Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Always Room For Jello

By Claire Nettleton

MARCH 8, 1999:  Almost every decade has bred a rebellious generation, youth who have shaken the windows and rattled the walls of current social phenomena. The '20s bore the flapper children, the '60s bore the flower children and the '70s, well, the '70s bore the Farrah Fawcett children. It's easy to see why the man who defined punk culture, Jello Biafra, stood out during this desert state of polyester and desensitization. But in the '90s, an era of alterna-civilization, Biafra's formerly discordant remarks are now in tune with the mentality of America's "do something!" youth.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, Biafra interrupted Albuquerque's regularly scheduled thought as he opened his spoken word show by mimicking the American Broadcast Corporation. Appearing in a trench coat and black glasses, Biafra laid out the problems of "Soviet-America." The facetious speaker told the crowed UNM Sub-Ballroom that the audience must conform to the government's demands or they "will be shot." Ironically enough, Biafra showed that even the tattooed, university crowd was easily assimilated by pointing out their echoing of the phrase "will be shot."

Biafra believes that people everywhere are susceptible to corruption, even in the land of the "free." In his 41 years of life, the U.S. government has always seemed to reinforce his beliefs. As former lead vocalist of the infamous punk band, The Dead Kennedys, Biafra gave groups such as the Butthole Surfers and the Dickies their opportunity to flourish on his own label, Alternative Tentacles.

With raving lyrics that exposed the fall of America, showcased by a gritty, enraged sound, The Dead Kennedys were the '80s version of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath or George Orwell's 1984. However, it's questionable whether anyone took Biafra's lyrics to be more than updated fiction until his Big Brother conspiracy theory was proven to be true. In 1986, the police and members of the Parent Music Resource Center raided Biafra's apartment in search of "harmful matter" found inside the DK's Frankenchrist album--a reproduction of a sexually provocative painting by the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. Although charges were dismissed, an abundance of chain stores banned DK records, futher fueling Biafra's spoken words tours.

It's not surprising that Biafra's fifth spoken word opus, If Evolution is Outlawed, Only Outlaws will Evolve, deals with the threat of censorship. But instead of expressing the destruction of Tipper Goreans, Biafra focuses on corporate pollution in the marketplace of ideas. Biafra believes that corporate advertising is brainwashing us and stealing from our pockets. Could the plague of Mickey Mouse and the Nike "Swooshstika" be more detrimental to society than any Clinton scandal? In discussing "Monica's Magic Orifice," the applauded wordsmith innocently raised the question, "Wouldn't you be more concerned if the president never got any?"

While Biafra's sarcasm induced laughs, his well-researched dialogue evoked thought. Through his readings of "Moose Diarrhea Salesmen" and other works, he revealed his notion that the mal-distribution of wealth and hypocrisy found in America makes this country equivalent to a banana republic. "Our God is being replaced by our flag!" he exclaimed. Serving his entire life as a governmental check, Biafra feels it is his duty to remain in America. "Home is where the disease is," he says. From laughing at his teachers during flag ceremonies as a child to now exposing the school system's obsession with "Pepsi instead of pep," Biafra remains a catalyst for social betterment by raising consciousness.

At face value, Biafra's words may seem ridiculous. But after speaking of Mumia Abu-Jamal (a black journalist on death row after being convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer based on evidence Biafra and others consider questionable at best) and other shocking examples of injustice, Biafra reminds us that America does not always meet the definition of democracy. Biafra is an idealist. He advocates free speech and economic and social equality. However, like democratic ideals, Biafra's criteria for a utopia are difficult to carry out in a society characterized by social darwinism.

Supporting 'zines and the green party, this former San Franciso mayoral candidate believes that politics should thrive locally. Although he emphasizes the importance of individual freedoms, Biafra supports taxation for educating youth and for aiding the poor. Following the pattern of any effective orator, Biafra opened by disclosing social problems and closed by showing individual solutions.

Fortunately, there is hope for modern society. Though it's virtually impossible to stop relying on material goods, Biafra suggested boycotting companies that you know are contributing to "corporate dictatorship," such as music and video chain stores. Biafra is a firm believer that knowledge is control, and he promotes use of the Internet as an educational tool. Of course, Biafra still wove humor into his suggestions. He cited examples of people who tricked the media with false news releases and workers who undermined their corporate bosses. He showed that the power lies within the people. Wanna change the world? Start by sabotaging the work place. As Biafra puts it, "A prank a day keeps the dog leash away!"

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