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The music video may have died out as a vehicle for political protest, but in April the eclectic avant-world-beat artist M.I.A. released a haunting, nine-minute protest against the police state tied to her song “Born Free.” The clip sent ripples across the Internet.
The video portrays a squad of police descending on a housing complex, roughing up ordinary-looking people as they’re engaged in everyday activities (eating, sleeping, having sex). As the narrative progresses, the twist reveals the reason for the apparently random madness: The government is rounding up redheads.
M.I.A., daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil rebel, grew up amid war, and her music is unquestionably political, if not always coherent. She once claimed she wanted to “write songs about something important and make it sound like nothing.” The images in the video for “Born Free” are less ambiguous. Coming at a time when government abuses are increasingly captured on video, they’re also resonant.—Radley Balko
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