DEE SNIDER: 'Free Speech Is A Right. It Is Also A Privilege.'
December 5, 2023
TWISTED SISTER frontman Dee Snider, who is promoting a new graphic novel, "Dee Snider: He's Not Gonna Take It", which illustrates the fateful day he spoke in defense of free speech, alongside Frank Zappa and John Denver, at a Senate hearing regarding placing content-warning labels on album covers, spoke to the "Appetite For Distortion" podcast about X owner Elon Musk, who has repeatedly touted himself as a "free speech absolutist". Dee said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Elon Musk is a genius idiot." He added: "Look, I talk about the bigger picture of censorship and free speech. Free speech is a right. It is also a privilege. Many countries in the world do not have free speech, and people are put to death for speaking free out. So, it's a responsibility that comes with that free speech. And in the most simplest terms I could put it, online bullying. If you're saying that Nancy had sex with the football team and she did not, and you know she did not, you're lying, outwardly lying with intention to hurt her emotionally and potentially physically, 'cause many people who are bullied online commit suicide. That is not your free speech. That's not your First Amendment right to say that. You have no right to say that. That is not what free speech is."
He continued: "Forefathers never intended for us to run into a crowded movie theater and shout 'fire' when there's no fire. That was not free speech. So people need to understand what that responsibility and what having that wonderful gift in this country is and what it means. Openly lying is unacceptable."
This past October, Snider told Jared Tauber of the 90.3 WMSC FM radio station that the greatest enemy of free speech today "is the misinterpretation of what the First Amendment means. There's this idea, and Elon Musk is a champion of it, that free speech is saying anything you want whenever you want. That is not what they meant when they wrote the First Amendment," he explained. "You never could say something that could endanger someone's well-being, whether it's physical or mental, with your words. You were never allowed to scream 'Fire' in a crowded movie theater when there's no fire, because people can be hurt. You can't say things to people or post things online that could hurt people psychologically, mentally and physically destroy their lives. That's not free speech. That's being an [asshole]. Okay, so there's a difference between being an [asshole] and having free speech. So that's the biggest threat, quite honestly, is a misinterpretation of what free speech means."
Two and a half years ago, Snider, who was famously called to testify before the U.S. Senate against the proposition to have warning labels be placed on albums deemed "offensive" to listeners, spoke to NewsNation's "Banfield" about the rise of political correctness in the social media era. Asked for his opinion of cancel culture, which is the idea that someone, usually a celebrity or a public figure, whose ideas or comments are considered offensive should be boycotted, Dee said: "It's censorship. And censorship has changed quite a bit. I mean, you go to when I was in Washington testifying. By the way, it was a bipartisan effort — it was the Democrats and Republicans who were joined together in putting a leash on rock and roll. But it was definitely a conservative attitude — it was a more conservative attitude, wanting to censor music. Now censorship still exists, but it's gone from the right more to the left. We're in this P.C. [politically correct] world where we have to be careful about what we say and who we offend, and it's a very odd thing."
In 2020, Dee told Canada's The Metal Voice that a movie like "Blazing Saddles", the 1974 American satirical Western black comedy film directed by Mel Brooks "could not be made today — it literally could not be made, because it would offend too many people.
"I remember seeing that movie the first time in a theater full of African-Americans in a black neighborhood in a black theater; me and my brother were the only two white people," he continued. "And I was laughing my ass off. And my friend said, 'Stop laughing. We're gonna get our asses kicked.' And I looked around the theater, and everybody was laughing. I said, 'Everybody's laughing.' It's funny. Funny is funny.
"It's odd, because conservatism was ultra-right back in the '80s. Now it's shifted toward the left, where you've got the liberals saying, 'Oh, you can't say that, and you can't say that, and you can't say that.'
"So, yeah, [censorship] still around, it's still an issue. But we've just gotta continue to push back and fight."
In 1985, the Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC),led by Tipper Gore, was trying to introduce a parental warning system that would label all albums containing "offensive material." The system was to include letters identifying the type of objectionable content to be found in each album (e.g. O for occult themes, S for sex, D for drugs, V for violence, etc.),which resulted in the "Parental Advisory" sticker now found on new album releases with "questionable content." The incongruous trio of Snider, Frank Zappa and John Denver were called before Congress to testify in defense of music.
In 2015, Snider wrote an Op-Ed story for HuffingtonPost.com about his experience, saying: "Thirty years later, everything and nothing has changed. The ultra-conservatives still want to dictate to the masses what they deem acceptable for the general public to see and hear. The record industry is a mere shadow of its former self (apt punishment for its cowardice),and CDs and vinyl albums have almost become 'novelties’ in a world driven by downloads. Yet, the warning labels still adorn individual track listings and albums online.
"While initially my appearance at those Senate hearings was damaging to my career and reputation, long term it was beneficial, showing people for the first time that I was much more than a screaming 'Raggedy Ann on acid' and a fairly intelligent, sentient human being. Fortunately, I have gone on to better things."
TWISTED SISTER called it quits in 2016 after completing a farewell 40th-anniversary tour.
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