Don’t come to Brazil: how the Dead Kennedys pissed off every Brazilian
Edit: This article has been updated for inaccuracies about the former Brazilian government
Do you remember that old punk classic, “I’m so sorry I offended you, it wasn’t my intention”? Neither do I, but it looks to be a tune the Dead Kennedys are singing nowadays.
The Dead Kennedys are one of America’s finest rock bands. The punk legends—who have remained relevant for 40 years—are a testament to controversial, politically-minded music. Not shying away from their beliefs, the Dead Kennedys have released songs criticizing capitalism, corporate America, environmental policies, and heads of states.
As natives of the San Fransisco area, criticizing American politicians is considered fair game. Their massive 1979 single California Uber Alles directly satirized and attacked then-Governor of California Jerry Brown, comparing his political career to those of politicians in the German Third Reich.
The song’s title is a direct reference to a line in the German national anthem pre-1945, “Deutschland Uber Alles” (meaning Germany above everything) a line that was removed after 1945 due to its association with Nazism.
Right-wing politics have always been the target of the Dead Kennedys’ message. Regrettably, for the band, someone at the DK camp decided to stick their nose where it didn’t belong.
With the Dead Kennedys celebrating 40 years of bandhood, the group released a poster with dates for their upcoming Brazilian tour. The poster, which features burning favelas, tanks boasting Swastika-esque dollar sign flags, and clowns wearing altered Brazilian soccer shirts holding rifles, probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
A speech bubble coming from one of the clown’s mouthes states, “I love the smell of poor dead in the morning.” The line is both a reference to the 1979 classic Apocalypse Now, as well as their own song, “Kill the Poor.”
The depiction of a clown-faced family is a reference to supporters of the newly democratically elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro is frequently given the nickname “Bozonaro” by those on the Brazilian left, typically while painting his face in clown make up a-la Bozo the Clown.
Brazil’s politics are complicated, to say the least. After 15 years of corrupt governments which many felt had ruined the country, Brazilians opted to elect Jair Bolsonaro in the 2018 general election.
Bolsonaro won the vote in a tight race that saw over 57 million voters hit the booths in the second round. The world collectively lost their cool, as American media outlets were quick to point out the past evils of Bolsonaro, including his inflammatory statements and harmful rhetoric against the LGBT community.
The DK camp then had an easy target, and so they shot. But unfortunately for the Kennedys, they overlooked one important factor: Bolsonaro won the popular vote and won a very legitimate election. Though Bolsonaro was problematic by his own right, he was still chosen to be the leader of the world’s 5th most populous nation.
To put it lightly, comment sections were not happy. Large portions collectively voiced their displeasure, with many requesting the Kennedys “don’t come to Brazil.” Some stated that the Dead Kennedy’s did not understand the situation in Brazil, with many saying they had no choice but to vote for the controversial politician.
One commenter stated that “[Bolsonaro] deserves every word of criticism he gets, but accusing people who voted for him out of spite for the opposing party of being “fascists” and ‘loving the smell of dead poor in the morning’ is absolutely ignorant and disrespectful to the majority of the population who were just fed up with corruption and wanted change.”
So, on the Dead Kennedys went, releasing a statement regarding the controversy.
Dead Kennedys official Facebook page
DEAD KENNEDYS OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
It has come to the attention of Dead Kennedys that a poster has been released promoting the band’s upcoming shows in Brazil.
This poster was released by the promoter of the shows without the knowledge of Dead Kennedys and is unauthorized. Dead Kennedys is an iconic American punk band who is known for its political statements and takes a strong anti-fascist, anti-violence stance
However, the band feels it cannot presume to know enough about situations in other countries to wade into their specific politics. The poster just released does not reflect a political statement or position of Dead Kennedys.
The band’s basic message has been, and still is, to ask people to think for themselves, not to tell them what to think.”
So that should be it, right? A minor blunder at the hands of the Kennedys that was quickly picked up and corrected. No big deal! But the Kennedys decided to dig themselves an even deeper grave and delete the post.
So just to recap, the Dead Kennedys upset the pro-Bolsonaro crowd by uploading the poster, offended those who felt like they had to vote for Bolsonaro by calling them fascists, and finally, upsetting the anti-Bolsonaro crowd by uploading and then deleting their statement, shying away from criticizing the Brazilian right-wing government.
Many were quick to call out hypocrisy. “You guys do not know about Brazilian politics to get involved? They support Trump administration. End of explanation.”
“Is Holiday in Cambodia out of the setlist?” asked one commenter, noting that the Dead Kennedys had never been afraid of criticizing other country’s world leaders, like genocidal maniac Pol Pot, in the past.
The poster, created by artist Cristiano Suarez, has put the band in a particular type of PR pickle. It is usually difficult to insult 100 percent of a fanbase, but the Kennedy’s did it quite gracefully, and with ease!
With the Kennedys’ four tour dates coming up in a months time, the band surely has their fingers crossed that the entire ordeal will simply fade from the public conscience, as it most likely will. At the time of writing this article, there only four tickets left for the Kennedys’ Rio de Janeiro show, at an average of ~C$92 on viagogo.com.
Punk is dead
What does this say about the spirit of punk? Since when was offending people such a touchy matter to the world of punk rock? As a band, the Kennedy’s are coming up on 40 years as a group. But the Dead Kennedys, sorrowfully, look deader than ever.
The Dead Kennedys made international headlines in the ‘80s during a massive obscenity trial that involved a graphic depiction of genitals in an H.R. Giger painting titled “Penis Landscape” (warning: 18+.) The use of the artwork caused a media frenzy surrounding the newly formed Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC).
In December of 1985, a teenaged girl bought the album. The girl’s mother wrote letters of complaint to the California Attorney General and to Los Angeles prosecutors. In 1986, the Kennedys were charged criminally with the distribution of harmful matter to minors, an infamous moment of moral panic that we could all learn from today.
The band won, and Jello Biafra, the singer of the band, gained attention as a champion of free speech. Biafra has since left the band, and very evidently, took the wind under the band’s wings along with him.
The spirit of those Kennedys has died. Apologies, capitulation, and sad old rockers are all that remain of the once feisty band. If the Kennedys had just stood by their guns, the poster would have just been a jab at a right-wing government, a very on-brand move for the Kennedy’s. But dismally, it looks like those days have far passed.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
An off-duty police officer shot a man to death because she thought he was a dangerous man in her home. Only he wasn’t dangerous, he was watching TV and eating ice cream, and he wasn’t in her home, he was in his own. In Dallas, Texas, September 2018, Officer Amber Guyger went into the wrong apartment, believing it was hers, and shot Botham Jean, who should have had the expectation of safety in his own home.
Guyger’s attorneys offered a defence, but truly the idea that a person could ignore all visible clues that they are in the wrong apartment, pull her gun, and shoot a man to death after taking less than 60 seconds to assess the situation, is indefensible. That she only got a ten-year sentence on a guilty verdict is hard to comprehend. To put it bluntly, it’s not enough. Yet the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, is a better man than all of us. In the courtroom, after the sentencing, he forgave Guyger.
“I don’t even want you to go to jail, I want the best for you. Because that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And that would be giving your life to Christ,” Brandt Jean told Guyger in the courtroom. “Again, I love you, as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you. I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please?”
The judge assented, and Jean embraced Guyger. Watching this, the power of love in Jean’s heart, is overwhelming. Yet it’s hard for many of us to fathom the goodness that allows a man to forgive like this.
Watching the ongoing tragedy of violence involving police and African-American citizens in the United States is heartbreaking. For many people who keep tabs on police violence, specifically against African Americans, it seems like this keeps happening. There have been countless cases of police shooting or killing unarmed black men and women, and the officers not being held accountable for their actions in any serious way. The lack of accountability for the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner, among others, launched protests in their communities and across the country.
In Guyger’s case, the prosecution asked for 28 years, the age Botham would be had she not killed him. The pattern is that black men lose their lives, the country is outraged on media for a second, and then it’s over, it’s back to business as usual. This was perfectly expressed by NFL legend Shannon Sharpe:
The rage a community feels when one of their members’ lives is taken for no good reason must be acknowledged and respected, and indeed these are tragedies that cross racial lines. But there must be a way forward with both forgiveness and change. It’s only through redemption that healing is possible, for an individual, a family, or a nation. But how do we do that when our first impulse is to make someone pay? When we feel like those whose job it is to punish and enact justice are clouded by bias and historical precedents of injustice?
We have to realize, as Brandt Jean does, that what feels the most righteous and natural, the seeking of retribution, doesn’t bring any lasting peace. In offering forgiveness, Jean did the most righteous thing imaginable, and in showing Guyger the way forward, through a life in Christ, he opened the door for her healing as well as his own.
This forgiveness will not solve racism or the difficulties of law enforcement in the U.S. It won’t bring Botham Jean back, and it won’t fill the gap left by his absence in his family. But perhaps if Guyger had more forgiveness in her heart when she mistakenly opened Jean’s door, if she hadn’t been so locked in her own mindset, Jean would be alive today. In her defence, she said “I was scared whoever was inside my apartment was going to kill me… No police officer would want to hurt an innocent person.”
There is no doubt that Jean’s forgiveness will be derided by those who see mercy as a weakness. When our hearts are clouded by a need for punishment, when we feel not only wronged but that we will continue to be wronged, with no redress, is when mercy is actually our greatest strength. Brandt Jean invoked Christ in forgiving Guyger, and sacrificed his need for vengeance. Forgiving his brother’s killer is more than many of us could do, but so too is following the difficult path laid out by Christ’s message.
When Guyger was found guilty, there was some relief among activists in the social media spheres, though the ten year sentence, with the possibility of being out in five, seems light in comparison. It’s possible to simultaneously believe that the sentence was too light and that the forgiveness was divine.
We need to forgive each other not just after tragedy, violence, and preventable death, but before, as well. We need to be open to each other, to see the goodness in each other’s hearts first. Forgiveness must be fathomable. Forgiveness, when it seems impossible, is exactly what we need to practice if we ever want to establish a redemption culture. For his act of impossible forgiveness, we all owe Brandt Jean a debt of gratitude.
A public opinion poll by Forum Research indicates that a majority of Canadians (52%) think that Canada is doing worse than ever before. Of that portion, one third (29%) said that the country is doing “much worse.”
Among those who feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction are the elderly, low and middle-income Canadians, Albertans, and the least educated.
According to the poll, 56% of Canadians aged 45-64 feel that Canada is doing worse under Trudeau. Canadians across economic lines also indicate that they are concerned with the country’s direction, including those earning $20k-$40k (54%), $40-60k (56%), and $80k-$100k (54%). Those living in Alberta
Conservatives, males and people concerned with immigration were also part of this group.
On the other hand, less than half (48%) of respondents think the country is doing better than before. Young people, those with post-graduate degrees, the least wealthy and upper-middle-class Canadians, feel that the country is heading in the right direction.
Of those, only one sixth (15%) believe that the country is doing “much better”.
The results show that 51% of those 18 to 34 and 52% of those 35 to 44 think the country is doing better. Economically, the least wealthy (54%) and those earning $60k to $80k (56%) are optimistic. Post-graduates (59%) and Canadians from Atlantic Canada are also part of this group (60%).
Liberals, females, and those most concerned with the environment also viewed the direction of the country positively.