Who Took Down M.I.A.'s Controversial New Video for 'Born Free' From YouTube?
By Jason Newman Posted Apr 27th 2010 06:30PM
In the video, a group of police officers, with conspicuous U.S. flags stitched into their uniform, break into various homes, beating up onlookers and interlopers while rounding up redheads to violently escort to a prison bus. After being driven to the desert in the middle of nowhere, the teenagers are forced at gunpoint to run through a minefield. With its graphic depictions of point-blank shootings and bodily explosions, it's a difficult, yet necessary, video to watch.
As MTV's James Montgomery astutely put it:
[The video] depicts the kind of things that most nations - including the U.S., which is portrayed as the aggressor in the clip - often pretend don't happen: the rounding-up of ethnic minorities, the trampling of personal liberties, the bullying of the powerless by those with authority. And it does so in an unflinchingly, unapologetically real way.
On her Twitter page, M.I.A. originally lashed out against her parent label, Universal Music Group (UMG), for allegedly banning the video, stating "F*CK UMG WHO WON'T SHOW IT ON YOUTUBE" before following up minutes later with "OK NOT UMG FAULT!"
Later that day, the singer linked to this screenshot, a standard disclaimer by YouTube for any videos with controversial or adult-themed content. YouTube issued the following statement to PopEater and other outlets: "Our policy is to age-restrict content that has been flagged by the community and identified by our policy enforcement team as content that, while not violating our Community Guidelines, is not suitable for users under age 18." Ostensibly a tool to limit viewing by underage viewers, the restriction is hardly a ban, as anyone with an Internet connection, hands and the ability to say they were born before 1992 can view the video.
Here's where it gets tricky. Several news outlets reported that the video had been banned and taken down by YouTube, presumably based on the video's content. Yet in a statement to PopEater, a spokesperson for YouTube denied the company ever banned the video and only took down links at the request of M.I.A.'s record label XL Recordings. A quick search of the video as of Tuesday yielded at least one unavailable link with the message: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by XL Recordings."
M.I.A. and director Romain Gavras declined to comment for this story. A message seeking comment from XL Recordings was not returned.
Both M.I.A. and the video's director, Romain Gavras, are no strangers to controversy. The daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil activist, M.I.A. has been a frequent and outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan government and their alleged abuses and atrocities against the Tamil people. Gavras is the son of Costa Gavras, the Greek-French director best known for 1969's politically-charged 'Z,' and has earned a name for his tense, guerrilla-style videos.
The singer took over Pitchfork's twitter feed yesterday, regaling the online music site's readers with a series of lines including "go egosurfing DRINK A SHOT OF TEQUILLA spamouflaged in brandalism" and "i got digital cash Hactivism at its best Google Bombing with my Infotainment." The video can also be seen on M.I.A.'s website.
Singer M.I.A. arrives at the Jimmy Choo for H&M Collection private event in support of the Motion Picture & Television Fund on November 2, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. More M.I.A. photos >>
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