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Knox nixes Nugent and a debate ensues online

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

Ted Nugent expresses his opinion about the Obama administration. It was quite unfavorable. A video found its way to YouTube and his rock music status fueled ferver over the remarks.

The issue surfaced locally last week when Nugent was dropped from plans for a summer concert at Fort Knox. This newspaper’s posting to Twitter and Facebook lit up with comments Thursday afternoon.

Many, but certainly not all, offered support for Nugent.

“Let the man say what he wants to say and do what he wants to do,” one person wrote. “He always has and always will.”

Most of the remarks focused on First Amendment rights protecting free speech.

Here’s a typical example: “I thought we had free speech in this country. I think he has the right to say whatever he wants.”

Nugent, like any American, is free to express himself. His expression is what started the situation.

But remember, freedom isn’t free. That’s the greatest truth about freedom. It is most often spoken around Memorial Day as a reminder of the supreme sacrifice paid by many service men and women in the defense of our nation. It also applies here.

Nugent is free to share his opinions. He is not, however, free from the consequences of those statements.

Gentlemen, you are free to tell your wife that her Sunday dress makes her hips look huge. However, I would not recommend it.

Most people control their statements to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. It would be very rare to find an employee who openly shares every opinion about his supervisor with that person. We measure the cost.

In this situation, freedom of speech cost Ted Nugent a concert date.

I have no unique information about Fort Knox’s decision. All I know is what already has been published. So what you are about to read is conjecture and opinion.

I am certain Nugent’s open criticism of the commander-in-chief did not play well on any U.S. Army post. Regardless of personal opinions about performance or policy, it is essential that the military demonstrates respect for the president. The position deserves that respect.

Secondly, this concert is staged by an organization responsible for morale and welfare. Inviting a political controversy is not a means to develop either characteristic. Nugent’s polarizing statements easily could transform a concert into a protest. That’s reason enough to act.

Then there’s this take from another Facebook voice, which implies we react differently based on who says it.

“If Ted Nugent wanted to belittle the president, he should have become a comedian. Apparently, musicians aren’t given the same freedom of speech that comedians possess.”

I think where it was said matters as well.

Nugent’s remarks were made at a National Rifle Association convention. A certain crowd of people dislike the NRA because its members own weapons and actively work on political matters of concern to gun owners.

That privilege, of course, is protected by another constitutional amendment in the Bill of Rights. In my experience, NRA members are fine, responsible folks and have been demonized by people who use fear over facts to advance their political arguments.

So in my opinion, Nugent’s statements were criticized more heavily because of the company he keeps. Anything controversial that occurs under the NRA banner is going to find an opponent quick to spread venom that poisons the organization in the mind of others.

And that tendency to trash those with whom we disagree tends to do more to stifle the true effectiveness of our First Amendment privileges than any action concerning a community concert.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.