Snoop Dogg’s recent video, “Lavender”, has aroused Donald Trump’s fury. The music video shows the hip-hop artist aiming a toy pistol at a clown character pretending to be Donald Trump. It has been described by supporters of Trump as a call for political assassination. In this little piece, I will situate Snoop’s artistic licence and expression of hate in the context of political Hip-hop. I will then show the hypocrisy behind Trump’s criticisms, given the fact that his political platform and support condemn others for restricting the expression of hatred against others and argue that political correctness has gone mad.
Snoop Dogg says that his video is defiantly political. He argues that the video is about “the real issue” in the United States at the moment. In defence of his video, Snoop Dogg told Billlboard:
“When I be putting shit out, I don’t ever expect or look for a reaction. I just put it out because I feel like it’s something that’s missing. Any time I drop something, I’m trying to fill in a void. I feel like it’s a lot of people making cool records, having fun, partying, but nobody’s dealing with the real issue with this fucking clown as president, and the shit that we dealing with out here, so I wanted to take time out to push pause on a party record and make one of these records for the time being.” (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/15/snoop-dogg-owes-apology-donald-trump-lawyer-lavender-video-badbadnotgood )
Snoop Dogg is following a long line of politically active and controversial hip-hop artists. We all remember when N.W.A. made the track “Fuck the Police”, where the legal system which picks upon black men was attacked. Or again, one remembers when Kanye West directly attacked George Bush for his lack of support for black people following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Sometimes, at moments of crisis, hip-hop artists follow their conscience and duty as public figures to attack the system of power. Snoop knows that it is not time to “party”. It’s time to get serious.
Snoop’s music video is deliberately controversial. The reason for this is because of the permissible content of hip-hop. In this style, personal insults and obscene and explicit material are acceptable (probably because it is associated with poor, black people who are associated with criminality and profanity in American society). In a genre of music in which people boast about raping women, killing others and dealing drugs, aiming a pistol at Donald Trump is hardly anything out of the ordinary.
Donald Trump’s reaction is fairly typical of any attack on his person. He attempts to construct the imaginary act in the video as a crime. Here is Donald Trump’s reaction on his favoured media platform, Twitter:
Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!
I want to point out the hypocrisy behind Donald Trump’s reactions. Donald Trump is allegedly a champion for free speech. Not only free speech, but the kind that allows the expression of hate. He is against political correctness. It is his position against political correctness which enables him to attack immigrants and Mexicans, as well as women. Here is a quote by Donald Trump:
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.” (https://www.nytimes.com/live/republican-debate-election-2016-cleveland/trump-on-political-correctness/ )
Here is a man that presents himself as the champion of “free speech” and the freely expresses hatred against minorities and women. In the context of this background, his comments on Snoop Dogg and his artistic expression are completely hypocritical. Where the open expression of hatred is permissible in a country, in Trump’s own words, then anything goes. One can express one’s hatred of others in any way one likes. There can be no criminalisation of free speech.
Trump’s reaction is testimony to the thin ego of the right-wing supporters of free speech. In their ideas, free speech means a speech that favours them. A free speech that targets perceived outsiders to their community of white men of means. When that free speech is taken up by their enemies and perceived outsiders, such as black men like Snoop Dogg, then this free speech becomes a problem. It is a particular problem when it becomes openly political. One therefore sees what the free speech of the right-wing white man of means really means. It is merely a construct which favours the expression of their own hatred and the devaluation of any one that is other to them.