Another view: Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ music video controversy

A badass friend of mine wrote to me with what I think is a brilliant counter-argument to my post on why not to ban Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ music video.
I make no comment on whether I agree with all these points (I have some objections). But it is because I believe in fair and balanced reporting that I want to give this a place on the blog for you, readers, to appreciate it and decide for yourself.
The radical feminist is aware of the viewpoint of the post-modern feminist, she just disagrees.The freedom of speech/freedom to create ‘art’ is just one freedom to be balanced against competing interests. The freedom of speech doesn’t trump the right to be free from intolerance, whether it’s racial or sexual. Here, those who petition seek the freedom from blatant misogyny.No, the censorship of one video will not make women safe on the street. But on the same account, censorship of one video isn’t going to threaten all art or every expression of the freedom of speech. This is just opposition to intolerant speech.

The irony and intellectualism of the post-modernist has its limitations. Some times what you need is a good old fashioned, brave, gesture. A gesture which encourages solidarity. A gesture which is clear and unambiguous. A gesture which is accessible, and understood by all, not only those who have had the privilege of academic training (post-modernism can be pretty elitist).

Censorship does not guarantee historical remembrance. Censorship does create an initial buzz, but that gradually dies down. I only recognize two of the titles in the list of censored songs listed, and I was not aware they were censored. Censorship does guarantee that destructive material stays off prime-time TV and away from the eyes of young children. Not everyone has unsupervised access to the internet.

Some say radical feminism is too loud and confronting; others say that feminism since has been too diluted and apologetic. Some say that a further understanding of the enemy and a search for common ground can only take you so far. (Come now, misogynists, let’s discuss this over a cup of tea). I say you cannot achieve progress through mockery or through discussion alone. You need solid action.

(Your thoughts? Comment below.)

Served up: Thank you to my badass friend for this.

3 thoughts on “Another view: Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ music video controversy

  1. Madam, I rebut.

    Freedom of speech is an absolute. It is not to be tempered by talk of “competing interests”, not apologized for or compromised every time an idiot says something churlish on a national platform. Once you create an excuse to stop an opinion being aired – no matter how stupid or unfounded – you have begun to constrict public discourse, and that I cannot abide.

    It is only through permitting bigots to speak that the absurdity of their views can be seen. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church is not despised because of any laws forbidding them from protesting. They are widely reviled – not despite freedom of speech, but because of it. Because we let them open their mouths in public and spout vitriol and hatred, we know how sick they are. Were they forbidden from airing their views, we would only have a government’s word for it that their preachings were full of hate – and instead of constant mockery of their cause, you’d have Facebook pages declaring “LET THE WESTBORO BAPTISTS BE HEARD!”

    When you censor someone, you martyr them.

    You want to be free from intolerance? Too fucking bad. Humans judge, and humans misjudge. C’est la vie. Stop acting like hearing these lyrics personally wounded you. They didn’t, and if they did then you need help. You are not a brave and courageous warrior standing up to fight off the hordes of bigotry and evil. You are complaining about a song most of us would never have heard because of the lyrics none of us would have ever listened to. And it wouldn’t matter if we did, because – and I can’t stress this enough – nobody is going to rape a woman because Kanye West told them to.

    Besides, anybody who listens to Kanye West for the lyrics is doing it wrong.

    “You need solid action.”

    Madam, you seem to have confused signing an online petition for solid action. Perhaps I should go sign a petition calling for an end to hunger or for those darn Sudanese to lighten up.

    • A few pointers to be made here:

      Part the First: Claiming that A.Leek’s Anonymous Bad-ass Friend fancies herself a brave and courageous warrior standing up against the misogynistic hordes of Genghis Khunt may be a straw man and a far cry from what she’s actually claiming.
      For starters, a petition is collective action, so the lone warrior imagery is misleadingly bombastic and casts her in a ridiculous light that she doesn’t deserve on the basis of this entry. Also, her claim lacks the hyperbole to make the ‘vainly valiant defiance’ angle rather unjustified. She’s approached this issue with a firmness of tone and an unshifting determination because advocacy for women is not something that should be apologised for, but she has not in any way presented her position with any form of rabid devotion. This argument has been made against proponents of feminism for as long as there have been feminists, and although some who claim the title can be unreasonable or volatile (or unnecessarily hostile or uncompromising), this by no means applies to feminism as a social ideology and certainly does not apply to the position that Anonymous Bad-ass Friend has presented. It has been coached in academic terms, wishing to articulate a position with philosophical precision. It does a disservice to the argument to characterise your opponent as unreasonable; grant them the benefit of the doubt and disprove the more robust version of the argument to show the soundness of your reasoning beyond shadow of a doubt.

      Part the Second: Be wary of absolutes.
      Absolute maxims preclude judgement and thought, which makes me uneasy with any claim of an absolute virtue or absolute right
      There is no universal and absolute right to free speech, there are always qualifiers. As it should be. Recall the popular phrase “People are entitled to their own beliefs, not their own facts”? This is one area where the right to free speech yields, where non-factual claims lead to public harm. Specific slander (say, asserting that one of your neighbours is on the Sex Offender list, when they are not) is not protected as Free Speech, false advertising is not protected as free speech, especially if a non-factual claim is made about the contents of a given item (contains no traces of nuts, completely gluten free! Good luck with those allergies!). Directly inciting criminal activity is not protected as free speech, nor is any speech that will directly cause public harm such as shouting “Fire!” in a crowded area such as a movie theatre. There are limits to free speech, responsibilities, so to simply claim that free speech is an absolute right not only ignores the nature of ‘rights’, it precludes the careful consideration of why free speech needs to be protected, where it needs to be protected, and how best to go about doing that. This is a case where a conflict of interest (virtue, rights, however you wish to consider it) exists, and a discussion/argument (argument in the philosophical sense) should be had around the comparative merits of free speech and censorship.
      You’ve posited a justification for free speech beyond “It just should be”, but I had to make this point, and feel the discussion would benefit from a closer consideration of both sides/options.

      -Pete =)

      • Some have an irrational fear that when you prevent the most hateful of speech, that all free speech is in jeopardy. It’s simply not true. The freedom of speech is not, nor should it be absolute. Pete has given a thorough explanation of this so I will not labour the point.

        There are two arguments running here which do not fit well together. One, that censorship is too strong because it threatens free speech as a whole and prevents a person for being judged for what they say. Two, that censorship is too weak and ineffective because it martyrs people. These positions are not entirely consistent.

        As for the martyring point, you can’t pussy-foot around worrying about whether or not you will martyr a misogynist. If Kanye hadn’t found attention this way, he would have gone about it some other way (oh wait, he already has; Taylor Swift anyone?).

        The lyrics did not personally wound me. Nor did I ever say that censorship would prevent rape. Perhaps you would care to return to the original thread and engage with the argument in full rather than making your own, ill-founded pseudo-psychological assumptions.

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