Adam Yauch, R.I.P.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 4 2012 3:10 PM

Adam Yauch, R.I.P.

Shortly after TMZ and Rolling Stone broke the news of Adam Yauch's death, a couple of my wonkier friends tweeted about how he'd gotten them into politics. Yes, politics. For people of a certain age, the Yauch-spearheaded Tibetan Freedom Concerts were the first wholly non-ironic mass political events. There was generic "please vote for Democrats" activism (Rock the Vote), pro-choice activism (every L7 album) and AIDS awareness activism, coupled sometimes with a two-minutes-hate against somebody who strayed from the line.

The Tibetan Freedom Concerts were a bit bolder than that. They became punchlines, eventually, but they started as expressly political events intended to sign up new recruits to a human rights cause that the government (then the glorious Clinton-Gingrich cohabitation) didn't want to touch.

Advertisement

This is activism that won't really happen again. It was non-partisan; it was naive. In 2000, Yauch was the most vocal Beastie supporter of Ralph Nader's presidential campaign. After Nader spoiled the election for Al Gore,* this sort of "both parties oppress human rights equally" argument went out of favor. The Tibetan Freedom Concerts petered out in 2001, and when the Beasties returned in 2003, it was with one of the era's lamer anti-Bush songs, "In A World Gone Mad."

First the 'War On Terror' now war on Iraq
We're reaching a point where we can't turn back
Let's lose the guns and let's lose the bombs
And stop the corporate contributions that their built upon
Well I'll be sleeping on your speeches 'til I start to snore
'Cause I won't carry guns for an oil war
As-Salamu alaikum, wa alaikum assalam
Peace to the Middle East peace to Islam
Now don't get us wrong 'cause we love America
But that's no reason to get hysterica
They're layin' on the syrup thick
We ain't waffles we ain't havin' it

And so on. I think Yauch made up for this affront by distributing the excellent movie The Messenger, about the soldiers who informed families of their loved ones' deaths. And the concert-for-a-cause model, which he'd resurrected, is still with us.

*go ahead, flame me. This isn't really worth disputing

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.