Eminem is stirring up controversy again. As you may have heard, Slim Shady has gotten right-wing radio hosts so agitated that they’ve dropped their Oxycontin bottles in shock.
In a new song called “We as Americans,” he raps, “Fuck money. I don’t rap for dead presidents. I’d rather see the president dead.”
Right-wingers have already called for Eminem to be banned from the airwaves, prosecuted, sent to Guantanamo Bay and (ironically) killed for his words.
While I won’t endorse Eminem’s statements — I’d much rather see the president’s face on election night as he gives his concession speech — I certainly don’t think he needs to be jailed for his words. But, hey, if they’re going to go after people for wishing presidents dead, they can start right here in Indianapolis.
During a supposed “nonpartisan” support-the-troops rally over the Thanksgiving weekend, WIBC talk show host Greg Garrison called former President Bill Clinton a “snake” and expressed a desire to “dance on [his] grave.” Yet, until now, nobody’s called on Garrison to be banned from the airwaves or shipped to Gitmo or investigated for threatening Clinton’s life.
I wouldn’t advise listening to Garrison except for investigative purposes; he has even stranger obsessions than I do. At least I confine my obsessions to pro sports, pop music and movie starlets.
Garrison, like many conservatives these days, is obsessed with the Clintons, even though Slick Willie’s been off the government payroll since early 2001 and his wife merely a junior senator from New York.
According to him, every problem ever faced by man — from the Civil War to the present — was caused by Bill Clinton, the man who also controls the destiny of the universe. In Garrison’s world, Clinton was the cause of Sept. 11. He’s the reason soldiers die almost daily in Iraq. He’s the reason we have a large budget deficit. He probably even caused the Cubs to lose the playoffs.
The few things not controlled directly by Bill Clinton or his lackeys are controlled by his evil wife Hillary, a woman who can change the future and turn people into newts. In contrast, according to Garrison, all that is beautiful and worthy of praise comes straight from President Bush. Except, of course, for the beautiful and praiseworthy things created by Ronald Reagan, a man who possessed the ability to heal lepers.
In Garrison’s world, Bill and Hillary lurk in the shadows and behind every corner, just waiting to leap out and abort your children, confiscate your wealth, eat your food and force your daughters to perform oral sex.
But back to Eminem for a second. There’s actually some legal precedent concerning statements like his. Back in a 1971 interview, Groucho Marx told a magazine, “I think the only hope this country has is Nixon’s assassination.” Groucho was not arrested and tried for the statement.
Intrigued by the fact that a prominent Black Panther Party leader had been indicted for saying much the same thing, author Paul Krassner wrote the Justice Department for an explanation. The response from U.S. Attorney James L. Browning Jr. merits reprinting here.
“The United States Supreme Court has held that Title 18 U.S.C., Section 871, prohibits only ‘true’ threats. It is one thing to say that “‘I (or we) will kill Richard Nixon’ when you are the leader of an organization which advocates killing people and overthrowing the Government; it is quite another to utter the words which are attributed to Mr. Marx, an alleged comedian.”
Browning and the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney felt that Groucho’s statement didn’t meet the level of a “true” threat. Section 879 of the same chapter of the United States Code prohibits threats made against former presidents, their wives and families. Using Browning’s threshold, Garrison’s words might qualify as a true threat.
He’s a member of an organization, the Republican Party, which advocates the ownership and use of weapons. During Clinton’s presidency, I often heard Garrison advocate the overthrow of the government via impeachment.
But the best strategy for ridding the world of Garrison and his ilk doesn’t lie in the criminal justice system. It’s simpler: Just don’t listen.
Remember the Simpsons episode where giant advertising mascots came to life and were destroying Springfield? The solution came from a jingle sung by Lisa and Paul Anka: “Just don’t look.” Once people stopped paying attention, the rampaging mascots fell dead and the city was saved.
I used to listen to Garrison every morning on the way to work and invariably arrived pissed off. Then, one day, I found the solution: Turn the station.
Why, just a few presses up or down on my AM dial and I could hear ESPN Radio or Fox Sports Radio, networks which don’t exclude anyone who fits into the hosts’ ideologies. Soon, I’d almost forgotten that the most important radio station in Indianapolis doesn’t care about presenting both sides. I could enjoy listening to the radio again.
A longer-term strategy would be for radio stations to fulfill their responsibility and allow differing opinions on the air. I’ll make a challenge to any programming director in Indianapolis: Put me on the air opposite Garrison and I’ll beat the pants off him in the Arbitron books within a year. After Garrison slithers off the air, I will too. I just want to show that there should be equal time for idiots on the Indianapolis airwaves.