Make Noise, Not War
As the world clears their collective throat in preparation for Saturday’s Feb. 15 protest, Damon Krukowski works feverishly in Boston to aid and inform those about to shout for peace. Krukowski and Naomi Yang, commonly known as Damon & Naomi and in the past as two-thirds of the legendary Galaxie 500, run Musicians For Peace, a network of communication for musicians opposed to war in the Middle East. Their web site http://www.musiciansforpeace.org has been a rallying point for peace and understanding amid the political subterfuge since Sept. 11, 2001.
Musicians for Peace began shortly after the Twin Tower bombings in New York, a period when patriotism ruled and common sense was anything but. An overzealous media fueled thoughts of retaliation against Al Qaeda and the predominantly innocent Afghani people, kickstarting the War on Terror which has predictably spread from Afghanistan to Iraq in the months since.
Following Sept. 11, Krukowski and Yang decided speak out against the cry for war, rallying musicians to march in a Sept. 29 protest in Washington D.C.
“We sent out a plea via e-mail, basically saying ‘Let’s go down and make some noise that not everyone is ready to jump into a belligerent response’,” Krukowski said. “People came from all over, it was really amazing, and we marched as a group, as musicians, under this banner.”
Over 50 musicians from Boston, New York, Washington, Raleigh and even California spontaneously arrived at the protest, an inspiring turnout considering the short notice. Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile, along with Damon & Naomi, were just some of the indie rockers who showed up for the event.
“Already I knew that the unanimity the government hoped for wasn’t there,” Krukowski said.
When Krukowski and Yang returned to Boston, however, they arrived to find almost zero coverage of the event.
“We felt at that point we had to continue to develop lines of communication with likeminded people,” Krukowski explained. “At that time, people were very afraid to say anything against the government’s course of action. It just seemed like if you showed you were willing to put your name out there, other people would too. Now, fortunately, real celebrities are doing it finally, and even some politicians, and that will enable people who don’t believe in a course of war to make their voices heard in real numbers, because I think there’s been a lot of silence. There was a deafening silence after September 11.”
The mass media’s hesitance to acknowledge the dissident cry for peace led Krukowski and Yang to launch musiciansforpeace.org. The site began as a petition for musicians to sign and voice their opposition to violent retaliation and soon developed into a valuable center for information not readily available in most major media outlets.
The petition started simply enough, with Damon & Naomi signing their name at the top. Then followed Wayne Rogers and Kate Village of the Cambridge music store Twisted Village and psyche outfit Major Stars. Soon, Thurston Moore added his name, then Masaki Batoh of Ghost and punk pioneer Richard Hell. To date, the list includes over 300 names of musicians, critics, and fans from all over; from Japan to Sweden - from Portugal to Argentina.
“The thing that has been most rewarding is how international it is,” Krukowski said. “Almost immediately we heard from musicians in Japan and Europe This is what you get to do as a musician, you’re constantly in touch with people from other cultures and finding means of agreement. We as musicians don’t live in isolation. It’s very easy for us to contact people all over the world. That’s why we had our statements translated into different languages on the site. The very, very banal cliché that music is the universal language also happens to be very, very true.”
In fact, the international media’s coverage of the War on Terror has dwarfed that of the United States, something that Krukowski duly notes via the articles portion of musiciansforpeace.org.
“In England, the polls are uniformly against this war,” Krukowski said. “Again, hearing from people over there really helped us keep a sense of perspective, because there has been a lot of silence in the media about the response overseas. There’s been a series of protests in London, the largest public demonstrations they’ve ever had. To me that’s really front page news. If half a million people are in the streets of London, you’d think the New York Times would cover it.”
The site links enlightening articles from the Guardian in Britain, the Toronto Star and the Jerusalem Post, as well as material from state side papers such as the New York Times, Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune that readers may have missed amidst the hostile headlines. Krukowski compares the situation to the New York Times coverage of the Holocaust in the mid-40’s.
“The Times once ran a special on themselves,” Krukowski said. “And Max Frankel wrote a fascinating piece about Times lack of coverage of the Holocaust. What he found is that the Times never put the information it gathered on the front page. But every fact known was reported. If you scoured the paper and pieced together every bit of info you could find about the state of the Jews in Europe, you could come to the conclusion what was going on was the Holocaust. However, the Times never did anything to help you understand that.
“I bet every bit of info we need to understand what’s going on out there is reported,” Krukowski continued. “It’s just not put on the front page or put into the coherent presentation we need to understand the conclusion of what’s unfolding.”
On top of uncovering worthwhile news articles, musiciansforpeace.org also features a thorough links page, highlighting alternative news sources, activist organizations and other various, insightful websites.
“We have this tool called the Internet,” Krukowski said. “It allows us to gather info from all these different places and it’s easily done. Our feeling is, it was all out there, it just wasn’t being strung together.”
Thanks to Krukowski and Yang and a make-shift nation of pro-active musicians, consider it strung.
By Otis Hart