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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

September 29, 2002

"If You Don't Cut, You Can Kiss My Butt"

I think we have a new Jesse Jackson rhyme.

He didn't say this, of course. I made it up. But it sound like something the good reverend would say. He's said plenty of other stupid, offensive, and derogatory remarks over the years, few of which he's apologized for. He's called Clarence Thomas and other black conservatives "house slaves" and uncle Toms. He routinely labels conservatives and Republicans racists and Nazis.

That's what makes Jackson's complaints about the movie Barbershop so interesting. He's got little to right to complain about others writing or saying offensive remarks. But Jackson has rarely let hypocrisy or race-baiting concerns slow him down.

In case you haven't heard, Jackson (and lately Al Sharpton) object to a few lines from Barbershop. The movie (I haven't seen it yet) centers on a barbershop and its clientele. The men talk and discuss freely, as happens in small-town barbershops across the country. 

The barber, Eddie, is cantankerous and grumpy, and rips on some venerated civil rights icons. For example, he calls Martin Luther King, Jr. a "ho" because of his extramarital affairs. Rosa Parks, he explains, "ain't do nothin' but sit her black a** down." Rodney King, Eddie opines, "should have got his a** beat." And, of course, "O.J. did it."

The other characters in the film razz Eddie for these views, and one warns, "You better not let Jesse Jackson hear you talk like that."

Eddie's response: "F*** Jesse Jackson!"

I don't think the comments are that bad, certainly no worse than what Jackson has said about his critics. But it's interesting that Jackson picks this movie to protest, and not the numerous movies and TV shows that demean Christians and Christianity. No outrage about that. Funny, coming from a man who is supposed to be a reverend.

And where's the ACLU and People for the American Way, who shudder whenever a conservative criticizes a public person or performance? These groups portray themselves as soldiers for free speech. Have they denounced Jackson for his heavy-handed bullying? The ACLU's web site says nothing about it - nor does PFAW's. That should tell you something about their supposed zeal for free speech.

Nevertheless, Jackson released a statement on September 19, demanding that the actors, directors, and studio apologize for the remarks. Worse, Jackson wants MGM Studios (who, to its credit, has not apologized and will delete the scene) to "delete the portion of the film that is insensitive and inappropriate to both Dr. King and Rosa Parks from future DVDs, videotapes and any other future releases."

Now Jackson's complaint isn't so funny. First Amendment notwithstanding, he wants those lines and scenes censored from the film, because he doesn't like them.

That's pretty intolerant and imperialistic. I mean, aren't we all supposed to respect other people's views, even those that are a bit out of the mainstream? I thought we couldn't impose our morals and values on other people. If the Klan and neo-Nazis have the right to march down Main Street, surely MGM can spoof MLK.

But maybe it can't. Jackson seems to suggest that MLK and other certain people are immune from any satire or humor. No criticism of these people is allowed, even if it's based in fact (King did indeed cheat on his wife). No one can say anything slightly negative about MLK or any other deified figure. Is this really what Jackson wants?

Freedom applies to everyone. I don't like Jackson's opinion on the movie, but he's got every right to say it. I can rip his opinion. That's also my right. Sharpton wants to lead a boycott of the film. He's got every right to do so, and I've got every right to say that's a stupid idea.

No one has the right to censor anyone else. MGM can demean whomever it wishes, MLK or anyone else. It's called freedom. Get used to it. Get over it.

I know this is basic stuff. But obviously some still need to hear it. Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

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