Helter Skelter and Why Obama Won’t Say “Radical Islam”

So everyone knows the Beatles is the worst band name in music history, right? I mean, it’s a cheap pun. 50’s dad humor. A tired stab at cleverness. Beetles root in dung. They evoke nothing except scarab shells and the yellow paste left on your shoe after crushing one. There were already the Crickets before them, and everything from the Turtles to the Eagles to Scorpions afterward. Contemporary indie-land is full of Monkeys that may be Arctic and Foxes that may be Fleet, but they’re still uninspired knockoffs. The word is dull as dirt, a milk spill on your grandma’s tan carpet. On the other hand, “the Beatles” evokes everything. Ed Sullivan, Yeah Yeah hysteria, Nehru jackets and brown acid and Helter Skelter. Lovely Rita and Sexy Sadie. An entire generation and then another. An entire songbook and all it altered/inspired. The death of John Lennon, a million covers of Working Class Hero, the spectacle of Wings over Europe. George and his mud-boot mantras. Ringo starring with Barbara Bach in Caveman. Ebony and Ivory. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Scottish Castles and Ram and Pete Best and Berlin and all that Yoko was ever blamed for. It’s possible that as a single word, “Beatles” encompasses more individual and group experience, more history and culture, than any other in the English language. Not to mention all the languages it has bored and nested into. Which, except for some obscure Cargo Cult dialects, is pretty much every language in the world. And it’s still just a dumb-ass word. A pun two delinquents smoking no-filters on the Liverpool train tracks before school could barely be inspired to coin.




Language is incredibly powerful in ways that often aren’t apparent until it has irrevocably seeped into us. Regardless of your candidate, do we want to fight a war of rhetoric, or the war itself? If speaking about Islam in a way that can be used as propaganda by the people we’re fighting to turn moderate populations we desperately need the support of against us, unless we plan to kill every single person in the region, wouldn’t it be wise not to do so? If the central goal of a group like ISIS is to convince young men that Islam and the west are fundamentally incompatible, should western leaders aid them in that goal to appease reactionary websites? Does demagoguing a considered and nuanced stance for cheap political gain a week after Orlando and months after Paris transcend campaign posture to fall into the realm of criminal idiocy? Was just in the shower, trying to make up my mind.





About Sean Beaudoin

Sean Beaudoin (@seanbeaudoin) is the author of five novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. His new short story collection, Welcome Thieves, is just out with Algonquin Books.
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