Thirty-five people came out to Weill Hall to hear media entrepreneur Mike Muse talk about the intersection between public policy and pop culture Thursday. Muse is the host of radio show “The Mike Muse Show,” co-host of “Sway in the Morning” and is also an ABC News political contributor. Throughout the event, he analyzed politics and pop culture topics such as film, environment, music and sports.
Muse started the conversation by talking about film and television, specifically the movies “When They See Us,” “The Kill Team” and the “Dave Chapelle” series. He discussed their effectiveness in creating conversation by addressing topics that are controversial and come off as offensive. He also said film can illustrate stories that have been hard for others to understand, which was the case for “When They See Us.”
“We heard the story of the ‘Central Park Five,’ but we never got a chance to witness it for those who may have been too young, including myself,” Muse said. “To see it on the big screen, it takes on a whole new narrative. When you see it, you can feel it. The policies, law, the courtroom become humans, and then it becomes lives at stake. You can see how lives are impacted, so when you see it on the big screen that allows you to say: ‘OK, how can we change things?’”
Before his media work, Muse was an industrial engineer. He said his engineering background led to an opportunity to serve as a Google NextGen Tech Policy Fellow. The intersection between technology and climate change came into the conversation when Muse talked about his time at Formula E, a car race consisting entirely of electric cars.
“These (Formula E workers) are climate fanatics and they wanted to make a better impact on the world, but it was a marketing strategy,” Muse said. “Businesses are not rocking with electric cars and hybrid vehicles because it’s not sexy enough. They don’t see them as strong cars with the ability to go fast. So, what they decided to do was create an entire racing industry to impact climate, and I thought that was the coolest thing.”
Muse then transitioned to music, where he said catch phrases are a big part of pop culture, such as Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer.” After her song went viral, Muse said Stallion went to patent a copyright for her famous phrase and was successful. Muse emphasized the importance of Stallion being able to obtain a copyright due to a history of Black Americans being unable to in the post-slavery era.
“The patent office, when it was created, Black folks could never get a patent for anything they did during the post-slavery days because they weren’t look at as citizens,” Muse said. “They weren’t viewed as having the ability to get a patent and they were viewed as (not) having intellect. So, if you didn’t have intellect, then you couldn’t be considered a U.S. citizen. And considering having intellect meant you had a patent.”
Rackham student Aloka Narayanan told The Daily she was interested in the policy involved in the copyrighting of “Hot Girl Summer” and other viral catch phrases.
“The copyrighting of ‘Hot Girl Summer,’ I didn’t know that had been done. I had heard about recent efforts to copyright ‘Taco Tuesday’ and some other big catch phrases,” Narayanan said. “I thought it was interesting that he introduced it as an intellectual copyrights issue. What we traditional see purely related to pop culture and cultural norms can also have public policy implications that we don’t typically think about.”
Muse also talked about the platform that sports players have and how that has turned political in recent years. For example, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted in a now deleted tweet a statement supporting Hong Kong protestors and China responded by removing all events and coverage of the NBA in mainland China.
“I think sports has a hell of a way of really moderating our discourse in ways that we don’t really think about it,” Muse said. “I encourage you when you’re doing your studies, think tanks, internships to think about the ways that sports could help elevate things you guys care.”
Public Policy senior Ethan Ramer told The Daily he thought the discussion around sports and public policy is more important than people are usually led to believe.
“I thought it was really refreshing bringing sports into all this dialogue. Coming to Michigan, I was never really a sports fanatic, it was more my brother and my dad,” Ramer said. “I’ve realized the importance of sports being at Michigan with the football team and the basketball team and the baseball team making it to the finals and these big championships.”