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Home > Culture and Society

50 Centime

25 November 2005

Human violence remains a terrifying force in our lives - something that is part of us, yet is as incomprehensible and frightening and alien as the black depths of the ocean. Have you ever seen pictures of the things that live in said black depths? They're fucking mental. Fish with glowing eyes and transparent fangs and little arms. They look like they were drawn by mad children. And, in our hasty efforts to rationalise the senselessness of the violence in ourselves, we have a worrying tendency to take up our crayons and scrawl comparably batty pictures by way of explanation.

When we say 'we', by the way, we mean 'French politicians', and when we say 'ourselves' we mean 'the French rioters'. Oh, and the crazy-eyed deep-sea fish in this instance are rappers. Yes, it's all their fault.

A petition got up by MP Francois Grosdidier, signed by 200 of his fellow politicians, demands legal action against a number of slouchy hip hoppers francais for inciting racism, and thus violent unrest, through their lyrics. This is logical enough if you follow the principle that the simplest explanation is probably the correct one, and if you fervently believe that big pants = bad influence. Rather than consider that rap might help some disenfranchised souls scrabble together a bit of identity, the MPs have taken the simpler route of clutching their handbags to their chests and making things worse by pointing fingers at the gaudiest target. It's not exactly 'some Puerto Rican guy did it and ran away', but near as dammit, and it's about as helpful as applying a hungry Rottweiler to a cut knee. With fist-chewing inevitability, Grosdidier is suggesting that the incendiary music be banned from French radio, along with the word 'sandwich', which has always bugged the bejesus out of him.

It's laughable to suggest that complex and deep-rooted national problems are all the fault of musicians or other artists, if only because it doesn't make any fiscal sense; incite the youth to riot and get themselves incarcerated (or incinerated), and there won't be anyone left to buy your records. Tsk. However, there's enough of an iota of truth in the MPs' blame-deflecting argument for it to be sucked down by people eager for everything to be all nice again in the shortest possible time. Yes, music is powerful, and it can affect our behaviour in any number of ways. As the kid who blew his own face off because Judas Priest told him to would testify, if he had anything to testify with, the evidence is damning. Goldie Lookin' Chain alone are responsible for the bloody deaths of many hapless citizens, by people suddenly roused to homicidal rage by the incendiary inanity of 'Your Mother's Got A Penis'. But surely there are any number of more sensible reasons for the French riots for MPs to clutch at?


1) Disaffected youth feeling strange urge to somehow surrender to something need to orchestrate conflict in order to have another side to surrender to. Sorted.

2) Extreme frustration over inability to recapture escaped balloon.

3) Boiling-over annoyance at having to say 'some cheese, ham and some manner of butter or margarine type substance placed between two slices of bread which are then pressed lightly together to prevent the aforementioned contents falling out' every time after the banning of the word 'sandwich'.

4) The Olympics. Oh, yeah, *that*.

5) A sense of being failed by the government while gasping in the oppressive atmosphere caused by a disjointed society and... no, that's just *too* wacky.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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