Beyond Words

Published: February 21, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
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Ted Nugent is a shameless hate-spewing demagogue.

Nugent’s remarks – past, present and more likely future – are not poorly chosen, dumb or inappropriate. They’re dangerously wrong.

Last month, Nugent defiantly called the president of the United States “a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.”

This month, Texas attorney general and candidate for governor Gregg Abbott welcomed (that’s right, welcomed) the rocker to his campaign trail. How did the campaign respond to Nugent’s oratory? “While he may sometimes say things or use language that Greg Abbott would not endorse or agree with, we appreciate the support of everyone who supports protecting our Constitution.”

It’s this kind of rationalization that gives credibility to extremists like Nugent who maintain, “It’s my right to say whatever I want, and if you don’t like it…” well, here’s how onefan phrased it: “People don’t like it, tough s**t.”

Nugent has a history of drawing attention to himself with his extremist views and hate speech. While I agree, in principle, that he can say pretty much whatever contemptible thing that pops into his head, it becomes dangerous when a political candidate defends people like Nugent because of the support they receive. If Mr. Abbott is willing to tolerate Nugent’s despicable talk, what else is he willing to tolerate for the sake of campaign support?

Think Nugent isn’t that bad? Let’s go to the tape:

“What’s a feminist anyways?” “A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough?”

“Foreigners are a******s; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ‘em; I don’t want ‘em in this country; I don’t want ‘em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ‘em pumping my gas; I don’t want ‘em downwind of my life-OK?”

“I use the word n****r a lot because I hang around with a lot of n****rs, and they use the word n****r, and I tend to use words that communicate.”

During the 2007 presidential campaign, Nugent said, “Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. I wanna throw up,” he said, adding “Obama, he’s a piece of s**t. I told him to suck on my machine gun.”

In a 1990 interview for the Detroit Free Press, Nugent said, “…apartheid isn’t that cut-and-dry. All men are not created equal.”

Really Ted?

Maybe you should reread the second graph of the Declaration of Independence.

While Nugent may be constitutionally correct in using offensive words and phrases to convey a political message, (Cohen v. California, 1971), freedom of speech does not include the right to incite actions that would harm others, such as shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, (Schenck v. United States, 1919).

And the 65-year-old rocker came close to that last August when, according to the New Haven Independent (Aug. 6), “Nugent described [Trayvon] Martin as a ‘dope-smoking, racist gangsta wannabe’ and said that ‘black communities’ have a ‘mindless tendency to violence.’ Nugent also said Martin eagerly got into fights with people and ‘got justice’ as result of his meeting with Zimmerman.”

(“…mindless tendency to violence”? This from a guy who asks a presidential candidate to “suck on my machine gun.”)

As a result of his Martin comments, protestors on both sides gathered outside a Connecticut venue where Nugent was scheduled to appear.

“Racist bigots go home!” shouted Nugent protestors.

“Ted is right!” countered a firearms trainer who showed up in defense of Nugent.

As tempers flared, police were called to the scene to maintain order while Nugent played on. No arrests were made… this time.

These aren’t TMZ moments of another celebrity “acting out.” Nugent has a track record of regularly inflaming the passions, prejudices and ignorance of individuals and some day this may come back to haunt him. For now, his despicable rhetoric needs to be forcefully denounced, and for any candidate running for political office to downplay or dismiss it as “language” that we “may not endorse or agree with” demonstrates a reckless disregard of basic decency.

If Gregg Abbott hopes to persuade Texas voters that he’s the right candidate for governor he needs to value three words: respect, responsibility and leadership.

As a political leader, Abbott needs to recognize that his civic duty extends beyond his own self-interest. He needs to showcourtesy and civility to all constituents, and acknowledge his responsibility to work for the overall public good. Mr. Abbott’s defense of Nugent as a “fighter for freedom” is absurdist in the least and dangerous in the extreme, making more extremist rhetoric acceptable.

As for Nugent, he’s a symptom and a symbol of the radical notion that you can say anything you like, whenever you like and damn the consequences because his rights trump any concept of accountability.

Nugent has abandoned his responsibility not only to a country that was founded by immigrants, but to the principles of diversity and inclusiveness that make this country great… in spite of people like you, Ted.

Update – Ted Nugent apologized… sort of… to President Obama today for calling him a “subhuman mongrel.”

Nugent’s apology was offered to CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson. “I do apologize – not necessarily to the President,” Nugent said, “but on behalf of much better men than myself.”

Nugent said he apologizes “for using the streetfighter terminology of ‘subhuman mongrel’ instead of just using more understandable language, such as ‘violator of his oath to the Constitution’.”

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