Pop cultural crime

Rating: NTwenty pages into self-appointed alternative culture guru Niedzviecki's muddled analysis of mass media -- TV and pop music primarily.


Rating: N


Twenty pages into self-appointed alternative culture guru Niedzviecki’s muddled analysis of mass media — TV and pop music primarily — this reader feels like one of Monty Python’s Gumbys. My brain hurts.

The thesis argues that “we” — call us Generation Whatever — have had our once-radical counterculture co-opted by the corporate entertainment conglomerate. What was formerly alternative is now middle-of-the-road.

Like, duh.

But, ironically — and irony washes over these pages like “finger quotations” — we still want to be part of popular culture, if only solipsistically.

To paraphrase Niedzviecki, we want to have our cake and eat it, too, but we’re not hungry.

He cites pirate radio, squeegee anarchy and zines — what he dubs “unpopular culture” — as recent insurrectionay developments in the war against The Man. Especially zines. Is it a coincidence that Niedzviecki, co-editor of broken pencil, has built a cottage industry out of reporting on marginalia for mainstream dailies like the National Post?

Niedzviecki’s knowledge of his subjects seems sketchy. Why mention John Oswald’s and Negativland’s subversive sound collages of the late 80s and leave out similar works composed decades earlier — the Residents’ Third Reich ‘N’ Roll, for example, and the comedy recordings of Stan Freberg and Nervous Norvous?

And I’m sure that Grandmaster Flash will be surprised to hear that the Art of Noise and Herbie Hancock invented sampling. Let’s be kind and attribute the author’s statement that 30 people died at Columbine High to sloppy copy-editing.

While Noam Chomsky, Jerry Springer and Malcolm McLaren are absent, Marshall McLuhan, whose obsolete, vague lingo is overdue for a serious academic overhaul, is referred to 13 times in this tome.

And check out this lightweight lineup of other pundits who reinforce We Want Some Too’s tenuous contentions: Avril Benoˆt, Ralph Benmergui, Betsy Powell and Evan Solomon. Whither Al Waxman, Leah McLaren and Gerald McBoing Boing?

Up against the wall, culture criminals!

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