As I sat by the radio last night trying not to retch, Rita Houston, an otherwise competent DJ at the Bronx’s own WFUV-FM, interviewed Elvis Costello in a manner that I will politely call “overly respectful.” And it disturbed me, because he does not deserve to be treated like a king.
Remember the pop tune “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”? Although it was written by Nick Lowe, it was popularized by Elvis Costello. And as it turns out, the spirit of the song is not truly reflective of Elvis’s own views, which are rather narrow, and not overly generous. He said so himself, in way, in the NY Times .
Two weeks before Mr. Costello canceled his performances, scheduled for June 30 and July 1 at the ancient Roman amphitheater in Caesaria, he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that the people calling for a boycott “own the narrow view that thinks performing there must be about profit and endorsing the hawkish policy of the government. It's like never appearing in the U.S. because you didn't like Bush's policies or boycotting England because of Margaret Thatcher ,” he said.
And yet, boycotting Israel, by canceling his shows there, is exactly what Elvis did, after having a sudden crisis of “instinct and conscience.” How did such a sea change happen so quickly? And if it was truly a matter of conscience, how is it that Elvis continues to perform, on a regular basis, without protest, in the lands of Bush and Margaret Thatcher? Surely there were actions and inactions and policies of the U.S. with which he disagreed at the time of the cancelations, as there were when “W” was in office–a time when Elvis enjoyed a profitable run of tours and music sales. It almost sounds as if there is something more insidious at work. Could it be that he is not a fan of Jews?
Well, to answer that question, let’s take a gander at his similarly generous and not narrow views of another group of us. History has revealed that Elvis does not have the kindest v iews of black folks , either. And if we keep in mind that bigots generally do not limit their dark feelings to any one particular ethnic group, but generously inflict their hatred against several groups they view to be despicable, the answer suggests itself.
Even if you buy into the current and popular wave of anti-Israelism, there are plenty of countries, including this one, whose governments have perpetrated hugely repugnant acts, on much greater scales, than Israel ever arguably has or will. But that hasn’t stopped Elvis, or any of the other acts for which I used to have respect (Pixies, Gorillaz) from playing in those countries.
So in the end, Elvis is a lot like fans of tort “reform.” He says one thing, and does another. He is as much of a hypocrite as “news” man John Stossel, who publicly rants against tort “reform” and insults people low enough to become plaintiffs in lawsuits. But Mr. Stossel became a plaintiff himself, soon after his obnoxious questioning of a pro wrestler got him bitch-slapped on video. And the aftermath was not pretty, as Eric Turkewitz showed in his sharp take on Stossel.