(ed. Originally published December 20, 2013 – here!)
The very first frame reveals a rainbow, arcing triumphantly across an otherwise bleak, almost-monochromatic sky. We quickly zoom into a dusty, hillside village. Then – with another frenetic cut – we see a guard tower overlooking a foreboding fence. Shit, as they say, just got real. Real fast.
Jump cut to some deteriorating wheat pastes, weathered and fluttering in the wind as their aging adhesive loosens its grip. Another jump cut and we’re in a child’s bedroom – jumping again and again between apparent bullet holes, a map of Palestine and the handdrawn art that typically clutters kids’ walls; a sketch of a soldier getting shit on by a dove or a tank exploding after hitting an IED. You know, the usual things kids draw.
The pacing of these cuts, paired with the insistent, siren-like wail of the song’s intro, give “Multi_Viral” a sense of urgency. Any video depicting a brutal, ongoing occupation should be urgent and insistent. This one is. So, it got one part right.
Sadly, however, Kacho Lopez Mari’s video for Calle 13’s recent collaboration with Kamilya Jubran; Harvard-educated, millionaire rockstar “revolutionary” Tom Morello and Ecuadorian-embassy-ensconced, rape-accusal-resisting Julian Assange is fatally flawed by its own, unmistakable and counterrevolutionary narcissism. Thematically, the entire video is a representation of the struggle to – live out the fantasy of being Tom Morello, rock fucking god. Fuck that individualistic, hero-worshipping fuckshit and everything it implies.
I have to admit, I don’t know shit about Calle 13. Apparently, they have won a fuckload of Grammys – which everyone knows is as sure a sign as any of one’s truly revolutionary, artistic credibility. [/sarcasm?] I read that they are from Puerto Rico. I likewise read that Mari is, too. Jubran is a Palestinian. Assange is Australian (ostensibly.) And Morello is from the U.S. – specifically, Westwood, California. The international solidarity on display in this project is great – but this video? This video is fucked.
With over 600,000 views on YouTube since its publication on December 13th, Mari’s direction has proven adept at one thing: Virility. Combining a moving, almost-kaleidoscopic assemblage of powerful, revolutionary imagery with a rousingly anthemic track – “Multi Viral” demonstrates the importance of propaganda. And then, in the blink of an eye, it aptly demonstrates how ill-conceived propaganda can send a wholly loathsome message.
Let’s go over the linear narrative employed in “Multi Viral” so you can see what I mean…
The sleeping child wakes up. Nothing too groundbreaking there. Typical “wake up” imagery.
Then, he hurriedly grabs a book – which holds within it what appears to be an ammunition cartridge. As De La Soul once said, Stakes is High!
Okay, Mari – you’ve got me. This looks like some subversive shit. I’m hooked. I watch on as the young boy sneaks his way past sentries…
past other, subversive street art…
adds his own (anonymous) message…
and conspires with other young radicals to achieve their objective…
which, we will soon learn, was to fabricate a guitar that looks like an AK-47…
climb to a rooftop, and pretend to be… Tom fucking Morello?
That’s your linear narrative – make no mistake about it, kids: “Wake up, risk your life, get to the stage (by yourself, by any means necessary) and ‘rock the fuck out,’ just like rock god Tom Morello,” with or without a guitar that looks like a fucking Heineken advert (Red star on white with a green background? Am I missing something?). I half expected Morello to pick up a frosty beer and sit with the kid at the end of the video with a bag of Doritos and toast the “revolution” as they watch the Super Bowl.
I don’t care enough to go further into detail about how troubling this unabashed narcissism is (particularly when paired with Julian Assange – who is nothing if not a fucking wanna-be, global icon more consumed with his image than with affect), but there you have it. If you’re going to say “art matters” or “symbolism is important” or any of that fuckshit, then take a few fucking minutes to think about how a video represents messaging. Think about how individualism, or artistic achievement itself as it manifests individual achievement, is actually disempowering to others? Or how becoming a “rock god” actually might not be the goal of struggle itself?
The symbol of risking one’s life to enact a selfish fantasy of being Tom Morello for a day is as unmistakable to me as it is counterrevolutionary. For that reason, this “viral” video is bound to succeed – but bound to be thematically fucked. I mean, if I was a ‘rock god’ – trying to demonstrate what ‘solidarity’ might look like – I’d probably try for the M1 (from DeadPrez) approach, rather than appearing to use Palestine as a mere setting for my singular exaltation as the embodiment of revolution…
I could be wrong. I often am. Either way, I still say kill your idols.
Update! after doggedly pursuing “THE TOM MORELLO” on the twitters with this criticism of his hackneyed, counterrevolutionary and clearly celebrity-individual-exalting video – THE TOM MORELLO had this to say:
Overlooking – for a second – how fucking patronizing this could be read – we aren’t “fellow workers,” bruh. It’s almost like “THE TOM MORELLO” learned about class structure in a tent at Occupy? What are there – two classes?
Given that his revolutionary social club partner Boots Riley once made a similar suggestion – that “class” breaks down into a distinct, 99% versus 1% dichotomy (i.e. “workers” or “bosses”) – we can only suspect there is a shitty, oversimplified REVOLUTIONARY ROCK GOD boot camp somewhere polluting these celebutantes with such piffle.
Our thoughts on that: