An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
Mykel's column for MRR 290
Without free speech no search for truth is possible... no discovery of truth is useful... Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race. --Charles Bradlaugh
PART ONE: I was madder than a snubbed Korean in Virginia. Mad or sad, I'm not sure which dildo properly fits the asshole of emotion. But there it is.
Maybe it's a cycle. When you're in your late elementary years, you've got a ton of heroes. Your parents, some sports guys, maybe, if you're young enough, some superhero TV guy. Then in your teens, early twenties, they disappoint you. One by one they do something. You find that Pikachu isn't real. You walk in on Dad boffin' Mrs. Klingstein. Sammy Slugger gets thrown in the slammer for throwin' the game. You turn cynical. Everything is shit. No one is worth anything. Life's a joke and there are no good guys or bad guys. It's all crap. Just laugh at it. Take some drugs, and laugh some more.
Then, around age thirty or so, you see someone. You hold back a bit, because you were so disappointed before. But now you're more tolerant of minor mistakes. You know that you've found a good person. Someone who'll be there when it counts. Someone who takes good stands on important issues, who takes risks that could mean big trouble. Martin Sprouse would call him A Threat By Example.
You become inspired. Regain the faith. You lose your cynicism. Finally admire someone again. Your life has a goal.
In dumb people, cynicism turns to religion. They find God. They feel loved by an all-loving being. Jesus, who protects you and gives you the love your father didn't. You feel needed, hopeful. You believe in a perfection called God.
In smart people, the cynicism turns to a quiet kind of hero worship. You find a person to admire. Someone who seems to have principles. Like a real-life Spiderman, they may be flawed, but you can count on them for the important things.
Whichever it is: God or human. Ten, or twenty, or thirty years later, something happens again. For religionists, God kills a bunch of innocent people in a flood or famine. You get cancer.
For humanists, your idol suddenly does something so horrendous, so wrong, that you find yourself shoved back into the protective cocoon of cynicism.
“Fuck 'em all!” you say.
And you haven't said that since you were a 20 year old.
Fuck 'em all! That's what I say. Al Sharpton. Al Sharpton. Al Sharpton. My hero. The politician who danced like James Brown on Saturday Night Live. The man who marched against Guiliani to support the KKK's right to demonstrate in New York. The guy who told the Democratic Convention, “I'm speaking during prime time at the convention or in the parking lot, but I'm speaking.” Al Sharpton who's been right on almost everything, suddenly comes down so hard on the wrong side of his non-nappy-haired head, that I could cry.
Al, why hast thou deserted me? You and your National Action Network.
Al, how could you demonstrate for the Klan's right to speak and then deny Imus's? How you could think that government censorship is any worse that corporate censorship? How could you believe that the tyranny of the court, the law, the government, is any less totalitarian-- or effective-- than the tyranny of the marketplace?
[Note: For those not familiar with the case. Don Imus, a New York disk jockey, called the women on the Rutgers basketball team “nappy headed ho's.” Originally, his radio station suspended him for 2 weeks. But because of pressure from Sharpton, Obama, and Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson, WFAN fired him.]
There's more. Now that Al has flexed enough muscle to get Imus kicked off. He's going after hip hop and movies and who-knows-what next. A regular Carrie Nation.
[Note: For those who slept through history class, Carrie Nation was the founding force behind both prohibition and feminism. With the face of a bulldog and the personality of a pitbull, she broke into pre-prohibition bars. With a bible in one hand and an axe in the other, she turned perfectly fine drinking establishments into splinters.
She called herself a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn't like. Her bite was worse than her bark.]
Al, are you listening? This is Mykel talking. I want to make it clear enough to get through your very unnappy head. I'll make it boldface so you won't miss it.
Censorship by the marketplace is worse than censorship by the government. Got that?
If the government prohibits something, there can be an underground, a way around it. Supporters can organize, protest, use the internet. The government can try to stomp on it, but it's still there, with outlets, people interested. When the motive is ideas, you can beat the government. Check out the Samisdat movement in the former Soviet Union. They thrived while fighting Communism. The government could not censor them.
On the other hand, if the marketplace censors, there's nothing left. If words or ideas are only commodities, they don't exist when they can't be sold. If the motive is profit, when the profit is gone, there is nothing.
If George W. Bush tells a publisher not to publish a book there's an ACLU protest. A slew of internet sites run copies of the original. There's a demonstration on the Whitehouse lawn. Every newspaper writes about it.
If Barnes and Noble tells a publisher not to publish a book, it's just not published. No one hears about it, because the press needs ads from Barnes and Noble. The publisher needs Barnes and Noble for its other books. It's nothing personal, just the bottom line, you know. Poof, and there it isn't.
In socialist countries, like Denmark, there are laws. The laws protect individual freedom from the marketplace. A distributor cannot cut or change a movie. Period. A controversial magazine will get government support if public pressure makes advertisers run. That's a free market of ideas. Not a free market of Bud Lite vs. Miller. Look at which country ran the Allah cartoon? You didn't see it in the New York Times.
In case you're missing the point, here it is. Again in boldface: You cannot both support the firing of Imus and oppose capitalism. The same force that drove him off the air, is the force that keeps Nike workers in sweat shops for a dollar a day. It's the marketplace.
Conversely (funny word, speaking of sweat shops), if you support free speech... and a living wage, you realize the need for government protection. You CANNOT support Sharpton or the forces that drive the offensive off the air.
Come on Al! You want the right to walk around with your James Brown hair, and promises to marry homos... but you want to deny the right of Imus to say nappie-headed?? You sicken me Al, and worse, I used to respect-- almost worship-- you. Man, am I pissed off.
Then again, maybe I've got a grain of faith left. Maybe I'm not ready to return to the cynicism of a 20 year old. A few things still inspire me.
I'm at a comedy club in the East Village. There's a Negro comedian. He's a little guy, not much bigger than me. Hair out to here, he wears a clownlike black and yellow t-shirt, with long sleeves. He rocks the micstand as he blasts away at 90mph New York patter.
Now he's talking nigger this and nigger that. Then he takes a swipe at Sharpton's National Action Network.
Says the comedian, “Some people say if we stop using the N-word, they'll stop using the N-word. They say, white people only call us nigger, because we call ourself nigger...”
He slams his palm into his forehead and continues, “Wake up Reverend Sharpton! Seems to me they was calling us nigger way before we ever used the word. We come over from Africa, did we know we were niggers? Sorry Rev, it's them who told us we were niggers. They didn't learn that word from us. We learned it from them. And I'm usin' it until it don't mean nothing no more. I wanna use that word 'til it's only a sound... with NOTHIN' attached to it. I wanna wear that word out til it's got so many holes in it, it's no good for nothing. Got me, Mr. Sharpton? Nigger. Nigger. Nigger. Nigger. Nigger... Ah, I feel better already.”
Then, there's a letter in a recent issue of MRR. It answers a “homophobic” complaint about a band named RABIES. I forget the actual wording, but it's something like:
How could you complain that we're homophobic because someone said faggot? This is PUNKROCK you fucking pussies! It's supposed to be offensive.
What can I say besides: YEAH. If anything supports free speech, it's exercising the right to be offensive.
In January 2002, an Olympic torch relay passed through Juneau, Alaska. Joseph Frederick, a student at a local high school held up a banner that said BONG HITS 4 JESUS. The principle of the school demanded Fred hide the sign, saying it violated the school's anti-drug policies. Fred refused. Now the Supreme Court will decide.
Whatever they decide, Joseph Frederick is more of a hero than Al Sharpton should ever be.
Maybe I need to stop having faith in the stars, the politicians, the people in the news. Maybe I need to believe enough in punkrock to know that someday soon a Negro all-girl punkband will name themselves The Nappy Headed Ho's, and play at ABC NO RIO. Maybe I need to have faith in the faggots and the nappy headed ho's themselves. They're the ones that'll save us from the THEM who started it all. Ah, I feel better already.
PART TWO: And speaking of Koreans at Virginia Tech. I guess everyone will be writing about this. It was big enough to knock Imus right off the front pages. What's left to say?
You can predict the stupid debate between the folks who say guns did it and those who say the movies did it.
I've heard some are even trying to blame the college. “They should have known. They should have done something.” Jeezus fuckin' Christ.
Look at the tape Seung Hui Cho sent to NBC. He felt picked on, bullied, like his heroes in Columbine.
Though the guy was Korean, there is something very American about his attitude. It's the American that says, “the solution to your problems is to kill people.”
When the Columbine kids were Swiss cheesing their fellow students, Clinton had the bombers shitting their heavy metal on Yugoslavia. When Cho reached the new American shooting record in Virginia, G.W. Bush was reaching for a shooting record of his own in Iraq.
Violence is as American as a free market. You feelin' better yet?
ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (firstname.lastname@example.org) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get live links and a chance to email comment on the column]
-->Sweat That dept: A dozen middle-aged and elderly men-- but no women-- turned up for a Dutch gym's first naked work-out session. Journalists, photographers and five TV crews outnumbered the participants at the FITWORLD GYM in Heteren.
Staff and helpers wore aprons with nude bodies painted on. The gym required exercisers to put towels on weight machines and use disposable seat cover while riding bikes. In addition, the machines were to be cleaned 3 times before being used again by the gym's regular clientèle. Doesn't sound like a hit to me.
-->Speaking of naked dept: Strippers at the Gilda 2 strip club in Viareggio, Italy are offering a year's free entry to their show. The pass is for anyone who finds their missing poodle mascot, Gianni.
One of the strippers reports, "Since we made the offer, we have had lots of responses, but so far none of the dogs have turned out to be our little Gianni."
I've got the dog. Now get me to Italy!
-->$50,000? No problem dept: Gunther Baum, stormed into the Bawag bank in Vienna waving a gun. He held police at bay for five hours. During that time, he took calls from customers and offered them loans. He eventually gave himself up. That left the bank to deal with the angry customers who thought they had secured the answer to their financial problems.
Gunther Baum. There's an idol for you.
-->Letting her down gently dept: A court in Palermo Italy, found Luca Prodi guilty of fraud because he married his girlfriend without telling her he was impotent. Besides granting a divorce and alimony, the man also had to pay more than $20,000 in court costs.
-->Also on the divorce front: Floridian Lawrence Roach agreed to pay alimony to the woman he divorced, not the man she became after a sex change.
That's what his lawyers argued in an effort to end the payments. But the ex-wife's attorneys said the operation doesn't alter the agreement.
Roach and his wife, Julia, divorced in 2004 after 18 years of marriage. The 48-year-old utility worker agreed to pay her $1,250 a month in alimony. Since then, Julia Roach had a sex change and legally changed her name to Julio Roberto Silverfoot.
The judge noted that appeals courts have declined to legally recognize a sex change in Florida when it comes to marriage. The judge said that the appellate court “is telling us that you are what you are when you were born.”
He or she, you still gotta pay
-->Band name of the month dept: In Melbourne, I missed the band J-Lo Biafra. I wonder if they lived up to their name.
I promised to write more about my Australia, New Zealand, Japan adventures this month, but I got distracted. You'll hear more next month.
-->Toy of the Month Department: clipped from a fanzine I since lost: TICKLE-ME EMO "Because no-one understands you" It sobs. It cries. It thinks life is just SO unfair.” Only 60 bucks gets you one of your own.
-->Word of the month dept: PRONK, I just love the way it sounds. It means "the leaping run of the gazelle,” and it comes from the Dutch "pronken," to strut.
Despite its real meaning, it sounds like one of those words that just fits so many situations.
Example: "there comes a time when you've come to the end of talk and it's time to start pronking." or "I still had 3/4 of a bottle left, but the plane was taking off, so I just pronked it."
-->I'm safe; I've had a bath dept: The Journal of the Brazilian Society of Urology has published a report that shows that men who soak in hot baths, jacuzzis, or hot tubs have lower sperm counts than those who don't. After staying out of the bath for 3 to 6 months, sperm count increases almost 500%.
I say, who's gonna fuck you after 6 months without a bath?
[The Journal of the Brazilian Society of Urology??? Where does he find this stuff? --eds]
--> Here's a shortened version of a personal plea from National Deneke Memorial:
Most of you know the story of Brian Deneke who was viciously murdered for being a Punk. His murderer received a measly sentence of probation. Since his death ten years ago, his hometown of Amarillo, TX has held annual vigils with punx, bands and media traveling from afar to attend. There have also been big memorial shows in Chicago and Atlanta and a 5-year anniversary TX memorial. With the 10th year anniversary of his death looming and Brian evermore well-known, it seems only fitting that the entire country would want to memorialize him.
Here’s the goal: in honor of Brian and in our fight against prejudice, we are asking that everyone plan an event in their area on December 12, 2007. We’re looking for bookers and bands to put their local events together, for anti-racist & anti-violence organizations to get involved, and for volunteers to help with promotion and other aspects. Texas is planning a special memorial with a big show of bands this year and all other show proceeds will be donated to the Brian Deneke Foundation (www.briandeneke.org)
promoting anti-violence and anti-racism. You can check out the website or communicate through the MySpace page at: http://www.myspace.com/natldenekememorial
-->Girls' night out dept: Yowsah, a day full of girlpunk at ABC NO RIO! Yeah! I wish I remembered all the bands who played. But I do remember the club was filled with Lesbos and Latinos... what else could you want??
The great band, Condenada gave me their single and were really nice to me. Maybe they didn't know who I was.