Quebec Premier Charest has announced that the group Mise en Demeure will not play at the official Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration on the Plains of Abraham. Charest says the festival is not political. [double-take] What? You’re having a St. Jean celebration on the Plains of goddam Abraham that isn’t political? In fact, a Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebration anywhere has been pretty political for, oh, as long as I can remember. Back in 2008, a couple of bands were barred because they sang in English. (After a public outcry they returned to the bill.)
The group (whose name means “Official Notice”, a legal designation, en Anglais) has released correspondence with the Quebec government showing that the province threatened to cut off funding to other groups if Mise en Demeure was allowed to play. So, Mise en Demeure withdrew so as not to offend government sensibilities.
Is the group political? Sure. It’s right up there with, say, Chumbawamba as an anarchist threat. Why ban them? Why add more fuel to the fire in Quebec? Well, that’s because of Amir Khadir.
Amir Khadir was born in Teheran and immigrated to Canada when he was five. He is currently the only member of Québec Solidaire to hold a seat in the provincial legislature. Solidaire is a leftist, sovereignist party. Khadir has shown his support for the recent Montreal protests but he is hardly the only member of the provincial government to do that. Khadir has three daughters.
One daughter, Yalda, has been charged in connection with the protests. Yalda is a real live wire. At a court hearing she attacked a press photographer saying that she deserved her privacy. Well, no, Yalda, you’re in court now and this is part of being a public protestor. Hold your chin up and face the camera. Current charges against Yalda include vandalizing the office of a political opponent of her dad’s. I don’t know if she’s guilty or not but the Quebec press has already pronounced that she is. Currently, the girl is out on bail.
But what has this to do with Mise en Demeure? Well, when the cops went to arrest Yalda, they searched the rest of the house and discovered a poster for Mise en Demeure under a glass tabletop. The poster is a take on Delacroix’s painting of Paris revolutionaries storming the barricades. Instead of the bare-breasted figure of Marianne/Liberty (which probably would have had the group accused of pornography) there stands Bananarchiste, member of Mise en Demeure. The stripped dead soldier on the ground has been given the features of Jean Charest. A Montreal cop kneels before Bananarchiste. It’s a very straight-forward takeoff substituting current figures for those of Delacroix. The face of the guy in the top hat with the musket is now that of Amir Khadir.
I can see Khadir and his daughters thinking that this was great fun, but proper Quebec is scandalized. It’s violent, they say, sucking in their collective lower lip like Max Pointy. “Charest Dead at the Feet of Khadir” screams le Journal de Montréal. Everything in the picture is removed from context, every syllable in Mise en Demeure’s lyrics is examined for propriety. Quebec used to think of itself as cool, now it sounds like a Florida court trying a hip-hop artist.
But worse than this is the way that the media accepts that no proper politician would ever own such a seditious poster, at least not where a cop can find it, and if he does he’s guilty of something. Khadir hasn’t been charged with anything yet but the press is ready to defend Authority when it cracks down. Here’s a sample: this guy in the Gazette wants us to know he’s cool, he’s a metal-head who’s been to tons of concerts and he’s not offended by bad-taste album covers (he prints a Cannibal Corpse cover depicting one rotting corpse fellating another to demonstrate just how much he can tolerate) but this, this!, is too much, he says. Oh, my. Your poor bruised metallic feelings. But anyone who still looks to newspapers for unbiased news is doomed to disppointment. All of Quebec’s press is now and has always been opposed to the protests. Bring on the Law, they cry, and await Judge Dredd to sort things out.
So, another day, another stupid move by Charest. Meanwhile, you can listen to Mise en Demeure here. In fact, you can download a complete album for free! Don’t worry, Grand-dad, it won’t hurt your ears — it’s 99% acoustic and the lyrics are fairly clear; Chumbawamba is not an off-the-wall comparison.