I am reading a book about the various People vs Lenny Bruce cases and I wonder why Elvis was never actually charged with public obscenity for his performances.
Lenny Bruce mostly seems to have been persecuted by police for obscenity, which then and now is defined as dirt for dirt’s sake – but also for the sole purpose of sexual arousal without any redeeming social or artistic merit or commentary.
Lenny Bruce’s performances were verbal with some gestures and often accompanied by free form jazz.
He did biting social commentaries on hypocrisy and especially religion – so many of the cases appear to be driven to punish him for blasphemy under the guise of obscenity
Lenny Bruce was charged under obscenity laws, but he was persecuted for blasphemy and exposing the hypocrisy of religion in plain and vulgar terms – something that is protected as a first amendment and not obscene in that it does not make anyone horny. Lenny didn’t make people horny, nor was he morbidly obsessed with sex or excretion – he was obsessed with truth and expressed that in the language of the people.
While Elvis’ performances were pretty much, as close as you could get to doing a sex act with your clothes still on. They definitely were sexual arousing.
So I have to wonder, if it was because Elvis himself was so well mannered and deferential to authority – not to mention being a huge money maker – being responsible for 50% of RCA’s total sales in 1956 – that he was never charged by police for obscenity
While Lenny Bruce, who’s entire act was about pointing out the hypocrisy of authority, was hounded to death
Deemed obscene and being legally obscene were (and are) different things
I think while Elvis was filmed by police and subjected to a lot of media negative coverage, cries from parent and religious groups – Elvis didn’t offend police – he worshiped them, hired them and respected them.
Elvis was the only performer to break Ed Sullivan’s secular show and perform a religious song.
I think Parker was actually smarter to take something of a long view and remake Elvis’ image as a good boy and his show as being innocent -rather than the revolutionary that he stumbled into being as a matter of being a decent person.
Lenny Bruce’s entire act was question authority – thus, authority cracked down on him – and went after him for blasphemy under the guise of obscenity – because there wasn’t much to turn you sexually on in Lenny’s show – while Elvis’ shows were pure sexual arousal and often, release.
So Lenny’s real crime wasn’t obscenity – he wasn’t any more concerned with sex than anyone else, which is to say, very concerned with only the religious being more concerned with sex, being that they are very concerned with the sex that other people may or may not be having, as opposed to being concerned with obtaining sex as often as you’d care for like a normal person.
Separation of church and state was intended to protect the state, which is about earthly concerns and existence, from religion, in which is earthly existence is a dress rehearsal for the afterlife
The various censorship and anti-vice waves that have gone through apparently secular law was religiously motivated and driven as a means to insert religious morals into secular law.
Lenny Bruce was charged under obscenity laws, but he was persecuted by law enforcement for blasphemy and exposing the hypocrisy of religion in plain and vulgar terms – something that is protected as a first amendment and not obscene in that it does not make anyone horny. Lenny didn’t make people horny, nor was he morbidly obsessed with sex or excretion – he was obsessed with truth and expressed that in the language of the people.
Religion can’t help but interfere with the state and attempt to impose it’s narrow view of morality on the public, regardless of whether the public subscribes to the religious ideas.
That’s not only the problem of asserting community standard, but also the problem of that same community voting for politicians based on the stated religion, rather than any qualifications, experience of the would be legislator.
The community is religious and as such, assumes that the law conforms to their beliefs – and being certain in their beliefs – they don’t have to expose themselves reality or law or even their own bible.
Which is why anyone with certainty of their beliefs is suspect, because if you have clarity, you are most likely, ignoring the bigger picture and certainly anything that would challenge that clarity.
In secular democratic countries, where the individual is the social unit of consequence – as opposed to theocratic nations where the family or tribe or some group designation is the social unit of consequence – the right to hold and express your views is an important right and entitlement in society.
Individuals do not matter in nations that hold the family or group as supreme, since individuals how fail to adhere to the social norms and expectations are often killed or sanctioned to restore collective honor to the family, to right the diminishment done to the collective by the individual.
One challenge is that the right to express yourself does not require you to do so responsibility or carry any consequences to how your words impact other people’s behaviours – although hate crime legislation tries to address this aspect.
The bigger challenge it would seem for people is that the right to express yourself does not obligate anyone to actually listen to you.
If what ideas you express are fairly mainstream, you are usually one voice in a chorus, and the more your ideas become fringe, your potential audience shrinks as well. Luckily, most people seek out information that confirms what they already believe – which is partly why people on opposite sides of an issue don’t communicate, they genuinely do not comprehend the opposing view because they don’t expose themselves to opposing views – often just enough to get the sound bytes to refute them, but not enough to actually understand what the opposing side is actually saying and meaning.
When you get far enough from the centre, the only people listening to what you say or post are people who are entirely like minded and depending on the fringe, possibility the police or other law enforcement.
So, I would imagine it’s anxious and lonely for people who are extreme fringe and too small in number to attract police notice, which they need to convince themselves of their rightness and of being a dangerous game changer ideologist.
I think that as there is no way to commit the perfect crime, since you’d go mad by never getting any credit for it – because to be perfect, you’d need to carry it off alone and leave no clues – we do many things to gain little more than bragging rights, so the perfect crime could only be carried out by an egoless person, for the sake of the crime itself, rather than achieving the perfect crime.
This thinking informs extremist thinkers – who know they stand apart from society, who must elevate themselves to a grand status – of being the only right or clear thinker, the only one capable to understand or even see What’s Really Going On That They Don’t Want You To Know.
To be heard, to gain followers but more, to be opposed, for being opposed is what gives conspiracy and extreme ideology meaning – it’s proof of being right! They Are Stopping You From Telling the Truth, the Real Truth, About Them. And no one but you, the ideologist/conspiracy theorist can handle the truth.
Except, that it’s not really the truth and it’s because the extremist can’t handle that the world is not that complex, convoluted, but not that complex, and that they are not the Lone Truth Handler who must enlighten others because the truth is out there and dangerous.
The extremist is a true believer – not skeptical but often cynical – the difference being that a skeptic doubts the claims while the cynic doubts the claimant. No lack of evidence nor evidence to the contrary will shake their belief – indeed, the lack of and contrary evidence is just more proof for the elaborate conspiracy, it’s all just part of the plan.
Conspiracy theories do not substantially differ from religion, except that religion tends to attract a wider audience, who then act as a social averaging, a leveling of behaviours and social norms to smooth out the lone extremists and keep people in the fold.
Except that many religions are not particular mainstream, they are doomsday cults, validating extremist small groups and often the group seeks to impose their religious norms on the population by force or block voting if they can attract enough people.
Charles Manson gained a following of a handful of people and sent them to murder wealthy people to start a civil ethnic war, which strategy repeated itself in Norway, only Anders Behring Breivik didn’t bother with followers, he just tapped into the right wing extremism generally in Europe and accessible on the internet – rather than connect with an actual social movement or begin one – that, after all, takes effort and draws police attention too soon.
Jim Jones took nearly a thousand with him and the Heaven’s Gate group had just over 20 members. Cults have mass murdered and suicide or selected targets to kill to achieve their poligious ends and attempt to gain power and status in society that has rejected them and their ideology as meaningful members – otherwise, they wouldn’t be fringe extremists.
But the solution is not that all views are equally valid, because they are not – most people do not hold extreme views because they are not valid, logical, rational, fair and balanced, extremist views are discriminatory, bigoted and distasteful more often than not.
The solution is education – to teach children to think critically, logically and equitably.
The solution is not shunting extremism to the fringe, but to focus attention upon it, why it’s wrong, but also to determine what attracts people to such views. Often it’s lack of economic opportunity – when people are able to participate in society, have autonomy and freedoms – and understand that everyone is entitled to the same access to opportunities, to the same rights and freedoms – people are more willing to include rather than exclude when they understand that there’s no limit to rights, they won’t run out before the line of people waiting for their share.
It seems what people most need to learn and understand is how big and small their sphere of influence is.
Gays being able to serve in the military does not deprived heterosexuals of being able to serve, anymore than black people getting to serve took anything away from white people serving.
That gays even want to serve in the military should speak volumes about how much we have in common with our fellow citizens – we want the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship.
Gays being able to marry does not diminish or prevent heterosexuals from marrying any more than interracial marriage diminished or made marriage unattractive to same ethnic couples.
It improves society to be inclusive of all members of the society.
It made little sense to me, growing up in Canada, where I could rely on rights and freedoms and have them all unavailable when I came out as a lesbian in 1992. I was legally fired from two jobs and almost not permitted to rent housing. Legally. I had lost my rights and didn’t get them all back until 2003 when gay marriage became law – for most of my adult life, living in Canada, I have not been able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms and legal protection from discrimination as other Canadians.
But gays and atheists – the two most reviled minority groups – have not turned to violence to claim our place in our secular societies. We use the courts, we educate and do outreach, hold conferences, we live as if and wait for the day that we too have all the rights and social standing as other people – for the day when being gay or being atheist is just another bit of information rather than the basis for determining how people treat you or react to you.
It is religion combined with extreme views that attempts to assert itself through violence or by justifying discrimination against those the religion doesn’t like – which is not only anyone outside of the given religion, but generally targets specific segments of society – like gays or atheists, ethnic groups or members of rival (aka closely related) religions. Religion is the basis and justification for excluding people as being equal to everyone else.
When religion says a particular group is immoral and beneath consideration, bigotry follows and if the religion gains sufficient social standing, systemic discrimination and even violence in the form of hate crime often follows.
The most dangerous aspect of religion is the veneer of divinity – any person can claim a deity told them thus and so – and if they can make their story compelling enough, gather followers and form a new religion.
One person believing something without basis is delusional, but a large enough group, and it becomes religion, and large enough and over enough time, a mainstream and established religion with the expectation and history of being above reproach and unquestioned in authority and power and influence.
If we are to have a society – and society is global, no country stands alone, we are one planet, interconnected, what happens in one country can no longer be deemed an internal matter when we are connected by land, air and water – pollution and radiation travels, people migrate or flee and natural disasters know no such imaginary things as borders.
We need to be in a reality and evidence based world and not allow delusional or magical thinking to be pervasive or to continue to divide us and prevent everyone from sharing in the wealth of resources, equitable participation, rights and freedoms – because rights and freedoms are clearly not self evidence or inalienable when only a portion of the world enjoys them, when the rights and freedoms you have are dependent on where you live.
We need to stop allowing extremist views to be validated by moderate ones – we need to draw a line and say, this far is okay, but after that, you’re going to need to seriously talk with someone about your inability to work and play well with other people.
We will never be rid of extremists, but we can stop coddling the similar and mainstream related sensibilities and make a clear stand.
And, we must hold religions accountable for the harm they have and continue to cause – from direct harm such as the Vatican sex crimes against the children in all countries where they have their corporate offices and operations to the theocratic nations were women are held as barely second class, just above the children, but below the family dog in terms of value and participation.
People are entitled to hold extremist views, but there is no obligation for us to act as if they are valid views. All things are not equal and should not be considered as such.
The needs of the many will always surpass the needs of the few.
Anders Behring Breivik
Shooter/Bomber on Friday, July 22, 2011
I wasn’t going to blog about the most recent homeland terror assault, I didn’t even particularly want to read about it. But there’s an aspect of Breivik that is too dangerous to ignore – and it’s an issue that I have been working through on this blog previously.
The quote above may well be his own, but it s a haunting familiar line to any Star Trek fan – it is a Vulcan idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one – and it is often uttered by Spock or other character that is about to willing sacrifice themselves to save others.
It is a very noble thing to sacrifice yourself to save others – but it is rather less than noble for someone to decide to sacrifice you for ideas that you do not share or a cause that is not your own or without your knowledge and consent.
People who knowingly join up with extremist groups have an expectation of being sacrificed or expendable – people who are going about their day and who die in an attack by these same groups or individuals – are bystander victims not participants.
While Spock and Kirk – as well as other characters in the Star Trek universe – were always willing to lay down their lives and accept losses in the course of duty – they rarely accepted having to sacrifice each other or others, even when it mean saving everyone else. There was always the breathless continued efforts to rescue stranded or trapped people until the last possible moment that disaster could be averted – no, well, we need to close the containment door immediately while people were trapped – it was always, if we don’t get it closed in x number of minutes, the ship will be contaminated. They usually managed to save everyone and not leave people behind.
This is the stumbling block in using violence to bring about social change – if your idea of how society should operate was valid – then it would be compelling on the face of it – by the word and not by the sword.
If you cannot convince people, you are not entitled to compel by brutal force and terror. That is not a sustainable basis for a thriving and productive society – it only works until someone willing to be more violent comes along and violence suppresses productivity, invention and social
Breivik is actually subverting this idea by putting his own individual needs above the few he killed and the many he seeks to impose his order upon by use of violence. This is his need to resist change, his need to be at the top beneficiary tier of the status quo – worse, the very thing he claims to oppose – Muslim rule – is what he intends to impose as Christian rule. He seeks to assert his own religious rules above secular law.
Breivik is a fanatic seeking to impose his idea on everyone else – but since he is unwilling to put in the work to bring about this order by forming or joining a political party and rallying people to his cause – he is outside of the social hierarchy and seeks a short cut to obtain it – violent revolt in a nation with no recent history of civil unrest and no appetite for it – in another country, it is possible to ignite the factions in civil war to overthrow the government with a grassroots uprising.
But Breivik was alone, not expressing a widely enough held sentiment nor effectively tapping into the existing social anxiety and natural xenophobia and change resistance, disconnected to the people of Norway but tapped into the ring wing movement that is rising in Europe – if anything, his actions of attacking his own people, worse the youth of his own people, will unite people peacefully to stand against him – which is the best response to resist escalating his paranoia into anti-immigration social movements and allowing him to actually achieve his goal by igniting more conflict.
No matter how hard done by and disenfranchised a person or group feels in the larger society, you cannot correct this wrongdoing by doing worse by other people – which is what violence is – doing worse than what you perceive was done to you.
I think it is very interesting that two of the most discriminated and vilified groups in western secular societies have not engaged in violence to achieve social justice and equality – gays and atheists.
It seems to take the addition of religion, in particularly, righteousness and the belief that the righteous individual knows best for everyone because they are divinely directed or inspired, to bring about their vision by any means – especially violent and discriminatory means – possible.