Phonies

M.I.A.'s Terrorist Kitsch

M.I.A. regretfully accepts that because the lyrics to her pop songs give voice to oppressed people worldwide, she might be labeled a “terrorist,” while munching on a “truffle-flavored french fry” at the Beverly Wilshire—a moment captured in Lynn Hirschberg’s must-read takedown of the star in The New York Times Magazine. M.I.A. mixes sex and militarism as readily as she does genres, and she’s sure her political pop songs have put her on the watchlist of various government agencies. But her grasp of global conflict is superficial at best—experts say she’s made the conflict in her native Sri Lanka worse—and her luxe Los Angeles digs make her martyrdom look a tad bit comfortable. “If I was a terrorist, I wouldn’t be wearing American clothing,” she tells Hirschberg, who observes: “This may have been a joke, but [M.I.A.] rarely laughs. She speaks carefully, slowly, with a kind of deadpan delivery. Like a trained politician, she stays on message. It’s hard to know if she believes everything she says or if she knows that a loud noise will always attract a crowd.”