We received this response to Matt Hooper’s column “Tipping Point” from Nathan Barret, who runs the Spring Street Fire House DIY music venue here in Birmingham, and felt we should share it, and Mr. Hooper’s response, with you.
Mr. Hooper, My name is Nathan. I am a (very) small business owner in Birmingham, a musician, a Samford graduate student and a Birmingham Weekly reader. I am currently working towards a Masters in Education, with the goal of being a high school English teacher.
Today, I read your column titled “Tipping Point,” and found the points you made to be appallingly short-sighted and reactionary. Do you seriously believe these youth riots are due to loose parenting and pop music? On what basis are you connecting Kanye West with these riots? I have yet to hear any reports that the rioters were big Kanye fans. Your column is on par with media reactions to the Columbine shootings that blamed parenting and Marilyn Manson.
The one point you got right was the “eroding social mores,” but not as reflected in pop culture and in the education system. Surely it is not coincidence that this violence erupted just after the NewsCorp scandal in England and the debt ceiling debacle in the U.S. The English youth have just discovered that their media and their politicians are hopelessly corrupt. American youth are coming to age during a period of severe economic struggle and war with no end in sight. Our elected officials and our media have failed to offer any solutions. Hopelessness abounds. The culture of distrust and the disenfranchised is not limited to young people.
When we are talking about eroding social mores, let’s talk about those at the top who we have failed to hold accountable: corporate and banking executives, corrupt media conglomerates (Rupert Murdoch is still rich and powerful) and warring, stubborn elected officials. Is it really a wonder that these youths no longer recognize the relationship between action and consequence? When we pay out billions to the corporations whose irresponsibility and greed have dampened any future hope for young people to have good jobs and own a home, and then cut social programs instead of taxing the rich to pay for it, are riots that hard to understand?
You have no evidence to show what kind of parenting these young people had or what kind of music they listen to, and so your conclusions seem simply irresponsible. Furthermore your implication about the nefarious role of social media in this violence only brings to mind a similar role such technology played in youth movements in the Arab world recently.
Now, the youth riots in the West may or may not have been politically motivated, but certainly the underlying unrest is similar. At the very least, your representation of the value of social media is incomplete.
You are right, Mr. Hooper. Pop music is terrible. Education is important. This has nothing to do with outbreaks of youth violence, except in that education is increasingly less accessible in the current political and economic climate, and pop music has offered no outlet to youth frustration.
Hi Nathan, Thanks for taking the time to shoot me a letter. I really do appreciate it when readers interact with me. I’m also glad to hear that you are a Samford grad. I’ve got a number of friends that have also graduated from there.
I agree with you on a number of points. My intention was not to assign “catalyst status” for the London riots to musical artists.
Certainly that is more motivated by politics and economic calamity. Instead, my intention was to suggest that the violent reaction that these kids have demonstrated in the face of political turmoil and economic calamity is reflective of an increasingly violent pop culture. Sometimes word limits force you to shorten your arguments to the point that they can occasionally be ambiguous, and that may have been the case this week.
To that point, I think it was shortsighted—and frankly, a cop out—to blame Manson for the Columbine shootings. If you’re assigning blame for that, you would probably make a beeline for the parents. If the kids were stockpiling weapons in the bedroom, the parents should have known about it and stepped in before things got out of hand. Now, that’s not to say that music didn’t contribute in some way to the proceedings It would seem that the boys used Manson and others as a kind of soundtrack to their actions, which is disturbing, yes, but crazy people can twist anything to fit their motives.
You are right about eroding social mores beginning at the top. Vanity Fair had a terrific story several months ago—before the London riots, ironically—about the threat of violence rising due to a small percentage of the population holding enormous percentages of our country’s wealth.
As for social media, it’s a double-edged sword. It can be used as a force for good (as you mentioned, in the Middle East), or it can be used for bad (as we saw a couple of nights ago when a flash mob organized via social networking robbed a store in Maryland and when rapper “The Game” flash-dialed the Los Angeles Sheriffs dept. via Twitter). More and more people are beginning to use Twitter and Facebook to organize nefarious activities, and law enforcement is going to have a difficult time putting a cap on that while protecting the first amendment.
But again, this was probably a 3,500word column in a 1,200-word hole, and as a consequence that may have made me seem a bit, well, fanatical. The main point that I hoped to get across was that society appears to be devolving. We’ve gone from Shakespeare to Snooki, Saint Saens to Snoop Dogg. Insensitivity is setting in on topics like rape and sexual assault, in large part due to hip-hop culture, and I think that’s appalling. I’ve got a couple of very close female friends who have been raped, so the topic hits close to home. Too many parents are letting their children grow up without direct interaction and personal, positive influences, and that’s appalling. And, well, the cheating thing...that’s not limited to Atlanta. We all know that.
Anyway, I appreciate that you read my column and felt strongly enough to respond. I’m excited because next week’s column is about football...and well, things are just better when they’re about football, in my opinion at least.
Take care, Hoop