marketing emphasis on the romantic, revolutionary aura of the concept of solidarity, associated historically with social positivism, has been gradually and constantly demoted in favor of an aggressively marketed circuitous/deconstructive variation, that of transgressive, illicit, ludic resistance. This would describe the copious entertainment simulacra of individualistic subversiveness relentlessly offered through the symbolism of organized crime. The focus will be placed on the discreet reinforcement of jingoistic spectatorial identification underlying the mainly ethnic or racial contextualization, as illustrated by the recurrent “American Gangster” entitling: the 1992 documentary on the “pioneers” of gangster stardom (like Al Capone, John Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and Bugsy Siegel); the 2007 feature about Harlem crime boss Frank Lucas, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe; and the ongoing BET documentary series on African-American gangster activity, including references to criminal organization -like the Philadelphia Black Mafia, Big Meech’s Detroit-based Black Mafia Family (a.k.a., BMF), and Larry Hoover’s Black Gangster Disciple Nation-, and also to J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I. The “jingoistic” aspect will be addressed through references to the military connections of some of these cases, like Frank Lucas’ business base in war-era Vietnam and the presence of Black Gangster Disciples as active members of the U.S. army in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reference will also be made to the music video industry’s eruditely nostalgic, and profusely lyrical echoing of the activities and images of these criminal figures and organizations, as would be the case with Rick Ross’s “Blowin’ Money Fast (B.M.F.)” -quoted in the title of this proposal-, and Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag”. The assessment of this cultural/industrial evolution will be performed mainly in light of Guy Debord’s concept of spectacular society, as articulated in COMMENTS ON THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE, whereby, at the integrated level, the mafia stands as the model for all advanced commercial enterprises. (Maybe some reference to the just released THE AMERICAN will also be made.)
Leland, John, “Gross National Product: The Heroin Trade’s New Face” (THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 29, 2006).
Shaloup, Mara, BMF: THE RISE AND FALL OF BIG MEECH AND THE BLACK MAFIA FAMILY (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010).
Jackson, Jr., John L., RACIAL PARANOIA: THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS (New York: Basic Civitas, 2008).
Parenti, Michael, LAND OF IDOLS: POLITICAL MYTHOLOGY IN AMERICA (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994).
Parenti, Michael, DEMOCRACY FOR THE FEW (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995).
Barber, Benjamin R., CONSUMED: HOW MARKETS CORRUPT CHILDREN, INFANTILIZE ADULTS, AND SWALLOW CITIZENS WHOLE (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007).