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Edward J. Lusk
What Goes Around; Comes Around
The basic idea of this research is to examine the way that culture, in particular, the way that the cultural component of popular music sets up contingencies that enable Backlash. To treat this subject, we will examine the correspondence between Contingencies and the Herd Concept as they are given an action frame by the music culture that expresses acculturation and thereby rationalizing the framing of the events that were the precursors to the world trade center [WTC] Backlash.
Backlash: What is it exactly?
The word, Backlash, was fixed in the popular culture in 1992 by Susan Faludi's Pulitzer Prize winning book: Backlash: The undeclared war on American Women. We will use her idea of backlash but wish to note that the concept is not inherently gender related. We offer the following definition of Backlash:
Backlash is the event that one group tacitly agrees to as the way to "even the score" for events which were perpetrated against it to which, at that time, that group was not capable of organizing a satisfying response. Backlash then has an action/re-action character that usually sets up a sort of perpetual motion revenge machine. Each group in this cycle is trapped by the dynamic; the long term possibility of each group extricating itself becomes more and more problematic over time.
We wish to argue that the way that Backlash works is rooted in Contingency and Herd theory. These theories help us to articulate the concept of Backlash as we see it operating in the WTC event. According to Child(1992), contingencies are organized around two events: goal formation and goal implementation. Contingencies are both the constraints and the facilitations that one perceives in the interplay between goal formation and implementation which eventually after some number of iterations form the final action plan—i.e. the Backlash event that evens the score. These events or contingencies which must occur in some sequence are Simon’s satisficing path to the goal. This is the first platform for goal attainment. However, sometimes the actions encouraged by the contingencies are not possible in the order or in their nature and so the goal has to be modified. The desired actions must therefore be delayed. In this postponement, one finds the beginnings of the Backlash. Herd theory is an integral part of the way that contingencies create Backlash. Herd theory (Scharfsein and Stein (1990)) was initially formulated in an economic modeling context but certainly extends to all decision domains where contingencies play a part in the formation of the action plan. The Herd concept works off of three principal variables, the number of agents interested in the goal achievement, their importance as viewed by the possible agents and the intensity of their actions relative to the goal attainment. It seems clear that the Herd idea is necessarily part of the contingency system in that the perception of contingencies, both the constraints and facilitations, is conditioned by the number of agents who are in turn conditioned by their reading of the cultural context within which the contingencies are established. In this way, the acculturation provided by popular music gives the “ marching orders“ i.e.—provides the context of the contingencies that creates the herd and that eventually leads to the Backlash event.
The Music and its Contribution to the Contingency Space and the Herd.
Let us now consider a small sampling from the music that we will argue set up the contingencies and motivated the Herd by orchestrating the background acculturation that resulted in the toppling of the twins towers, the devastation at the Pentagon and the loss of life as the third plane presumable headed for the White House was taken down by the passengers. The two poetic renderings that we wish to examine completely are: Eat the Rich by Aerosmith and The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson. In this short web version we will select a strophe from each.
Eat the Rich
Now they're smokin' up their junk bonds
And then they go get stiff
And they're dancin' in the yacht club
With Muff and uncle Biff
In this strophe the rich use of rhetoric underscores the message of the poetry. The narrator, Steven Tyler, uses the most often referenced stereotypical characterizations to rationalise the suggested violence against the Rich—recall the title: Eat the Rich. This is an extraordinary organisation of the imagery of decadence: He indicates that they (the Rich) are smokin’ up their junk bonds. This is directed against those individuals who profited through the infamous Junk Bond scandal of the 1980s when many individuals were selling unsecured financial instruments largely to unsuspecting public. When this financial scam finally collapsed, all of the individuals who started this financial chain letter had cashed in their securities reaping extraordinary profits. On the other side, when the bottom dropped out, all the life savings of the millions of small investors “ went up in smoke”. Also the smokin’ reference give the idea of the illicit use of controlled substances. The next verse indicates the excess use of alcohol by this rich. Then he offers another classical image that of the yacht club where fabulously wealthy individuals have their pleasure boats. The strophe finishes with the assessment that it is impossible to give advice to the Rich as the narrator uses the “Pearls to Swine” exasperation. This use of rhetoric suggests that the rich actually serve the same purpose as Swine(Pigs)—i.e., they serve only one purpose that is to be eaten. Pigs are the food often preferred by the common folks. The long suffering narrator, after offering a formidable list of issues and complaints decides to annihilate or eliminate this class of people who have not earned their wealth but have rather benefited by a random act of birth. These rich brats who have marginalized and ridicule the common working person do not merit being alive. This violent rising-up encouraged by the lyrics is Backlash in its purest form. Even though, these complaints are more in the nature of nuisances, the actions proposed are the fascist elimination of the entire class of the worth-less rich social parasites. Here one can image the enormous disparity in the actions proposed and the resultant collateral damage that these actions would create.
Consider now a second song of the 1990s offered by Marilyn Manson the name taken the self proclaimed anti-Christ superstar called Brian Warner. The song quickly and directly attacks the Rich social parasites addressed by Eat the Rich. Then the African American community is assaulted by the poetry—ending with the advice: Kill Every Mother Fucker that’s in Your Way. Then the music turns to the third group: The Horrible People—the group of rich exploiting capitalists who have set out to exploit and therefore marginalize everyone else thereby creating The Other. The narration leaves no question as to the proposed solution:
The horrible people, the horrible people
It’s anatomic as the size of your steeple
capitalism has made it this way,
will take it away
There is not a careful reasoning of the way that over time the problems that the narrator has with these groups may be dealt with. There are no individually tailored proposals for these three very different groups; No!—only the seemingly simple solution of Kill’em All. The same solution that Metallica offers in Kill’em All. They took this title from the battle cry of the end of the war in Vietnam where when the North Vietnamese, called the Communist North by the popular press of the day, who were suffering serious casualties due to the relentless bombing by the US, infiltrated into the South—i.e. where our allies the South Vietnamese lived. There was no practical way to target the North Vietnamese while leaving our Southern Allies unharmed. The solution—Bomb’em all and let God sort’em out. These samplings of the music blaring in the 80s and 90s we argue sets up the way that we, the USA, see the way to deal with our problems and ALSO provides the rationalisation of the way that Backlash can be effected—a sort of: Good for the goose, Good for the gander rationalisation.
The Action space: Where the WTC Story plays out to its inevitable tragedy.
In order to best express the event space as orchestrated by the avocation of violence embedded in the mood-music of the 1980s and 1990, let us consider the WTC story in context of Animal Farm—the example par excellence of Backlash. The story of the WTC really starts during the Carter Administration (1976-1980). Jimmy Carter, himself a farmer like Mr. Jones of Animal Farm, instituted a National Energy Policy to help the animals on the US Farm become more independent: our metaphor for helping the citizens of the USA to become less dependent on foreign OIL. This seemed like a good idea—except if you are an oil producer or dependent on oil such as the American Automobile industry. The powerful and pervasive US oil interests incensed by Carter’s “anti-oil initiatives” staged a revolt by slowing the delivery of oil during the late 1970’s thereby driving prices very high, which caused double-digit inflation, gas rationing and long lines of very angry drivers at the gas pump. The animals on the Farm were not happy. The Herd concept here is also at work in that the contingencies organised by the oil producing interests prohibited Carter’s plans to achieve their anticipated positive results. During this time of exacerbated frustration which produced a highly agitated and massive herd, Ronald Reagan, a Napoleonic incarnation if there ever was one and long time crony of the oil industry, campaigned against Carter, claiming that “Carter Economics” was destroying the way of life on the American Farm—the animals were listening. The backlash that starts the WTC Backlash was delivered with a vengeance—Jimmy Carter suffers the largest election loss in modern times! Carter is driven-off as was Farmer Jones after the animal revolt. The Economic Revolution and the resulting good-times-for-all promised by Reagan were about to start. Americans see themselves in the driver seat—literally. The oil begins to flow, interest rates fall, the long lines at the gas pump disappear, and every evil Carter Anti-oil Initiative is dismantled. “Reaganomics” with its oil industry support becomes the Economic Holy Grail. Life on the Farm is good. Then during the 1980s the well-oiled Reagan economy absolutely dependent on low oil prices starts to squeak. OPEC starts maverick behaviour, Iran starts planning a Pipeline from the Oil rich Caspian Sea area to the ports in the Adriatic. In the 1990s it gets worse. Saddam Hussein starts making noises about taking back part of Kuwait that he feels slipped through his fingers. The USA advises against any incursion into Kuwait. Saddam taking a page from the US music scrip of the 1990s metaphorically decides to piss on the lawn of the White House and marches into Kuwait. The Oil fields turn into the battlefields as the USA, in 1991, under the leadership of George Bush, Reagan’s torch bearer and former head of the CIA, launches “Operation Desert Storm” from Saudi Arabia who they have pressured into a very complicated partnership driven largely by the vast capitalist’s interests in Saudi/USA oil venturing. Many Muslims, including Osama bin Laden—a very rich Saudi and former CIA operative, view this as a punishable desecration of their Holy Soil. Operation Desert storm creates an “Us-Them” bipolarisation reminiscent of the Crusades. The Herd starts to form. Osama sees the contingencies as they are now in bold relief: The arrogant and powerful US starts to decide the strategic life of the Iraqis with contingencies such as no-fly zones and restrictions on what can be sold and imported. These controls put vast numbers of Iraqi children in medical jeopardy. The collateral damage of these young innocents becomes the abhorrent visible symbol of the effect of the actions taken by the omnipresent US juggernaut to control the oil supply so necessary to sustain the economic good times promised by the Reagan revolution. This grotesque Kill every Motherfucker who is in Your Way mentality encourages others to join the Herd against the rich controlling USA—now playing the role of the Pigs line and verse as scripted by Orwell. The Herd, the marginalized collective, hears the words of Old Major, Osama, who warns them about the horrible treatment that they are forced to endure at the hands of the US economic juggernaut fueled ironically by Arab oil. Osama realizes that it is all about Oil as he sees the Pakistani, Unocal and Delta Oil coalition move to realize their version of the Windmill—i.e. the Pipeline pirated from Tehran. He sees the horrible plight of the Palestinians who are children launching stones against the military might of the formidable Israeli US supported army. Is the plight of Palestinians to be the final end-state of the Arab world? The volume gets pumped-up dramatically when bin Laden decides to go to Afghanistan to set up his opposition to the increasing restrictive actions of the US as it peruses with self-interest abandon its oil initiatives to keep the life blood of the Reagan Revolution flowing. Thanks to the Soviet Union’s decision to downsize in 1989, Afghanistan changes from a Pipeline pipe dream to a real possibility. Ironically, seduced by the Pipeline possibility the US follows Osama into Afghanistan. However, Kabul is a political mosh pit. How can the Unocal and Delta Oil coalition build a Pipeline amidst such Chaos? The Oil interests need to partner. Enter Mullah Omar and his friends called The Taliban. They seem perfect: They Hate Iran and they agree to control Afghanistan and protect the construction of the Pipeline. After a long honeymoon period between the Taliban and the US Oil producing interests, it becomes clear that they cannot deliver on their promise of providing the security needed to realize the Pipeline dream. The Windmill seems dead. Things seem to be unraveling for the US. Their best efforts to insure the lifeblood of the revolution have been ineffective and really have only crated chaos and contingencies that find the Arab world listening to the words of bin Laden Words that are resulting in massive enlistment in the well networked Herd, which some are calling al Queda. Osama’s version of the US strangle hold on the Middle East is given context by the music of Marylyn Manson rationalizing the Kill all the mother fuckers who are in the way mentality, by Metallica’s Kill’em All recounting the way that the USA dealt with their problems in the Vietnam war era, and by the Eat the Rich rallying cry of Aerosmith targeting the intolerable behavior of the rich, decadent oil producing interests. Osama taking his cue form the context provided by this musical acculturation sets out to demonstrate the vulnerability of the USA juggernaut: The WTC: 1993 attack—but for a few badly connected fuses it could have been worse than the WTC: 2001, two US embassies in Africa are destroyed and the US Cole, a seriously armed navy light cruiser, is almost sunk in 1999. For ten years the US has been living out its musical accompaniment. At each turn, the Arab world has watched in horror as the US bullied its way around the Middle East. Now, the US looks vulnerable. The USA, in what can only be called self-destructive arrogance and myopic blindness to the profit motive has gotten fat and sloppy. The controlling Pigs are sleeping in the human’s beds, smoking their tobacco and consuming their alcohol. The Herd encouraged is at full strength and attentive to the possibilities. The fuck’em all music, the long duration of intolerable suffering on the part of the Arab world, the fat, decadent, rich, arrogate, inattentive Pigs so ripe, so ready to eat—it’s a bright sunny September morning, traffic is pouring into Manhattan, people wait for the long ride to the top floors of the WTC where they will begin their busy work day, not to far way at Boston’s Logan international airport planes take off headed for. . .