What I like about Jello Biafra is that he’s punk rock’s own well-respected intellectual. He tours college campuses and gets paid (probably pretty well) to just talk about whatever’s on his mind or whatever he’s been reading lately, and people outside of punk rock respect what he has to say. And, the cool thing is that he’s got no real credentials except that he was once in a punk band (a punk band, by the way, who stole all of his publishing rights and, rumor has it, are now engaged in selling the music from“Holiday in Cambodia” to Levis for a commercial. Fuckers. But I digress).
When you really think about it and realize that Biafra went from “Too Drunk to Fuck” to the national lecture circuit, you have to admit it’s pretty cool. And, once again, his talks (Which he calls “spoken word”-- a phrase that’s so arrogant that I refuse to use it here in my written word. Stop me before I digress again.) are released in a three CD set.
“Become the Media” starts off with a campaign speech Biafra gave in response to his presidential nomination by the Green Party. It’s interesting in the sense that I agree with most of his points (which is very rare in the case of a political speech), and in the sense that he actually endorses Nader as he (Biafra) accepts the nomination. The only bad thing is that it sounds like a speech. Biafra sounds like he’s reading off a teleprompter, and if I wanted a presidential candidate who reads off a teleprompter...well, I don’t want a presidential candidate who reads off a teleprompter. Then he goes on to outline the problems with the WTO. It’s pretty one-sided, but that doesn’t bother me because I can’t conceive of the other side making a solid argument for reintroducing DDT on our vegetables, dolphin in our tuna, and increased monoxide in our air. But that’s just me. What do I know anyway? Biafra does a good job introducing the problems that the WTO represents, though. Then he goes on to give a hilarious, sardonic examination of school shootings and overall problems with education and suburbs in “Hellburbia.”
The second disc takes on computer technology in “Hack the Planet,” then discusses the World Bank and IMF. Again, one-sided, but again, I have trouble finding a rational argument that explains why thrusting half the globe into suffocating poverty is a good thing.
The last disc discusses genetically engineered food, the Republican National Convention, and Joe Leiberman and his extremely conservative record (including time spent on the “700 Club”). It ends with kind of a rallying cry against mainstream entertainment and media.
Basically, “Become the Media” is kind of a crash course in leftist or radical politics. Biafra is admirably thorough in his research, and, even when he’s not, his irreverence is enough to keep me listening. At times, he’s almost a cheerleader for his beliefs. At other times, he takes himself less seriously and it’s more enjoyable to share his beliefs. So there are some really good parts to this and some kind of weak or redundant parts, but all in all, I’m a Jello supporter. Fuck it, at least he’s one of ours. Hell, maybe he’ll even become the next Ralph Nader. Remember you heard that here, first.
(Alternative Tentacles, PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94141)