If Rappers take Heat for Inflammatory Words Why Can’t Sarah Palin?

I have a few questions that have been nagging me about all the issues falling out around this past weekend’s tragedy in Tucson?

First, there’s been a lot of talk about how accused Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner is mentally unstable, crazed and out of his mind. People are looking at his smiling/ smirking mug shot  and concluding that only a genuine psychopath would display such demeanor after killing 6 people in cold blood and injuring 14 more.

Personally I don’t know.. I never been around anyone who’s killed 6 people so I have no idea how they would act. I would imagine if it was me I’d be remorseful, but when I watch folks like Fox News commentator Glenn Beck telling us he wants to kill filmmaker Michael Moore or  Bill O’Reilly saying he thinks Washington Post columnist Dan Milbank should be decapitated ,they seem to be jovial. They seem to relish in the idea of ending someone’s life.

Is that the mindset of a violent person? Are they all smiles? Is that why Loughner was smiling?

Accused Tucson Massacre killer Jared Lee Loughner smirking

When I heard former governor Sarah Palin unapologetically use gun rhetoric in describing how she wanted to eliminate her political opponents, she seemed pretty gleeful even after receiving complaints. One of those opponents who voiced concern was shooting victim Gabrielle Gifford, but Palin paid her no mind. She never stopped smiling.

Noting that a smiling Jared Lee Loughner indicates craziness, my question is; ‘Just how crazy is he?’

Is he too crazed to hold a political opinion? Does he know the difference between a socialist and a communist? Is he discerning the difference between a commentary from MSNBC host Keith Obermann and one by radio hosts Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage?

Perhaps a mentally unstable  Loughner reacted and followed the leads of the loudest  most ruckus voices around. After all, all the tough talk about ‘don’t retreat and reload’ is not hidden. It’s pretty much mainstream.Such rhetoric along with footage of angry Tea Party folks showing up to rallies with guns threatening to take their country back are shown on the highest rated news stations like Fox. Inflammatory rhetoric expressing violence comes off the mouths of  some of the country’s most visible hosts, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

In a staunchly conservative state like Arizona it’s almost impossible to escape a steady of diet these loud, in your face personalities and their violent rhetoric. Whether he leaned to the left or to the right, there’s no doubt  he was exposed right-wing, Fox News-like pundits   routinely denounce civility in both words and actions. There’s no doubt in mind that had an influence.

580 Freeway Shooter claims he was inspired by Glenn Beck

Now some folks reading are thinking what I’m saying is a bit far-fetched. The argument they’ll try to put forth is it’s not about the speaker it’s about the listener. They’ll insist that the person on the receiving end of a political tirade needs to be RESPONSIBLE for their actions. In other words,  a pundit like Sarah Palin is not responsible for the way someone reacts to her public utterings?

A guy like Glenn Beck who fantasized about killing Michael Moore and crusaded against the Tides Foundation is in no way responsible for the near deadly actions of would be mass murderer Byron Williams, the 580 Freeway shooter who went toe to toe with police while en route to the Tide headquarters where he planned to lay in wait?

I asked these questions because some of the same people defending this violent rhetoric from political pundits  and politicians weren’t too kind when it came to rap artists who invoked violent imagery to make a political point.

The most famous among these is Public Enemy who 2o years ago did the song ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona‘.  Here, they wanted to bring attention to the fact that there were certain politicians who were refusing to allow the state to recognize the Dr Martin Luther King holiday, so they did a song that spoke to it.

Chuck D

In the accompanying video, the group  showed black and white re-enactments of Civil Rights demonstrations which were juxtaposed with images of Chuck D and his armed crew the heading to the office of one of the Senators opposed to the holiday where they handed him a box of poisoned chocolates. As the video ends we see Chuck D blowing up the car of an unnamed elected official.

Needless to say folks went nuts over the video. Chuck D and Public Enemy were accused of fostering violence with some critics stating that there would be blood on their hands if anyone resorted to violence as a result of this video.

Chuck pointed out it was basically political theater, but very few in the halls of power were trying to hear that. As far as they were concerned Public Enemy had crossed the line.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrFOb_f7ubw

Rudy Giuliani

Another group that caught heat was Queens based group Screwball who had an issue with then Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In ’99 around the time that police shot and killed an unarmed Amadu Diallo 41 times, the group  did a song called ‘Who Shot Rudy?’ The song was widely cheered and accepted throughout many of NY’s Black communities where residents were at odds with the police. Many in the establishment including the Mayor weren’t happy. The group got a visit from NYPD who confiscated their recording equipment and CDs. I recall the outrage that was voiced toward the group..

‘How dare they call for the shooting of a public official ‘? , is what critics howled.

Like PE Screwball was told there would be blood on their hands should any violence go down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5b-gj0Amgc

We can list at least a dozen more examples where artists have caught heat over what was described as troubling politicized rhetoric. The list includes Sista Souljah who got a harsh rebuke from then president candidate Bill Clinton when she made racially charged remarks around the Rodney King riots. Clinton went after a Souljah as a way to prove to skittish voters he could stand up to Black leaders.  When he heard that Jackson had invited Souljah to speak at his Rainbow Push convention, he dropped his harsh critic which is now known as Sista Souljah Moment.

Bay Area rapper Paris had his album delayed and he got a visit from the Secret Service when he released a song called ‘Bush Killa‘ which was featured on the album ‘Sleeping With the Enemy’. The track starts off with the mock assassination of President George Bush Sr . That caught folks attention. But what really made people angry and perhaps triggered the Secret Service visit was the inner sleeve album cover that showed Paris in a knit cap holding a rifle ready to shoot the President.

Paris described the song as a ‘revenge fantasy‘ and political art. All conversations along these lines went out the window as political pundits soundly rejected the political rapper accusing him of having gone too far.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhCD485TY-A

In June of 2001, Boots Riley and his group the Coup released an album called Party Music where they had the World Trade exploding. Boots explained that he wanted to show a symbolism of capitalism being destroyed to underscore the political content of his album. It was no different then the video released a few years prior  during the East-West Coast Battles where Snoop Dogg was depicted knocking down a building that characterized the NY skyline. It was symbolic.

When the 9-11 attacks took place, the Coup, who weren’t on too many people’s political hit list, suddenly found themselves under the microscope. The symbolism was taken seriously in quite a few circles. Some wanted to know if this album cover would encourage other acts of terrorism. Words like Unpatriotic and Treasonous were bantered about when referring to a group that had been consistent with their political views for almost a 10 years before 9-11.

One of the more infamous rap songs where an artist came under fire for ‘influencing’ the public into destructive action was Ice Cube‘s ‘Black Korea‘ . This was a racially charged song where Cube targets Korean merchants in the hood for not liking Black people.

Fresh in his mind was the shooting death of 15 year-old Latasha Harlins,a Black girl who was killed by a Korean grocer. It sparked racial tension between Blacks and Koreans in LA and the Black Korea took things to new heights.

Ice Cube

When the Rodney King riots occurred, many Korean merchants were on the receiving end of anger being expressed. Cube was caught in the firestorm and blamed for helping bring harm to innocent people.

Cube defended the song as being a reflection of the political and racial climate at the time. Many others including quite a few political types though Cube was irresponsible with his words.

The point being expressed by citing these examples is that law enforcement and many of these political pundits when on the receiving end of harsh words no longer wanna uphold the ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ adage . Suddenly we’re not having conversations about listeners being responsible. Sudeenly we’re’ concerned about the influence of the artist.

Is the GOP and Right wing trying to have it both ways?

I guess if we had time and space we could have a lengthy discussion about the war around cop killer type songs. Numerous artists ranging from Ice T to NWA and Ice Cube to Mac Dre to 2Pac have all faced not just a firestorm of criticisms but saw their songs banned, concert venues stipulate they could not perform their respective songs, lawsuits, a stinging letter from the FBI, labels dropping them etc. The list is long.

From where I sit, if everyone from the FBI on down to law and order politicos feel that a rapper and his video have undue influence on the public then the same rule applies to these right-wing talk show hosts and politicians like Sarah Palin.  Glenn beck himself said it best.. He’s an entertainer. Sarah palin says she uses colorful rhetoric to appeal to folks.

Well if they’re entertainers and choosing words to ‘appeal’ to folks why can’t the same criticism and censoring actions that that Ice Cube and other rappers had to endure not apply to Sarah Palin and her gun totting rhetoric.  What’s good for the geese is good for the gander.Right?

something to ponder-

Davey D

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Arizona Massacre: When Will We All Own up to the Climate of Violence?

Nothing happens in a vacuum especially tragedies like the one that took place over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona where Congresswoman Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Gifford was shot point-blank in the head at the hands of a man named Jared Lee Loughner.

According to reports Gifford is lucky to be alive but when she recovers she is likely to have difficulty speaking…Sadly there  were 5 people who didn’t come home that night. They include a nine-year old girl named Christina Green. She’s the grand-daughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green.

There was a District Judge named John Roll, 63.There was Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30. There were several elders including; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

Before we move forward let’s think about the people slain for just a moment….Let’s Pause…Let’s Stop, think.. Reflect…

Christina Green

Let’s think about the family of  Christina Taylor Green. Look at your kids. Think about your grandkids. Could you imagine if this was your child that was shot and killed in Tucson?

Think about the fact that the reason young Christina was present on Saturday was because she had just been elected to some sort of student office at school and wanted to further her interest in government. She was eager to meet Congresswoman Gifford to get some pointers. Her distraught parents said she wanted to see democracy in action.

Christina was interested and enthusiastic in a way only a child could be. It was that sort of  innocence and beauty  that was lost the other day in Tucson.

Let’s think about Gabe Zimmerman..He was thirty years old..a young man who by all accounts had his best days before him…Let’s think about him for a moment.

Who was he?  Did he have brothers? Sisters? Kids of his own? What did he mean to his family? How heartbroken are they today? What about his friends? His loved ones?

Congresswoman Gabby Gifford

Think about the 4 seniors slain, John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard and Phyllis Scheck. Since when has it been ok to kill the elderly in such a brutal fashion? They were parents and grandparents. How are their families feeling? Think about the pain their loved ones are going through.

Imagine if it was your mom or dad who went down to the store to see their congressperson and never returned? How would you feel?  Think about the pain of losing one of your parents suddenly… Think about that for a minute…Think about losing your sweet mom.. Think about losing your dad.. Think about losing your grandmother or grandfather  to senseless violence. For many such thoughts are unbearable. Such thoughts are unthinkable.

The question we all must answer is how many of us really thought about this loss of life enough to change the way we engage one another in our political discussions and do we really want to?

The Climate of Violence Has Been Building for a While

When thinking about Gabby Gifford being shot and along with those slain Gabe, Christina, John, Dorothy, Dorwin and Phyllis I could not help but think about all the crazy death threats that have been directed at everyone from President Obama in the two years he’s been in office all the way back to my Congresswoman Barbara Lee shortly after the 9-11 attacks

For those who don’t recall, Lee was the lone vote in Congress who said ‘No’ to Presidents Bush’s Post 9-11 Use of Force Act which would’ve increased his powers and resources to wage war against the Taliban.

Lee voted No and next thing you know she was showing up to our church with Secret service in tow. Her office was threatened, she was threatened, there were vicious editorials accusing her of being UNPATRIOTIC..

I heard radio commentators who never served one day on the frontline of any war , talking crazy about how we need to fight, kick ass and not show weakness by talking about peace. During those turbulent times, we were all asked to choose a side and anything not supporting the war effort was deemed less than honorable.

We saw a return to some of those sentiments this past september on the anniversary of 9-11 when there was a proposed building of a mosque/ community center several blocks away from Ground Zero. We had former mayors, sitting senators, a governor and numerous Congressman publicly state that it was wrong for fellow American citizens to build a mosque in an area that contained fast food joints and strip clubs, because according to them, it would be insensitive. The people backing the Mosque were warned that moving forward with their proposal would inflame the masses and that it would lead to violence.

Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by a domestic terrorist named Michael Enright photo by Robert Mecea

In the days leading up to the anniversary  that we heard some of the most vile and insidious things said about our fellow citizens who practice Islam and it wasn’t too long before violence, homegrown American violence, reared its head and mosques were vandalized, bomb threats issued, people assaulted. One unlucky innocent cab driver named Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by an individual named Michael Enright who decided  that the best way to resolve the issue would be through an act of violence.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. I can go on listing all sorts of examples. They range from students in inner city schools being required to shed so-called gang colors from their attire least they enrage the local thugs who will come to the school and cause problems to women being told to dress less provocatively for fear of inflaming the uncontrollable passions of a would-be rapist to gays and  lesbians being told to keep their sexual orientation to themselves otherwise they might upset any number of homophobes.

I bring up these examples to make a larger point. If I, we and us all are being told to calm it down, who is seeing to it that the on air punditry and Fox News personalities to tone it down? No one.. When the subject is approached its called FREE SPEECH. Its called POLITICS.. Its called Americans standing up for their rights. We have all sorts of other euphemisms being used to describe over the top, coarse behavior. When do we draw a line in the sand and say no more? No more to inflammatory rhetoric?

Is Harsh Rhetoric and Violence a Habit We Can’t Kick

Now I’m fully aware that there were quite a few who read this including some who have media platforms where they get to have daily one way conversations with the public who saw my suggestion about reflecting on the loss of life  as corny. It’s something that should literally be dismissed and there are all sorts of justifications.

Some will say that the thought of trying to be civil especially at this day and time when there have been so many attacks launched our way is not happening. They’ll be cynical in thought and say something along the lines; ‘Love and Peace? Fuck that… It’s about No Justice, No Peace.. They’ll have concluded, that part of our problem is we’ve been civil for far too long and its gotten us nowhere. They’ll note that we’ve  been way too nice and all its gotten is more venom and a perception that we are somehow weak. Many of us have come to believe the old adage Nice guys finish last especially in the arenas of love and politics.

Upon hearing about the tragedy in Arizona if the first thing that went through our minds was the hateful rhetoric of a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck vs the faces of those injured and slain juxtaposed with our loved ones, what does that say about us? Did a bit of our humanity die with those slain or was it an affirmation that our humanity has been long gone and we best find ways to get it back?

Sarah Palin

If Sarah Palin was busy erasing tweets, scrubbing her Facebook pages and hiding that infamous map with the crosshairs targeting Gabby Gifford, or some other politico who uttered hurtful words was suddenly consulting PR firms to do damage control and figure out what sort of spin to apply to this incident while the dead bodies in Arizona were still warm, what does that say about them? What does it say about us that we still embrace and give such people who show no remorse validity?

Again, nothing happens in a vacuum and this killing spree was no exception. Many of us, when we talk about violence we tend to see incidents like the one in Tucson as isolated and limited to the person pulling the trigger.

Can We Explain Away Domestic Terrorist as Mentally Deranged?

We wanna explain away accused shooter Jared Loughner as a deranged, emotionally disturbed man who simply needs to be condemned and locked up. We wanna suggest there is absolutely no reason to connect him to hate groups or see him as part of a larger terrorist cell. I guess for many of us, it’s simply too hard to accept that emotionally disturbed people are susceptible to the being recruited by hate groups or partaking in terrorist activities. We like to believe that once we lock up Jared Loughner and throw away the key we’ll all be safe again and things will go back to normal. The question all of us better be asking ourselves; ‘What is normal’?

Sarah Palin's infamous map with the crosshairs targeting political opponents

Is a normal society one where we soundly reject uncivil threatening behavior or is it one where embrace, and even reward it?

Is a normal society one where we take the high road and try and be above the fray or is it one where we scream louder, bully harder, get down and dirtier, and be more violent than anyone else in order to win an argument or political contest?

How many times have we heard our so-called experts explain that negative advertising during a political campaign works? How many times have we heard about the need for any one running for office to hire someone to dig up the most vile and nasty things of an opponents past to use against them? How many times have we seen pundits resort to outright lies, trickery and underhanded schemes to trip up and take down a political opponent? We’ve convinced ourselves that the only way to win an argument or a war is to smash on your opponent and show no mercy.

All is fair in love and war, is what we say to ourselves. Is it fair when someone shoots and kills someone to make their point? Is this the type of society we want?

Very few people like to see themselves in that sort of light, yet if you listen to many of our esteemed political punditry and media experts, that’s exactly what we crave. We want aggressive over the top behavior in all arenas. We want it in politics. We want it in our music. We want it in our entertainment.

It doesn’t matter whether or not its an enraged Bill ‘O’Reilly impugning us to not allow Dr George Tiller to get away with anymore late-term abortions as he launched a on air crusade resulting in his death, or  a smug Glenn Beck demonizing the Tides Foundation which led to a white supremacist to seek out employees of that organization, or Beck threatening to kill filmmaker Micheal Moore, or a Jerry Springer where on his TV show he has two sisters fighting each other over a man or a popular rap artists like Kanye West depicting women hanging in his latest video and receiving praise for being artistic.

Like it or not from what we as a society seem to embrace or allow to go unchallenged in our midst… the violence, mayhem  and this weekend’s massacre, is the American Way. We as a country relish such things. We have to own up to it. Anyone saying otherwise has to explain  the undeniable proof of  high TV and radio ratings where civility is tossed out the window. They’ll have to explain the popularity of certain websites and high YouTube views where this sort of madness is routinely played out.

Have we gotten to a point where the thought of being civil is uncomfortable? Has anger and venomous behavior become habits we can’t shake? Have we  fostered an environment where showing compassion makes us marks?

Many of us are caught up in an all too pervasive cycle of violence both directly and indirectly. Death has become all too routine. It doesn’t matter if you live in the hardest of hoods or if you live in the most pristine of suburbs.. All of us our caught up.. ALL OF US.. including myself. We’ve created an environment where the loss of life is abstract and vastly cheapened.

Christopher Jones

Lastly we must put all this in larger context. There was a terrible tragedy in Tucson Arizona over the weekend. It was the same weeknd that we saw 3 young men get killed in a nightclub in San Jose California. It was the same weekend in any city and town USA where someone pulled out a gun or a knife and took a life. Massacres in our respective communities are happening all the time.

Case in point, many of us have shown an interest in what took place in Arizona, but were we empathetic? If so did that same empathy carry over to tragedies closer to home? Last night here in Oakland, several hundred people showed up at a vigil for the senseless killing of a promising 17-year-old named Christopher Jones. He was gunned down a week ago in front of his mother and sisters as he placed his nephew in the back seat of a car . He was not gang banger, trouble maker or anything like that.

Jared Loughner

Like Jared Loughner we don’t know all that led these young men to shoot another in broad daylight in front of his family. Were they part of a hate group? Wete they emotionally disturbed, mentally deranged? Was it too much gangsta rap? Too much Fox News? Or did they take a cue from the larger society that has left violence on the table as away to get points across?

Did the young men who shot Christopher wrap themselves in this climate of violence the way that many of us are saying Jared Loughner did?  If so who’s the next to sip the kool aid and go on a killing spree? Who’s next to tragically die as a result?

At the end of the day do we care? Do we really care about the slaying of Christopher Jones or the 5 people slain in Tucson, Arizona or are they all collateral damage in a society that has firmly decided  that violent loss of life is part of our increasing strident political and social landscape?

something to ponder

-Davey D-

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