Posted Jul 29th, 2015 (1:56 pm) by Heather Starks
Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator

Should artists be able to invoke the first amendment as a means of escaping responsibility for their actions, or is that just a cop out that we allow them to take because of artistic license and our collective fear of trampling on the Constitution?

We recently ran a story about Tyler The Creator and his longstanding feud with the Australian grassroots campaign Collective Shout. The organization, which fights against the objectification of women, took issue with his repeated use of misogynistic, threatening lyrics and petitioned that his Visa be revoked and that all scheduled concerts be canceled. This has ignited a firestorm of threats aimed at Collective Shout’s director, Coralie Alison, as well as reopened the debate of free speech vs. good old fashioned hate speech.

Controversial lyrics are nothing new in music. N.W.A. basically told the police to go fuck themselves, Prodigy talked about smacking their bitch up, and of course, Eminem has rapped about killing just about everyone from his own mother to his wife in increasingly sadistic ways. I will be the first to admit that I have listened to and enjoyed many of these songs, usually without even giving it a second thought. Our culture is inundated with violence on a daily basis across every media platform, numbing us to the realities of what we are seeing and hearing. And if the occasion should arise that someone speaks out against it, they are somehow shamed into backing down with accusations that they are unpatriotic flag burners who have no respect for human rights.

Do you see the irony there? Imagine this, a coworker approaches you at your desk one day and with all seriousness says to you, "I got blood on my hands and there's no remorse and got blood on my dick ‘cause I fucked a corpse." (DMX, "Bring Ya Whole Crew") You would be rightfully concerned. Your first reaction would not be to go to your supervisor to have a meaningful discussion about freedom of speech. Oh there would be a discussion alright, one that would most likely end with your coworker's forcible removal. So why should it be any different when an artist writes a song about it? More importantly, why do we continue to support them with our hard earned money and then sing along every time it comes on the radio?

This is without a doubt, a touchy subject for many. Often times I find myself espousing the right to free speech on a variety of matters and it is incredibly important that we continue to fight to retain these individual rights. But where do we draw the line? Tyler The Creator has a legion of fans, many of whom are young men in their most formative years. They gather together like an army under their Admiral's sway, regurgitating his command that women are bitches who must be silenced by any means necessary, even death. If you had a son, would you tolerate him speaking to his mother in that way? Would you speak to your own mother, sister, aunt, or niece in that manner?

At some point, it’s no longer about the right to free speech. It’s about whether or not what these artists are saying is worth our time, money, and the possible ramifications of impressionable young fans turning fantasy into reality. If you ask me, I’d rather sit and play Puff the Magic Dragon until my ears bleed than watch one more so called role model wrap themselves in the flag and count the money they make off of our fears of being labeled un-American.

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