Common, the Greatest Living Threat to American Freedom

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 11 2011 8:06 AM

Common, the Greatest Living Threat to American Freedom

Mike Burns wraps up the story that mostly serves to prove that the Osama bin Laden news cycle is over; we are back to this . The Fox Nation story on the affair gives us the basics:

[Common] is quite controversial, in part because his poetry includes threats to shoot police and at least one passage calling for the "burn[ing]" of then-President George W. Bush.

Advertisement

The "threats to shoot police" aren't exactly explicit. "Cop Killer," in which Ice-T describes the implements he'll use to, well, kill a cop. Explicit. "A Letter to the Law," the poem in question here? We have "Tell the law, my Uzi weighs a ton/ I walk like a warrior, from them I won’t run." I'm not even sure "burn a Bush" is a call to set the 43rd president on fire, because "burn" can just mean "diss."

Adam Serwer makes the pretty obvious point that a first-person rap lyric isn't the same thing as a pure expression of beliefs. True enough, just as putting a target on a political map doesn't mean you want people to see the map and fire bullets at politicians. But Big Government goes deeper , finding a 2008 poem at Jeremiah Wright's church and a 2005 interview in which Common says black men should date black women. And at that point, the story/scandal becomes "Should you be permitted to perform at the White House if you've said something racist or hobnobbed with someone who does that?" The safe position here is probably "yes." Who wants entertainers to be scanned for crimethink if they're merely appearing at an event? This isn't like Amiri Baraka, as the poet laureate of New Jersey, writing a poem about Jews being tipped off before the 9/11 attacks. This is a one-time event, one that probably won't become a scene for ambiguous anti-law enforcement poems.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.