04/06/2011

SPLC Teams with Musical 'White Noise' As Partner in Education Campaign Against Hate

The Southern Poverty Law Center is serving as the official educational partner for the new musical "White Noise," produced by Whoopi Goldberg and opening April 9 in Chicago. The SPLC's Teaching Tolerance program partnered with the show's producers to create an educational guide that will be used by high school and college students to explore the musical's themes.

Inspired by real life, "White Noise" is a timely and cautionary tale that challenges conventional notions of free speech, media and the power of pop culture. The story follows a top-selling music producer who stirs up an explosive cocktail of shock and spin with a touch of controversy to package talented artists into blockbuster stars. Baited by fame and power, two diametrically opposed groups – a pop band that churns out catchy tunes of coded rhetoric and a hip-hop-turned-gangsta rap duo – meet at the top of the charts.

Directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo – whose Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning "Jersey Boys" – "White Noise" will play an eight-week limited engagement at The Royal George Theatre through June 5.

"Messages of hate aren't confined to the radical fringes of our society," said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. "This groundbreaking production and our educational guide will help young people understand the context of hate speech and its implications in popular culture and inspire them to call out others who engage in it. The SPLC is proud to be a part of this important conversation."

The SPLC has found that racist music has been used as a powerful recruiting tool to attract impressionable young people to the white supremacist movement. It also is a major source of revenue for racist hate groups. It's performed by hundreds of bands in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, and is produced by scores of small record labels. In the age of the Internet, this music is widely available to children and teens. While once confined mostly to hard rock, racist music now takes many forms – even ballads – as its purveyors seek a wider, more mainstream audience.

The SPLC documented 1,002 hate groups operating in the United States in 2010 – a 66 percent rise since 2000. A key component of this growth is the mainstreaming of demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the LGBT community.