Actually, I now know more about Chief Keef than I ever meant to learn. He’s a rapper with a couple of outstanding bench warrants in Illinois whose hologrammatic appearance at a Chicago nightclub (due to the bench warrants, presumably, and not the organizers’ interest in bitchin’ special effects) was canceled by the venue’s owners at the “request” of Rahm Emanuel, who claimed offense at the Chief’s violent lyrics. I deployed the scare quotes because, given the disgusting, amoral vagaries that have historically afflicted Chicago politics, a request from the mayor’s office to the owner of a business dependent on city licensing generally has significantly more force of extrajudicial law than my current request that Rahm immediately enforce the Penile Code on Chad Kroeger like the good little cocksucker that he is.
An uninvited call from the mayor’s office in a city like Chicago is the sort of thing that Captain Glenn of the 39th Police District in Philadelphia ruefully called “heat from above.” The difference is that the captain was getting his heat from above, and from below, over a nuisance bar that he wasn’t forcing his cops to clean up. From above, the heat was coming from the PLCB, Arlen Specter, Michael Nutter, and Ed Rendell (all three of them Northwest Philly local boys, Specter and Rendell very local). From below, it was coming from Major Bones, then a lieutenant, when Glenn called him on his home phone and berated him about the heat from above: “You listen to me: I’m a lieutenant in the United States Army, and you do NOT talk to a lieutenant in the United States Army that way!”
Captain Glenn sounded creepy and overbearing, but mainly whiny. He had gotten caught in the middle of all this bullshit between his own crooked beat cops and the Four Horsemen (named after four of Philadelphia’s dirtiest felonious cops, the bar also hired 39th District officers as security guards and skilled tradesmen) and a unified reformist front of disgruntled neighbors, state regulators, and the biggest names in Northwest Philadelphia politics. He just wanted to be spared the need to show leadership as the commanding officer of a police district, that was all. He wasn’t in on the soft graft; it was just shit that he inherited with his transfer to the 39th because gaaaaaaaahhh. There’s worse in the PPD than Captain Glenn. Hell, there’s probably still worse in the 39th District.
There’s definitely worse in Chicago politics. Look at the fucking mayor, why don’tcha. Like Philadelphia, Chicago has more than its fair share of lazy but decent and friendly cops who will gladly spring to action if their services are genuinely needed. I’m pretty sure that Captain Glenn was lazy, but this is another object lesson in C. S. Lewis’ aphorism about robber barons and moral busybodies, only with middling to high yeomen doing the robbery, if that’s what we wish to call it. The really engaged cops are the scary ones in these agencies, especially in Chicago. Jon Burge and his detectives weren’t lazy. They were depraved and incompetent, but they had a work ethic, and that was part of the problem. They thought they were cleaning Chicago up. Vice cops think that they’re cleaning Chicago up. Nicole Papamichael thinks she’s cleaning New York up by doing streetwalker cosplay, and she can’t understand why on earth her best friend from high school became a real prostitute (birds of a feather, I’m guessing, but the other chick was more honest with herself). There are beat cops in these cities, however, whose attitude towards prostitution is basically, “You’re working tonight? How much you charge?….Nah, I was just curious. I’m really just interested in pizza right now.” Or maybe they take some graft from the hookers, so that they can pay for their pizza for a change instead of tacitly extorting freebies from pizzeria owners. One wouldn’t want some rookie “pulling a Lindsay” and telling the commanders that they’re freestuffin’ off the merchant caste, after all. My bad: that’s the Portland Police Bureau, and I did not infer any of that story. (How Bill Evans stays so gaunt in a city full of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises is beyond me. Ronal Serpas needs to fly to Boston and tell him about food.)
Chicago’s politicians tolerated Burge’s torture dungeons. There are a few aldermen, mostly black ones, who try to force the CPD to clean house, but they’re outnumbered by colleagues and mayors who are either apathetic, crooked, or relieved that the violence is being used by the police rather than by minor nonstate actors. These days, NBC (of course) carries an entire police drama based on and named after the Chicago Police Department and devoted to rehabilitating Burge’s image as a crack detective with an unusual, misunderstood, but valid moral code. How many Americans understand that Hank Voight is a fictional character, not a real cop? You know, maybe because he has a New York accent, not Keith Herrera’s “they took my STAAAHHHRRR”? I don’t really want to know, because I’m afraid that knowing would force me to expedite my expatriation to Canada, and expatriation to Canada would force me to return to the HRSDC website. I’ve personally watched Voight come within seconds of drowning a heavily chained suspect in a river, bash suspects against walls, crush a suspect’s fingers with heavy pliers, put a knife to a suspect’s ear, and, in the one scene so gruesome that I immediately turned off the TV, bring a knife within millimeters of a suspect’s eye with the intent of gouging it out. But this thug is a good cop with a surprisingly soft heart for the right sorts of people, and Halstead’s intervention to put a stop to his drowning that gangster on the waterfront is just an example of the diversity of moralities that keeps the City of Broad Shoulders running; Voight told Halstead himself afterwards, at one of the bars where everyone ends up after watch in the obligatory alcoholic denouement.
Chicago PD gets even worse than that. One of its good cops is named, I shit ye not, Burgess. Because you can’t spell Burgess without Burge, and by Godwin, you can’t spell it without the SS. And Voight is played by one Jason Beghe, which is about as close as a non-Burgess surname comes to Burge. One of the big three legacy networks has a crime drama devoted to restoring to Chicago all the good things it never had, notably including police torture that didn’t leave a wake of wrongful incarcerations and monetary settlements by the city with Burge’s victims. The city tried to ignore Burge’s depravity, but once the story really broke, its hand was forced. At least it wasn’t physically forced by Hank Voight. Or Jon Burge.
In a context like this, Chief Keef is obviously a prime threat to the reputation of the police. As Hammond, IN, mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr., put it, Chief Keef “has a lot of songs about gangs and shooting people — a history that’s anti-cop, pro-gang and pro-drug use. He’s been basically outlawed in Chicago, and we’re not going to let you circumvent Mayor Emanuel by going next door.” Chicago’s government, of course, is strongly pro-gang, as long as the gang keeps a set of two-tone dress blues on standby. There’s also the matter of actual gang abatement requiring better policing than hooking up some poor bastard’s junk to a car battery in a police black site. That didn’t stop the Bloods and the Crips (wrong tones of blue, and not enough of them) and whoever else has been shooting it out from turning Chicago into a bloodbath, and it won’t. Community policing may sound awfully kumbaya, but that’s what it takes to put an end to gang violence. Brutes like Jon Burge aren’t so hot at community policing, one might say.
The Hammond Police shut down a public concert one minute after Chief Keef hologrammatically took the stage and dispersed the crowd of 2,000 that had gathered to watch him. The mayor’s arguments are that the other acts in the same concert series had been approved by the city, the approval being needed because the concerts took place in a city park. This means that the Hammond city government is on the record as believing in prior restraint as a guiding policy principle; anyone feel like suing the fuckers? And, as Mayor McDermott said, Chief Keef is “basically outlawed in Chicago.” What he means is that Rahm concurred with his official expression of butthurt on behalf of the victims of gun violence, and incidentally on behalf of the victims of behurtment of police feels. One needn’t be a cop oneself to be so butthurt, by the way; one need merely support the police. I’d rather support them by backing up efforts to fire bad cops like Jon Burge, but whatever; it’s a free country, and we all have the liberty to advocate the abolition of our own liberty.
Let’s step back for a moment. Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago, and Thomas McDermott is the mayor of Hammond. That’s all. These men are the elected executives of their cities. Even in a city government as corrupt and overbearing as Chicago’s, this should not be an especially difficult concept to grasp. In direct legal terms, there’s nothing stopping a venue owner from telling the mayor or his staff to go fuck themselves. If they don’t like Chief Keef’s music, they don’t have to come listen to it. A crooked mayor can arrange retaliation, but he’s still answerable to state and federal courts. He can still be sued for chilling free speech and breaching his equal protection duties. His police department can still be sued. The liability of individual officers is a blawgging matter above my qualification (not so much because IANAL as because I don’t feel like looking into that shit right now), but one might be able to sue the bastards for official oppression.
McDermott and Emanuel have expressed outrage that Chief Keef is abetting gun violence in Chicago. They find it offensive. Never mind that Mr. Keef is too busy rapping about gun violence and evading his Illinois bench warrants to commit gun violence in Chicago, or that the mayors are too busy complaining about Chief Keef dishonoring the dead to devote their time instead to fine-tuning the street violence abatement efforts of their police departments, these efforts having to do with real criminals committing real violence, not a hologram of a misdemeanor bench warrant buddy glorifying violence as a guiding principle through his art before a peaceable crowd. What John Street passionately called the “war on violence” must be more fun to fight metarecursively instead of concretely, which would probably involve walking around in the ghetto (in the ghetto).
Cold Chicago morning.
Elvis scandalized the censorious fuckheads of his day, too, but in his case, it was mostly over sex. Dem hips. Dem bell bottoms; James Traficant took notice. I’m reminded of a complaint from one of my colleagues about how the gay sex scenes in Spartacus are ruining all the cool murder scenes that he tuned in to watch. No homo, he’s there for the butchery. Quite the charming popular culture we enjoy in this country. Maybe I can troll the LaHayes and their crew with Left Behind fan fiction featuring Rahab, and some more Rahab. Maybe I can get Rahm Emanuel and Thomas McDermott to strong-arm an extralegal ban on the stage adaptation in two states. If I were narcissistic about this stuff, I’d be sore that no one has tried to censor me yet. (Actually, Facebook has quasi-censored my posts by shitcanning them from my friends’ feeds, but that’s just their Pentagon-approved brightsiding SOP.)
Chief Keef is apparently all about shooting people, not about rendering unto Rahab what is Rahab’s. Except that he doesn’t actually shoot people. There’s quite a bit of snark on the right about how arts and sports as diversions, midnight basketball and the like, won’t do a thing to reduce street violence, but here we have a guy who is too busy rapping about capping some nigga’s ass to actually, you know, cap a nigga’s ass. Forgive me if my verbs be all fucked up and shit; I have too big a backlog of Scott Simon #SPORTS chitchat and Steely Dan deep tracks waiting for me online to keep up with gangsta rap by some guy I first heard of this afternoon because he’s turned himself into a hologrammatic interstate First Amendment honeypot for bumptious mayors. So I’m not sure if he advises capping a nigga’s ass specifically, or if he advises street violence by other verbs. I do know, however, that he has never polar-beared me in Black Kensington (the dude calling me Whitey was just about as creamy as my coffee), so there’s that. Nor is he as popular as the Rolling Stones, an exceptionally coarsening outfit. “Under my Thumb” still gets airtime; it’s misogynistic garbage and, in strictly musical terms, not much more interesting than Warren Zevon. They’re known for that nice tune about raping the slave girl, too. A real class act, they are.
Will Rahm Emanuel so much as mount the bully pulpit to say that Wrigley Field ought not book the Rolling Stones because their music is morally corrosive? Of course not. There’s too much money at stake, and that’s a fellow who won’t let moral rectitude stand between himself and money. I don’t mean just C. S. Lewis-style busybody moral rectitude; I mean the moral rectitude of not trashing Chicago’s school system to the point of forcing young children to walk through rival gang territory on their way to school because he wants to spite the teachers’ union. Rahmbo has more blood on his hands by virtue of his forcing boneheaded school closures in rough neighborhoods than Chief Keef has on his by celebrating gun violence in song.
If I had to vote for one or the other of these two as a city councilor, I’d choose Chief Keef in a heartbeat. He might listen to warnings against policy so bad that it gets children killed on their way to school; we know that Rahm Emanuel does not. We’re also dealing with the difference between low-functioning psychopathy (two-bit gangsta rapper who pisses off the neoliberal mayor of Chicago) and high-functioning psychopathy (the neoliberal mayor of Chicago). Look, I’m not saying that I’d vote for Chief Keef over Kevin Faulconer, but there are reasons why Faulconer is the mayor of San Diego and not the mayor of Chicago, reasons having to do with why Chicago can’t have nice things. An example: reviewing Wikipedia, I find that Chief Keef was publicly named by the Chicago Police Department as a suspect in the murder of a musical rival and that the victim’s mother has publicly accused him of paying for a hit on her son. He has not, however, been indicted. Maybe the San Diego Police Department would have gotten the goods on him by now, but he committed the murder, or didn’t, in Chicago, which is a much better place to get away with murder, and, for similar reasons, a much better city than San Diego for aspiring murder victims.
If we’re all about respect for the police, maybe we should be all about respectable police departments. San Diego has one, and I say that as an SDPD academy reject who knows for a fact that there are some mighty strange rangers on the force because I’ve met them. But Chicago? Holy shit, Carl Sandburg. Maybe the way to get people to respect your police department is to avoid presiding over a police department and an elected government that harbored Jon Burge through his retirement at full pension. Maybe the Opposing Viewpoint to “The Police: Fuck You, Porky” isn’t “The Police: Respect Them, or Else” but ‘The Police: Still Employing Daniel Pantaleo, Unfortunately.”
At least Northwest Indiana still has endless strips of fireworks stores to complement its censorious elected officials. That Canuck priest with the footlong beard would go into a trance for hours at the state line just looking at the billboards. Maybe they can hologram him into that park in Hammond for an evening lecture on explosives and nationalism, eh. And maybe the cops can shut down his hologram, too, just by way of showing that their censoriousness isn’t really about race.