Friday, October 06, 2000

The Elemental Magazine Controversy

This rather long piece is a collection of articles and email correspondence about an article published by Elemental Magazine. I have reprinted the original article in its entirety without the permission of the author or publisher. If they want it taken down, I will remove it; but, unless I hear from them, I will leave this piece as is. I think the problem of homophobia is an important issue.

Elemental Magazine, a journal of hip-hop, recently published a dreadfully homophobic article. It is amazingly shallow, hateful, and, I believe, reflective of a dangerous trend with today's youth. I think this points to a real anti-gay backlash that is reaching proportions so epidemic that it has already passed into daily reality instead of an abomination, and there has been no pause at outrage.

I wrote a letter (email) to the publisher protesting the article, and he sent back a form-letter (email). Of course, just like any man put on the spot for hateful and destructive behaviour, the publisher is cloaking himself in the 'freedom of speech' argument. (How progressive, huh?)

I have responded to his form letter and await a response.

What follows is:

(1) The original article that appeared in the magazine;
(2) My letter to the author, publisher, and editor;
(3) The form letter I received from the publisher in return;
(4) My reply to the publisher's form letter; and

Please consider writing to the magazine and telling them what you think. If you agree with the
magazine's position, I'm certain they would like to hear about it.

(1) The original article that appeared in the Elemental Magazine:

ELEMENTAL MAGAZINE "underground culture" issue 22

by jamarhl crawford

Recently, there has been an increased advancement of homosexual ideals contrasting the family values rhetoric pushed by the moral majority establishment. in a short time, society shifted from no gay representation to oversaturation and inundation. blame it on that damn ellen, one of the more recent blonde-haired blue-eyed white girls to come cause confusion.

the gay movement has been thrust into the forefront and even frequently compared to the black power movement and the civil/equal rights struggle. homosexual people have equated themselves to black people in this country and seek to establish their status as a separate group. judging from the legislation being pushed for affirmative action, adoption, marriage, HMO sex change coverage, they seem to have the financial and grassroots support to pull it off. ultimately, the enviable term "minority" would be even-handedly applied to encompass black, latino, asian, indian and gay. isn't america great?

the trickle down theory dictates that eventually the duplication and assimilation that comes with homosexual integration into the mainstream would trickle down to permeate all aspects of society, and it has. we see it in TV and film, where he flamboyant or funny "gay" character is prevalent or when comedians & actors don drag for a cheap laugh, a cheap thrill and a cheap price. even for our youth, cartoonish lavender & green dinosaurs skip gleefully in homoerotic psychedelic fantasias with pink teletubbies sporting full triangular symbology. in music, we can't help but notice sisqo the flaming dragon, platinum blonde in shiny sequenced outfits, breathe fire while declaring his faux machismo with a hard, sexy and tough DMX like twan and blain in a men on hip-hop skit. hated it.

"wait a minute! they crossed the line now! you mean to tell me DMX is doing songs with sisqo!?! until recently, hip-hop had been safe, at least from all outward displays of frilliness. although there has been speculation as to the inclinations of LL, Dre, Meth & Red, DMX, Puffy & Mase, Latifah, Lyte, Queen Pen, Deadly Venoms, Brat, Q-Tip, Wyclef and countless others i'm sure, no one has "come out" so to speak. hip-hop seems to bite the government rap "don't ask, don't tell" although intelligent people know that homosexuality is behind the scenes in every genre of the entertainment industry. right now lesbian imagery is chic for all the videos and the powers that be are
well aware of the trends-- they should be, they set them and pass them to the entertainment industry who then pass them on to us.

homosexuality has been a part of their power structure as far back as it goes and today is no different. caesar could've been a label owner, king james a distributor, shakespeare a magazine editor and caligula could've been uncle luke and invented true bootie music with hip-hop flesh fests resembling roman orgies. hip-hop fashion is fixated on a homosexual dominated industry where Versace symbolizes the epitome of jigginess. in places like atlanta and NY i have seen gays in all the hip-hop gear, baggy FUBU jeans, Timberland boots, complete with frost bit limp wrists. i assume every extreme present in out culture is present in theirs. sellouts, militants, gangsters, etc. enter homo thugs adn homo homeboys.

i understand that every special interest group is clamoring to get a piece of hip-hop pie (now that it's popular) but can we draw a line somewhere in hip-hop or is it just comap come along now? the floodgates of racial integration in hip-hop have already been opened, but are we ready for the closet doors to fling open like "see me, love me"? can hip-hop handle a sexual revolution, especially a homosexual one? while surfing the net i came across Rainbo Flava, a gay hip-hop crew out of san fran who include white and black gays and lesbians. with aliases like Superdyke 2000 and allegiances to crews like the deep dickollective i think we are in for some shit, no pun intended.

somehow i don't think MC RuPaul would go over too big and i think the leap from backpackers to fudgepackers might be extreme. gay hip hop sounds as crazy as gay reggae ... it ain't happening. thankfully, hip-hop shares much in common with reggae and the urban environments of jamaica and america have bred Rudeboys and Homeboys who are very protective of their manhood. the boom bap aint' too far from the boom bye bye and for that reason i believe that hip-hop and reggae
will be the toughest battlegrounds from homosexual integrationists.

sources:>Sodom & Gommorrah

(2) My letter to the author, publisher, and editor:

Dear Matt Wright, Chris Hall, and jamarhl crawford:


I write to you after reading the amazing article "WILL YOU STAND UP FOR HIP-HOP OR BEND OVER?" from ELEMENTAL MAGAZINE "underground culture" issue 22, by jamarhl crawford.

Wow! It has been many years since I read an article that so denegrated so many people! Not since the era when people with brown or black skin were lumped together with syphilitics, rapists, thieves, gamblers, and drunks have I heard such narrow-mindedness espoused by someone in an allegedly alternative lifestyle (like hip-hop).

Maybe hip-hop, as I've always suspected, is just a very successful method of the white man to keep today's urban youths in check by convincing them that simple hatred, vulgarity and violence is an expression of their true selves!

I remember in the early sixties, when records of African-American artists were released with antiseptic pictures of young white couples, or sytlized text listing the tracks on the release, or, worse the Miracles record with the cartoon of a monkey; but certainly NEVER a depiction of the handsome African-American man or beautiful African-American woman singing the songs about to be purchased. During this time, it was impossible to know that there were men and women of color who were doctors or lawyers, or that there were remarkable historical figures who did not have white skin.

I have been a fan of American music for about 35 years. I grew-up on Motown and moved to the 70s glam scene (man, Labelle was a killer act), then the punk scene, then the rap scene of the early 80s (when it was vital, before it became such a sell-out genre), and today I struggle to listen to anything that rebels against the mediocrity of today's music industry (especially the crap being passed off as hip-hop).

I was raised in the Mission Hill Housing Projects in downtown Boston during the time when the projects changed from being predominantly Irish to almost-completely Southern Black. I never knew there were "white" neighborhoods, and I was spared the torture of having to listen to Beatles records, because all the guys in my neighborhood listened to James Brown, The Temps, The Impressions, Mary Wells, Aretha, The Supremes, et al.; and we all had those great 45s of The Esquires and The Capitols and Archie Bell. I guess the "whitest" music we listened to was Dionne Warwick.

The great thing about being a white kid in the black projects in the 60s was that I learned to live with many different kinds of people. Not all the black guys were the same! Imagine my surprise! I was fortunate enough to live through the remarkable violence and betrayal of housing project reality and to come out of it with an open-mind. I believe it was my deprivation and life outside of the mainstream that taught me that open-mindedness.

I am baffled! Why would a person who is proclaiming to be a member of a progressive/alternative community (hip-hop) espouse such intolerance and hatred?

The painfully obvious, simplest, and most often accurate, answer is "jamarhl crawford's" lack of confidence in his own masculinity. But, maybe "jamarhl crawford" is not a real person, just a pen-name for some anti-progressive dilitante passing himself off as a member of the hip-hop community. Or maybe Jamarhl Crawford is a real person who is an anti-progressive dilitante passing himself off as a member of the hip-hop community. It would make me happy if no "jamarhl crawfords," the purveyors of hate and intolerance, really existed.

Certainly, no one with any real sense of justice and duty who considers themselves an upstanding member of any community would lump together blacks, syphilitics, rapists, thieves, gamblers, and drunks, and never should such a person dismiss an entire segment of the population with remarks meant only to hurt and inflame.

How quickly history is forgotten. Unfortunately, we are doomed to repeat it.

The publication of "jamarhl crawford's" diatribe is a pitiful thing.

Good luck in your hateful little world.

Dick Mac (alive!)

(3) The form letter I received from the publisher in return:

Recently one of Elemental Magazine's opinion columnists presented us with a column that can be described as nothing less than offensive. We know now that we should have reconsidered printing the column in the magazine.

But, for the record, here's how it happened:

As huge supporters of free speech, the staff and leadership of Elemental have always tried to make the magazine a forum for radical thought. Hip-hop is a genre that has seen more than its share of censorship, and we aimed to avoid censoring thought at all corners. The author of the offensive column has been submitting opinions to Elemental for almost a year. His columns are often pretty radical, addressing issues of race, sexuality and government. He has never been paid for any of his submissions. While there have been readers who have been offended by his writing in the past, we felt it important to leave his columns unaltered, even though many on our staff have been personally offended by his thoughts as well.

Which brings us to his latest piece.

Elemental made an error in judgment when we decided to run a column which was so filled with anti-gay rhetoric and inflammatory ideas. In our effort to support free speech, we forgot that there is a line. Unfortunately, we crossed that line with our decision to take his words to print. We forgot that, although we label the page "opinions", the words are appearing in our magazine, and to separate the words from the pages is impossible. The feedback has been extensive, the criticism ranging from exacting to exacerbated.

In short, our young staff learned a big lesson. There is no anti-gay sentiment amongst our staff, and we truly regret having offended so many so swiftly. A little discretion is in order for the future.

Thanks, all of you, for letting us know how you feel about this issue. I hope you will accept our explanation and apologies, and continue to support this non-corporate, independent, grass roots publication.

For real,
Matt Wright, publisher

(4) My reply to the publisher's form letter:

Dear Mr. Wright:

Thank you for responding to my recent message to Elemental Magazine.

I wish that this sanitized, form-letter response to my concerns about Jamarhl Crawford's recent article in your magazine had done more than grasp at the straws of "Free Speech." This is an explanation (defense) most often employed by right-wing reactionaries, not progressives!

Everyone in America knows about Freedom of Speech. Using it in a discussion of hate and intolerance is like saying we must accept bigotry because the ocean is deep and the sky is blue. It is not a progressive or sophisticated response or explanation.

Mr. Wright, there is no editor that prints an article without reading it. Your editor knew exactly what he was publishing. It is also unlikely that you knew nothing of this piece. You are the publisher of this journal -- you know what is being printed. Ignorance is a lame, lame explanation. I believe that your staff knew exactly what they were doing.

If you were really concerned with Free Speech and the difficult dynamics inherent in our social structure that are raised by this type of freedom, you would have planned publication of Jamarhl Crawford's article in a forum which allowed for differing viewpoints. THAT is responsible exercise of Freedom of Speech. To limp away from this situation licking your wounds with a tongue that screams "he was expressing his opinion" is irresponsible, at best! Is there no staff member present capable of writing a sane couterpoint to his hatred?

You say that there is no anti-gay sentiment on your young staff. Well, that is wholly insufficent for a progressive oraganization that wishes to wear the badge of "underground." If you are "underground" your mission statement would include a progressive position about the rights and human dignity of all people and there would never be any questions about publishing the kind of filth that Crawford wrote; the culture surrounding your organization would not fester, invite or even welcome this type of bigotry.

What is the underground? You use the word "underground" freely, and this word usually implies thinking, action, and analysis outside of the mainstream, unless you are talking about the importation of sex-slaves and narcotics which is a different kind of underground.

Your response, this canned "Freedom of Speech" excuse which fails to actually express an opinion of forward-thinking and contradiction of Crawford's hate, is not representative of "underground" thinking or analysis. In fact, it is more in line with the demi-monde of crimes against humanity, such as trading in human flesh, than it is with any kind of progressive movement at any time in the history of humanity.

You refer to yourselves as non-corporate. Well, you obviosuly mean only that you are too cheap to spend the money to become a legally incorporated organization, because what you have published in your magazine and distributed in a canned form-letter response to the ensuing protest are more "corporate" than some of the biggest corporations in America!

Nothing in your response to my concerns even begins to address the problem. You are confirming a stereotype of your community as a virulently homophobic, mysogynyst subculture. Yours is a community that screams that it should be heard, that it is somehow outside of the mainstream, that its art is a more realistic expression of contemporary culture than that passed off by the media, and that it is a community of forward thinking progressives.

I am insulted that you think my reply to Crawford's dangerous article merits only a canned form-letter that couches your own inadequacies in a Constitutional Right to Free Speech. Unless you publish responses to Crawford's article and condemn his bigotry in the pages of your journal, I will speak out against Elemental in every forum I can reach, starting with Borders Books and Tower Records who distribute your magazine.

You must do more!

Dick Mac (alive!)

I had a passing dialogue with Mr. Wright. He asked that I give them a break and not work to undermine their distribution. I called Tower and Borders anyway. I told them I was surprised they carried such crap, but they didn't care, and I did not ask them to take it off the shelves. In 2003, I saw the magazine in a Virgin Megastore. I still don't know what is worse: that they carry the rag, or that I was in Virgin Megastore!