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Sonic Dissidents 

Stop Bush! Stop the Republicans! Slackers unite: It's time, once again, to "Rock the Vote."

Wednesday, Oct 8 2003
I'll be the first to admit it: I was once the target audience for MTV's "Rock the Vote" campaign. Not too long ago, apathetic and disenfranchised, about the only thing I knew for sure was that whatever my beliefs were, they sure as hell weren't being represented by the political mainstream. Many of you twentysomethings probably felt like I did, since you haven't been voting much, either.

Which is why it's sort of a godsend that the conservative movement in this country is starting to seem more and more like the evil Empire from Star Wars. From the lies that motivated our imperialism in Iraq to that same war's rising death toll to Republicans playing ventriloquist to an ass-grabbing dummy here in California, conservatives give us slackers no choice but to get politicized.

In fact, just the other day I heard something on NPR's Fresh Air that had me so incensed I just -- well, here, read it for yourself. It's a quote from Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and the reported architect of the Bush Tax Plan. As the show's host, Terry Gross, pointed out, "For the past 10 years, he's presided over invitation-only, off-the-record Wednesday meetings where a group of influential conservative activists, lobbyists, journalists, scholars, and politicians gather to discuss the political issues of the day. An article in USA Today describes Norquist's offices as 'the incubator for Bush's political strategy.'" Enjoy:

"The morality that says it's OK to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says the Holocaust is OK because they didn't target everybody, just a small percentage. It's not you, it's them. Arguing that it's OK to loot some group because it's them, or kill some group because it's them, has no place in a democratic society that treats people equally."

Rhetorically speaking, it's a sound argument, which makes it all the more insidious, because what Norquist is arguing for here is increased tax cuts for the rich, and in doing so he equates the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans with Jews in the Holocaust. Let's just restate that so everyone's clear on it: One of the most powerful figures in the conservative movement is, with a straight face, relating the murder of 6 million Jews through Nazi death camps with the persecution of a few thousand millionaires through taxes.

As Alice Cooper put it: Welcome to my nightmare.

So, what do we do? Well, how about this: Go to "Bands Against Bush" this Saturday, the 20th anniversary of "Rock Against Reagan," where dozens of bands in dozens of cities -- from New York to D.C. to Paris -- will converge to rock the fuck out in hopes of spreading the word that it might be a good idea to get Bush and his brute squad out of office before it's too late.

God knows that every weekend you can find a protest in Berkeley in which some bead-bearing, Ani DiFranco­ channeling hippies are doing approximately the same thing, which is why it's nice that the organizers of this event have managed to recruit groups that are worth checking out. Boots Riley is arguably the hardest-working activist in hip hop. As one-third of the Coup, a politicized trio that includes MC E-Roc and DJ Pam the Funktress (and that received a 2002 SF Weekly Music Award for best hip hop group), Riley's been spreading leftist flavor over frisky, funk-laden beats for more than a decade. Oakland's Restiform Bodies is one of the critically acclaimed Anticon label's newest signings. Compared to everyone from Sonic Youth to Stereolab, these four guys make hip hop like cupcakes made by third-graders: messy and not quite right, but ultimately pretty sweet. Vas is a guitarist and a drummer who wear varying costumes onstage and play sharp, scathing, but ultimately entertaining rock. Also on the bill is S.F.-based DJ and electronic musician Wobbly, whose biggest claim to fame is turning two years' worth of samples stolen from Clear Channel­owned radio broadcasts into one of last year's most adventurous experimental electronica albums. Add these to a growing list of other bands (which, as of this writing, included Year Future, Boyjazz, Boyskout, and Largesse) and you've got, at the very least, a good reason to leave the house on Saturday.

I'm not telling you to vote Democrat or Green or anything. All I'm saying is vote -- and not for Bush. Next year is gonna be a long, hard road full of nasty surprises. As a couple of commentators have pointed out, it's not unlikely that Bush has a few aces up his sleeve to boost his popularity when the going gets tough (raise your hand if you think Osama's going to magically appear in U.S. custody a few months before Election Day). There's no time like the present to start opposing this guy and his brood, so join up with bands across the world -- including Sonic Youth, the Locust, the Donnas, Liars, and Erase Errata, to name just a few of the acts that have signed on in support of "BAB" -- and help make some noise. It's time to realize that you have an opinion. After all, do we really want a man like Grover Norquist pulling strings in this country for another four years?

"Bands Against Bush Bay Area" takes place on Saturday, Oct. 11, from noon to 7 p.m. in Potrero del Sol Park, Potrero near 25th Street, S.F. Admission is free; go to for more info.

About The Author

Garrett Kamps


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