Friday, September 29, 2006

Addled Jazz Notes on Lebanon

Sometimes an essay starts off on solid ground, but veers off the tracks in spectacular fashion. Such is the case with David Adler’s “From the Editor” column in the September issue of Jazz Notes (evidently not available online), published by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Starting off strong, Adler criticizes David Murray for the following lyrics he recorded on the World Saxophone Quartet’s Political Blues:

“I’m gonna take the metroliner down to Washington and give them some advice:

Keep your politics to yourself and leave the brown countries alone

Keep your politics for yourself and leave the Third World alone

And while you at it, hit up on your cell phone to warn Abbas about Sharon . . .”

Adler is on solid ground when he writes: “Remarkably, Murray’s lyric was out of date before the track was even mixed. Both Abbas and Sharon are dead—the former politically, the latter clinically.” One could add that actually Abbas really needed a warning about the destabilizing influence of Hamas extremists.

Adler transitions into a discussion of the explosive growth of the blogosphere, and the resulting analysis there of the conflict in Lebanon, writing: “Unsurprisingly, I’ve found the proliferation of opinion on the Mideast war to be both a blessing and a curse, leaning towards the latter.” It is probably asking way to much of Adler to credit Little Green Footballs, but surely exposing the Reuters Photoshop scandal is an important contribution to our understanding of the media in general, and its coverage of the Mideast specifically, is an important contribution which deserves grudging acknowledgment.

Adler ends with a stunning line: “One can hope that the spirit of open cultural and artistic exchange—as practiced by the late Arnie Lawrence, or by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said—will prevail.” What sounds like a nice sentiment, the hope for tolerance, equates Arnie Lawrence with extremist Palestinian partisan Edward Said. The beloved Lawrence really was building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, as teacher and student bandleader in Jerusalem.

Said was a polemicist who created the precedent in academia for tarring any critic of Islamic extremism as racist and colonial in his book Orientalism. He condemned intellectuals who dared support the war on terror, and was a reflexive critic of Israel. In 1999 Commentary writer Justus Weiner exposed Said’s fabricated history as a refuge from Jerusalem. In truth, his family had been expelled from Egypt for their Christianity.

Equating Lawrence and Said is a highly dubious act of moral juggling. Those looking to jazz journalists for Mideast commentary, are likely to be addled by what they find in Jazz Notes. Better to look to a real resource, like MEMRI.