I often hear (and have repeated) the idea that entertainment has become too political and in many ways it’s true. In the sense that it intends to alienate instead of resonate, for instance, entertainment has become too saturated with political agendas. But we need to be careful in how we approach that. We come too close to stifling art. It's a societal problem as much as an ideological one.
The outrage that chased Kevin Hart out of hosting the Oscars is the most recent example of unrestrained mobbery. Hart's joke (an old one he told years ago) was social commentary. Comedy observes our insecurities and awkwardness - more specifically here, our relatable feelings toward what it means to be a parent, to be a dad, in a society that was wrestling with the open acceptance of the gay community. He apologized for it, but that was not good enough. Maybe the times were sensitive. But they always are, and much more now than ever. We are a prickly people and we have developed hyper allegiances to various causes and factions. Offense isn’t itself a bad thing - it wakens our humanity and critical thought. ‘Blind offense’, however doesn’t work this way.
For instance, every year a school district threatens to yank “Huckleberry Finn” out of the curriculum and local libraries, thinking they are on a righteous crusade to save impressionable youth from coming across the n-word. The blind reaction ignores that Twain was an abolitionist, the language of the time period in which it was written, and the Huck Finn story itself. And ultimately robs society of a positive cultural learning experience.
It doesn’t matter whether its an old comedy routine, a playful flirtatious song from the 1940’s, or interrupting “Shakespeare in the Park”, the reactionary culture police have been making noise and having success, and it will hurt us.
All of this modern cultural sensitivity brought me to read and think about a Russian composer named Dmitri Shostakovich. Stalin didn't care for him and many believe the reason is buried somewhere in the Shostakovich's opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”, which you can read about here. The Communist state led a propaganda war against him. A condemnation of the composer came out in the official communist paper, Pravda, accusing him of cultural crimes. Critics who had praised the opera were forced to recant. That was 1936. Shostakovich withdrew his fourth symphony from the public out of fear of arrest. Though he would compose works that pleased the state, Shostakovich was declared an offender by the Central Committee in 1946 over his ninth symphony, for which he was forced to apologize. Though he got a little creative breathing room after Stalin's death, Shostakovich again found himself in trouble in 1961.
Consider the crushing of creativity - living in fear of your own work, allowing others to dictate what you can compose, and apologizing for stepping out of line (sound familiar?). And in between all this, he saw some of his contemporaries, friends, and family members imprisoned.
Our current climate is too comfortable with this oppression of art. We need to be careful about asking for the censorship of what we do not like in art culturally before we incidentally (or purposefully) invite government to decide for us what is acceptable. We will become a culture of freedom that will turn on itself, and appeal to a larger power to censor what we find offensive. As it stands, it is only a race to see who cedes the power.
Listen up! I’ve got something to say about this whole situation. What Twitter did to Jesse’s account is wrong. There was no explanation given, no demand to delete a certain tweet, just a swift suspension and then a note stating that the suspension is permanent. But this is nothing new when it comes to Twitter and their seemingly targeted enforcement of their TOS as it pertains to conservative voices. I’d love to be able to say that Twitter was engaged in simply shutting down political discourse, but there are no prominent accounts on the left that I know of that have been permanently suspended.
Kathy Griffin can post a picture of a severed head of President Trump without suspension. Louis Farrakhan can call Jews termites without suspension. But let a conservative voice, like Jesse Kelly, say something that the Twitter deities don’t approve of, and you get an instant suspension without an explanation. Nobody knows if he violated any of the TOS or not. They didn’t ask him to remove a violating tweet. They simply told him that his account had been suspended and that it would not be restored.
Jesse speaks about the silencing of voices on Twitter. Whether on his radio program, on his TV appearances, or for any of the publications to which he contributed. He is ardent in his defense of any voice, right, left, American, or foreigner, being heard. Why? Because speech is a basic tenet of freedom. And Jesse, like many others, myself included, fought to defend that and our other freedoms.
And the worst part is that there are people on Twitter who claim to be conservatives that were cheering Jesse’s suspension. How can anybody who claims to be of a conservative nature celebrate the stifling of another’s voice? It’s simple. These people aren’t conservatives at all. They are cowards, abusing the brand of “conservative.”
Now, Twitter has the right to set rules for their social media platform, but do they also have to the right to arbitrary enforcement of said rules? My conservative, small-government side says yes. If they want to run off conservative voices and create a left-wing echo chamber of listlessness, go right ahead. I’d love to tell you to jump ship and abandon Twitter, but much like a prisoner in line to eat, Twitter is the only meal being served.
So, what’s a conservative on Twitter to do? You make your voices heard. After all, that is what Jesse stands for. I’m not Jesse Kelly (I look much better). I don’t have the reach or following that Jesse has. But if we all stand up together and make our voices heard, all they can do is silence us all. That should serve to make us even hungrier to have our voices heard. So, with the exception of violence or terrorism, if you see an account suspended, don’t bother looking to see what their political ideology is. Rather, defend their voice. You don’t have to like what they’re saying. That’s what the MUTE and BLOCK functions in Twitter are for. But don’t celebrate the stifling of freedom, fight it!
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.