hip hop music

April 27, 2006

The Reign of That Truncheon Thing

Okay now I'm sorry I joked about this before.. guess you really do need to watch what music you talk about these days.

Joe Strummer, Terrorist?

It really did feel like "London Calling" when I opened my e-mail April 5 to find an inbox clogged with a score of messages titled: "Man Held as Terrorism Suspect Over Punk Song." This was not spam but a news item from Reuters reporting that Harraj Mann had been detained for questioning by British anti-terrorism detectives after they received a phone call from a taxi driver who had taken Mann to the Durham Tees Valley Airport. The driver became alarmed after hearing Mann, a mobile phone salesman of Indian descent, sing along to the Clash's "London Calling." The lyric that triggered the cabbie's concern: "Now war is declared--and battle come down...a meltdown expected."

Released after questioning by British authorities, Mann fumed, "There's caution and then there's taking it to the point where it's absurd and ludicrous." Ludicrous indeed, and a chilling reminder that once again fear combined with the perversion of law has trumped rationality (not to mention democracy or basic civil liberties).

"London Calling" is a song about terrorism, but not the kind we have become so familiar with after 9/11. Written in 1979 by the late Joe Strummer, it describes the looming threat of nuclear catastrophe, environmental disaster, starvation and war. The threat or terror of nuclear destruction was something that deeply concerned Strummer because it seemed to him that some world leaders treated it as nothing more than a game. "You had Ronald Reagan campaigning on building up nuclear arms.... He said the West is losing the arms race to Russia, the 'evil empire'.... It was like toys to them or a movie where nothing bad would really happen," Strummer told me when I interviewed him in 2002. Sound familiar?

Posted by jsmooth995 at April 27, 2006 11:29 AM

Weblog Archives