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Author Topic: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights  (Read 13926 times)

dfrohman

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2013, 01:04:13 AM »
Yup. Free speech goes both ways. I was there. Keepin it 100 here. I booed. It was the first time I ever booed. I was so deeply offended. The poem was so problematic. I couldn't take it sitting there and not standing up for myself and other people who were equally harmed in the room. I was raised better than that. That shit WAS problematic on many levels. Best believe if I hear some blatant racist, sexist (in your case), homophobic shit....let it be known to everybody, I'm BOOING. I was one of the people who saw several people address your group after. I wanted to jump in and speak for myself but didn't because I didn't want to make it seem like your group was being ganged up on. So I let the people there address it. The conversation was honest but no bullying took place. I know it can be intimidating having several people confront you about your poem. I got empathy around that. But that conversation was necessary. And needed to happen right there.

In fact, I also saw one of the team members after come up to Dominique and say that the conversation was instructive and gave him a lot to think about. To be clear.

So yes. I agree. Free Speech is great. And I intend to use mine.

Dominiquechristina

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2013, 01:06:10 AM »
As an executive member of the Boo Hiss Constituency, I support all of that Miss Frohman.
Dominique Christina, MA, M.Ed

LoGic

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2013, 03:33:01 PM »
in terms of Free Speech I think our biggest misconception is how it is applied. Free speech means you can say I hate Obama and you dont go to jail, to dont loose your life, you don't get fined, or assaulted by cops. But it doesnt mean you dont get cussed out, or mocked, or yelled at....

free speech is a shield form official gov't sanctioned censorship, assaults and crackdowns. Free speech does not shield you from the from speech of others.
I think that all people should be prepared to defend their beliefs and words..
poets doubly so

we are our words... they are an integral part of our craft. If you do a poem that is designed to elicite a reaction, once you spit that poem, the reaction will come, and oft times it may not be the reaction we anticipation... once the poem is out in the open under the glare for all to see, we no longer can control how its digested by others. for some it may go down smooth, for other it may make them sick...

I am all for saying whatever it is you feel like saying...but I'm also for cause and effect. and being able to defend yourself
And those who were seen dancing
were thought to be insane
by those who could not hear the music...
 ― Friedrich Nietzsch

puroshaggy

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2013, 11:34:11 PM »
I appreciate all your responses and again, none of us, nor do I, have any problem with the discussions afterwards during the bout.  As I said, the poets have thick skins and are smart people- no one was discounting the boos or the criticism.

What I am reading, and I am glad to read it, is that the few who did encourage self-censorship are NOT the norm.  That is what I wanted to know. 

No one in San Antonio is attempting to hide behind Free Speech in order to validate low scores or criticism.  But some did return home with the honest feeling that they were being told NOT to say something- being told that certain speech was NOT allowed- which is different from people saying here is my Free Speech reaction to your poem.  We get that- I thought that was clear.

We are looking for clarity about what some inferred was censorship. We know what Free Speech is, we understand Free Speech does not mean No Consequences Speech.  That was not the question.

jesster

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2013, 01:08:58 PM »
Also understand that there are protections at our tournament around the Code of Honor. Folks can definitely want to have a conversation, but bad sportsmanship that includes telling someone "fuck you" or getting physical about someone's poem are not protected and would be a violation.

Back to your initial point, I have definitely counselled people on problematic poems or offensive subject matter. This has spanned from the use of rape in a poem about writing, to the N-word in a white apologist poem, to poems that were unnecessarily triggering. Most of those have been "you may not realize what you are doing to audience members, but let me tell you why that is a problem." For the most part, they recognize the power of their words and the problem, but if they insist on still doing it I let them know there may be consequences (confrontations with audience members, hurt feelings, etc) but I won't stop them from saying their poem.

If they go over 5 minutes, though, I kick their asses off stage ;)

-Jesse

Scott Woods

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2013, 02:24:11 PM »
I think it's interesting that in a discussion about free speech and censorship someone had their commentary edited by an administrator.

Karrie Waarala

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2013, 02:42:35 PM »
I think it's interesting that in a discussion about free speech and censorship someone had their commentary edited by an administrator.

I believe the admin simply corrected the typo in the subject line that the original poster pointed out.
Executive Director
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puroshaggy

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2013, 03:25:49 PM »
The typo correction is what happened- I replied with a correction and the admin fixed it for me...so thanks!

puroshaggy

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2013, 03:40:27 PM »
Quote from: jesster on Today at 01:08:58 PM
Back to your initial point, I have definitely counselled people on problematic poems or offensive subject matter.
-Jesse

As slammaster, I do the same.  I have also told poets that their poems were fucked up and that they were stupid if they thought their poem was gonna work.  Brutal honesty is not a problem nor an issue.  I have never told a poet, however, that they cannot read something- it is that "cannot" that I am seeking input about.

And again, it seems like the "cannots" are in the minority, which I am thankful to see.

simone

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2013, 08:51:53 AM »
Hey, Shaggy:

I am jumping in a little late here, but I have been thinking about this conversation a bit. Please note that I am speaking here as an audience member, poet, and general organizer, not in any kind of official NPS capacity.

Anyway: I think it's fairly clear that the "cannot" you are talking about here was being used to impart a certain level of social responsibility. I am quite certain that anyone who told your team that they "cannot" say some things was not trying to say that anyone is legally bound or otherwise restricted by PSI rules to censor their language, and I agree that it would be inappropriate for anyone to imply that was so. However, I think it's appropriate to tell someone they "cannot" say certain things to indicate what is and is not appropriate behavior. For instance, to draw a very loose parallel for illustrative purposes, I understand perfectly well what people mean when I am told that, as a white person, I "cannot" use the n-word because it is socially and historically offensive, inappropriate, and cruel. There is certainly no law, rule, or physical impediment that prevents me from saying this word. But I can't say it just the same.

I don't think that we have ever met in person and your posts here have always been respectful and polite here, so I hope that you will take this next paragraph as a suggestion to communicate and question, and not as an attack on you or your scene. It concerns me that your approach to your artists' poem and the subsequent backlash seems not to be to investigate the language and content that so universally distressed the NPS community and slam family, but instead to investigate the legality of the poem, and indeed to clarify that your poets did nothing wrong.

To me, your questions come across as a defense of the poem, which I think undermines the difficult work some folks did by approaching your poets at NPS, as well as the even harder work your poets did by opening up to listen. I would encourage you to keep an open mind about the criticism that was offered. I think it's pretty clear that no one is being censored at NPS.
Simone Beaubien
SlamMaster, Boston Poetry Slam

Ransacked

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2013, 12:11:11 PM »
I'm really glad LoGic reminded us (me, too) of this distinction:

in terms of Free Speech I think our biggest misconception is how it is applied. Free speech means you can say I hate Obama and you dont go to jail, to dont loose your life, you don't get fined, or assaulted by cops. But it doesnt mean you dont get cussed out, or mocked, or yelled at....

free speech is a shield form official gov't sanctioned censorship, assaults and crackdowns. Free speech does not shield you from the from speech of others.
I think that all people should be prepared to defend their beliefs and words..
poets doubly so


A nightclub cannot censor you. An editor cannot censor you. A booing crowd cannot censor you. The Man cannot censor you. Only The Government can really censor you. For the same reason, Free Speech is entirely between you and your government. The governing body of PSi isn't The Government. There is no such thing as Free Speech at NPS (not one of the 2013 venues was in a public, taxpayer-owned building).

So, when you invoke "Free Speech" in your subject line, we're already in a weird place. You have the right to say anything you want, and obviously nobody is going to call the cops.

However, leaving aside such loaded terms, I do cherish how hard (most) poetry slams work to foster an environment where anyone can say anything on stage and be heard. Some of my favorite moments in slam have come when some fool (at times, me) says something Categorically Wrong on stage and the whole audience sucks their teeth and does that "clap………clap………clap" thing, and the host jumps back on stage, smiles…and keeps the show rolling. Class all the way. My least favorite moments in slam have come when the opposite has happened, when the host or MC is so disconcerted by the Categorical Wrongness that somebody just uttered that he/she complains about it on mic, on stage, before the judges have revealed their scores. That's not capital-C Censorship, but it creates a toxic atmosphere for art, and I'm always crushed when I see that or hear about it.

So long as the Bout Manager didn't dock your scores or the EmCee didn't come on stage glaring at your poets, then you received fair treatment. It can't be fun to have people telling you "your poem offended me" or "I would never read at your venue if that's the kind of language you think is acceptable." I get very nervous around people who think the statements "I object to that word" and "You cannot use that word" are interchangeable. One is good for art, one is bad for art. So I'm sad to hear some people told your team what you "cannot" say. But free speech? Not the issue.

Chancelier xero Skidmore

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2013, 12:35:12 PM »
Shaggy, us poets are all constantly pushing the envelope, trying to break new ground and be edgy. It's exciting and audience's, for the most part, love it. But ANY poet tap-dancing on thin ice has to also deal with falling through sometimes. I have not heard the poems in question (out of curiosity, I'd like to) but it sounds like your poets just went too far. Hopefully, the experience has helped them get an idea of where "the line" is. I personally like crossing the line, but I cannot do so without convincing my audience to come with me. It's the danger and the thrill of introducing unpopular points of view to the audience and living to tell the tale. It's done, in part, by respecting the sensibilities of the audience. Every poet must constantly check themselves, and hopefully, the audience won't have to.

At iWPS 2011, I did a poem about physically beating a church pastor who had harassed my daughter. The audience loved it but I could see the look on the faces of a few people that they were offended. That poem kept me from going to finals. On days when I care about winning slams, I regret the decision but that's not most days. To be honest, the poem was written in an extreme state of rage and IS offensive on some levels.

I would also suggest your remain acutely aware of their privilege. If I have a poem which I think might be misconstrued as being sexist, I'm gonna let a few of my brutally-honest, progressive female friends and poets hear it and give me feedback, simply because as a writer, I don't want to be misunderstood. That could be called self-censorship or just me making sure I'm being respectful.

Being the edgy poet is cool, until you also become known as the asshole poet. These are some hard lessons being taught. Make sure you're being open to what the community is trying to hip you to and not so defensive that you miss the knowledge.

Thanks for starting the discussion.

puroshaggy

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2013, 04:03:30 PM »
Hey, Shaggy:

 It concerns me that your approach to your artists' poem and the subsequent backlash seems not to be to investigate the language and content that so universally distressed the NPS community and slam family, but instead to investigate the legality of the poem, and indeed to clarify that your poets did nothing wrong.

To me, your questions come across as a defense of the poem, which I think undermines the difficult work some folks did by approaching your poets at NPS, as well as the even harder work your poets did by opening up to listen. I would encourage you to keep an open mind about the criticism that was offered. I think it's pretty clear that no one is being censored at NPS.

We did have a discussion- MANY discussions- about the content of the poems, both at Nats and back in San Antonio.  But we also had a separate discussion about Free Speech, because two poets in question were told "cannot" in a way that they inferred meant "not allowed".  Then, upon returning to SA, we received an email from a female poet in Seattle (a former San Antonian) who had been told that she was "not allowed" to read a certain poem because of language it contained (she was intending to read it at a slam, not an open mic or specialty reading).  Those two incidences, plus stories from other Texas poets who felt bullied after reading poems (a Christian man defending his unpopular beliefs in a poem, among others) caused me to start this thread.

Regardless of what others may believe, I think this is a valuable discussion.  None of us want poems performed at their venues  that piss of the audience- I have been dealing with a particularly hate filled poet for years (12 of them) but I have continually defended his right to speak his mind.  He has never crossed that line and performed anything that could legally be called Hate Speech, but he upsets a LOT of people and we have a LOT of heated arguments.

I sincerely appreciate everyone's comments.  Free Speech is a slippery slope and I am relieved that this is recognized by all. 

Ransacked

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2013, 06:21:45 PM »
Being the edgy poet is cool, until you also become known as the asshole poet. These are some hard lessons being taught. Make sure you're being open to what the community is trying to hip you to and not so defensive that you miss the knowledge.


Xero, that's so good that I intend to start printing it on the "Welcome to the Lit Slam" fliers we place on every table. It's exactly the right tone. I love it. Okay if I quote you?

DougShields

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Re: QUESTION: Free Speech vs An Audience's Rights
« Reply #29 on: November 09, 2013, 01:17:55 PM »
Only The Government can really censor you.

I reject this definition of censorship.  While it's true that PSI does not have the power to send police to our homes, PSI is still the governing body of most poetry slams.  If PSI were to impose punishments for saying certain words or offending certain people, then I would consider that censorship.  I would fight it.

On the other hand, if members of PSI (including its leaders) were to express opinions about whether certain poems are appropriate or acceptable, I would not consider that censorship.  The line is crossed when those opinions become enforceable.


Doug Shields
Ozark Poetry Slam
Fayetteville, Arkansas