February 3, 2009

Music Time: Remember the Silver Jews

It isn't breaking news anymore when a rock band breaks up, or so I've been told. But I've just read a story by Anne Landman for the Center of Media and Democracy that made me sit up bolt upright.

Fans of the "indie" rock scene will have already heard of the demise of the Silver Jews, a well–respected band signed to the Drag City label (also home to Joanna Newsom, Edith Frost, and Faun Fables, among others).

What's startling is why SJs lead singer/songwriter David Berman broke up the band. From a post on the Drag City message boards:

Now that the Joos are over I can tell you my gravest secret. Worse than suicide, worse than crack addiction:

My father.

You might be surprised to know he is famous, for terrible reasons. My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human [molester]…

That famous "human molester" is… Richard B. "Rick" Berman.

Mme. Landman provides the background:

Berman has long been the front man through which corporations have aggressively attacked their opponents without leaving fingerprints. Known to his own friends and enemies alike as "Dr. Evil," Berman has perfected the art of setting up non-profit "charitable" groups to advance corporate interests. The groups have deceptively helpful-sounding names, like "Guest Choice Network," the "Employment Policies Institute" or the "Center for Consumer Freedom," but really serve as well-funded attack dogs for the tobacco, alcohol, chain restaurant, tanning and other industries. The groups' non-profit status makes their funding hard to trace, which has permitted Berman to operate in the shadows for decades while pocketing millions from unpopular industries for his work thwarting public interest legislation.

BermanExposed.org was launched last year by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. It reads like a what's what of all of Berman's inhuman activies including the ones Mme. Landman listed in the above quoted paragraph. Plenty to make you hold your nose and ask the musical question, "Who the f*** is that?!"

Berman managed to get the site pulled down temporarily, but it is back up and functioning as of this writing.

Back to the son:

He props up fast food/soda/factory farming/childhood obesity and diabetes/drunk driving/secondhand smoke.

He attacks animal lovers, ecologists, civil action attorneys, scientists, dieticians, doctors, teachers.

His clients include everyone from the makers of Agent Orange to the Tanning Salon Owners of America.

He helped ensure the minimum wage did not move a penny from 1997–2007!

The worst part for me as a writer is what he does with the English language.

Though vicious he is a doltish thinker, and his spurious editorials rely on doublethink and always with the Lashon Hara ["evil tongue" in Hebrew, as in vicious gossip — your Projectionist].

As I studied Judaism over the years, the shame and the shanda grew almost too much. My heart was constantly on fire for justice. I could find no relief.

This winter I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused. To you and everyone you know.

And those are the milder passages. There's more in Mme. Landman's story, which I urge you to read in full.

But first, a belated good–bye to his band, with the song "I'm Getting Back into Getting Back into You," from the 2005 album Tanglewood Numbers.

Kick it old school indie, David:

©2005 Drag City Records.

And may justice come swiftly to deal with the sins of his father.

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