Friday, September 8, 1995

The Beast Who Shouted "Fire" in a Crowded Theater

Free speech is a beautiful concept. Sorta like phlogiston, epicycles, the luminiferous ether, and the ever elusive snipe, you know? Like, what the hell does it even mean? I'll tell you what it means ...

Free speech is free thought misspelled. Thinking is what counts. Both on the part of the one who blabs and the one who listens.

Thinking: that thing that happens before you open your mouth. Thinking: that thing that happens when you consider what the words blasting out of your mouth actually mean. 

Thinking: also defined as what happens in your brain when you listen to somebody else's words and actually think about what they mean.

A beautiful concept. The foundation of democracy. And pretty much a fiction.

Because it almost never fucking happens.

Put it to you this way: the right thinks it's right, the left thinks it's right: each side is a twisted, funhouse mirror image of the other in which the other side sees its own foulness.

In life, unlike baseball, you gotta make up the rules as you go along, the game changes, you die, ain't no rule book.

Naive Aristotelian that I am, I'll start by defining terms.

Truth and Beauty Time

Lawd knows it ain't easy. Freedom of speech is a shit-dipped, pungee stick minefield.

Like everybody else, I want to be liked, I want to entertain...I know what to say that will probably go over.

Believe in freedom of speech, but truth is there are lots of yappers out there who should really shut the ffff up: as in--make sure brain is in gear before moving mouth. It's easy to recognize the bullshit...when it's on the other side.

Joe Leftwinger turns on TV set, surfs, stops at the Rush Limbaugh show to get a nice charge of outrage. Limbaugh opens his mouth: fetid evil gushes out like Exorcist Brand pea soup. Ah...Christ...did you see...that bastard.

But Dennis Miller pulls the same rhetorical trick and it's HAHAHA...LOVE IT! THAT'S GREAT! HAHHAHAHAHA!

I have a friend with a bumper sticker that says: EAT THE RICH.

Hahahahaha! That's great! Love it!

But what if the bumper sticker said: KILL THE N=WORDS.

Well that's different...

It's bad to hate people because of their skin color, it's OK to hate people because of their class.

The point ain't what anybody is saying. The point is: what side are you on. Our side good, there side bad, we already know this so...LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

And so the bullshit gets deeper and deeper: that slime from the video (oozing along on your living room floor) tho Zappa was thinking about another bodily fluid. Every side thinks it's right and the great thing is to get angry, ya ya yaghghrh.

And....let's get real honest here: hate is a drug and anger is a rush. But it's gotta be righteous anger, that's the key. That makes it OK! The game is called: NOW I'VE GOT YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH. The payoff: you get to kick them where it hurts.

Yo...Illinois Nazis. All RIGHT. Rrrrr.....

I am trying to put my finger on this blob of quicksilver. Whathehell is freespeech anyway...excuse me while I strop my razor...

Whatthehell is free speech anyway? 

It's not the talk: it's the ear that hears the talk, the mind that thinks. Freedom of speech doesn't matter if someone doesn't hear and understand what you're saying.

Thinking hurts; it isn't natural. (I've got a kid in middle school, so know what I'm talking about here...)

What's natural is to blindly react. Not to hear what someone's saying, consider it, put your own position on the shelf for awhile. What's natural is to say: this is me, this is my group, this is my identity, these are my interests--is this for me or against me?

For me=good. Against me=bad.

It's not an intellectual issue. It's a territorial issue. 

The reality my side wants is the "free speech" you're allowed.

The reality my side hates is what you can't say. 

When you say it, that's what offends me.

So what the fuck offends you?


As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Dr. Zaius, or somebody once said,"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

Cruel horrible words can be just as hurtful as a fist!

What words punch you in the face?

Don't ask, don't tell!

"My name is Calvin Klein and I want to get close to the youth of today."

Mom's HIV-positive? Don't tell unless she asks.

Feeling kinda cold, said the anarchist. Think I'll light up a flag...

"My name is Catherine McKinnon...would you mind stepping out of that sex booth and answering a few questions?"

"Fuckers still won't publish my book," said the anarchist. 
"Think I'll mail this bomb..."


"Serrano...he's the one after putting the bloody crucifix of our Lord and Savior in the pissjar? I'll crucify the NEA and put them in a jar of urine."


"I didn't fight for my goddamn country so my country could turn around and have people walk on the flag. You walk on that goddamn flag you're gonna have to walk over me."

"Nice day, ain't it? Think I'll put on my Nazi helmet and take a ride through Skokie..."

" Asian Americans. Could you sign this petition please? Thank you. Asian parts for Asian Americans. Thank you for signing. No yellowface in "Miss Saigon" yellowface in "Miss Saigon"...could you please sign this petition....thank you..."

"...Goddamn cracker Confederate cracker flag on the goddamn state capitol. I don't need to see that shit every day I go to work."

"...the liberal media, and this is absolutely true, Ladies and Gentleman, you won't hear the truth from Sam Donaldson and the rest of them--but you can hear it from me, and that's what drives them crazy. I'm right! Wait a minute....he's not a liberal, and he's on TV...that's not supposed to happen. I love it. But our Fairness in Media Institute cataloged the number of times...and this is absolutely, factually true, ladies and gentleman, that the word "America" was associated with the words crime, fascist, oppressive...and you're not, you will not believe this Ladies and Gentleman, but this is true, this is absolutely..."


"Heather has how many mommies?" says the Baptist preacher.

"Huckleberry Finn is racist," says the AME preacher.

"A godless...secular humanist doctrine in the textbooks of our children. They're being brainwashed!"


"...and further contributing to the marginalization of women. These images--images in our textbooks--are brainwashing young women, young boys--into accepting..."


"And we are very, very sorry...we would like to apologize to our listeners for what...the very negative remarks that our DJ said last night about Santa Claus. This is not the position of our station, not the policy of our station -- we support Santa Claus --we believe that Christmas is a very positive, a very wonderful family institution, and we're very sorry for those remarks, for which so many of you called in to complain. All of you should be pleased to note ... "


"... that DJ will not be working with us any more."

Whatever paradigm of free speech we come up with --so what. No one hears.

Think the problem is distinguishing between the content (ideas being expressed) and the impact these have on a particular interest group according to that group's self-defined interests.

What people forget about anger, rage, violence is: it has a quality of righteousness.

The righteousness is what allows you to feel good when you do nasty things.

Let's talk lynching.

My racist pig storytelling, reformed alcoholic, now saved Southern daddy used to talk about the "hanging tree" outside of Franklin Kentucky. Used to be respect for the law, 'cause there was that tree outside of town. You crossed the line--and they'd hang you. Wouldn't think twice.

--Well...why'd they do it on a tree, Father? Wouldn't they build a gallows...have a trial...

--Sometimes there wasn't time son.

And it never occured to me that there might be what you might call a disproportionate sampling of black people on that particular tree.

Trying to put my finger on whathehells wrong...the best I can think of is a lack of good manners and common sense. Most of what's wrong could be solved with a little basic respect and courtesy. Send some of these f****ers back to kindergarten where they can learn such profound truths as: wait until the other person finishes talking before you talk, don't hog the conversation, don't tell lies about people, don't make shit up.

So, forgive me if I sound like Kingsfield on Paper Chase here, but everyone is doing far too much talking and not enough thinking.

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