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Stardumb: Moby

In today's installment: Moby, the certainties of a left-wing celebrity.

11:00 PM, Jan 22, 2003 • By DAVID SKINNER
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"EVERYONE HAS ONE." That's what they (you know, "they") say about opinions. Also that opinions resemble a certain body part, but I'm not going to say which.

What's with the old joke about opinions? Well, I've been cocking an ear (no, no, neither of those body parts) to the political comments of pop stars. And like everyone else, they have thoughts and feelings on the major issues of the day. Just last week Sheryl Crow expressed a deep concern about the karmic consequences of invading Iraq. But she is far from the only musician who's politically engaged.

Moby--the bald guy hated by Eminem but celebrated by others for his catchy brew of techno and early American blues--regularly posts his own political reflections in an online journal. Judging from the last month of entries, Moby's political ideas are founded on two certainties. The first is a belief in pacifism, and the second is an equally strong attachment to the idea that Republicans are "anachronistic," "dangerous," "racist," and much else.

The latter certainty, concerning the utter foulness of Republicans, may not be why Moby wrote on December 11 that Trent Lott should resign. The utter foulness of Trent Lott's praise of Strom Thurmond's early politics were probably reason enough. But only the latter certainty--again, that Republicans are foul--can explain Moby's failure to mention the subject again once Trent Lott did resign. Whether or not the Dixiecrat sympathizer remained majority leader of the Senate, Moby remains quite firm on the foulness of Republicans in general.

The same belief about Republicans must also be what informs his take on the president. The musician accuses George W. Bush of "avoiding new york after it was attacked by terrorists." What then to make of the fact that Bush visited Ground Zero on September 14, where he briefly interrupted the grave proceedings to give heart to emergency workers on the scene?

Unfortunately, delusional partisanship is par for the course as Moby goes on and on about party politics, complaining on December 29: "why can't a democrat get fired up about protecting the environment and enacting gun control legislation just as right wing republicans get fired up about making sure that children have access to assault weapons and banning 'the catcher in the rye' and 'harry potter'?"

Funny. In another posting, as Moby waxes poetic about New York City, he apologizes for being such a hometown booster, going so far as to call himself "provincial"--ironically of course. Yet, that's exactly what he is. Knowledgeable about the exotic reaches of contemporary music, he's utterly clueless about the beliefs of the people around him. For instance, it's a fair bet that the guy who does the plumbing in Moby's downtown apartment building is a three-time Giuliani voter who doesn't give a rat's ass about Harry Potter.

Moby's other certainty, pacifism, is nothing if not consistent. After a concert in Boston last month he was jumped by three guys, one of whom used mace on him. In his online journal, the petite musician (who can't weigh more than 130 lbs) writes: "regarding the 3 guys who attacked me tonight, i'm not angry. i don't feel vindictive. not to sound weird or wimpy, but i'm a pacifist and i believe in forgiveness. i just hope that at some point in these guy's lives they come to realize that hurting other people is wrong."

Rumor had it the thugs were Eminem fans, doing their own riff on the rapper's line "Moby, you can get stomped by Obie . . . Let go, it's over, nobody listens to techno." (Why "Obie," incidentally, and not a play on the body part that usually follows "Moby"?) Anyway, days after the attack, Moby switched Los Angeles hotels when he learned Eminem was in the same building shooting a video. "i'd rather err on the side of non-confrontationalism," he wrote.

Whether or not one is impressed by the consistency of Moby's pacifism, however, it is clear that a pacifist can have little to say about the practical question of invading Iraq. If all war is wrong, everywhere and always, then any particular argument against a particular war must lose its distinctive claim on reason and morality. Besides, messing with the particulars leads Moby to say things like, "i'm actually kind of impressed by iraq's patience right now" (from January 5), and to play gotcha on Bush concerning the different approaches being taken toward Iraq and North Korea. Why doesn't Bush say to Saddam what he said to North Korea, Moby wants to know on January 10, that the United States has no hostile intentions and will seek a peaceful, multilateral solution to the current problem?