Dramatic License

A weblog of thoughts, inspirations, experiences of, in and about live theatre, film, television, literature and other media.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rant - In Defense (or at least in Understanding) of Old Bocephus

As much as I expected the firestorm surrounding the statements made by Hank Williams, Jr. on last week's episode of Fox and Friends to die down quietly and disappear, I should have known that it would not.  Old Bocephus has recorded a new song about it himself and Glenn Beck saw fit to urge his listeners to follow Bocepuhs' lead.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is a mountain being made out of a molehill and is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot.  Poor Old Bocephus is not entirely to blame for his gaffe, nor are we entirely justified in scapegoating him for it.

Good Old Bocephus went on Fox and Friends thinking that he was among friends.  The program, and the network, has been expending a great deal of energy to portray President Obama as Stalin, at best, and Hitler, at worst, since he began campaigning for the office of the Presidency in 2007.  Bocephus probably assumed that not only was a comparison to Hitler welcomed on the show, but he probably assumed that he had specifically been invited to make a statement like that.  It is no wonder that Hank said what he said.  He was under the impression that his statements would be welcomed and appreciated because of the past track record of the Fox network.  This is what happens when a news network abandons its journalistic integrity and adopts a partisan position instead of maintaining appropriate journalistic neutrality.

The resulting expressions on the faces of the hosts after Hank's statements were priceless.  For the first time in their careers on that show on that network, they were confronted with the monstrosity that they have made over the years.  For the first time in their careers, they had to acknowledge what they had wrought.  Everyone immediately went into damage control mode at that moment, and poor Old Bocephus became a convenient scapegoat.

The overreaction, of course, is a just a little too little too late.  ESPN promptly yanked Hank's theme song opening from Monday Night Football in a move whose irony is not lost on the enlightened.  If polled, it is highly likely that the main demographic of the MNF audience might just agree with Hank's sentiments and might admit that they had actually said it themselves in private (or even public) conversations.  So, Old Bocephus takes the blame for speaking what many are thinking.

While playing the "Hitler card" is the lowest possible tactic in argumentation and rhetoric, being denied the right to do so is anathema to the American ideal of "freedom of speech."  Worse yet, enticing someone to speak their mind in this way under false pretenses, like the Fox News Network did to Hank, and then blaming them for saying what they thought was acceptable is reprehensible.  Punishing Hank Williams, Jr. for comparing Obama to Hitler in the way that he has been punished is overkill and actually works against the creation and opening of discourse.  Should a new administration, more conservative and secretive than the Obama administration, exhibiting fascist tendencies and devotion to legalism and nationalism, come into power now in the future, those who see it for what it really is will no longer be able to criticize it freely by comparing it to dictatorial regimes such as Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin for fear that they, too, will be sanctioned and eventually silenced for their outspoken criticism.

While we may not agree with something that someone says, we must respect their right to say it.  If we do not, we will relinquish our own right to say what we want and think.  Sometimes, the right to free speech means that we must listen to things we do not believe or agree with in order to reserve the right to speak the truth ourselves.

So, Bocephus, while your comparison of Obama to Hitler shows a remarkable lack of understanding of both Obama's policies and Hitler's policies, and your statements on national television represent some of the lowest rhetoric possible, you have the right to your opinions and the right to speak them in whatever way you see fit.  So, Hank, now that I have come to your side, I hope that you will have my back in the future when I compare Mitt Romney to Emperor Palpatine and the Republicans to the Dark Lords of the Sith or when I compare Rick Perry to Voldemort and Michelle Bachman to Bellatrix LeStrange.


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