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Comment | An Open Letter to Lynn Hirschberg

You’ve probably already read, what I believed to be, the unflattering profile of hipster favourite M.I.A by New York Times writer Lynn Hirschberg. I was so incensed by the article that I started writing a response but it got quite long so here it is. This is my opinion of the real reason the writer dislikes M.I.A. You can love it, you can hate it but let me know what you think:

Anyone who takes this criminally biased piece as the word of God really is the ‘naive’ one or they probably never cared about M.I.A as an artist in the first place which is one of the biggest problems an artist faces when they get big. What people used to love her for they now attack her for.

First of all M.I.A creates genre-bending, culture-crossing, political music that is not just for hipsters to dance to (trust me I love her and have never donned a day-glo jumpsuit in my life). The writer picking fault on her for sampling a Clash song was just ridiculous (ps. I love the Clash but it was a sample from their terrible last album and M.I.A improved that song 100%). M.I.A is a rapper, not a pop star as some kept calling her, and rappers sample. Actually every artist samples at one time or another. Music can acknowledge what has come before them and sampling does that effectively. M.I.A writes her own lyrics and composes her music which is more than you can say about Lady Gaga who, as subversive as she tries to be within the confines of mainstream society, still has an army of help to make those catchy tunes.

On the subject of her politics she talks about the plight of the Tamils because if she doesn’t who else will. You complain that she is one-sided but one-sided compared to whom. There is no one else to tell the Western world what is going on. M.I.A uses her platform as an influential artist to tell people what’s going on. Obviously there are a variety of sides to the story and people know that when she makes her statements. You’re really putting down her fans if you believe that they take M.I.A’s word on everything.

Ms Hirschberg I really wonder why you are so against M.I.A’s political views. You said she was one-sided but everyone is, including politicians, it is up to us to take that information and look into it. You called her contradictory for fighting for the Tamils and living in a rich neighbourhood in LA. Ok, she is a contradiction but so am I, so are you in fact so is everyone who fights for the rights of those with less than them so this can’t be the real reason you dislike her. M.I.A may make bold statements but it’s better than singing about flowers and sunshine or whatever Miley Cyrus and her ilk go on about.

I think you and I know the real reason that she so get under your skin Ms Hirschberg is because she so bucks the model of what a celebrity, artist, popstar, whatever you want to call her should be. She speaks out about things we should all care about instead of remaining in this useless apathetic state we are in now. I guess Ms Hirschberg would prefer to remain apathetic; shooting the messenger because she knows the message will make her challenge her own privilege.

M.I.A may not be an intellectual, she has never claimed to be, but she is intelligent and strong. A self educated woman, like many of us had to be, she got where she is now on her own talent, confidence and intelligence. It seems that the writer is threatened by this display as she would again have to question her own privilege. This explains the disgusting character assassination that takes place in this article.

Essentially what I am saying is that you don’t like what M.I.A is saying is because it’s coming from her mouth, the mouth of a Sri Lankan, working class, self-educated woman. Anyone could make a bold statement, discuss a controversial topic or not be able to explain the complexities of a war in one sentence but they are not being attacked, M.I.A is. She is talking about a kind of inconvenient truth, to coin a phrase from Al Gore. I can’t count the amount of times friends try to impress me with their knowledge of racial and world issues but when I try to inform them about the same issues I am seen as ‘controversial’ and ‘radical’.

I am also, like M.I.A was, a young girl from an ethnic minority and low income family who has big dreams and few people, except my parents, telling me I can succeed. Ms Hirschberg does not understand how hard it is to keep that drive to succeed when everyone around thinks you’re crazy for thinking that. This is the main reason I love M.I.A, she doesn’t follow the rules, ignores those who tell her no and represents her community in areas where they are rarely represented.

By the time I am M.I.A’s age I hope to have challenged as many people, offended, influenced, shocked and educated as many people as she has. No matter how hard you try and keep us down we will get back up and make you listen, rip off those rose-coloured glasses of yours and make you see the reality of the world we live in. M.I.A keep doing what you’re doing girl and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and we’ll see how many people we piss off/educate on our way.

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