Monster metal props to Ben Gabriel for the link. For my money, this sort of video is where the mash-up culture of the internet most closely approaches art. You’ve got your juxtaposition of disparate elements—Slayer’s “Angel of Death” and footage from a bunch of Pentecostal churches where, presumably, they would not like Slayer—that evokes how sparate those elements really are. This sudden recognition of congruence is called beauty, or maybe just humor. I think this video is funny. The kid who goes hopping across the shot at :48—maybe not with total sincerity—is funny. The open headbanging at 2:25 is funny. The inadvertent lip synch at 2:53 is funny. And as skeptical and probably anti-religious as the tone is, it’s also a celebration of raw human energy, which is funny. My praise of this video would be unqualified, were I not so relieved every time a white person appeared onscreen.
My personal opinion is that this video is not racist. A disproportionate number of Pentecostal and other charismatic churches are historically black, so it stands to reason that a disproportionate quantity of the found footage of such churches would contain black people. This is exactly the sort of reasoning that racist people cannot follow, though, and a quick look at the comments on this video suggests that my personal opinion counts for zilch. “ROFL blacks,” worshipmeyoupeasants sagely observes. Although it contains multiple shots of white people freaking out at church, the primary subject matter of this video is black people freaking out at church. Here we come to a dilemma.
Let’s say you have a blog and an appointment this morning that encouraged you to sort of half-ass the blog. You come into possession of this wonderful video that you want to share with your literally several of readers, but you have also come into possession of 400 years of historical prejudice that you would maybe not like to distribute. You can stand on Truth and argue, compellingly to yourself at least, that this video is not about race even if douchemongers on the internet think it is. But that’s an unsound argument, since the reason you don’t disseminate a racist video is not its effect on you—you don’t disseminate a racist video because of its likely effect on others. Yet this logic, too, is unsatisfying, since it allows a racist culture to dictate the interpretation of art.
It’s kind of an intractable problem. That’s why racism is so frustrating; you don’t always know when you’re doing it, and even when you get a good handle on whether you’re doing it, other people will make your actions de facto racist through their own, um, racism. You want to know what’s wrong with the internet? Thousands of people looked at the man dancing his ass off at :40 of this video and thought wow, that guy is black. The internet sucks because it is a window through which we see how others see so clearly.
This may be a good time to remember S. I. Hayakawa’s famous quote about communication…along the lines that, in every communication, there are two messages ie that which is intended by the sender; and that which is perceived by the receiver.
I made the observation while at a free retro (Lovin’ Spoonful; Paul Revere and the Raiders) concert this summer that rock and roll concerts are the closest thing most old white people get to the release of revival meetings. I’m sure there are a bunch of things wrong with that statement…or, at least, with making it outloud.
Honi soi qui mal y pense.