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“The Crapitalist” In Action
Just recently, my partner, Ross Falzone’s, music video “The Crapitalist” which is a satirical commentary on the excesses of capitalism and the ways he believes it has gone awry, was removed from YouTube, on the grounds that it violated their “Policy on Violent Language” and his appeal was denied by a auto-response. YouTube gave no explanation or indication of what exactly violated this policy or what was considered “too violent.” The video, which stars Ross as “The Crapitalist” and is based o Ami Mattison’s poem of the same name, does include footage of the World Trade Center Bombing, as well as the phrase
“I Build bombs so you can enjoy a life free of terroristic threats / Believe that lie and I’ve got some cheap land / And I’ll throw in a free corvette.”
This is the most violent phrase I could discern. And regardless of whether or not one agrees or disagrees with or feels angered or disturbed by the content, the video without question has the right to be accessible, and protected from censorship.
In the United States of America we have the great privilege of living in a nation that placed the concept of individual autonomy at the center of its formative ideology - a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and which defined as inalienable and self-evident, certain rights meant as protections from the understood treachery of power to corrupt, and the potential consequences of a corrupted governing body. These rights also serve as guidelines to continue to improve upon the reality of our society such that it might ever more embody those ideals set forth at its founding. Our system of self-government relies upon educated, responsible citizens acting freely within the larger societal context to advocate for issues, vote for laws, and elect representatives, and it can only function effectively if free speech and open, uncensored platforms for civil discussion and debate are protected. At several points in our history, citizens have successfully used the rights of free speech, including angry, violent language, coupled with peaceful assembly to petition and challenge practices and actions they deemed contrary to American ideals, resulting in significant improvements to our governing articles. I believe that without free speech met with resilient and thoughtful listening, we lose our ability to engage in genuine discussion and debate, and endanger civilized and humane societal evolution.
And herein lies one of the central problems facing us as a society today at the personal, community, national level, global levels. As I see it, our right (and hence our responsibility) to speak (listen, debate, discuss, ask, answer, express ourselves creatively), is being ever more brazenly suppressed by certain global monopolies, more powerful in ways than our government, acting as self-appointed czars of “Publicly Acceptable Information.” Companies such as YouTube, owned by Google, are engaging in an increasingly overt power grab by attacking free speech. The rampant bowdlerization, condemnation and removal of content on the premise that it is “dangerous mis-information” or that it “violates their policy on violent language” not only infringes on the rights of the speaker, writer or creator, but the rights of the reader, listener, observer to engage. Furthermore, it causes homogenization of “acceptable” thought resulting in a limited narrative that is imposed on the public by a self-appointed few, which is antithetical to the very concept of a diverse and representative government. - I.E.. - “Crapitalism” in action. Who elected or appointed them responsible for what the American public sees, and why are they being allowed to exercise this gross and totalitarian power? Why are universities, and for that matter, our governing bodies, cowering to the rhetoric enforced by social media companies and search engines and firing teachers and employees who openly dissent? Why are video lectures, articles in scholarly journals, and artists’ works being removed from screening sites, and people’s livelihoods being threatened with little to no chance for appeal? And what can we do about it?
In his satirical music video, “The Crapitalist,” Ross expressed his beliefs in a way that likely rings true with many people and challenges others, and posted it on YouTube as a free offering to a public he trusted to exercise their individual liberty to listen, think about it, respond, or not. He made no claims as to any truth or factuality of it, nor did he offer it as an academic paper. It was purely and simply a piece of personal artistic expression. I understand that the removal of one video may seem small in the scope of the many challenges facing our society today, but I feel its removal is just the tip of a very deep, very dangerous iceberg that is well positioned to, and arguably already is, doing significant structural damage to the pillar of free speech, which supports our power to act and engage as free-thinking individuals. In a society with such a broad spectrum of religious, cultural, personal and political beliefs, open debate and artistic expression play an essential role of helping to encourage a kind of practical empathy that allows us to be conscientious of, and hopefully see from a different point of view without being asked to abandon our own. To engage in and contribute to the conversation. Go places we have not gone, live through events and periods of time in our past, imagine possibilities of the future, see the present through different sets of eyes, and share our own view.
Benjamin Franklin said, “We have given you a Republic. It remains to be seen if you will be able to retain it.” We are feeling the truth of this challenge in a very serious way at present. This wealth of diverse thought and ideas that created American culture is now being judged and sentenced - not by open debate and compromise, but by a self-appointed few who’s control over the financial and technological world has gone unchecked, giving them a power beyond comprehension. We are being driven to conflict and polarization by forces that have woven themselves into the fabric of our daily lives, and suppress attempts to challenge it or even call it out by shaming, discrediting or silencing those who try. By attributing the extra-linguistical power of violence to words, artistic offerings become bombs, expressing one’s thoughts can be criminal, and conversations become battlegrounds. Communication has been deeply wounded, and relationships left for dead - casualties of a man-made war on independent thought.
I know first hand how difficult this landscape is to traverse. Ross and I disagree about many things - including some of the very issues causing so much distress in society today - and our relationship has been put through an extra layer of stress as a result (as if being co-writers and creators wasn’t enough). But we also love each other. Deeply. And while love is not a solution in and of itself, it is without doubt a powerful motivator. It encourages us to be more precise with our speech, and more compassionate and resilient in our listening, and to try harder not to be tempted by fear and anger into arguments, but to seek solace and understanding and compassion within ourselves. It beseeches us to take a step back, a deep look in, and reconnect with our higher ideals for the sake of something truly good and infinitely powerful. I believe that we as a society have this same challenge before us - to step back, breathe, and take responsibility for our own patch of grass, so we can act and speak freely and listen compassionately. It is daunting to truly embrace this kind of freedom, which rejects censorship and “Policies on Violent Language” imposed by those who seek control. It requires one to be responsible for one’s own feelings, to live one’s own life fully and openly, and to help create an environment where others can do the same. I believe it is the challenge that comes with being given the gift of life, and of living in a place where the belief is held that one’s life and opinions should be one’s own. Therefore if you would like to see “The Crapitalist,” the link is below. And if you choose to take a look, and feel so inspired to share your honest opinions, criticisms, and endorsements (or not!) of the video, or the issues of censorship and free speech, we welcome you to join in the conversation. Thoughtful and genuine responses always have a “safe space” here. -Erin Futterer Feb. 2022