My lord this is a badly informed piece in the Times this morning. The lede:
The author, Thomas Fuller, goes on to identify a couple of shreds of evidence–“In the video for her song “Bird Flu,” for instance, children dance in front of what looks like the rebels’ logo: a roaring tiger”; “M.I.A. was born in Britain but moved to Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old so that her father, an engineer and a leader in the Tamil separatist movement, could help fight for an independent Tamil homeland,” a fact that isn’t mentioned till the article’s thirteenth paragraph–that supposedly support the claim that she’s a Tiger apologist.
Never mind that this reporting was done, in far greater depth, a full four years ago by Robert Christgau, whose conclusion then was as follows:
Christgau also takes care, as Fuller does not, despite presumably writing for an audience that has close to zero familiarity with the conflict in Sri Lanka, to detail what precisely the Tamils and the government are arguing about:
Not to mention who exactly her father is, and how much contact M.I.A. has had with him (very little, as it turns out):
As M.I.A. has said publicly many times, including in the Tavis Smiley interview last month that Fuller selectively quotes, her concerns about “genocide” in Sri Lanka are not limited to government actions against Tamil separatists: “If I represent anything, it’s what it’s like to be a civilian caught up in a war.” Finding a single songwriter to claim that “Frankly, she’s very lucky to get away with supporting, even indirectly, perhaps the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world,” is not evidence of very much of at all. And the insinuating suggestion that “Paper Planes” compares “international drug dealing with selling records” is not only equally circumstantial but also flat out wrong: selling records has nothing to do it. (“I kind of want to leave it ambiguous for my fans,” she told Smiley, which it assuredly is. I always figured it was about robbing drug dealers.)
This smear was old when it was being employed five years ago, and despite a pregnant Grammys performance, does not constitute “news” now, either–especially when the piece divulges exactly no new information about her putative relation with a rebel group she’s had no formal connection with for the better part of two decades. For that matter, what about reporting her visa problems? The political views of an administration that profiles pop stars as potential terrorists might easily “rankle some people” too.