Sunday, March 19, 2017
A recent video made by Snoop Doggy Dog includes an image of a gun being pointed at a figure with a Donald Trump mask: the word “Bang” comes out of the gun.
As an initial comment, there is little else to say than this video is completely unacceptable, as it currently stands, and deserves denunciation by anyone who wants to preserve a constitutional civility in this nation. Snoop Doggy Dog needs to have a serious talk with a lawyer about what is protected free speech.
On the other hand, if Snoop Doggy Dog had pointed the gun and had the words “Second Amendment” pop out of the barrel, we might have a very interesting artistic statement. For one thing, it would serve to remind us that Donald Trump himself has used a citation of the Second Amendment to indulge in a nod-and-wink comment that amounted to an assassination threat against Hillary Clinton. If Trump could toy with the Second Amendment to threaten the life of his opponent without any reprisal or public legal rebuke, why would a similar usage by Snoop Doggy Dog cause him to be treated any differently? Unfortunately, the video is already out.
Regardless of how Snoop Doggy Dog made his video, Trump’s threat remains a far more serious and permanent stain on the current discourse. Let there be no mistake about it. When Donald Trump casually dropped a suggestion, at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, in August, 2016, that the “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton, anyone who understood the rhetoric of crude implication did not have to think very hard as to what Trump intended to underline with his body language: he meant that people could take the law into their own hands and assassinate her. Nor did his implications stop there. Was it not also implicitly a threat against the life of anyone supporting her? Why would anyone inspired by Trump’s alleged sense of humor stop with just HRC? Remember Ted Nugent’s call to action in 2012 to “chop their heads off in November”? Trump knew very well what he was saying and to whom he was speaking, and he needs to be reminded that he will continue to be held accountable for the “bang” that his words deliver.
And while we’re on the subject, let us remember that Trump’s dictatorial disdain for those who opposed him extended to Obama, too. As I pointed out last October 30 (and I reprint that post below), the entire nation saw a widely circulated image of President Obama with a lynch rope around his neck. Trump’s silence about that image equalled approval, and his refusal to denounce in no uncertain terms his extremist followers continues to be one of his few consistent traits. This has surfaced in particular in his reticence in speaking out against the numerous bomb threats against Jewish community centers in this country.
I’ll say it again because it cannot be said often enough: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but every racist voted for Trump.” (Thank you, Michael Lally.) However, a video such as the one made by Snoop Doggy Dog is not going to transform the hearts and minds of those who voted for him. Of course, I doubt that what I have just written in today’s blog post will illuminate them, either.
What, then, is to be done?
* * * * *
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Darkness at the Center of Wisconsin
The story is that the fan was asked to remove the “offensive components” costume.
Why was the fan not immediately investigated for making a death threat against the President?
This is not a “costume,” but a death threat, and the specificity of advocating the execution of the President is made all the more clear by the fact that it is not the person wearing the costume whose hand is holding up the noose, but the arm of a person standing alongside the depiction of President Obama. In the photograph, an arm wearing a red sleeve juts into the air at an angle that can only mean that the white fist jerking the noose upwards belongs to another person. It is a blunt portrayal of a racist execution.
This is not an issue of free speech, which would include the right to wear a prison outfit with a mask of Obama, just as free speech includes the right to chant “Lock her up,” as Trump’s partisans do whenever Hillary Clinton’s name in mentioned. One may not like a message, but free speech allows messengers safe passage. Provocative and outrageous speech is protected by our Constitution. However, in depicting the execution of President Obama, the individuals at a football stadium in Wisconsin flagrantly transgressed the boundary of free speech.
Death threats are not free speech, especially in an image meant invoke the heyday of the KKK. Within the context of a newspaper associated with the KKK all but giving its straightforward endorsement to Donald Trump, this so-called costume represents crude propaganda at its most harrowing level.
If there is not at least a brief detention and interrogation of the fan and his “prop assistant” for making a death threat against President Obama, then it is fair to say that this costume represents the values of a cadre within the Secret Service; in this instance, the person in charge of the Secret Service has the obligation to act in a manner that proves otherwise.
I would note that a report that Secret Service conducted an investigation in an instance that involved a far less public venue.
Why should this incident in Wisconsin be treated with any less seriousness?
The failure of University of Wisconsin officials to understand the gravity of the image is quite remarkable. Simply asking a person to remove the “offensive parts” of the costume represents a lack of courage in standing up to a bully. In making a statement that was nothing short of a death threat against the President, the person wearing the costume and his assistant forfeited their right to remain at the game and should have been removed from the stadium.
The University was probably afraid of being accused of censorship. There is an easy answer. The people were removed from the stadium in order to have their identities firmly established by police officials so that the Secret Service could begin their investigation.
Finally, we should all take note: the desire expressed by these two people in the football stands in Wisconsin is not limited to President Obama. First him, then his supporters. If anyone is so naïve to think that the two people who concocted this outfit will be satisfied with President Obama’s death, then they need to review 20th century history. As the poet Don Gordon said, “We are only on leave from Auschwitz.”
As a postscript that occurred to me a couple hours after posting this, I think it is fair to say that those who doubted the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate would most likely be the ones inclined to defend this person’s advocacy of a Presidential death certificate as free speech. “If attacking one end of a life spectrum doesn’t work, then try the other extreme,” would seem to be their preference.
I do look forward to the conclusion of the current general election, and the chance to concentrate on books of poetry again. To neglect the havoc generated by a fascist with international ambitions would be an unforgivable omission on my part, however.
CORRECTION: The original post for this commentary mistakenly stated that the football game took place in Nebraska, whereas the University of Nebraska was playing a road game in Wisconsin.