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The United States Secret Service is investigating hip-hop musician Eminem for alleged death threats against the president within — what shall we call them? — draft lyrics. That right there should be enough. I should need go no further. You’ll understand, not Secret Squirrel — as undoubtedly many enlightened Americans are hoping I was remarking upon — but the guys with the white-wire radios bulging from their ears, black patent-leather shoes and similarly black baseball caps, the ones who are fooling no one. The secret service. My word.

It’s not enough that we’ve by this point come to look pretty silly and boobish on the international scene, now our… What are they really? Sort of a national police force charged with maintaining the security of public officials, governmental offices, etc? Hmm. Our secret service is investigating a rapper for some politically motivated verse.

Now I’m certainly not the most appropriate to comment on this fiasco from a musical perspective. You see, I don’t like rap, hip-hop, trip-hop, what have you. Indeed, there’s not such a record in my collection. There may be a hip-hop fusion album, or perhaps one of those numbers that crossed over quite large on the charts, but it’s not a hip-hopster collection, certainly. In fact, I’m sitting here listening to a Pretty Girls Make Graves record while I write this. What do I know about hip-hop? It’s not that I don’t get the whole rap thing; I get it in large doses out the windows of automobiles cruising round the streets next my apartment. I just, and you hip-hop fans must forgive me, don’t like it — which is rather unfortunate as it puts me in sort of a quandary.

My circumstance would be like you, for example, if you greatly appreciated the genius of Mozart but couldn’t bear any of his operas. Or concertos. Or symphonies. Or ten notes strung together. Rap has been labeled “street poetry” and I’ll give them that and most anything else they want in regard to respect for artistic merit. I am, actually, completely impressed with what I see behind the scenes in hip-hop music, the talent, very timely verse, the ad lib manifestos that are simply amazing. But I’m afraid I don’t find the genre pleasant to my ear, in any sense, even in that unpleasant pleasantness that contemporary music can sometimes have. I’m sorry. I apologize profusely. It’s bothersome really, since I don’t have that same problem with, for example, my example: I appreciate Mozart’s genius and enjoy his operas. But Ludacris, Run-D.M.C., G-Unit: appreciate, yes; enjoy, no.

All this serves to getting round to the point that “street poetry” or whatever you want to call it has a place in the annals of human artistry — whether I happen to like it or not. And attendant to full accreditation as a form of art is some broad amount of freedom to express oneself, love, lust, joy, frustration, anger, malice, without meddling government authorities. Simply put, it’s probably just about alright for an artist to sing that he’d rather see the president dead than die for money. Likely not particularly threatening when taken in the proper context and with that rather largish dose of Haldol someone in the higher-up has been missing on a regular basis. I don’t think we need investigation by the SS (Oh, go on; but it is funny, though, isn’t it?).

You know it’s bad when CNN — been trying to play it so-so patriotic of late, they have — goes at reporting it as if it’s a lamed joke. One thing when they’re laughing at you through commercial break, but something again to see them laughing outright amidst the news segment. I don’t know how it played on FOX News as by doctor’s orders I’m not allowed to watch that network; but I’d guess FOX is at Defense Condition Whatever and Bill O’ Reilly has volunteered himself for some sort of super-double-secret secret service operative role. Agent O’ Reilly, undercover as 2Bill O’Shutup. Hmm. We’ll see.

But a humble wish from an American: Can we stop this nonsense? It’s humiliating. Really.

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About Martin Blank

  • Sandra Smallson

    Thanx for all your help guys:)

  • san

    “…like San says…”

    So, Sandra, I think if you know specifically what you’re looking for — as you seem to — I’ve given you the most half-assed, scattershot method of finding it while Eric has offered two certainly better procedures. If searching fails you, going at it by category and subcategory should yield what you’re looking for rather readily. Especially if you remember along about how far back it was.

  • Eric Olsen

    Hi Sandra, as far as posting goes, you have to join Blogcritics and get a password. You are supposed to have a blog to join, hence the name “Blogcritics,” but any kind of personal site is fine.

    There are three ways to search for old posts, all of which are archived and theoretically available: like San says, just put in a term or a name you are looking for into the search box at the top right. This only applies to post text, though, no titles or comments will come up in a search. You can also search by author by clicking “all posts by *author’s name*” at the bottom of each post, or you can search by category and subcategory the same way.

  • Joe

    Maybe he meant precedent, not president. That’s the ticket!

  • san

    Skip the M&MI5 bit; you didn’t seem to get it, but apparently you did.

    Eminem’s people held a press conference, I think; or made a statement to the press. I haven’t read that the Secret Service held a press conference. They likewise made a statement to the press. The was-or-not-was press conference isn’t the point. It’s the idea that the Secret Service would investigate that is ridiculous.

    And as far as looking up old posts, unless you’re a contributor with posting access to the site, likely the best way to dig for old content is via a search: top, rightmost corner of the pages. The more unique the post you’re looking for the easier it will be to find, as the search function can be a bit recalcitrant — at least to the point of for some reason returning everything you searched on *but* the post you’re looking for. [Actually, nix the part about contributor access. I just logged in and I don’t have any better way to look for old posts than the readers, unless they were *my* posts.]

  • Sandra Smallson

    Heh! err..did u really just go about explaining to me the whys and wherefores of how Mathers came to be called Eminem and the M15 in comparison to the CIA? I know I need to get out more for a variety of reasons but I am thinking you need to get out more too . I was not aware that Eminem was also referred to as M…besides, my comment was a joke..I was not taking a pot shot at you..there IS only one M(Madonna) but my comment was not meant as an attack on u.

    Regarding the Secret Service man..who told CNN before CNN chose to go ask the Secret Service? Like I said, I doubt they held a press conference.

    If eric or any long term members pass by..pls, how do I check for old posts that may not have been responded to in a while? I can only read the more recent posts..do the old ones just disappear after a while if nobody writes? Plus, are only a select few allowed to start new threads or post headlines? I can’t see any thing saying post topic, not that I have any topic to post, but I wondered.,,,

  • san

    “Please, there is only one M:):) This other fella is called Eminem:)”

    Okay, one of us has to get out more. I’m not sure which. Eminem is a phonetically spelled nickname derived from his initials M.M. Thus, M&M. MI5 is a British intelligence group; not really like our secret service; a bit more like our CIA as they are a mostly foreign rather than domestic service. But MI5 and MI6 are much better known than MI3 and MI4 — not that I can be bothered to remember what 3 and 4 do, anyway — and MI6, as far as I know, doesn’t exist, an invention of Ian Fleming or one of those countless spy fiction writers. Ergo, M&MI5. It was a funny.

    “I doubt very much the President’s men had a press conference informing us poor civilians that young Mr Mathers is being investigated.”

    From CNN: “‘We are aware of the lyric and are in the process of determining what action, if any, will be taken,’ said Secret Service spokesman John Gill.”

    Doubt away, but the Secret Service is, ah, somewhat less doubtful than you are about this investigation.

  • Sandra Smallson

    Phew! When I saw M, I thought you guys meant my dear friend Madonna:) To say I was anxious to read this, is an understatement. Please, there is only one M:):) This other fella is called Eminem:)

    Quite honestly, I do not know why people get worked up over that young man’s lyrics. I can’t even believe that after a few years in the business, they ARE STILL getting worked up over his lyrics. I guess millions of copies off shelves sold to rebellious teenagers and anti-bush campaigners. Job well done to whoever started the rumour. I doubt very much the President’s men had a press conference informing us poor civilians that young Mr Mathers is being investigated. Like they don’t have bigger fish to fry than some wanabee gangster. Brava! This publicity stunt masquerading as serious news sure beats working your ass off on boring talk shows and music shows and speaking to dumb interviewers.

  • san

    Yes, indeed thanks Dew for the verbatim. And I thoroughly agree with Eric that a “druther” is far off the mark of “I will do it.” And fairly far off the mark of “Make it so, my minions.” Even so, incitement makes more sense than threat. But I think if the secret service is going to launch investigations over inciting the public at large to do harm to the president, they may better start with the president himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rove, et al, before moving down to Eminem.

    Which brings up a bit of a thing: Are we yet to the point of specifically stating in discussions like this that we are having a bit of fun, joking, and of course mean no one, the very least the president, any harm? If so, should the secret service ring me up about it, I’ll answer straight away “Gulfstream V” — sure to dispel any concerns they might have over me.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Dew, I would say stating he’d rather see the president dead is a long way from threatening the president, but perhaps slightly more plausible would be trying to make a case for incitement. They must be bored.

  • Dew

    Actually the lyric goes:

    “F*ck money, I dont rap for no dead presidents, I’d rather see the president dead”
    (like you don’t know what the word is despite the asterich, that has always been funny to me)

    At any rate, I agree this is indeed a waste of energy by government officials. Although I am sure Sir Bill O Reily is pooping in his pants at another chance to clobber the Hip Hop community.

  • san

    Eric: it’s something like, and I paraphrase very broadly, “I wouldn’t want to die for no dead presidents [money, of course]/I’d rather see the president dead/…” So the draft work does apparently refer to hip-hop slang for money *and*, generally, perhaps figuratively, speaking, the death of the person holding the U.S. president’s office.

    It is a bit of unfortunate that they went after it like this. Perhaps the secret service just automatically freaks out when they hear “dead” and “president” in the same sentence. Just as many of us civilians automatically fall out of our chairs laughing when we hear “Gulfstream V” and “Air Force One” in the same sentence.

    Craig: okay, yeah, that is a nail-biter; both stories will probably be long gone from the mainstream news by spring. (RE: Pretty Girls Make Graves: great, great stuff; one of those bands that keeps our faith in contemporary music.)

  • First of all, props to San for listening to Pretty Girls Make Graves. Definitely a great one.

    As for the rest of this, I am trying to decide whether it is more or less embarassing than Dennis Kucinich as a candidate for president. Now THAT, my friends, is a quandary.

  • Eric Olsen

    San, I heard on CNN Headline news and they said the line actually refers to “dead presidents” i.e. money. The anchor said something like “I didn’t know what that meant before but now I do.” Doi-factor 10.

    It’s all pretty silly, that’s fo sho.