The Rejection of Political Suffocation

I never found much of an interest in politics until I started University and began to follow news sources on Facebook that kept me informed with what was going on in the world. Now it seems everyone has an opinion on everything and political involvement is as easy as putting an equal sign or a flag filter over your profile picture. Cayari (2015) outlines how Youtube has allowed for a shift from media to social media (#hashtag) that requires us to rethink spacial relations of communication and politics (p. 43).

Radiohead knows how to create a hype, that’s for sure! Seemingly dropping from the internet completely, to then dropping their new single and accompanying music video.

Initially I thought it was a ‘stick it to the man’ esque narrative. With some research I found it actually is a response to the current refugee crisis and the islamophobia that has accompanied that. The animator, Verpi Kettu, speaks of the “blaming of different people… the blaming of Muslims and the negativity.” With the intention of shocking viewers about the absurdity of the dank state the crisis has ended up in, Radiohead has opened up an opportunity for reflection and outcry.

In a less cryptic manner, M.I.A.‘s music video for ‘Borders’ similarly confronts the audience with imagery that compliments the lyrics about the perils of refugees en route to a better life through the legal system. She is renowned for her political music videos however specifically for borders, having been a refugee of war herself validates her reason to speak up. She says ‘…now I have a voice in a time when war is the most invested thing on the planet.’

Of course it’s not always as easy as protesting politics online with no consequence. Feminist, Russian group Pussy Riot (pictured in cover) found themselves charged of being ‘hooligans motivated by religious hatred’ because of the videos they had uploaded protesting Putin and his dictatorship (Scholar, 2013). Their video for ‘I Can’t Breathe‘ garnered attention as it was directed at the police brutality which caused the death of Eric Garner. This event was controversial already as a bystander had recorded the entire event and uploaded it for all of cyberspace to see and judge for themselves. PR’s video depicts them being buried alive while wearing Russian police uniforms with the last words of Garner played at the ending. It’s a very literal and confronting piece about the suffocation of civilians in dire circumstances with authorities. Part of what makes PR so successful in this regard is the hysteria they cause. In an interview, one member states how people ‘condemn them and wish for prison or death, without verifying anything or even watching the video. A complete information deficit’ (Scholar, 2013). The fear that is triggered when people hear how quickly their message travels when uploaded is exactly what gives this platform of cyberculture such an impact.

Reference List:

Cayari C (2015) Participatory culture and informal music learning through video creation in the curriculum, International Journal of Community Music, Vol. 8, Iss. 1, p41-57, source.

Scholar C (2013) Reinventing the Show Trial: Putin and Pussy Riot, TDR : Drama review, Vol. 57, Iss. 1, source.


5 thoughts on “The Rejection of Political Suffocation

  1. Social media is pretty crazy in regards to how quickly a message can spread, and how little you can control it. I recall back in high school, being blamed for something I hadn’t done on social media, and it spreading like wildfire to the point where I just gave up on trying to correct everyone and just waited for it to blow over.
    I think it comes down to the amount of people carrying a message, it’s easy to control how quickly a message travels in person, because you can physically talk to people and get their attention, while online, you’re lucky if you get more than a minute of someone’s attention before they move on, especially if you don’t know the person directly, they’re not going to actively search for the real answers.
    A great example of this could be KONY 2012, everyone watched it and become an activist overnight, while only a few actually did some research and tried to correct as many people as possible.


  2. Very interesting stuff how media plays pretty much the primary role shaping public political opinion. This can be done for good as you have highlighted in the music video examples you have shown. But it can also be used to negatively shape public opinion. It makes me think back to the Vietnam War, which was the first time the horrors of war were visually shown to the public because of the introduction of television. For the first time there was mass out-cry and protests, where as previously, only receiving propaganda campaigns, the public supported war. This was a really good thing because people were educated in the truth of war but then the media changed the way it portrayed war in order to recapture pubic support. The concept of Nintendo warfare was created in which no violence is actually shown, only men behind controls, pressing buttons, with no real depiction of consequence. It really makes me sick to think the media can cover up the truth to gain blind support like that, this is why these artists with their conceptual music videos are so important because they subtly educate people.

    I was reading this article about how the Pentagon have developed a new genre of `public relations-ized’ warfare, which is warfare planned, not only as a military exercise, but as a televisual media event. You should check it out, perhaps it will be useful.


  3. I think it’s absolutely essential for pop culture figures like musicians to use their platform to make comment on current issues and create change. This opinion especially comes from the fact that so many young people are disillusioned by the two-party preferred political system in Australia ( and the lack of interest that politicians seem to have in the issues young people really care about. This provides an excellent opportunity for people with a platform to say something for those without a voice e.g. Sydney’s lock-out laws, housing inequality, career instability etc ( There seems to be a little bit of a gap in your research in terms of the historical element that shows why a precedent has been set for political comment in music. This article about socially-conscious songs provides a short discussion on the previously highly issues-focused music scene and how it could make real change happen (


  4. Hey I’m totally the same in the that I was pretty absent minded in terms of politics until Uni and even still I know I should be way more involved.

    Music’s definitely been a strong proponent of political movements over the last few decades. I listened to and watched Burn the Witch you linked not long after it came out and I had no idea what was going on, I was pretty confident that there was hidden meaning to it but I didn’t think it was going to be so profound or directed. I feel like there’s probably political motivation behind a lot of the music I listen to without me realising so I should really keep my ears up.
    I think there’s also a danger in how easily we can express our political opinions. Although overall being able to easily express your political views I think the internet (and music as a part of that) has somewhat oversaturated the political landscape and unless your specifically following a couple of great sources as you mentioned you are it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and banter between politicians, media outlets, pages, individuals and much more.
    While the M.I.A and Radiohead examples were both great you should also listen to F*** Donald Trump by YG and Nipsey Hussle. While it’s a bit more direct than ‘Burn the Witch’ it addresses some important issues and I think speaks fairly for a fair proportion of the US.


  5. I think it’s interesting in light of the upcoming federal election the rock n roll movement has been encouraging people to get involved, enrol and vote. Triple J’s Hack program has been actively covering political updates for as long as I can remember, presenting a fairly unbiased record of events and also trying to reach their young audience to get them inspired on voting. (Young people make up a huge percentage of people not enrolled for voting, not showing up or placing donkey votes.) More information here:


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