Mewsings from Lowecat (aka Indianacat)

My rants, ravings, and overall 'mewsings' on life, the universe, and everything.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Free Speech Comes with a Price

Well, it's happened again. Another celebrity has opened mouth, inserted foot, said something that was construed as racist, and has been removed from a high profile association by his or her words.

Hank Williams JR., a country singer and son of the legendary Hank Sr (father of Hank the third), made a controversial statement on Fox News about the POTUS. That comment made ESPN Sports, which now does ABC football, decide to drop his song 'All My Rowdy Friends' from the intro to Monday Night Football this week, and have now opted to make the break permanent.

I'm not a fan of country music. There are some artists I like. Alabama, Oak Ridge Boys (once worked for 'em at a radio station), Statler Brothers, Larry Gatlin, Reba McIntyre to name a few. I worked a couple of Country Music formats in radio, and could enjoy some of it. Hank Williams Jr., aka Bocephus, was always enjoyable with his own music videos. Definitely a rowdy fella. That might be why I like him.

Not gonna quote what he said; it's already been repeated ad nauseum on the network newsers and the blogosphere. It's been cussed and discussed to death. Some people think it wasn't racist at all, others say it was. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

I can appreciate why HWJ was incensed over the situation he was commenting upon. His words were a poor choice, but were said live, on the spur of the moment. Once they were out, he couldn't take 'em back. As is typical in the media environs today, only those parts that were inflammatory and prurient were shared, not the whole statement itself.

Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference had the bloggers and the message boards taken the whole thing and put it out for all to make their own determinations. It didn't take long for someone to consider the comment was racism, and the hue and cry began.

HWJ considers ESPN's decision, and the other subsequent fall out from the comment to be a violation of his first amendment rights to free speech. Well, that's his opinion, and he's entitled to it. ESPN has the right to use and not use whatever intro music they want, just as HJW or any other musician has the right to sell that music to them.

It's unfortunate that the two have parted company; it was probably a lucrative experience for both parties.

But this experience, as other celebrities have painfully learned before this, none of us can just say whatever we want and expect to get away with it. While we have the right to freedom of speech, there are also consequences for the things we say and do. Once upon a time, when there was no internet, it was possible for us to have a slip of the tongue and it would be overlooked and/or forgiven.

Not anymore.

In the digital age, our faux pax and other bloopers can be seen by millions, replayed at all kinds of speeds, dissected, reviewed, and held up to very close examination. It doesn't stay local, it goes world wide in less time than it takes to sneeze. People we don't even know are looking at what we've said/done/exhibited and either supporting it or wincing in pain and thinking 'There but for the grace of God go I!"

We all have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Howver, with those rights guaranteed to us in the Amendments to the US Constitution come certain responsibilities. There is still accountability for the things we say and do. Just because an amendment says we have the right to something, doesn't give one carte blanche to behave like an idiot. There's a line about your rights end at my nose. The same priviledges and responsibilities you enjoy are the same for me.

This, I feel, means we can't just open our mouths and spew garbage or fling poo however we see fit and NOT expect to have some kind of ramifications for our actions. Let's face it folks, we have the right to stand up in a crowded theatre and yell "FIRE!" at the top of our lungs. If there is a fire, yeah, that's a good thing. If there isn't a fire, and your hollering such causes a mass stampede of terror, you can bet your bippy said bippy should be held accountable.

I don't agree with what HWJ said. It was a poor choice of words, and he may, deep down inside, be aware of that. Whether he admits it or not. Maybe this will remind us that we should engage the brain before flooring the mouth, and speak a little more thoughtfully of our feelings on given subjects.

Don't get me wrong, I'm against the censorship of ideas, whether in music/literature/debate. I believe that a person can choose what they will and won't support through their purchases, reading, and listening habits. I don't think massive economic boycotts are a fair method to get one's point across. I feel it you don't like something, you have the right to say so, and not partake of that which offends you. But let me judge for myself, not expect to jump on your bandwagon out of fear that you'll reject me - and tell others to reject me.

That's true freedom, brother.

The days where one could spout stupid stuff and get off the hook have come to an end, thanks to the world wide web. Things that you didn't think would ever wind up going beyond your own little sphere of influence can now go all over the world in the space of a heartbeat.

As we saw in the case of Don Imus last year, and other cases prior to that, what might've started out as a local joke, intended not to go any further became world wide outrage within a few hours.


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