By Baruchi Malewich
So we’re back from the break, we’ve all had a much needed vacation, and 2016 is finally over. However, it’s time to look down the barrel of the new year and try to work out what we have in store. A major trend recognized in 2016—and one that in all likelihood will, unfortunately, accompany us during 2017 as well—is the matter of ‘Post-Truth’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Post-Truth as ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ and recently hailed it as the ‘word of the year’ for 2016. And yet, Post-Truth has been around for decades, and we should probably notice it before we get all ‘the boy who cried wolf’ over it (my money’s riding on that being a trend during the year to come). And as a phenomenon that’s been around for so long—one that was utilized by both journalists and politicians, and by sectoral and mainstream movements alike—we can take comfort in the fact that much music has been written on and around it.
In 1977 Israeli rocker Rami Fortis released his debut album, ‘Plonter’ (Hebrew for ‘tangle’). While today there is very little doubt that the album—as well as Fortis himself—belong in the Israeli rock-n-roll hall of fame, the album was accepted with much critique and drove Fortis to move abroad where he made his break with new wave group Minimal Compact. The fact that the album received very little acclaim is not surprising however, as it is the first-ever Israeli punk album and as such it offers explicit criticism on modern culture. ‘April Fools’ is a unique track in that album, because it’s the only one sung in English, and lucky for us it deals with the tendency of news reporters for exaggeration and sensationalism. The second verse contains the lyrics: ‘Searching for the holy scoop // sensational disease // brainwash all the stupid mules // you think you are god’s gift’. The chorus also resents the journalists for ‘driving the truth for [their] door’. Another song on the same album, this one sung in Hebrew can be best translated to ‘get off my TV screen’ ('רד מעל מסך הטלוויזיה שלי') and protests the mass consumption of mainstream media.
Thick as a Brick is, probably, the magnum opus of Jethro Tull. The British progressive rock outfit has made many tremendous musical pieces, but this piece from 1972 is just a single song, 44 minutes long, that is a mass of social criticism. While Ian Anderson made sure to write an extremely sharp and painful critique (though one heavily masked by metaphors and allegories), the cover of the album included a post-truth nugget of its own. Simply put, the entire cover—which presented a front page of a small-town English newspaper—was a spoof. The front-page article claimed that the lyrics for Thick as a Brick were originally written by an 8-year old named Gerald Bostock for a poetry contest. The song granted Bostock the prize, but it was later revoked because many found the poem to be too offensive. In printing this article on each record sleeve, Jethro Tull not only criticized English culture and English media, but also created a post-truth tale themselves.
Allegedly a cheery anthem, listening too much to ‘Panic’ can lead one to cheerfully and childishly sing ‘hang the DJ, hang the DJ’ over and over again. What sounds like a critique of music and the choice of music on radio stations, can actually be expanded to be a general critique of media and politics. Morrissey describes how panic is gripping the UK as a whole, describing how one feels hopeless looking for safety and stability. Eventually, he reaches the conclusion: ‘Burn down the disco // hang the blessed DJ // because the music they constantly play // says nothing to me about my life’. Obviously, we could take the explicit meaning and think that by DJ he means either a club DJ or a radio DJ, but what if it’s a general complaint against whoever ‘selects the tunes’, so to say? In that case, it’s a very broad critique against the British Government, the BBC and the media.
Ok, honestly, this song is only here because of its title. Well, that and because I reallllly love it. Like, really. Except for being an absolutely MASSIVE tune, the title also reminds us that not only the politicians and reporters are to blame for phenomena which revolve around post-truth. It’s also the public who is so inclined to believe and to swallow-up whatever sensationalist story it’s being served. Conspiracy theories—for example—are fun, because they make us feel like everything is under someone’s control, whereas reality is actually much more complex. If we are to battle this era of post-truth, we need not shy away from such complexities and be careful of theories that seem too good (read: simple) to be true.
I mean, this basically says it all, doesn’t it? Just listen to it with the lyrics, I think it’s pretty much straightforward J Amd just remember, the truth is out there. Or is it..?
Baruchi Malewich is an Israeli expatriate currently residing in the UK. He completed his BA is Government and Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya and his MPhil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge. He was a DJ in the student radio of both schools, and is an avid music fan. He is currently working on PhD applications and on an online publication devoted to researching the role of theory in the