Citylife: The Capleton aftermath

October 6, 2010

Update: Rumors abound that the Capleton show canceled at the Kinetic Playground will take place at a private location but so far there are no specific details. In the meantime, Fitzgerald's, a club in Houston, also canceled the show scheduled there -- and for the same reasons. That show was moved to a sports bar. The Capleton show scheduled this Saturday at the Kinetic Playground has, in fact, been canceled.

The Capleton show scheduled this Saturday at the Kinetic Playground has, in fact, been canceled. (I’ll talk about the video above in a sec.)

And while it pleases some, it also seems to anger others.

No sooner than the news went up UptownUpdate.com and on the Kinetic Playground’s Facebook page (where all mention of the Capleton controversy was deleted this morning), fans of the reggae star like “The Broadway Caffey” began their lamentation:

“Sad that a wonderful reggae artist like Capleton can’t play in Chicago because of his personal views on an issue. Whatever happened to?(sic)freedom of expression?”

Actually, Freedom of Expression is alive and well, BC.

Let me explain: Capleton has the right to his views on homosexuality and anything else. And he’s free to express them whenever and wherever.

The Constitution guarantees that the government can’t shut him up. What the Constitution doesn’t provide is a right to a forum. Here’s something else the Constitution guarantees: The right to protest as part of freedom of expression.

What happened here is really the best of American democracy: An artist with a particular point of view tours the country at will (and he’s been all over, expressing himself to his heart’s content). A community uses its freedom to express its outrage at his message.

Because the other thing the Constitution doesn’t provide is the right to be protected from the consequences of free speech. Call someone a battyman and they have a right to call you a cretin. Freedom of speech works both ways.

The man in the middle here is Jim Gouskos, the owner of The Kinetic Playground, who also has rights. Among those is the right to book every nasty baby-eating fag-bashing hater he wants, but also the right to cancel that show, for whatever reason – fear of business loss, cowardice, common decency, spiritual illumination — whatever.

And, in fact, Capleton still has the right to a show in Chicago, if and when someone decides they want to take up this whole mess and provide a place for him to play.

What’s infuriating about Capleton is less his anti-gay stance than the hypocrisy with which he goes about espousing it.

Because it’s quite one thing to take a moral position like being against homosexuality, and quite another to suggest that queer people should be beaten and burned.

If you have any doubt whatsoever about Capleton’s call to violence against gay people, watch the video above – read the lyrics carefully. And though this is not an officially sanctioned video, look carefully at the images it has inspired. Go to the YouTube page, and check out the comments.

And don’t think it’s an isolated incident. Check out this little gem and its accompanying comments:

Back in 2007, Capleton signed the Reggae Compassionate Act (RAC) as part of the Stop Murder Music Campaign, agreeing to put an end to performances of “battyman” songs. But, in fact, it hasn’t stopped him from singing his murderous ditties.

On his homepage, Capleton addresses the controversy obliquely:

30 Jun 2010

Capleton Statement to Fans!

Although the vast majority of my audience continues to draw a profoundly positive experience from both my music and performances, recently there have been some misunderstandings regarding the intentions of my music.

As a man of deeply-held religious beliefs, my music often reflects the Rastafarian way of life, which at times might not appeal to all who may hear it.

However, to be absolutely clear on this: I am rigidly and devoutly opposed to violence and hatred of any kind. I believe in a universal love that has the power to unite all mankind and I would hope that my lyrics are understood in the metaphorical sense which I have intended.

Going forward, I assume the responsibility of avoiding such lyrical misunderstandings.

Capleton

And, again, he has every right to publish this crap. But anyone with a modicum of common sense also has the right, if not frankly, the moral duty to respond. Because free speech has its limits.

And just like you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, what Capleton doesn’t have a right to do is incite violence.

And to pretend that he’s not right on that line is either willful, ignorant, or both.