Some background: Public Enemy frontman Chuck D claims MTV told his label they wouldn't play the group's latest video, for "Give the People What They Want," unless the clip's verbal and visual references to convicted cop killer/ activist/writer Mumia Abu Jamal were removed. (As an aside, Chuck noted MTV didn't request the same for references to H. Rap Brown -- aka convicted Atlanta cop killer/activist Jamil Al-Amin -- writing, "Maybe they're so ... dumb that they don't know who he is").
In response, New York-based political action group YG is pushing for a boycott of MTV and planning to march in front of the network's offices. A related petition on Petitiononline.com has garnered several thousand signatures. In a statement, the group cites "MTV's violation of the First Amendment right of ... Public Enemy."
Sorry, but MTV isn't a public forum, and its executives do not (at least not yet) constitute a government. So the First Amendment is irrelevant here. MTV can decline to air whatever the hell it wants. Please get it straight -- if you can't recognize when your First Amendment rights are not being violated, how are you going to know when they are?
That said, are the decision-makers at MTV a bunch of chumps? Most certainly. For a great cultural outlet like MTV to stifle debate on an issue of cultural relevance is nothing but lame, no matter what they think of Abu Jamal (and there are an awful lot of reasonable people who think he's a murderer). Particularly an outlet that, as YG's statement suggests, finds no political problem with "videos of a lewd sexual nature, black on black violence, drugs and violence against women -- in particular, black women."
DISSOLVE THE UNION. Under-appreciated local rock quartet The Union is calling it quits after a final show opening for the Chameleons Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Echo Lounge. No ugly secessionist fury at work in the breakup of this Union, though. The band's Jay Coyle reports simply that "our own David Kucharsky has sold his house, packed up all of his CDs and guitars, and moved to Rhode Island. Why Rhode Island? Because Dave is now a full-time student at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design.
As a going-away present to itself, the band recently recorded five new songs for an EP, which will be available at the show, along with The Union's three other releases. Says Coyle, "Just ask nicely and I might just give you a CD for free."
BULLETIN BOARD. Rockin Pontoons leader Steve Coffey is now booking shows Saturday night at Lenny's. He's looking for bands, but specified that they should be good bands. If you qualify (c'mon, be honest), call him at 404-452-2307.
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