Journalist Riley discusses free speech


Rock music journalist Tim Riley discussed music censorship and free speech in a lecture he delivered to a group of students, faculty and community members Feb. 11 in Whitley Auditorium.

Riley's books, including "Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary," "Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary" and "Madonna: Illustrated," provide glimpses into the artists' careers through analysis of artifacts, performances and recordings.

He has also been a contributor to the Washington Post, National Public Radio and other national media outlets. He has worked for music-related Web sites, including the Lycos-VH1 joint music guide venture, the Link, and is a noted pianist.

In his remarks, used his music journalism experience to explain the censorship movement from both conservatives and liberals since 1990. Riley began with 1990 because that year, politicians and others attempted to censor 2 Live Crew, a controversial rap group, and an exhibition of gay photographer Robert Maplethorpe; this was the first time obscenity laws had been used against a music group or a museum.

Riley went on to discuss the Napster copyright controversy and the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on civil liberties. Riley discussed changing attitudes toward political dissent in America, using the cancellation of ABC's "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" as an example. The show was canceled by ABC after Maher made a controversial statement about the Sept. 11 attacks.

He also highlighted the USA Patriot Act and detentions without cause carried out since the attacks. "We're on the verge of war, and free speech is being suppressed," Riley said. "This is a crisis moment for the First Amendment."

Attempts by conservatives to legislate morality through censorship, and attempts by liberals to legislate tolerance through censorship, Riley said, are futile, and fail to solve issues at their core.

"These controversies are Macy's parade balloons that distract attention from what's going on in the streets below," he said. "Government restrictions on free speech amount to a cure that's much worse than the disease."



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Last Modified:  9/01/02
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