North Coast Journal

by Lisa Ladd-Wilsow

This is a quiz

Quiz time! What's the difference between these two statements?

(a) If agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms come knocking at your door, go for a "head shot," because they'll be wearing bullet proof vests.

(b) I'm 'bout to bust some shots off/I'm 'bout to dust some cops off."

They sound kind of the same, don't they? They both have that "kill a law enforcement guy" tone, that Negative Ned kind of ambience, that je ne sais quoi that makes the listener sit up and say "Huh?," don't you think?

The second statement, (b), caused a tremendous shivering through our nation's soul. It was written by rap musician Ice-T as a lyric in his song "Cop Killer," which was released by Time Warner in 1992. As soon as it hit the stores, it hit the fan.

Actor Charlton Heston, known for his conservative political leanings, urged a boycott of Time Warner. He lambasted the head of that company in a speech, which said in part: "I know ... that the right to free speech is not without limits, both public and private. ... Free speech does not include the right to yell 'Fire!' in a crowded theater. The lyrics to 'Cop Killer' go a lot further than that. They celebrate the murder of police officers."

Law enforcement officials joined Heston's call for a boycott. Oliver North's right-wing Freedom Alliance began a petition drive to bring Time Warner executives to trial for "sedition and anarchy." And President Bush, citing a "moral obligation" to speak out against rap songs and "other filth," did just that in an appearance before agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York.

"It is wrong for any company ... to issue records that approve of killing a law enforcement officer," Bush said. It is time to take a stand "against those who use films or records or television or video games to glorify killing law enforcement officers. It is sick."

On the other hand, the first statement, (a), passed by us all with nary a whisper. It was uttered by G. Gordon Liddy, the convicted Watergate felon turned radio talk show host. It's true that somebody somewhere didn't like what Liddy said and filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (which declined to take action in January).

But most people weren't even aware Liddy was giving lessons in how to kill ATF agents.

Of course, most people would have been aware of it if Bush had felt a moral obligation to denounce Liddy; or if Heston had marched down to the studio of station WJFK, which syndicates Liddy's show; or if Oliver North had used his own radio talk show to urge sedition trials for WJFK's owners.

But the fact is, the only reason Liddy's radio rantings have made news is because of the Oklahoma bombing and President Clinton's subsequent attack on "hate talk." Suddenly, many of the same people stricken with apoplexy over Ice-T and Time Warner now stand firmly, hand over heart, in defense of free speech. They are appalled that anyone would link their dissent with that disaster, and they demand that Clinton offer any shred of evidence that talk caused violent action.

Oliver North went further, as he is wont to do. Radio talk shows such as his not only do not incite violence, he said, they probably even keep the peace by "encourag(ing) people to talk about something, and when they're talking about it on the talk show they're not out building bombs or shooting somebody."

(I'll be right back. I have to go jump-start my brain.)

So, it's Quiz Time. What's the difference between those two statements,

(a) and (b)?

Um, is it that one rhymes and the other doesn't? (No, no, that's not it. Try again!) Uh, is it that one was on a record that probably not a lot of people would have known existed, let alone purchased, but for the fact that certain folks held a public hemorrhage over it? (No, that's not it, either. Think!)

I don't know! I mean, they sound exactly the same - head shots, dust cops - and except that Ice-T is black and Liddy's white, I don't see a difference, so forget it. I don't care.

Pop quizzes suck anyway. Me 'n' Beavis are going to the gun show.

Lisa Ladd-Wilson, a Eureka free-lance writer, is a former reporter for the Arcata Union and the Times-Standard.

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