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COUNTERPUNCH LETTERS : An Artist Reflects Society

August 10, 1992

Sheila James Kuehl's "Ice-T Critics Miss the Rapper's Real Target" (Counterpunch, July 27) adds feminist outrage over the violence perpetrated against women to the enormous vituperation already heaped upon Ice-T's "Cop Killer" and his "Body Count" album by such luminaries as Charlton Heston and Oliver North. (North's call for prosecuting Ice-T and Time Warner under the laws against sedition and anarchy is the height of ironic hypocrisy.)

Of course, listening to such rap artists as Ice-T and Sister Souljah is a bracing, indeed terrifying experience. The face of rage is usually an ugly one. Ice-T, as quoted in The Times ("Ice-T Pulls 'Cop Killer' Off the Market," July 29), has said, "This song is about anger and the community and how people get that way." It is that anger, not Ice-T's art, that can result in violent social consequences that are tragic for all, including police and women. No one, however, is willing to let the artist explain his own work.

Artists are an easy target when the underlying social problems they reflect are complex and overwhelming. Enjoining Ice-T from expressing his rage through song, no matter how offensive, does little to address or solve those problems. Although Kuehl appears to stop short of advocating censorship, she apparently is no fan of the First Amendment. She is willing, however, to exercise her First Amendment right to express her rage, through considerable sarcastic invective, in print.

Confusing art with the problems it reflects solves little. Even if a war in the media and the courts should succeed in cleansing the air of "offensive" speech, the body count of both men and women in the streets would likely remain the same.

PHILIP SMITH

Van Nuys

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