Jungle Drums

I like to keep things somewhat non-political at Dial M, because my Mom always told me that religion and politics aren’t fit topics of conversation for people you don’t know well. And really, how well do we know each other, you and I? Anyway, I share my own politics (I like to call myself an anarchist with a mortgage) with maybe 0.02% of the country. And I can’t even vote. (Canadian, not convicted felon.) So who cares what I think about the 2006 election? In any event, Cthulhu is the only candidate for higher office endorsed by Dial M.


Speaking of evil, there’s a musico-semiotic controversy brewing in the Tennessee senatorial race between Democrat Harold Ford and Republican Bob Corker. You’ve doubtless heard about Corker’s TV ad that none-too-subtly played the old black-men-are-coming-for-our-women card. There has also been a radio ad that contrasts Ford’s life script (which includes such villainies as going to the University of Pennsylvania) with Corker’s (University of Tennessee). While Corker’s music soars above the fruited plains, Ford’s roils in the mire of . . . jungle drums.  Only the Corker campaign insists that they’re not jungle drums, just generic oppo-ad booga-booga scary music. Hm. What do you all think? Does the drum timbre say “jungle,” or does it just say “threatening”? Or is it the rhythm that matters? To me, the overall effect (timbre and rhythm) is similar to the doomy percussion sound of the main title music for “Terminator,” which doesn’t say “black man” but does say “bad thing.” If the rhythm was the old jungle movie “BOOM boom BOOM boom BOOM boom” thing, it would be a bit more straightforward. But then again, some of the TPM Cafe comment posters have argued that your interpretation depends on where you live. Perhaps the evil genius of this ad is that it is effective but deniable. If you live in Wisconsin, you’ll just hear generic scary music, and thus the GOP can plausibly deny racist intent to a national news readership. But if you live in the South, where racial attitudes are more thoroughly and subtly coded in public expression, the little dab of drums is enough to convey “Darkest Africa” without coming right out and saying it. What do you all say? Opinions, anyone? This is where having a comments section comes in handy.

Friday fun link (with a tip of the hat to the libertarian blog Hit and Run): attack ads remixed. Listen here.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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3 Responses to Jungle Drums

  1. Bodie says:

    Don’t forget Jon Tester running for Senate in Montana who used to be a music teacher.

  2. schiZOdoxe says:

    Le choix des vrais nerds


  3. querflote says:

    syncopated – thus, definitely jungle drums (also, music of the devil)

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