Censorship: Is It Ever Worth The Price?
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The times they are a changin’.
The current social pendulum swing has knocked a number of shock jocks off the air for doing what they were paid to do and had been doing for some time – shock.
While the cause of bringing civility to the airwaves may be a worthy one, the threat to freedom of speech is rising to the level of alarm.
Those who would regulate speech on both sides have taken to protest causing corporate America to quickly fold and err on the side of conservatism. If in doubt, fire somebody.
The harassment resulted in Howard Stern’s self-exile to satellite radio.
There was the Tsunami song and Miss Jones, Opie and Dopey staging and reporting sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Buck Wild on-air threats to the young daughter of a rival DJ.
Our friend Councilman Leroy Comrie attempted to police the hip-hop culture by leading a symbolic ban against the N-word.
Then it was Don Imus – you all know the details of the nappy-haired hos remark about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
Russell Simmons – the Queens born entrepreneurial hip-hop co-founder of Def Jam and commercial super-success – joined the effort in leading the Hip Hop Summit Action Network to attempt to remove the N-word, ho and bitch from the recording industry, considering them “extreme curse words.”
Now another twosome I’ve never heard of, JV and Elvis, were suspended for a prank phone call to a Chinese restaurant that was filled with ethnic and sexual slurs berating a female Chinese waitress saying they wanted to see her naked, especially a part of her body that is “hot, Asian, spicy.”
Yes, we would love the hip hop culture to clean itself up. Our preference would have them address the glorification of shooting and violence before worrying about the censorship of bad words.
Yes, we would love pop culture to embrace beauty and love before hate and death. But that’s a tough thing to legislate.
From kids video games, to their music, to much of their culture, social negative imagery plays a significant role.
It’s true of adults, too.
It’s always been true, I guess.
And yes, it needs to be addressed. Frank and open discussions, clear labeling and proper parenting, alternative choices are all worthy of our efforts.
It is interesting that the “alternative choices” – stations or music – that I refer to today are the ones of yesterday’s morality. It seems that pop culture is being identified as the social enemy and what was once mainstream, I’m calling alternative. Hmm!
I’m not so sure it’s any different today than yesterday.
I remember more than four decades ago going to the Fillmore East to see Lenny Bruce. I don’t remember my parents’ reaction to him. But the cutting edge comedian was years ahead of his time and used a vocabulary that created a career-making routine for George Carlin.
And during the performance, the police arrived in force. Then Bruce took out an apple – I remember it well – and invited it to engage in a variety of sexual acts with him using sexually explicit and vulgar terms of lovemaking to describe what hew wanted to do to the apple. Lenny Bruce was arrested.
And we all yelled.
And as I remember, that’s why we were there. To see how far Bruce could go without being arrested. Freedom of speech was a lot more important to me than Bruce’s humor. I was a First Amendment fanatic, even back then.
No one forced me to go see him. No one made me play his albums. Broadcast radio back then just couldn’t air them. And no, that was not good.
It’s real easy to turn the radio off or switch stations.
So Bruce got arrested. Imus and others lost their jobs – big deal?
Yes it is a big deal!
Russell Simmons claims, “Our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship. Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African Americans and other people of color, African American women and to all women in lyrics and images.”
To me it’s all being played out on the very slippery slope of censorship.
The message today is to watch what you say because if you go to far, you’re fired. In Bruce’s day, you were locked up.
So what is today’s shock jock allowed to say? What topics are taboo?
Is the creative community handcuffed? Are broadcast journalists at risk? Will the newspaper industry be next?
And if they can tell you not to use “ho,” can they tell you what you are allowed to call the President? Can they regulate your political speech?
Once the door to censorship is opened, you never know where the crazies will stop.
I think the trend is more ominous than it may appear to be right now.
Personal freedoms seem to mean a lot less in America today, than before Sept. 11.
Do those of us who want to spread good will and imagine a cultural change for the better, want to find it with duct tape over everyone’s mouths?
Who Killed the Blacksburg 32? Gun Laws, Or Shrinks, Or Both?
Nine days after the Virginia Tech massacre, a line has been drawn in the sand.
The left says that the prime cause of the tragedy is the easy availability of guns; the right blames inadequate diagnosis of obvious lunatics. Both sides are correct, and their viewpoints, although different, are not necessarily contradictory.
The fact that someone deemed dangerous by a psychiatrist can nonetheless buy a deadly weapon is frightening. There is a Federal law forbidding such transactions but, unless there is a national computerized database, how is a gun dealer to know a customer’s psychiatric history.
A bill to correct this situation by requiring states to place relevant information in a database is called the Our Lady of Peace Act. It was named for a Catholic church in Lynbrook, Nassau County, where a gunman shot and killed a priest and a worshipper on March 12, 2002. The killer was chased to a nearby house and captured in the room he rented there, after a seven-hour standoff with the police. At trial, he pleaded not guilty but was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life imprisonment. In searching his room, the police found a “kill list” with 24 names.
A New York Times article by Bruce Lambert eight days after the double murders reported the following facts::
Mr. Troy was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan in April  after he was detained for unusual behavior at Pennsylvania Station… After Bellevue, Mr. Troy went to his parents’ home in Hicksville, N.Y., where his mother had a prior order of protection against him. The family called the police, who took him to Nassau University Medical Center, where he had previously been hospitalized. Doctors there wanted to keep him for an extended period, but he demanded a hearing, and a Nassau County judge freed him.
Bellevue had already alerted the Nassau Department of Mental Health, requesting “intensive case management” for Mr. Troy, including regular monitoring by a caseworker, and an investigation of what other outpatient care he needed. Such procedures are required for mentally ill patients deemed potentially harmful under what is known as Kendra’s Law, adopted by the state in 1999 after Kendra Webdale was pushed to her death on a subway track by a schizophrenic who had been rebuffed seeking treatment.
But the understaffed mental health agency put Mr. Troy’s case on a waiting list for three or four months. Eventually, a case worker looked for Mr. Troy but did not find him, and the case was closed.
The Our Lady of Peace Act was introduced in the Senate by Chuck Schumer and in the House by Carolyn McCarthy, whose own husband was shot to death, along with five other people, on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train on Dec. 7, 1993. Ms. McCarthy, who became well known in the county through her efforts to promote gun control, was elected to Congress in 1996, and has been re-elected five times. The Our Lady of Peace bill passed the House on Oct. 15, 2002, just seven months after the church shooting. It never came to a vote in the Senate, which has many members from smaller and Western states, where any kind of gun control is treated like the bubonic plague.
The reaction we received from the psychiatric community to last week’s article on the Virginia Tech shootings was interesting. A number of professionals wrote on the difficulty of accurately predicting human behavior. That is undoubtedly true, and we are certain that there are borderline cases, and there are other cases where reasonable people would conclude, on the basis of the evidence, that the risk of violent behavior was minimal.
But Cho had every symptom of mental illness, and to call that one wrong was a tragic and needless error. Students and teachers at the school spoke openly of the possibility that Cho would become a mass killer. If the kids knew, why didn’t the M.D.s? We hope the investigation finds the truth about the blunder, but we never underestimate the ability of bureaucrats to obfuscate, justify and rationalize the most egregious errors they have made.
Editor’s note: Kendra Webdale, was a reporter for the Queens Tribune several years before she was tragically pushed to her death under a subway train.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato