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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Re: More Buju Than You

Posted by on September 26 at 15:47 PM

Eternal props to Dave Schmader for wading through the comments on the Buju Banton controversy and calling a lot of them exactly what they are: “Willfully obtuse.”

I can’t improve upon what he said about the necessary distinction between free speech and hate speech, but I do want to add one thing, since I’m being called a censorious hypocrite in the comments. (And via the work of the Heptones no less!)

I totally agree with Kerri Harrop when she says in the comments, in reference to the Buju controversy:

i’ll say it again: freedom of speech is a protected constitutional right. the public also has the right to decide whether or not they will support such actions. a business owner has the right to provide a venue for whatever sort of art they see fit — even if that art offends and/or is hateful.

Correct, correct, correct. Right on.

But here’s something a lot of the commenters seem not to know: The Stranger is not the U.S. Supreme Court or the Seattle Police Department. We don’t interpret the Constitution and we don’t enforce its provisions. (And as far as I know, this blog doesn’t have the power to single-handedly repeal the First Amendment — and wouldn’t even if the worst fever-dreams of our commenters proved true and we suddenly had Constitutional veto power.)

The First Amendment continues to exist despite Neumo’s cancelling of the Buju Banton show. Neumo’s still has the right to put on offensive shows if it wants to. We still have the right to put up blog posts about Buju Banton if we want to. And Buju Banton himself, if he really still believes in the urgency of an artistic message that includes glorifying anti-gay violence, can stand on the street in front of Neumo’s (or in any other public space) and shout that message as loud as he wants.

If he can afford to buy a printing press, he can print copies of the lyrics to Boom Bye Bye and distribute them far and wide. If he can afford a club, he can put himself on its stage every night for the next year and perform his song for whoever will come. If he can’t afford either, and he can get someone else to believe in his message, then maybe that person will pay to get it out into the world.

But what he can’t do — and what the people in the comments can’t do — is force anyone to promote a message he or she doesn’t want to promote. And the Neumo’s ownership has said quite clearly that it doesn’t want to promote homophobes. End of story.

Dave resents having to parse the comment bullshit comparing Banton to the Beastie Boys. Here’s something I resent: Being bullied by people who use the idea of protecting artistic expression as a dodge for their own responsibility to exercise some artistic judgment.

This is not to say that there ever should, or could, be a bright line between what is art and what is not, or between what is good art and what is bad art. It is simply to say that we don’t do art any favors by pretending all art is equal and equally deserving of a wide audience.

p.s. I think the most interesting question this whole fiasco brings up is one about the limits of apology and forgiveness. We tried, but we couldn’t find any evidence of Buju himself actually apologizing for and disavowing his anti-gay, violence-inciting lyrics. If Buju had made a clearer and more public apology for Boom Bye Bye (and stopped playing it), would people be willing to forgive him, move on, and welcome him to Seattle? That’s a more interesting question that unfortunately we won’t get to answer.

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Beastie Boys are Jewish so they have every right to hate faggots and write songs about it. The first Beastie Boys album was supposed to be called "Don't be a Faggot". Everyone knows that's the real name of the album, so it doesn't matter what was printed on the CD case.

Beastie Boys are real artists because they were able to both call their album "Don't be a faggot" and get credit for being open minded. Lots of musicians know how to write songs about hating faggots and still perform on Capitol Hill without a peep out of The Stranger. That's what being a good musician is all about.

Buju is an idiot and has bad management who doesn't know how to use Buju's homophobia to sell records. Beastie Boys sold millions of records even though their core fans knew Beastie Boys are homobic.

Real musicians like Beastie Boys would never make the mistakes Buju has made. A Beastie Boys concert at Nemos would rock Seattle. Beastie Boys could play every song on "Don't be a faggot" and The Stranger would celebrate them. That's what being a real musician is all about.

Fine, but can Schmader explain this comment:

"...and make sure Neumo’s doesn’t have to pay an excessive price for doing the right thing."

Is he implying that those opposed to Banton's message should help pay for the Neumo booker's mistake?

The Stranger has offered to pay the $15,000 guarantee to Buju. He gets $15,000 whether he plays the show or not. It would be stupid to force Nemos to cancel the show and then have to give the performer $15,000 anyways. What does that prove?

So The Stranger will pay $15,000 out of the money Big Tobacco pays for advertisements in The Stranger. ($15,000 is only like one full page ad or something).

Everybody wins! Capitol Hill gays got their concert cancelled, Buju gets his money, and The Stranger gets publicity for being morally superior.

Re: explanation of comment: It's not a moral imperative, but any of us who want to show Neumo's some post-Banton love might want to pop in for a drink or six.

If I were going to be in town tomorrow night, I'd say, "Hey everyone, meet me at Neumo's for a big, gay-friendly blowout!"

Alas, I will be in Utah, attending a Mormon wedding, where I believe live entertainment will be provided by Buju Banton.

Uh, David you do realize, unless you're a Mormon, you won't actually be attending the wedding itself, right? Because they don't let non-Mormon's into the temple proper.

And Shoshana, I'd really love to tell you and all the other mouth-breathing Freepers who've crawled out from under the rocks these past couple of days to "shut the Hell up", but I'm afraid you might object, and threaten to boycott the Slog or somethi --


Eli, I did not once in this whole debate see a single word from any Stranger staffer regarding the artistic merit of Buju's work. The criticism was entirely of the political message in one of his songs.

Is there a corollary to Godwin's law for mentioning Celine? Do I win or do I lose if I mention Long Day's Journey Into Night?

No, no-one can force Neumo's to promote a message they don't want to promote. What The Stranger can do, quite evidently, is get people riled up enough to force Neumo's to cancel a show, at considerable expense, for purely political reasons.

I guess the 30 people who really give a damn about this issue can each buy 250 drinks at Neumos. Assuming a $2 mark-up, they'll break even.

Too bad Schmader will be off to Utah, where many residents are likely offended by the things he writes. Alerted to David's attendence, perhaps the caterer will boycott the wedding.

All are certainly entitled to make the distinction between bad lyrics and really bad lyrics and hate speech. The writers at The Stranger voiced very elequantly why they object to the lyrics of this song. I agree, bad song, horrible message, obviously. No one is wrong when they object to or are offended by these lyrics. However, lyrics do not = violence, period. Judas Priest doesn't cause suicide, ice-T doesnt cause cop-killing etc. etc.

It is, still very unfortunate the way this turned out. Buju Banton was, in essence, paid $15,000 in this situation BECAUSE he wrote such a despicable tune.

I dont know what would have been the best alternative to this, and I dont envy the position Steve and Jason were put in. The call to buy some drinks at their bar on wednesday is probably the best suggestion I have heard. I hope people do support those guys and their staff. Booking is a difficult job (as you can see)and those guys bring some great music to this town.

best wishes from Ballard

If everyone who cares goes in and buys a drink we'll show Buju that his hatred won't win. If a thousand people go to Nemos on Wednesday and buy $15 worth of drinks each, that's all it will take.

Someone said we could have all bought tickets to Buju's show and then faced away from the stage in protest. Or Charles Mudede could have interviewed Buju and that interview could have been wild! But that would just promote Buju. Calling off the show was the best idea.

Can someone please shut Eli Sanders up? He should take this oppurtunity to step down from his rhetorical high horse and stop ranting on & on about this stupid situation for which he thinks he has a point. Why isn't he outraged at all the hip-hop shows that come through this town or the upcoming guns n' roses show or the countless other oppurtunities he would have to "be outraged"? The very nature of free speech is that we respect the right of people to utilize it whether we agree with what they are saying or not. Censorship comes in many forms. Whether it be parental warning stickers, loss of advertisers, pressure from certain demographics, etc. But we stand to have the most effect by being individuals and choosing what we want for ourselves and not letting other people(people like Buju Banton or for that matter people like Eli Sanders) sway you with their misguided opinion. The pressure of opinion pieces is what makes Fox News such a ridiculously powerful tool. Mr. Sanders posed a question and made a grey area into a question of black & white. He did not write it from an objective standpoint with quotes and facts to back up his claims, he just communicated his outrage with two sentences and instigated the fervor that followed. Irresponsible? Yes. Pointless? Yes. Does it really matter whether buju banton plays at neumo's? Would the community really be in danger? Mr. Sanders saw the oppurtunity for a cheap shot and took it. The only result of all this is that Neumo's has lost $15,000 and that Eli Sanders has lost the interest I once had in his opinion. I don't think I'll be checking to see what Eli Sanders is writing about anytime soon.

I'm sorry, I could have sworn I just felt a huge gust of hot, bloviated wind pass through here --

David, Doug, Kwab and you really don’t get it do you?

We need to be urging gays to withhold financial support from businesses that cut checks to people who advocate for the murder and mutilation of gay people. Period!

This isn’t complicated. You see, here is how it works... you give your money to Neumo's, they give the next $15,000 of it to Buju... what part of this do you not understand?

geeesh... Stop talking and actual take a stand on principal. There are lots of places to drink in this town that won't give your money to people who advocate for the murder and mutilation of gay people.

actualLY, please, make that principLE

I'm so fucking sick of the self-righteous jackasses who accuse Stranger writers of being self-righteous jackasses. Get over it already!

"Alas, I will be in Utah, attending a Mormon wedding, where I believe live entertainment will be provided by Buju Banton"

that is fucking hilarious!
thank you

Eli, I find your P.S. question interesting. Buju's very offensive song was written when he was something like fifteen. Sad to admit, but I said some pretty stupid and offensive things when I was fifteen too. At least I have acquired enough wisdom to know that some of those things were, in fact, stupid and offensive. So, yes, I think that if Buju himself had disavowed his misguided teenaged rantings, and sounded sincerely apologetic, I could forgive him, and possibly even go to one of his shows. I do believe it is possible to honestly have a change of heart. Especially at that age. (Even at an older age, it is possible to change your views; just ask George Wallace.)

Unfortunately, from everything I've read, he has never apologized. His record company has, but he has not, which makes it a rather empty apology. And even though his record company implies that it is an old song, never played since, there are reports of Buju continuing to play the song periodically, whenever he thinks he can get away with it. He's gonna have to do a lot better than that before I'm willing to forgive.

Bah. All the posts at The Stranger aren't anywhere near as entertaining as the cancellation discussion on LiveJournal. Over there, we've got people decrying boycotts because the bigots will hate the gays, and even one person comparing telling a club they won't be a customer anymore to a lynch mob. There's also someone who seems to believe we shouldn't be spending any time at all on this issue because he still can't smoke in clubs but cars and buses are allowed on the roadways, and he somehow still manages to put up a more coherent and relevant post than half of what's passed for the hipstard hissy fits seen here.

Eli is right to be outraged and upset about this biggot. The point isn't all the other Rap performers who perform songs about "killing faggots". Those performers do show in Seattle all the time and The Stranger writes great reviews.

If you can't understand why it's ok for all those other people to sing songs about killing faggots and it's not OK for Buju to do it, then your being willfully obtuse.

The Stranger has stated that it's ok for Buju to sing his "kill that faggot" songs as long as he doesn't do it on Capitol Hill.

That way The Stranger can still make money selling advertisements promoting Buju, and at the same time get credit for inflaming the "boycott Buju" crowd.

It's a win-win situation. Were all meeting for drinks at Nemos before going to the Buju show. I love dating black men, if you do to show up at Nemos tonight!

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