Daily Archives: September 3, 2013
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd: Seeker of Social Justice or Just Another Prick in the Wall
The musician Roger Waters of the rock group Pink Floyd floated a balloon that was a giant pig with a Star of David on it at a recent concert in Belgium. The image is above. You can also watch the concert video. The offending object hovered over the crowd festooned with symbols of various authoritarian governments. Waters is a known Israel hater who has tried to encourage other performers to boycott Israel and has openly espoused the flimsy old Apartheid charge. But his clownish and offensive behavior does not stop here. Waters performed holding a machine gun replica and wore black clothes with an armband reminiscent of Nazi uniforms.
Of course, the most well-known song of Rogers Waters and the rock group Pink Floyd is “Brick in the Wall.” It’s actually an excellent song and the primary refrain “you’re just another brick in the wall” has acquired cultural capital with respect to life as a machine-like authoritarian structure where individuality is blotted out. It is a metaphor for an interesting piece of social commentary. But Waters should stick to music because when he moves into serious political analysis he falters. Still, who is this guy and what should we think of him?
Waters hides behind the freedom of expression defense, which is his right, but does he make legitimate criticisms of Israel or is he just a rank anti-Semite? Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center says Waters is dangerous and an “open hater of Jews.” You can read about Waters and his exchange with the good Rabbi here. Moreover, as blatant and crude as Waters is he holds himself to be a defender of peace and a seeker of justice. When the Rabbi points to his anti-Semitism about all waters can respond with is the old tired cliché about how “some of his best friends are Jewish.” This response would be laughable if it were not so sad.
Waters defends himself by claiming that many religious symbols were used in the show and he is trying to redefine the symbolism of the pig. It, according to Rogers, represents evil and the ill will of a misguided government. In his show Rogers tells the audience that he is going to give the symbol to them as a gift and they should destroy it. The audience then orgiasticly consumes the evil. He then goes into a fierce criticism of Israel referring to it by every anti-Semitic term he can muster.
Clearly, Waters has a right to this performance and although he is mostly just passionate – not to mention pretty uninformed – it turns out that Waters is one of those undereducated disorderly minds who just blurts out opinions without much nuance. In one of Waters’ defense of himself he accuses Rabbi Cooper of being “inflammatory and unhelpful.” For Waters to claim that anybody is inflammatory, as if it were some defect he is not guilty of, belies the imagination. He is certainly guilty of unjustified moral equivalencies. Calling terrorists groups “freedom fighters” or justified political responses, or comparing Israel to South Africa or any number of violent authoritarian groups, is based on false equivalencies that ignore political, cultural, and historical explanations and accounts.
Waters defends himself by saying he uses crucifixes, crescents and stars, hammers and cycles, the Shell Oil logo, the dollar sign, and McDonald’s sign in his shows. I rest my case. This is a mushy and haphazard conglomeration of corporate images and symbols that are supposed to represent oppression and regimentation. It is fine as red meat for the masses but what am I supposed to do with comparisons between the dollar sign and the hammer and sickle. Or, how are Islam and Christianity linked arm in arm in their stance against whatever Waters is resisting?
Israel is not a functioning theocracy nor is it even close to an Apartheid state. The Star of David on a pig is highly offensive and inflammatory and counterproductive for anything other than blatant attack on the other. It is consistent with the modern trends in anti-Semitism which is to single out Israel and ignore other considerations.
Waters turns out to be just another “prick in the wall.”