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A few topics for contemplation


Nov. 6, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

I’m on vacation this week and am writing this column in advance so I’m afraid I can’t indulge my inner political wonk by blathering on about election results.

I will say this – you see, I can’t resist – it has been a very interesting election cycle with very interesting – actually bewildering – mayoral races.

I did have some fun being on the media panel for a debate in the Holyoke mayoral race. Insider reporter stuff: I wanted to ask “Who would win in a fight: The Incredible Hulk or Superman?” but I just didn’t think anyone would appreciate the humor.

C’mon sports fans, why riot?

So in the meantime, I’m looking at several stories that have confounded me of late. I’m not a sports fan, so I hope my readers who are can explain to me why some of the students at the University of Massachusetts thought it was an appropriate response to commit acts of violence to celebrate the Red Sox winning the World Series.

Granted this isn’t a new phenomenon. This kind of behavior has been happening for years, but I can’t make the connection between joy and throwing beer bottles.

What would they have done if the Red Sox had lost?

Is there a color line in music?

Staying in Hampshire County a bit, I also didn’t comprehend the reason behind the cancellation of an Afrobeat band called Shokazoba.

Apparently the band is comprised of people with a variety of racial backgrounds. According to the official statement from Hampshire College, “On an online event site, some members of our student community questioned the selection of one band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band and expressing concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures.”

The statement continued, “The decision by student planners not to have the band perform was not based on the band’s racial identity. It was based on the intensity and tone that arose on the event’s planning site on social media, including comments from off campus that became increasingly aggressive, moving from responses to individual student voices to rude, and at times unsettling, remarks. Tensions grew and students felt they were being unfairly characterized and disparaged. The aggressiveness and tone of social media posts were discussed during the meeting late Thursday afternoon between student organizers of the event and the students who had initially raised questions and felt concern about what had transpired.”

Wow. So, white people can’t play Afrobeat? So was Ray Charles wrong to release his celebrated country tracks? Is jazz, a product of Americans of color, off limits to white musicians? Should Yo Yo Ma not perform the work of classical European composers?

Shouldn’t we judge music on the basis of the artists and their work? What the hell are they teaching these kids at Hampshire College?

I saw Anna Popovic, a great blues performer, at the Stearns Square concert this summer. She’s from Serbia. Would the Hampshire twits have banned her, too?

We’re not much better

The landmark broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” reached its 75th anniversary this year. If you’ve never heard this production from Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater, it still packs a considerable punch.

Naturally I think many people today are shocked to learn of the way many people accepted what they heard on the radio as truth.

We’re not too much different today. Remember the viral marketing of “The Blair Witch project?” The highly effective initial website had many people convinced that it was a genuine supernatural occurrence.

Of course, it was just a movie.

For my money, though, Facebook proves that little has changed. Every day there are a variety of political memes and quotes that people pass along with their horrified or angry comments. I always wonder why they accept this information at face value? Why not check its veracity before re-posting it?

Perhaps that is asking too much.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.



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