Tag: Middle East
by Ian Newman on Feb.22, 2011
On Friday 18th February 2011, four days after it’s existence was first announced and one day earlier than promised, Radiohead, a band known for their strident anti-capitalist stance, released their eighth studio album The King of Limbs online. This event occurred in the same week that protestors took to the streets in Libya, Bahrain, Yeman and Morocco following the fall of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubark, from power. The protests in the Arab world were to a large degree facilitated by social media networks such as facebook and twitter. One strategy the Egyptian government adopted in the final days of their regime was to close down the infrastructures that supported the internet; in spite of this protestors stayed in touch with each other using proxy servers in foreign countries. When Muammar Gaddafi’s government prevented foreign journalists from taking pictures of the conflict as Libya’s people took to the streets, videos appeared on YouTube showing the scenes the Libyan leader didn’t want the rest of the world to see.
On February 8, before the new album was announced, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien posted an entry on the band’s website saying “I have become increasingly excited over the last 3 months about the possibilities of this form of communication. Yes I am very slow out of the blocks. It’s in the arena of public protest that it seems twitter and facebook are increasingly the means by which popular movements throughout the world are able to come together and mobilise.” Radiohead self-consciously launched their album, which was publicized largely through those same media outlets that were enabling the revolution in the Middle East, into a world that was witnessing the power of social media to bring about political change. The release strategy was an unequivocal political gesture. The question, though, is what the politics of this gesture were. What does it mean for a band, whose success depended on the corporate structures of the music industry and the comodification of musical talent in the mid-1990’s, to simultaneously take up an aggressive anti-capitalist stance, while championing social media networks that themselves enabled the overthrow of political regimes that were most resistant to advances of capitalism? (While it is not always clear that anti-autocratic demonstrations are explicitly pro-capitalist, the repeated refrain is the desire for “liberty,” a term that in the twenty-first century has become synonymous with the freedom to consume; political liberty and economic liberty have collapsed into a point of non-differentiation). Continue reading “Bloom” »