Is Michelle Shocked The Victim Of Knee-Jerk Censorship?
After telling a San Francisco crowd that “God hates faggots,” ’80s/’90s singer-songwriter (and more recently, born-again Christian) Michelle Shocked saw the entirety of her current U.S. tour cancelled practically overnight by venue promoters. Though deeply offensive, her homophobic rant was clearly protected by Free Speech. So can we consider the cancellations acts of censorship? One music industry insider thinks so.
While many in the press and on social media have publicly applauded the venues for wiping out Shocked’s tour, music producer and former A&R representative Tim Sommer, who helped launch the careers of the Beastie Boys and Hootie & the Blowfish, stands in staunch opposition to the cancellations, calling the situation “a dangerous precedent to set.”
“She really disappeared from the public eye in the late ‘90s, and I think a lot of people haven’t realized what happened to her since then,” Sommer, who has previously interviewed the artist on multiple occasions, told Radio.com. “She did become a born-again Christian, a relatively private conversion she made in the last few years. Likewise, she had burned a lot of bridges before this. She had made a lot of bad business and personal decisions in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, and offended a lot of people in the music industry. Since I knew about that and her conversion, I wasn’t very surprised by what happened onstage in San Francisco.”
In regards to Shocked’s now-cancelled tour, Sommer is adamant in his belief that the show promoters are doing the wrong thing and essentially encouraging censorship.
“On one hand, that is the judgment of the promoters, who could be saying [to themselves], ‘I don’t want angry people showing up to my venue throwing rocks at my windows or boycotting,” Sommer offered. “On the other hand, you can’t decide what is politically correct or politically incorrect to say. If you cancel someone’s show because of something they said, you lose the right to protest when someone cancels a show for making a pro-choice statement, for example. She’s not advocating violence. She’s speaking a personal thought about what she believes based on her interpretation and belief in the Bible. What she’s saying does not fall under the definition of hate-mongering.”
Above: full audio of Michelle Shocked’s slow-building on-stage rant against homosexuality
Yesterday (March 21), Shocked released two statements regarding the incident, in which she stated in no uncertain terms, “I am damn sorry.”
“I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that,” Shocked explained in the statement. “I believe intolerance comes from fear, and these folks are genuinely scared. When I said ‘Twitter [says] that Michelle Shocked says “God hates faggots,”‘ I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. The show was all music, and the audience tweets said they enjoyed it. The commentary came about ten minutes later, in the encore.”
She continued: “And to those fans who are disappointed by what they’ve heard or think I said, I’m very sorry: I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. But don’t believe everything you read on Facebook or Twitter. My view of homosexuality has changed not one iota. I judge not. And my statement equating repeal of Prop. 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: it was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage. The show, and the rant, was spontaneous. As for those applauding my so-called stance that ‘God Hates Faggots,’ I say they should be met with mercy, not hate. And I hope that what remains of my audience will meet that intolerance with understanding, even of those who might hate them.”
“I sort of believe her,” Sommer said of Shocked’s apology statement. “I think the ‘God hates faggots’ statement was probably taken out of context.”
With her 11-date U.S tour (which was to include a stop at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado) scrapped, Sommers believes Shocked’s statement is a carefully-worded attempt at career-salvaging damage control.
“Having her entire tour cancelled like that is censorship, pure and simple,” he surmised. “I’m sure she must be very frightened right now. Considering ticket sales and merch, I’m guessing that’s somewhere $25-75,000 dollars in lost revenue.”
Concluding her first statement, Shocked wrote, “If I could repeat the evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor, and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them,”I say this not because I want to look better. I have no wish to hide my faults, and – clearly – I couldn’t if I tried.”