Eminem’s Lyrics Are At The Center Of A Free Speech Supreme Court Case
Paul Rosenberg: My favorite memory is hearing Em describe to me the concept of "Guilty Conscience" before he wrote it. I knew that it was going to be a great concept record—he based it on the Devil and Angel on the shoulders scene in Animal House.
Those who use rap lyrics to express their emotions on social media may be in for a rude awakening. According to reports from Billboard and USA Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if a man who was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for posting violent lyrics directed at his wife on Facebook is protected under the Constitution's free-speech rights.
Lawyers for Anthony Elonis, who is from Bethlehem, PA, claims that their client's Facebook posts were inspired by lyrics from Eminem, who has often rapped about killing his ex-wife. One post read, "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to res until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts."
Elonis was prosecuted in court and sentenced for violating federal laws that makes it a crime to threaten another person. Elonis's lawyers are arguing that the government must prove that he actually intended his comments to threaten others. But the government says it does not matter what Elonis intended and that a statement is considered a threat if it makes a reasonable person feel threatened. Free-speech advocates are claiming comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets can be hasty and misinterpreted and can be taken out of context.
Elonis has argued that the Facebook posts, which were written under the psuedonym "Tone Dougie," were spontaneous forms of expression and should not be considered threatening if he didn't really mean it. But Elonis's wife has testified that the comments made her feel threatened and fear for her life.
Killer Mike weighed in on the case in a co-authored op-ed piece for USA Today. The Run The Jewels MC, who has been incredibly active in social matters over the year, writes that the case is "the latest--and highest level--in a disturbingly long line of cases in which rap lyrics have been used as evidence in criminal trials."
Last month, Brandon Duncan a/k/a San Diego MC, Tiny Doo, is at the center of a controversial court case that could land the rapper in jail for life for rap lyrics. XXL will bring you more news as the story develops.