Kanye Believe It?

Posted: October 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

The cover art for Kanye West’s latest album: My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy, has been deemed a bit too dark and twisted for American consumers. Apparently it has been banned by Wal Mart, a major music stockist, and so will have to be re-released with a different, less, er beautifully dark cover. What story there is on the issue is here:


So whilst we are discussing free speech, and the difference between ‘censorship’ and ‘editing’ and simply ‘choosing to disallow people from saying things in a space where you have control over who says what’, how do people feel about this piece of commercial art being ‘banned’? Is it a matter for Quiet Riot Girl to get a bee in her bonnet about?

Because so far nobody else apart from poor Kanye himself, seems to have batted an eyelash. Except to laugh at him and his poor taste, and vulgarity. But if one of the top-selling recording artists in the world does not have ‘freedom of speech’ do you think the rest of us do? SRSLY?

  1. Walmart are notorious for censorship of things like album covers, this isn’t the first time they’ve done it. I almost suspect that the reason people aren’t up in arms about it is simply that they are used to that sort of behaviour from them.

    But it is clearly a restriction of freedom of speech if the means to be heard is denied, which is what Walmart and others aim to do with this type of thing.

    The picture is quite a disturbing image (or at least, I find it so) so I can understand why kneejerk reactions might describe it as “tasteless” or “vulgar”. But there’s quite a lot wrapped up in that image and by suppressing it I think people do society a disservice not just with this picture in general but with what it says about how we are permitted to express thoughts.

    The point Mr West made about imagery from the 1970s (and the 1960s) is valid – a songbook I had of Beatles tunes had loads of similarly disturbing images in it!

    It is a well-accepted part of European human rights law that freedom of expression extends to those ideas that are distasteful or offensive to others.

  2. the extreme pornography law dos not extend to those ideas that are distasteful to others in the UK

    • Well, it hasn’t yet been tested in the European Court of Human Rights. The case law from that court says so, and legal opinions have said that the extreme porn law is incompatible with the ECHR on those grounds (although as I say, those have not yet been tested in the actual court). It remains to be seen whether or not it will be tested, and whether human rights judges will side with the British Government on this matter. Hypocrisy tends to creep in when sex appears!

      But the principle (regardless of the legal realities) was worth pointing out for this case!

  3. hmm says:

    It’s notable that the pornography/ art debate can be reduced to a question of art and political speech alone.

    This cd cover made me think so for the first time.

    We speak of extreme pornography as causing or depicting “suffering”. Yet everything in life is “suffering”. Bad air any day may be no worse than fresh air when we’re stressed, just making us more stressed.

    The cd cover is shocking not for the sexual content, but for non sexual social reasons, depending on the audience.

    Racists will still be shocked (though no longer outraged, except for neonazis) at the image of white and black skin associating. Not the sex, just the touch. So, free association is offensive to some (and to some liberals who deny that racism is instinctual, I myself had a mild frisson and have one every time I see black and white together, but maybe it’s a hyper racialized politic or maybe just an aesthetic effect).

    The monster faces and appendages on human body is disturbing. So art and surreal imagination still have the power to shock in art as much as sickness in life.

    And when you go to extreme pornography, so long as no permanent bodily harm is caused, the effect seems to remain speech within a performance. So that “obscene” acts of pain and scatology are less about their extreme physicality and more shocking by the symbolism of human relations they “express” or portray.

    It’s peculiar that liberal elites see walmart as the favorite choice of earthy, poor, urban minorities and “white trash” who want to buy at bargain prices and are too dumb to calculate that walmart doesn’t really have great bargains. If that were true, there would be less rejection of vulgar, sexual performance, particularly on a little cd cover, from those people. Instead, walmart has been happily adopted by the middle class who enjoy a one-stop-for-all shopping experience: one clean box, convenient, uniformed employees. And they’re always ready to be offended by anything even slightly bumpy.

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