An artist does something crazy. The internet rushes to condemn them, writers compete for the most outraged hot-take, even if they have to fake their outrage. Everyone makes money. A week later 48 hours later the previous WORST THING EVER has been forgotten about and the internet has moved onto the new WORST THING EVER. It's the artist-media dance of shame, and in 2014 it's constant.
This is not that. As much as I can possibly write this piece without dancing that dance, that's what I'm trying to do. But the outrage dance of shame has also created a "boy who cried wolf" effect that has ironically stifled accountability. Beyond pageview whoring, beyond being overly-PC, sometimes people really do need to be held accountable for their mistakes and bad decisions, myself included, and we can't be afraid to say so. So I'll try to make this as simple as possibly.
1) Nicki Minaj's new "Only" video glamorizes Nazis.
2) That's fucked up.
Does it really need to be more complicated that that?
First, don't try to say the video's about some other vague, non-Nazi dictatorship. Come on. It's obviously inspired by World War II propaganda films. Remember who made those? The columns of unmoving soldiers, the only-barely-not-a-swatstika arm bands. If you don't think this video is based off Nazi imagery, you might not have functioning synapses between your retina and brain.
Second, using Nazi imagery to try to sell a song like "Only" is fucked up - right? Is there really a valid argument otherwise?
What? That other people say and do fucked up things and people don't get mad? Then that's a problem with us being afraid to speak up when we truly feel there's something wrong, not a license for others to be equally ignorant.
What? That writing this only accomplishes Nicki's goal of getting attention, even if that attention is negative? Now you're getting warmer, I see you've danced the dance of shame before, or at least watched the dance floor swell and empty. But if that level of common sense, that ability to simply say, "This is not something I want in the world," has disappeared because we're too worried about feeding into the hype machine, that's a bigger problem than the hype machine.
You may not be offended by this at all. That's your right. You may be genuinely infuriated by it. That's your right too. We all have our lines; this crosses mine, and if I'm not willing to stand on my line publicly, that can only be because I'm scared. I ain't never scured.
So this is not some caps-locked rant, this is not a play for pageviews, and I won't hide behind a headline like "Does Nicki Minaj's Video Use Nazi Imagery?" Stop being afraid to write a fact, it does. "Critics Angered By Nazi Imagery in Nicki Minaj's Video." Do you mean "critics" or human beings?
This isn't any of that. This is me saying that I don't want my daughter living in a world where people try to sell her a single on iTunes via Nazi imagery. That's fucked up. Sometimes it really is that simple.
Update: Nicki issued an apology via Twitter:
Update 2: Jeff Osborne, the director of the lyric video, spoke with MySpace, bluntly stating, "I’m not apologizing for my work, nor will I dodge the immediate question. The flags, armbands, and gas mask (and perhaps my use of symmetry?) are all representative of Nazism." So, yeah, basically, fuck this dude.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome.