Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do The Harlem Shake...Con Los Terroristas!

This is a compilation video which traces the evolution of the meme and features some of the best Harlem Shake videos. This meme has become an immense viral phenomenon, with some people loving it, some people hating it, and many others left bewildered.

Perhaps several lines from the Herman Hesse novel, Steppenwolf, can help explain the appeal of what appears to be a collective catharsis or a trance in which the music takes over the mind and the body and everybody joins together in uninhibited expression and lets go. Hesse wrote about "the intoxication of a general festivity, the mysterious merging of the personality in the mass, the mystic union of joy," as well as, "I myself breathed the sweet intoxication of a common dream and of music and rhythm."

For me, the most astonishing aspect of the viral phenomenon is the phrase which is blurted out in a high pitched voice at the very outset of the song and repeated within the first thirty seconds, "Con los terroristas!" As well as the fact that while there has been much discussion about the Harlem Shake phenomenon, very little of it has been about this phrase or its meaning. Among the most prominent search results regarding this meme, Know Your Meme, The Huffington Post, and CBS news don't even mention it. The Fader has a very brief discussion regarding it, but does not discuss its meaning. Baauer is apparently not discussing it either.

Is the monolingualism of Americans so bad that dozens of millions of people have viewed these videos, and thousands have particpated in the making of them, including universities, large companies such as Pepsi, media organizations such as Facebook, Anderson Live, The Jimmy Fallon Show, as well as the army, navy, and marines, without realizing the meaning of the expression, "Con los terroristas?"

Is it not highly ironic that American military personnel who are engaged in a "war on terrorism" are frolicking about with wild abandon to a song which prominently features the expression, "Con los terroristas?" Does it not contradict their stated objective of combatting terrorism and undermine the image of the armed forces which top military commanders, including the President himself, would like to project?

Is it not ironic that media outlets who sold Americans on the logic of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as a means to combat and prevent terrorism completely overlook this phrase in their discussions of the meme?

Out of the hundreds of thousands of words in the Spanish language, and millions of words in other languages, Baauer chose to use a sample which when translated to English means, "With the terrorists!" To further consider how subversive the use of this sample is, imagine a club full of people who when this song comes on, cheer and chant the phrase, "Con los terroristas!" then proceed to dance their brains and asses off. Or a free outdoor festival which features djs in which this song gets played, and a chorus of thousands of people bellows out, "Con los terroristas!" after which the crowd goes crazy.

While Americans may be limited by their monolingualism, the rest of the world is less so. Millions of Americans may not know what the meaning of the phrase is, but people throughout the rest of the world may find themselves reveling in a symbolic yet conscious act of subversion and defiance against the policies of the United States, and its President, who for many is barely distinguishable from the terrorists which he claims to be combatting and freeing the world of, due to his authorization of drone strikes which kill innocent civilians including women, children, and first responders who were merely assisting victims of the initial strike.

Some people may suggest that the words are meaningless. Yet a google search for "Which artist did Baauer sample on the Harlem Shake," demonstrates that people in fact attribute a lot of importance to words. The search turns up numerous discussions and links regarding the line, "Do the Harlem Shake, " attributed to Jayson Musson, which is delivered in a low, nearly imperceptible tone, whereas the line, "Con los terroristas" is high pitched and nearly impossible to miss. Some of these discussions go so far as to suggest that the Baauer song is about graffitti or that Jayson Musson himself, is the reason why people are dancing to The Harlem Shake.

I believe in, and have observed on occassion, the subconscious expression of sexual desire, and similarly believe in the subconscious expression of rebellion. I find it an intriguing possibility that the Harlem Shake viral phenomenon is a manifestation of a massive subconscious rebellion against the so called war on terrorism as articulated, constructed, and executed by the American government, which has led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives, trilliions of dollars, and have led the American government to legally justify physical torture and the extrajudicial execution of American citizens.

In an article titled, The Massacre of the Afghan 17 and the Obama Cover-Up, whose topic was selected as the 23rd most censored story by Project Censored for 2012, author James Petras discusses the implausibility of the official U.S. government story that a single deranged gunmen, Robert Bales, acted alone in the massacre of 17 Afghan villagers in Kandahar province on March 11, 2012, and the possibility that Barack Obama has conspired with the US military command to cover up the facts and hide the true nature of the war in Afghanistan.

Regarding the American troops, Petras writes, "They are engaged in a long, losing war where every dead US soldier is accompanied by scores who are maimed, blinded and mentally traumatized. In Obama's war, the wounded are patched up and recycled back into the same meat grinder in an increasingly hostile environment."

As to Obama's motivations for participating in the cover-up, Petras writes, "Obama has to conspire with the Pentagon in covering up this mass murder, defending the officers in charge of these 'pacified' villages, because there are no alternatives, no back-ups, no new recruits eager to engage in the 12th year of war in Afghanistan.There are only the re-cycled killers, willing to pursue their career in 'Special Forces' involving 'kill and destroy' operations...President Obama cannot allow an entire garrison, including their commanding officer to be put on trial for the war crimes in this massacre. Holding anyone, besides the hapless Sgt. Bales accountable for the massacre would incite a general rebellion within the armed forces."

Petras ends the article by writing, "Clearly prolonged colonial wars cannot be sustained through the consent of the citizens and such wars cannot be prosecuted according to military manuals and the Geneva Conventions. At this point, only Presidential 'rule by decree' can secure compliance of the citizens at home and only massacres and cover-ups can sustain the colonial occupations abroad. But these are desperate and temporary: When the extreme measures have run their course there will be nothing to fall back on and nothing can save the president of a collapsing empire from the revolt of its citizens and soldiers."

Since September 11th, 2001, I have been of the conviction that war as a response to terrorism is illogical and unjustifiable. It is a point of view that is rarely expressed in traditional media outlets. I believe it is a conclusion which Americans must collectively arrive at if we are to ascend above the military, economic, and moral quagmire we find ourselves in.

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