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Blacklisting is not the answer

Image: PV Bella

I am a fierce supporter and defender of the First Amendment. There are a lot of things I disagree with or find offensive. However, I will defend people’s right to say, write, or express themselves. I reserve my right to call them out and criticize. I would never advocate they should be canceled, de-platform, or censored.

Comedian, Dave Chappelle is still under attack for his Netflix show, “The Closer.” I watched the show twice. The live audience loved it. I did not find Chappelle as funny as he used to be. I can understand why some would find his material offensive. I do not know why there are calls to cancel and de-platform him. Criticize him, yes. Demand his program be canceled and he be silenced is not just wrong, it goes against all we believe in as Americans.

Comedy is not supposed to be a warm fuzzy safe space protecting tender sensitivities. Good comedy is edgy and pushes limits and boundaries to make a point or get people to think about issues while being entertained. The great comedians like Don Rickles, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and others would not last in today’s environment.

Comedy is an art. Art is supposed to be controversial. Controversy can be uncomfortable for some people, but how do we have those critical conversations about issues if we are not exposed to them or made uncomfortable or angry by them?

In the past, there were calls to ban pornographic magazines. At the same time, we celebrated classic artists who painted and sculpted nudes. The only difference was the magazines had photographs. Controversial movies were subjected to the Hays Code until audiences and movie producers decided to rebel. Books, both fiction and non-fiction, were always controversial and there were attempts to ban them. There are still calls to ban certain books. Rock and Roll, Hip Hop, and Rap were demonized and people tried to ban the music.

This current cancel culture is not only censorship. It is blacklisting. The Puritans are doing what the government is not allowed to do, sanction and ruin people. There is nothing wrong with criticism. All art is subject to criticism, even harsh criticism. Critics do not censor or blacklist. The furthest they go is to recommend people not waste their time or money on an exhibit, book, performance, or movie.

People fought hard during the 20th Century to express themselves, especially over what was considered taboo issues. We got to a point where very few things were taboo. Now, we are regressing. People want to ban what they believe is personally offensive. They chose to be offended and are responsible for that choice, not the artists. 

People across the political spectrum are trying to censor speech, ban books, or blacklist others because they find something offensive or unacceptable. People and businesses are being targeted, demonized, and blacklisted for political or charitable contributions they make. 

The real problem with cancel culture and blacklisting are if people think they have the right to blacklist, the reverse is true. They must accept being blacklisted by others. It is a dangerous two-way street no one should want to go down.

There is nothing wrong with criticism, even harsh or angry criticism. Calling for someone to be de-platformed, canceled, or blacklisted is wrong and deplorable. We all can find things offensive or inappropriate. It is easy to be offended these days. Banning or banishing creatives over their expression is not the answer. 

No one should live in fear of being blacklisted for expressing themselves. Expression and good to harsh criticism, make us have important conversations about issues. Blacklisting, censorship, de-platforming, or canceling are not who we are as a people. 

The public square is not a sanitary place to live. It was never meant to be. 

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