Volume 94, Issue 37
Friday, November 3, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Eminem debate rages on
It's a long-running debate that arises whenever a controversial music superstar comes to town: lyrics inciting violence or hatred versus an artist's right of free speech.
The most recent Canadian installment was Eminem's recent stop in Toronto, whereby Attorney General Jim Flaherty tried to stop the Detroit-based rapper from entering the country. Like many of these gestures, it was a failed attempt, barely rooted in legal precepts to begin with.
Eminem also created a stir this past Tuesday on the Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, where he performed in the school's assembly hall. Students grouped together to protest, but administration darted around the concerns with the "Oh, but the contract has already been signed" excuse.
Before I go on, let's look at the facts: Eminem is a pop culture icon with, arguably, a short shelf life. The content of his lyrics are not uncommon in his genre, but then again, no other artist of his genre currently enjoys the same widespread appeal. The particular argument against him is not that he is lewd and offensive, but that his lyrics promote violence against women and are derogatory toward homosexuals.
No doubt, there's a delicate line to be trod here. I believe in the freedom of expression. Since I believe in my right to free speech, I believe in other people's right to free speech, too. However, I also strongly believe a person can only hang on to their rights when they don't infringe upon another's.
I know it sounds like I'm on the fence. So, like all inquisitive people and judicial journalists, I decided to chat with some people who have already formed strong opinions on the subject.
Paul Fromm, director of the Canadian Association for Free Expression, tells me he's firmly opposed to restrictions on artistic expressions. He also stated the types of accusations against "entertainers" like Eminem are wildly overdone and that their music is, in fact, entertainment and not instructions on how to live life.
Then I spoke with Kim Rice, a sophomore in English at the University of Illinois, who shared the concerns of many of her peers upon Eminem's arrival to her campus. She found it problematic that an institution founded on principles such as equality would condone a performer whose lyrics promote the opposite.
Although I deem her concerns to be valid, it seems that people don't really care enough to cause a stink over what people like Eminem say, until they get too close for comfort.
While I am not ready to defend just anybody's views, I do defend people's right to express their views, so long as they don't infringe on others' rights of life, liberty and security.
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