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Eminem vs. Bush:


Eminem has gone way beyond Rockin’ the Vote. In this last week of the campaign for the U.S. presidency, the abrasive, over-the-top rapper has stolen the show with a provocative, disturbing, and possibly galvanizing music video denouncing George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. The song, Mosh, and its dark and angry video take dead aim at the hypocrisy and lies of the present U.S. administration.

Mosh may indeed represent a call to arms for the ‘MTV generation.’ The song bristles with the rage we’ve come to expect from Eminem. Rather than lash out with misogyny and homophobia, however, for a change the notorious Marshal Mathers points his fury at a worthy target, “this weapon of mass destruction that we call our president.”

Given that the United States is perhaps the most celebrity-obsessed society in history, it comes as no surprise that the stars have been out in full force as the election comes down to the wire. Action heroes Mel Gibson and Arnold “the Governator” Schwarzenegger have been pumping up Bush, the former symbolic of the lethal weapon of Christian fundamentalism at the base of the Republican party, while the latter represents –incredibly! – the moderate (or girlie-man?) face of the GOP.

Much of the Hollywood A-list, meanwhile, and their music industry counterparts, have been enlisted to bolster the rather uninspiring candidacy of John Kerry. From unlikely politico P. Diddy and, to veteran liberals like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins in the Anybody But Bush camp, much of the entertainment establishment is urging the ouster of George Bush. And Kerry’s working his celebrity support for all its worth. On Thursday, October 28, Bruce Springsteen performed at the opening of an 80 000-strong rally in Madison, Wisconsin, imploring America to make Kerry their Boss.

Eminem’s pseudo-endorsement of John Kerry, though, was very much unsolicited. Mosh, superficially anti-Bush, is above all an indictment of the U.S. war in Iraq:

Let the President answer on high anarchy Strap him with AK-47, let him go Fight his own war, let him impress daddy that way

No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our soil

Not exactly “on message” for the Democratic campaign, which is pledging to win the occupation of Iraq, and fight a stronger war on terror. Eminem also slips in a line about bringing the troops home; Kerry’s line on the campaign trail has been about strengthening the war effort by sending more troops.

The video, almost exclusively animated, features Eminem as the “pied-piper,” calling forward a growing army of disaffected Americans to march through the streets. Their uniform is a dark hoodie. The angry young army’s ranks are swelled by a cross-section of America’s downtrodden and marginalized. A young Black man, for instance, pulls on his hoodie after being terrorized by racist cops. A soldier returning from Iraq joins Eminem after receiving his redeployment. A Latina takes to the streets, fist in the air, after receiving an eviction notice for her young family, while in the background Bush promotes his tax cuts for the rich on T.V.

Eventually the mob ends up at their destination, descending on what looks like a gala fundraiser for the incumbent president. Rushing into the building, it turns out their destination is…a polling station. The screen then fades to black and the video concludes with the simple instruction to “Vote, November 2.”

But, you can see the video for yourselves, as long as it stays on the airwaves. As of Friday, on Canada’s MuchMusic, Mosh was winning the Much-on-Demand vote, but the station appeared to be running with a slightly censored version, the shot of a knife through the head of a photo of Bush having been omitted. Also on Friday, the president’s campaign was blessed with a video contribution from an old collaborator that, according to the pervasive army of talking-head pundits, will give a last-minute boost to Bush. Yes, just as Eminem was preparing to bash the Republicans on the popular comedy show Saturday Night Live, Osama bin Laden released his own controversial video. “Trick or treat! Elect Bush, so I can keep up this flow recruits.” Quite a piece of timing, as they say.

Mosh goes way beyond most of the shallow attempts to reach, and to motivate, the much-vaunted “youth vote.” There are certainly elements of pure egomania and self-promotion at play in Eminem’s decision to make this video. And, certainly, an anti-war video in no way excuses or diminishes the vile anti-woman, anti-gay lyrics for which he has become renown.

But Eminem didn’t have to make this video to shock, appal, and make him richer. I submit that Mosh is a reflection of the extent that anti-war sentiment is percolating throughout American society, and particularly amongst young working class people, the cannon fodder of the war for oil and Empire in Iraq.

The so-called MTV generation, that generation of Americans thus far so scattered and largely apolitical, may finally be taking the stage of history. To do so, they’ll need to keep heeding this call to arms far beyond November 2.

Derrick O’Keefe is an activist and writer based in Vancouver, Canada, and a founding editor of the on-line publication Seven Oaks Magazine (www.SevenOaksMag.com)

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