Freedom Deferred

Up until now, Bill O'Reilly's anti-hip hop antics have been so unfoundedly ridiculous we've learned to ignore him. From his personal vendetta against Ludacris to attacks on what he calls gangsta rap, Bill finds new ways to criticize hip hop music. But, on a recent show that aired July 14, he went too far.

Attempting to discredit Jadakiss for lyrics criticizing Bush on the single "Why" from the highly anticipated new album, Kiss of Death, I watched as Bill began a new attack on hip hop. During the segment, Bill encouraged viewers to dump the stock, Vivendi, responsible for putting out Jada's records citing the stock had already begun its decline. Hip hop fans everywhere should be outraged by such blatant attacks on freedom of speech. Why? Well, think about how these attacks started. Bill began by pointing out portrayals of violence and misogyny in the music, something many believe is problematic. Bill even had an "O.G." on the show recently who claimed to be a former gang member to co-sign his complaints. How many gang members with influence and authority would go on the Bill O'Reilly show like that? Bill even claimed the guy had "street credibility." It's laughable just to hear Bill try to make that determination. No disrespect to the dude, but Bill used him like a pawn.

The real problem is censorship and freedom of expression. Once we allow others to say what is and is not acceptable, they believe they have the authority to define what the restrictions should be. The man is even against the ACLU, one of the nation's oldest and most respected agencies that protect civil rights.

I know I'm not the only one to see what's happening here.

A good point of reference and discussion:

The Patriot Act, devised to keep America safe from terrorists in a post 9/11 world was largely ignored by far too many. Careful study of the document though reveals how the Act actually limits constitutional rights of Americans not some distant predators. Particularly activists in this country are threatened as many of them can be labeled as "domestic terrorists" under the law. Could you imagine being place under surveillance for speaking out publicly about government policies? Sounds like Iraq, doesn't it?

Similarly, politically and socially conscious hip hoppers too must be supported and shielded from these attacks on constitutional rights that provide so many freedoms. Our right to free speech is more valuable than many may realize but could be in danger if we don't recognize policies designed to limit our freedoms. (Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 is another good reference for further discussion and research.)

We need to support artists who take a stand to articulate their feelings about the political state of this society. Failing to do so puts at risk loss of power through the voice of hip hop music and could further water down its content. I say we SHOULD boycott record labels and companies that do not reflect more creative diversity in their rosters. However, signing AND properly marketing artists that take risks and display creativity and true care for the direction our generation is taking would be a good start towards change. I could give a damn what stock people dump. This won't hurt Jadakiss. A label would be foolish to dump him and if they did another one would be right there to pick him up and offer even more money...because record company people are people watch your back 'cause I think they smoke crack, I don't doubt it. Look at how they act...(Q-Tip)

Sorry, that was a flashback from the good ol days.

Sometimes it seems hard to defend hip hop at times and then Bill gives us good reason. Commercial music promoted today is mostly violent and degrading to women, afterall, WE LIVE IN A VIOLENT SOCIETY THAT HAS NO RESPECT FOR WOMEN! (Videos aside, see also the initial omission of Hillary Clinton as a speaker from the Democratic National Convention.)

Why should hip hop be a scapegoat for societal issues? A recent Harvard study even revealed movie ratings are more lenient than ever in accessing violence, sex, and offensive language content. If Bill O'Reilly is really concerned about these issues then he should broaden his scope. Does he go after MTV or movie making production houses the same vengance he has against hip hop? Why not devise a personal vendetta against Arnold Schwarzenegger? Surely over the years he contributed to protrayals of violence in our society. Now he's Governor of California. wow.

We should start a boycott...against FOX, (for its biased media reporting) ClearChannel (for violating free speech), Fleet Bank-now Bank of America- & Aetna US Healthcare (for accepting profits made from the slave trade), Viacom (for promoting images that degrade women and society). I could go on but that will do. Now is a great time to turn off the TV and radio and find ways to be more productive. Catch up on some good reading, check out a museum, or help register your neighbors to vote.

Last time I checked, Jada was number 4 on the Billboard Charts. Therefore, WE determine the order and disorder of our generation.

November 2nd will be here before we know it, as many join the campaign to get Bush out of office. Its time for some political and social maturity. Time to shift our focus from CDs to guarantees for our future. Thinking about the strength in our numbers and the potential for us to make a political impact in this election and the future, Bill O'Reilly can go back to being a non-issue.

P.S. For a journalist, Bill, you sure do a poor job. You should give yourself a more deserving title like Media Advisor to the President.

fayemi shakur is a political and cultural critic/writer & served as a senior producer of the National Hip Hop Political Convention held last June.