[Cambridge Chronicle, Cambridge MA -- May 13, 1999]
Censorship no laughing matter
I am writing in response to your article, "'Trenchcoat' comedy shows
canceled in mix-up" from the May 6 issue.
As the organizer of the SubGenius Foundation Revival in question, I
spent a lo9t of time and money on setting up this event, only to have it
shut down at the last minute under the guise of "protecting free speech"
and "public safety." I was distraught to see this sort of knee-jerk
censorship here in Cambridge, a city that has always symbolized what is
best about freedom of expression in America.
The performers traveled from as far away as Dallas to speak, and some
attendees drove two and three hours to hear them. I felt particularly
bad for the couple who had driven three-and-a-half hours from Vermont to
see the show, only to arrive to find the show canceled and the
The SubGenius Foundation has books in Cambridge bookstores; it has
videos and CDs on the market; and it has a massive Web site at
www.subgenius.com. The most basic research would have revealed that far
from being a hate group, the foundation is devoted to exposing and
parodying the philosophies of hate groups -- much to the hate groups'
distress. But instead, a fan of the SubGenius Foundation is quoted out
of context in the City Council meeting, and his Internet material is
used as an all-inclusive excuse to stop our performance.
If you took the Bible and edited out all of the uplifting and
inspirational material, and left in only the parts about wrath and
destruction, anyone reading it might well assume that Christians are all
blood-thirsty monsters. But to read and pay attention only to that
material, when the unedited Bible lies at your hand, is to let someone
else pull the wool over your eyes.
While the elected officials of Cambridge certainly have a duty to
public safety, I think they also have a duty to question material given
them by individuals who may be using those officials to further their
Is free speech so weak that jokes can kill it?