Friday, January 30, 2015

A Conversation With Mickey Hess About the Life and Times of the Legendary Wu-Tang Clan Member Known as Ol' Dirty Bastard

For this, the second episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show of 2015, I chatted with Dr. Mickey Hess about the life and times of the legendary hip-hop artist Ol' Dirty Bastard.

Mickey took on the challenge of tracking down Dirty's family, friends, and fellow members of the seminal hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan for his new book The Dirty Version: On Stage, In the Studio, and In the Streets With Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Hess's hip-hop vision quest paid off with a book full of great stories and insights about Ol' Dirty Bastard (aka Russell Jones). In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Mickey separates myth from fact. How did ODB feel about fame? What was it like hanging out with Dirty's dear friend and fellow member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Buddha Monk, at a Houlihan's restaurant? How did Dirty's drug and alcohol use impact his art and life? Did ODB's time in prison lead to his untimely death?

Mickey and I also talk about ODB's unbelievable adventures such as lifting a car off of an injured child, crashing the Grammys, and of course taking a limousine with his family to cash their monthly welfare check.

It is always a great time when you can sit down with a fellow hip-hop aficionado. Dr. Hess was a great conversation partner.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, I also comment on the "ghetto nerd" goodness that was last week's WWE Royal Rumble event (with my obligatory thoughts about the Roman Reign's fiasco) and make a prediction for this weekend's Superbowl game between my beloved New England Patriots and the Seahawks.

This episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey Devega Show can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Have You Read Jonathan Chait's Newest Entry in the White Male Victimology Olympics?

Jonathan Chait wrote this laughably unreflective and dim series of sentences in New York magazine:
Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. 
Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old. 
It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.
His "left" can easily be replaced with "right" or "conservative"...and resonate with more bass and timbre.

Several years ago, a young man wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "straight rights" was supposedly waylaid and beaten upon in the streets of New York.

His effort at resistance via "truth-telling" was met with the most direct and transparent type of political action--a swift punch in the nose and a return to a state of affairs in which life is nasty, brutish, and short...except for the fact that he was not dispatched from this corporeal existence.

Of course, I do not support violence as a means of resolving disagreements over political speech.

Political speech is a call to action, an effort to channel emotion, and a type of claim on the nature of reality that is often both descriptive (how the speaker sees and understands reality) as well as normative (how the world ought to be).

Those claims and assumptions can be explicit or implied.

Monday, January 26, 2015

What Can Philip K. Dick Teach Us About Republicans in the Age of Neoliberalism and Cruelty?

"The Word ‘Android’ is a Metaphor for People Who are Physiologically Human But Psychologically Behaving in a Non-human Way"

Are you good folks in the northeastern United States ready for Snowmageddon? Are you hunkered down? Have you purchased the victuals you will need for the upcoming days of ice and hell, i.e. did you buy enough beer and other liquor to tide you over?

During these times of weather tumult my mom feigns a lack of worry with a flippant "it's all media hype designed to make money..."

Because of my mother's addiction to driving her car everyday and in all environments--however perilous--for mobility is a symbol of her vitality and not being "an old senile lady", I had to give her the obligatory "stay inside and be careful because I am not fixing your car if you wreck it" lecture. 

I will be watching some online weather video camera feeds of Snowmaggeddon 2015 to satisfy my envy of those folks who will have all that snowy goodness to enjoy.

And please, if you are in the crosshairs of this supposed to be epic weather event do be careful, make sure that pets are brought inside, call the cops on those people who neglect their animal friends in such weather, and do try to make sure that our homeless brothers and sisters have supplies.

In keeping with the previous "ghetto nerd" themed post, I would like to share this gem of an interview by Paul M. Samson with the legendary science fiction writer and philosopher Philip K. Dick from 1981.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Semi-Open Sunday Thread: Predicting WWE's Royal Rumble While Bill Belichick Deflates My Balls and U.F.O.'s Attack

As is our habit and tradition, do consider this a semi-open thread to share information and matters of public and private concern that you find interesting and important.

I have not done a "ghetto nerd" related post in some time. I would like to correct that oversight.

[The podcast has touched on that fun theme several times, most notably our conversation with Jason Colavito about ancient aliens and other matters, as well as an upcoming installment with Dr. Adilfu Nama, where will be talking about race, science fiction, comic books, and other related matters.

If you have not listened to my conversation with's Jack Hamilton about hip hop, popular music and the colorline, please do so. I think you will enjoy it.]

Tonight is the WWE's Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, airing from Philadelphia (the crowd should be really hot tonight, Philly is a great wrestling city).

The Rumble is always great fun. This year's card promises lots of excitement and surprises as Daniel Bryan has returned, Randy Orton is rumored to be an entrant, the Rock has been sighted in Philadelphia, and the legendary Sting will advance his feud with HHH before their inevitable match at Wrestlemania.

Of course, the three way match between Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, and John Cena will be epic--if booked correctly.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chris Kyle, American Sniper, and Christian Fascism

The popularity of American Sniper, the new biopic about Chris Kyle's life as one of the most deadly men in the history of the United States military, is disturbing. As I wrote here, American Sniper is war porn propaganda, and a type of public masturbation with Right-wing ejaculate composed of militarism, cruelty, history and current events bereft of context, and embracing worshipfulness towards a sociopathic killer.

The popularity of American Sniper is also an indictment of America's conscience and ethics. 

9-11 caused a type of derangement for the American people en masse. 

The movie American Sniper and the mass public's complicity and support for the vile deeds done in the name of the American people as detailed by the recently released C.I.A. "torture report" are wanton wickedness in stereo. The banality of evil was and is a condition not exclusive to the German-Nazi regime: it is very much at home in the United States.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Conversation With Slate Magazine's Jack Hamilton About the Notorious B.I.G., Hip Hop, and Popular Music's Relationship to the Colorline

I hope that you had a good New Year's and first few weeks of 2015.

The Chauncey DeVega Show continues in 2015 after a several week hiatus. We have some wonderful guests for the new year, the conversations already recorded, and quite a few planned for the future. 


To begin 2015, The Chauncey DeVega Show will feature two shows focusing on hip hop music. 

Our first guest for 2015 is Jack Hamilton. He is a contributing writer at Slate magazine, and also an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia.

I am a member of the hip hop generation. My own work focuses on race, hip hop, and the politics of popular culture. It is always wonderful to chat with a fellow traveler such as Jack Hamilton.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Jack and I talk about the life and legacy of the late, great, MC known as The Notorious B.I.G., the current state of hip hop music, the occasion of how many seminal hip hop albums are now 20-years-old, teaching popular music in the classroom, writing about music for Slate, the colorline and black music, and how/if the conversion from analog to digital has changed--in a negative way--publics' relationships with popular music, as well as the complicated role of the white critic in black music.

In this podcast episode, I also share my thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo Paris terror attacks and free speech, and offer some sharing about my recent guest appearance on the RT network. Of course, I couldn't resist talking about Chris Rock's movie Top Five...and my impulse to share a personal "top 5 MCs of all time" list, while looking for the fainting couch, as I am struck dumb by Rosario Dawson's beauty.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is a virtual bar and salon where interesting and smart folks doing interesting and smart things sit down for a conversation. 

It was a joy talking with Dr. Jack Hamilton.

This episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey Devega Show can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Thoughts on the Very Problematic 'American Sniper': Is David Grossman's Theory of 'Killology' and 'Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs' Racist?

I have mentioned and shared Dr. and Lt. Col (ret.) David Grossman's work on the psychology and science of killing several times here on WARN.

His theories about "killology" are fascinating and compelling. Grossman's use of examples and empirical data about war fighting and aggression are--to a semi-layperson with a more than passing interest in military history--very persuasive.

Dr. Grossman is also on the wishlist of future guests for The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Alas, hobbyist level knowledge is not the same as expert knowledge and direct lived experience on and with a given topic or subject.

To point. I was surprised to see David Grossman's work waylaid in a piece on about the mediocre war porn movie American Sniper and the valorization of the lying and psychopathic Chris Kyle.

[I must now add the qualifiers and cautions about Grossman's theories to the two conversations on WARN's podcast series where the guest(s) were guarded about some of his findings, as well as the chats I have had with an active duty Navy SEAL, and a Ukrainian sniper, both of whom saw extensive combat in Iraq, and were similarly less than effusive about the merits and explanatory power of "killology". They also cautioned me to be weary of the difference between "tabbed" and "scrolled" Rangers and the former's claims of military exploits.]

Michael Cummings' and Eric Cummings' criticism(s) of Grossman are centered on his recounting of an anecdote that has now become gospel in many Right-wing circles:

"I Have No More Campaigns to Run...I Know 'Cos I Won Both of 'Em": President Barack Obama is an Uppity Rude Rapscallion Negro Who Does Not Know His Place!

I am having some fun over at the Daily Kos. Liberal racists are such an easy crowd.

Near future plans: there will be a new podcast episode this Thursday. I also have a longer essay to share on Friday.

For the immediate present...

President Barack Obama successfully trolled the White Right in his seventh State of the Union Address before the United States Congress on Tuesday evening.

In my schadenfreude vision and hope, a member of the White Right shot at the cockroaches on the wall of his home with a pellet gun, while yelling at the TV about the evil Black President who "steals the white man's air" in their rage-filled response to Obama's witty quip.

Right-wing bloviators and their racially resentful and overtly bigoted public will howl--and will do so for the next few days--about the "disrespectful" and "rude" Black President (who to their eyes, introduced "petty politics", and "his arrogance", into a "sacred" American ritual).

As is their habit, for white conservatives and their allies, Barack Obama, who in reality is a very centrist Rockefeller Republican neoliberal operating under the guise of a Democrat, is a black rapscallion uppity negro who does not know his place.

And people of conscience and intelligence must never forget that the word "uppity" is an excuse for violence and murder when historically used by whites against African-Americans:
Although rape is often cited as a rationale, statistics now show that only about one-fourth of lynchings from 1880 to 1930 were prompted by an accusation of rape. In fact, most victims of lynching were political activists, labor organizers or black men and women who violated white expectations of black deference, and were deemed "uppity" or "insolent." Though most victims were black men, women were by no means exempt.
The plutocrat oligarchs laugh the whole time at the Vaudeville post-modern politics spectacle.

I know this to be true; I still allow myself, being the wrestling smart mark that I am, to enjoy the whole damned show, all the while I wonder what gems of truth and honesty about the Tea Party GOP and the White Right, more generally, that Obama will share some years from now in his autobiography and chronicle of his years as President of the United States of America.

What were your thoughts about Obama's State of the Union Address? Any insights, reactions, humor, disappointment, or the like to share and reflect upon?

Of course, what did you think of Obama's beautiful smile and damn sharp wink?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Never Forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was Hated by White America

Selma will likely replace the TV miniseries Roots or the documentary Eyes on the Prize in the obligatory Martin Luther King Jr. viewing rotation. 

Selma is a fine movie. It is also a product of the culture industry and racial capitalism.

While Dr. King is praised as American royalty in post civil rights era America, he has been robbed of all of his radicalism, truth-telling, and criticism of white supremacy and white privilege, the latter constituting a deep existential and philosophical rot in the heart of the American political and civic project.

The best way to kill a revolutionary or a radical is to give him or her a monument and a public holiday. James Earl Ray murdered Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. The milquetoast version of his radical politics as processed through the white racial frame and the American myth-making machine have murdered him a second time.

Ultimately, it is far easier to love a dead man. 

We cannot forget that Dr. King was hated by most of White America while he was alive.

Once more and again, racism is not an opinion. 

To wit.

Public opinion polling data from the 1960s highlights the high levels of white animus towards Dr. King, and the basic claims on human rights and citizenship made by African-Americans in the long Black Freedom Struggle and the civil rights movement.

Political scientist Sheldon Appleton offered this analysis and summary of Gallup polling data from King's era in an article published in 1995:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Would J. Edgar Hoover Think of the Movie 'Selma?': Semi-Open Weekend Thread. The FBI and COINTELPRO as Art and Literature Critic of the Black Freedom Struggle

I hope that you are having a restful and nice weekend. The weather is unseasonably warm here in Chicago. I will be taking my afternoon constitutional and feeding the animals who live near the lake some bread and popcorn later in the day.

My main task for this Sunday is to will the New England Patriots to victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The Seahawks will destroy Green Bay: the outcome is a given, one almost pre-ordained.

The question remains, if the Patriots overcome the Colts, will Belichick and Brady have enough tricks in the bag to take down the indomitable Seahawks Greenbay.

Who knows at this point?
the Seahawks.

Tomorrow is Dr. King's birthday and national holiday.

On that day, the American public will celebrate the empty and obligatory popularized version of a man whose work has been reduced to punchlines that all can embrace across the colorline, robbed of its radicalism and truth-telling through the intellectual and political pasteurization necessary for a person to become an American icon, and where the obligatory I Have a Dream Speech is flattened to make mainstream white America happy--King boldly held white America accountable for its sins, advocated reparations and affirmative action, and spoke clearly and directly about white supremacy and white privilege.

If film is like "writing history with lightning", mass culture has taken Brother Dr. King's radicalism, diluted it, and then spat it out through the tip of an eye dropper across American popular memory and consciousness.

Never forget: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an enemy of the state.

King's work and sacrifice are part of the long Black Freedom Struggle. As such, its cultural workers, activists, and leaders were the target of systematic harassment and violence by the United States government under the decades-long Counter Intelligence Program.

While it may seem absurd and comical in its excesses, the FBI and other domestic intelligence organizations operating under COINTELPRO monitored African-American art and literature for "subversive" messages, and also as a barometer for black protect activist and public opinion.

William Maxwell's new book F.B. Eyes: How J.Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature offers insights and details on those practices that (in addition to monitoring King's speeches and letters) included close readings of work by such seminal figures as Claude McKay, Sonya Sanchez, Richard Wright, and others.

[The visual of FBI officials reading Claude McKay's poems and then performing them at home is a beautiful one. The image of Hoover, a gay man who was likely black and passing for white, all the while he harassed African-Americans and the gay community is the worst and most pathetic way possible.]

Maxwell's findings are not surprising. The United States, British, and French used sophisticated propaganda techniques to manipulate publics during World War One. World War 2 saw a refining of the monitoring and control of mass publics through the mass media. The Cold War evolved those practices forward.

In the digital social media era, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, cell phones, email, and other technologies are observed and manipulated by the surveillance society. The difference? The masters of the universe and the security state have incentivized publics to share all of their most private thoughts and beliefs online. COINTELPRO and like operations once hid in the shadows; now, their heirs operate in plain sight with the help of a complicit, eager, and oftentimes indifferent public.

As is our habit and tradition, do you have any discoveries or thoughts to share about issues of public or private concern? Have any of you ever gotten your FBI file? Any activists with stories of FBI or NSA monitoring to share?

A provocative question: Are Hollywood movies like Selma the ultimate example of how the State and culture industry can transform political radicalism into acts of art as commerce that undermine the radical nature of people's resistance movements such as the Black Freedom Struggle and Civil Rights Movement?