How Adam Levine discredited a freedom-loving emotion
The controversy over Adam Levine’s comment on “The Voice” is a silly one.
Recently, out of frustration that two contestants he was working with got voted off the singing contest, Levine said under his breath, “I hate this country.” When his microphone picked up his comment, it provoked an instant negative reaction.
But the real controversy should be over the fact that his comment was perceived as controversial at all.
For all that is wrong with this country and the world, what’s not to hate?
But Levine, the former singer with Maroon Five and a judge on “The Voice,” wasn’t trying to be courageous. He wasn’t attempting to join the ranks of artists whose names have been scandalized for their political radicalism.
He was not looking to link up with a tradition that includes Hazel Scott, Paul Robeson and Bob Marley.
Levine’s one-liner doesn’t even elevate him to the level of the Dixie Chicks or Kanye West’s Bush-inspired fleeting moment of public lucidity.
No, Levine’s “hate” was just an unfortunate waste of an underrated yet justifiable emotion.
The righteous hate we should have with this country, the “divine dissatisfaction” once described by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was reduced to Levine’s frustration with what he saw as an ignorant television audience.
As a judge on “The Voice,” Levine is getting paid to play an insipid role for NBC, which is owned by Comcast. When he went briefly off script, he quickly assured his sponsors that he had not gone Jerry Maguire, or worse Howard Beale.
But for me, and the band of haters I roll with, hatred of this unjust world is a way of life.
So we must hate on Adam Levine not for his initial comment but for his incredibly weak use of such a powerful and truly freedom-loving concept — and for his pathetic apology.
Levine didn’t say, “I hate this country” because of its worsening inequality, or the war in Afghanistan, or the drone attacks, or the curtailment of our civil liberties, or the prison-industrial complex, or the country’s massive contribution to global warming, or its support of Zionism.
Nor was his ire directed at white musical knock-offs who mimic people condemned to increased incarceration.
And he certainly did not say his band is named after Russell “Maroon” Shoatz as a symbol of the group’s solidarity with this country’s still-held political prisoners.
Nor was it directed at law enforcement officers who kill a black person in America “Every 28 Hours,” as a recent report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement shows.
No, he picked the most puny reason to part ranks with his country. And then he caved.
This kind of cowardice is not going to eradicate injustice in America.
As Malcolm X said, “When a man is sad over his miserable conditions he does nothing. … Sadness doesn’t change anything. It’s only when he gets mad that he changes it.”
Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He can be reached at pmproj [at] progressive [dot] org.
You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.
- Give a Gift
- About Us
- Civil Liberties
CURRENT ISSUE: December 2013 / January 2014
Rick Bass | Why I’m left with no choice but to put my body on the line.
When Government Was Neighborly
Wendell Berry | Saluting a New Deal program that helped Kentucky farmers.
The Bravest Woman I Know
Kathy Kelly | How an eighty-two-year-old librarian braved Baghdad.
How to Build a New World
Naomi Klein | Why I was wrong in The Shock Doctrine—and what we must do now.