I cringe writing this, but I can’t hold my tongue on this completely ridiculous Hank Williams, Jr. situation any longer.
The six regular readers of this blog know that while I avoid politics, I am not afraid of strong or even controversial opinions. The “About Dubsism” page on this very blog outlines that. However, unfortunately there are times when politics strays into the sporting world, and nothing pisses me off more when that happens.
Just on the off chance you’ve been living under a rock for the past three days, Williams, Jr. made some comments during an appearance on Fox News which ultimately led to the end of his relationship with ESPN. Williams had been the provider of the opening musical montage to ESPN’s Monday Night For about the last 20 years, and it seems that ESPN felt his comments concerning President Obama were of sufficient enough nature to pull the plug on their relationship.
It would be very easy to simply dismiss this as a rambling from a drunken redneck country singer about a President with whom he disagrees politically. But there’s a lot more to this, and those are the parts that are really putting a burr under my saddle blanket.
First of all, Williams didn’t compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler. Even ESPN tacitly admits this in their press release today concerning this mess.
In the wake of Williams using an analogy involving Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama to make a political point on the Fox News Channel, Williams’ “All My Rowdy Friends” will no longer be part of the MNF opening.
“We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr,” ESPN said in a statement. “We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue.”
The actual quote which supposedly got Williams into hot water was his comparison of Obama’s golf outing with House Speaker John Boehner: ”It’d be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.” Williams didn’t call Obama “Hitler,” rather he making an analogy about fraternizing with ones’ enemy. This is an important distinction for a host of reason, not the least of which is it leads to the comment which really got Williams into trouble.
Asked to clarify, Williams said, “They’re the enemy,” adding that by “they” he meant Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
It’s not the H-word which ended his ESPN days, it was the E-word; “enemy.” But it was the H-word that ESPN used to make a move I suspect they’ve been thinking about for a while. Let’s be honest, ESPN has been skewing toward a younger and demographically different audience for quite some time, but Williams remained popular in the all-important 18-49 white male group. This popularity is not reflected in the groups ESPN is targeting, but you simply just cannot get rid of a guy who fetches a significant number in the most important demographic in the sports broadcasting world.
This marks the point where three crucial things which are horribly wrong in this country intersect.
This problem is rampant in this discussion. First, there’s the broadcasters who illicit these sorts of controversial comments, ESPN included. Remember when the World Wide Leader sent Sal Paolantonio to sandbag a 75-year old dimwit into saying essentially that “Hitler made the trains run on time.” It is important to note that Paolantonio’s question which got Schott to say the remarks which got her in trouble has been omitted from the transcript. The original question was along the lines of “But Hitler did some good things, right?”
This is important because it means ESPN has no problem illiciting a controversial comment, then acting horrified when it happens. The entire Rush Limbaugh incident is another prime example.
Remember the short-lived tenure of Rush Limbaugh as an ESPN football analyst? Regardless of your opinion of Limbaugh, anyone who has ever listened to him would agree that he is controversial. This, of course, is exactly why ESPN hired him. Of course, the minute he says something controversial, ESPN sprints into hand-wringing mode and essentially forces him to resign for doing exactly that for which he was hired. Not to mention that the comments he made about Donovan McNabb and the NFL are as true today as they were when Limbaugh said them in 2003.
Ever since the Marge Schott incident, simply uttering the word “Hitler” is grounds to get clipped in the media in this country. Calling Obama an “enemy” is what made Williams an enemy to the leadership and politics of ESPN; had he never used the word “Hitler” they wouldn’t have been able to sensationalize his comments.
But that’s not the only hypocrisy going around this issue. For all you folks that are waving the Williams flag right now, you are the same people who wanted the Dixie Chicks heads on a platter when they bad-mouthed George W. Bush. For all of you who are so piously screaming about how calling somebody “Hitler” is completely unnacceptable, you spent eight years lobbing that verbal grenade at Bush as well.
Time for a hard-core dose of reality…whether its the Dixie Chicks or Hank Williams, Jr., who gives a frog’s watertight ass about what some dipshit singer thinks? Have we become so thin-skinned as a nation that we take personal offense to somebody who simply has a different opinion? And then we wonder why most of the world thinks the average American is a complete pussy.
In all seriousness, the road to enlightenment is not through stifling speech, rather by encouraging it. That was the spirit of the 1st Amendment as now gutted by the “politically correct” police. After all, the 1st Amendment was written to protect that which was unpopular; you don’t need it to safeguard “my what lovely weather we’re having.”
Forget that lofty load of Civics-class crap about “freedoms,” there’s a practical purpose which is far more important. The intelligentsia would tell you the free exchange of ideas requires freedom of speech, yet they are the same class who have made college campuses hotbeds of “political correctness.” The real reason is nothing but pure exposure; when you let everybody speak their peace, the idiots and the lunatics will expose themselves, thus eliminating the guesswork.
Think of it this way…what would happen if the censors at ESPN bought the site on which you are reading this blog? You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.
This is yet another example where somebody misinterprets the 1st Amendment. In this case, Williams show us he is an idiot whose opinion simply isn’t credible, with the sole exception of the subject of being a country singer.
Williams released a statement on his won website saying it was he who left the relationship with ESPN.
“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” he wrote. “By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”
That’s a nice bit of posturing, but it misses two key points. First, the 1st Amendment; the entire Constitution for that matter, exists between you and the government, not you and an employer. ”Freedom of speech” means the government can’t throw your ass in prison for something you said.
Since the Constitution has no bearing between two non-governmental entities, it is important to note “freedom of speech” does not include “freedom from repercussion.” You can say whatever you want, but so can I. If I also happen to be your employer, I am well within my rights to say “you’re fired.”
Here’s what it all boils down to. Having freedom of speech means having the balls to live with the consequences of what you said. Nobody feels sorry for the guy who got punched in the mouth for calling somebody’s mother a whore. It also means that nobody has a right to not be offended; if you hear something you don’t like, that’s your problem. There’s no such thing as freedom of speech ONLY for what you like.