Music Video, “Illmerica,”
Reviewed by Nick Brown
“Illmerica” is a recent electro-house song by US dance music producer, Wolfgang Gartner. Though the song itself is absent lyrics, the video is highly critical of the United States.
Unlike most Western and Western-inspired dance music videos, ‘Illmerica” combines popular aesthetics with political criticism. Many messages are presented in different ways throughout the video. However, one message stands out: Amerikan history is one of violence and bloodshed. Amerika is, as evident from the video, not to be exalted.
Violence between factions of oppressors is depicted prominently. The video quickly flows through scenes of the Amerikan ‘Revolutionary’ and ‘Civil’ wars and World Wars I and II. These are shown as conflicts presaging even further violence, imperial expansion, and conquest, not leading to further freedom or democracy as typical pro-US narratives tell.
Unfortunately, the video fails to highlight the realities and perspectives of Third World peoples, whose greatly exploited positions are the basis of all First World society and culture. Similarly, people of captive, oppressed nations are depicted infrequently and as lacking agency. A confused, one-sided presentation of today’s status of Whites is given, and the video make a point to show an oversized single-family home with a ‘foreclosed’ sign in front of it. Nevertheless, White Amerika is depicted as eternally hypocritical, war-obsessed and degenerate.
Context counts for a lot. Depending on the viewer, the video itself may be a step forward or backwards ideologically. In a nut shell, the video could be described as a critique of Amerika from a narrow perspective. Such a perspective may question aspects of modern imperialism, its bloody history and more philistine habits, but it will never come out against imperialism as a total economic, political, cultural and ideological system. Such a perspective may be at times critical, but it will rarely be oppositional. In a strong sense, videos such as “Illmerica,” along with many so-called “progressive” and “revolutionary” ideologies, do as much or more to legitimize and support the capitalist-imperialist system as they do to oppose it.
The music video for “Illmerica” is progressive in a narrow sense. For listener-viewers steeped in pro-US ideology and with little introduction into alternative history and social theory, such videos may be among the first steps to questioning dominant historical and social narratives. Generally however, “Illmerica” has too many failings to list. As with any number of so-called critics of imperialism, this should be expected. Such ‘critical’ perspectives will never be able to provide clear answers nor give solid meanings to the vast majority of people of the world struggling against imperialism. To accomplish these latter tasks, revolutionaries study the history of people’s struggle and inform themselves through internationalist practice. The video for Wolfgang Gartner’s “Illmerica” is notable because it is critical of Amerika. We must be critical of everything and hate Amerika.