If I was half as good as I was/I’m still twice as good as you’ll ever be

Instead of us being credited for longevity
And being able to keep it up for this long at this level, we
Get told we’ll never be what we were
Bitch, if I was half as good as I was
I’m still twice as good as you’ll ever be

-Eminem, Premonition (Intro)

The Independent: Greatest Threat to Journalism Since Polio

The Independent has a profile of Eminem’s publicity for his upcoming new album which include this claim,

As his fame grew, Eminem became a magnet for controversy. He was accused of glorifying misogyny, homophobia, bad language and violence. He was arrested on gun charges. On one occasion, George Bush, upset by his lack of respect for the forces of conservatism, labelled him: “The greatest threat to America’s children since polio.”

How stupid is the reporter who wrote that? That has urban legend written all over it. And, per Snopes,

Given that:

  • None of these articles [from 2001 when the quote first appears] contains any details about when (or where, or under what circumstances) President Bush allegedly described Eminem as “the most dangerous threat to American children since polio.”
  • All of the articles containing this putative quote come from newspapers published in the UK.
  • We haven’t yet turned up even a single article from a U.S. newspaper which includes this quote (other than brief references to its having been mentioned in British newspapers), even though President Bush and Eminem are both Americans and major media figures.

We’re guessing that this was a spurious “quote” fabricated by someone for publicity purposes (nothing piques curiosity about a person more than the President’s declaring him to be a dangerous enemy), or to poke fun at President Bush. Since no one else has been able to verify the authenticity of this quote, we’re assigning it a “False” rating.

Many of us who live in the United States can remember the withering criticism directed at George H. Bush for his moronic statements about The Simpsons. If George W. Bush had really said something as stupid as that, it would have been major news in the United States.

It Takes Tolerance to Listen to a Really Bad Speech

Ugh. Being bored and sick last night, I figured what the heck — I’d tune into the end of the Grammy awards to see Eminem perform with Elton John. A lot of people I know were upset at the idea that Eminem might win the award for best album. My response to that worry was that there’s only one thing you ever have to know about the Grammy awards — these folks once awarded Milli Vanilli a Best New Artist award. ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, before Eminem performed Recording Academy President and CEO Michael Greene came out and gave a brief little sermon about how art always shocks, our parents hated Elvis, blah, blah, blah. I almost expected him to add that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be writing lyrics like contemporary rap stars. Among other things, Greene said,

People are mad, and people are talking. And that’s a good thing because it’s through dialogue and debate that social discovery can occur.

Listen, music has always been the voice of rebellion — it’s a mirror of our culture, sometimes reflecting a dark and disturbing underbelly obscured from the view of most people of privilege, a militarized zone which is chronicled by the CNN of the inner city — rap and hip-hop music. We can’t edit out the art that makes us uncomfortable. That’s what our parents tried to do to Elvis, the Stones and the Beatles.

…Accept the fact that musicians, movie stars and athletes are not perfect, they make mistakes and can’t always be counted on to be role models. Art incites, entices, it awes, and angers, it takes all its various incarnations to maintain the balance, vitality and authenticity of the artistic process. Let’s not forget that sometimes it takes tolerance to teach tolerance.

What an absurd claim about art. Certainly no government official should prevent Eminem from making his music or stop Hollywood from making films in which the brains of a living human being are eaten (as is done in the movie Hannibal), but to say that essentially anything constitutes art is simply wrong.

Do we really need people like Eminem to provoke discussion? I think not. Under this sort of definition, Fred Phelps is a performance artist rather than a hateful bigot. I’m waiting for one of these Hollywood liberals to defend cross burning as artistic expression.

I think The Onion best caught the absurdity of such rhetoric with its classic story, ACLU Defends Nazis’ Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters. In a free society we shouldn’t look to the state to censor distasteful works, but neither should we expect that cultural elites will embrace as art anything that sells millions of copies simply by appealing to the lowest common denominator.