- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2001

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) has finally decided to answer its critics. For years, the organization that oversees the Grammy Awards has been criticized for its bland, uncontroversial award selections. This year, however, it is sending a clear and unambiguous message that not only is it unafraid to award the industry's more raucous performers, but that offensiveness itself has become a virtue.

NARAS has nominated the "artist" Eminem to receive several of its most distinguished Grammys, including album of the year. In doing so, the organization is condoning some of the most blatant, explicit examples of bigotry and hatred ever demonstrated by an entertainer. Eminem is most notorious for his messages of misogyny and violence toward homosexuals. The album being honored, "The Marshal Mathers LP," features a song titled "Kill You" in which he delivers the message: "You faggots keep eggin' me on/Till I have you at knife point, then you beg me to stop? … YOU HEAR ME? ANSWER ME!/or I'm a kill you!" At times, Eminem shares with his listeners his visions of beating women and even raps about raping his mother.

NARAS President Michael Greene unsurprisingly defends the nomination on grounds that Eminem is just another artist, such as Lenny Bruce, breaking into new frontiers. He seems to believe Eminem is forcing our country to examine its own bigotry by throwing its racism and homophobia back in its face. Of the album, Mr. Greene claims "[I]t's a remarkable recording and the dialogue that it's already started is a good one."

But our nation's moral battles against bigotry and hatred should not be used an excuse to express those very sentiments. There is no excuse for Eminem and his abhorrent ideas, and for NARAS to use these struggles as a justification for his offensiveness is itself abominable.

Of course, in a free society, Eminem has the right to exercise his free speech in any way he sees fit. However, the same First Amendment that protects his right to espouse morally reprehensible ideas entitles the rest of us to express moral condemnation of his offensive lyrics. In fact, it is a call to anyone who shares this moral outrage to exercise their own freedom to write, speak, protest and boycott his offensive material.


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