Rapper Snoop Dogg hit a joint and then shot clown President “Ronald Klump” in his music video “Lavender” (Nightfall Remix), in response to Klump’s order to “deport all doggs.” Klump appears seconds later in chains, surrounded by a gang of armed clowns, dogs, and cars in a hazy parking lot. Klump reaches for a joint being passed by Snoop to director Jesse Wellens but is rejected, and almost backhanded by Wellens.
“Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!” President Trump tweeted to his 16.7 million followers.
Snoop uses a clown world to target grave social issues in America and to list his grievances with Trump: his election, police militarization and brutality, his travel ban, and up to 30-year sentencing for marijuana. Snoop calls his listeners to stand up against social issues, to peacefully exercise first amendment rights through events like his March on the LAPD police department after the Dallas sniper shootings. Snoop’s chorus references a Holocaust documentary, “Night Will Fall,” that warns if the world doesn’t learn from the past, the night will fall, and people will continue to die.
“I feel like a lot of people making cool records, having fun, partying, but no one out here is dealing with the real issue, with this f***in’ clown as president, and the s*** that we dealing with out here,” said Dogg.
Actor Michael Rapaport played one clown in the video. Sitting with his two young clown children, he eats cooked peanuts for breakfast, a reminder of the overdue bills lining the kitchen. Rapaport gets into his car and begins smoking a joint, only to be pulled over and shot twice by a clown cop who saw one of the young children’s toy gun in Rappaport’s suitcase. A teenager films the shooting and sends it to the news outlet — criticizing that police body-cameras film shootings that millions watch on television, but nothing has changed.
Snoop references Philando Castile, an African-American with no criminal record whose July traffic stop shooting was Facebook live-streamed by his girlfriend, while their 4-year old daughter sat in the back. Police said Castile was shot seven times for carrying an unloaded, legal weapon. In the lyrics, Snoop calls for reparations, “now it ain’t so fun when the rabbit got the gun.”
Snoop is just one of many to use satire to highlight social issues. Trump’s claim Snoop Dogg’s actions would have brought with jail time under Obama is ludicrous, given the First Amendment protects satire and comedy, as long as a reasonable person would not believe the statement was a credible threat. In an essay on the protection of satire and parody in journalism, the Reporter’s Committee for a Free Press, a nonprofit that assists journalists, wrote: “subjects of even the most biting satire or criticism cannot successfully sue unless the irreverent comments contain a provably false fact.”
Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle responded to the video saying that Snoop Dogg and Bow Wow, who tweeted in Snoop’s defense and threatened to “pimp” out the first lady, should be “killed” for their statements.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that Snoop Dogg should not have mock- shot “Klump” because presidential assassinations happened. Though the 1,092 “shot dead” by police in 2015 alone, as reported by the Guardian, seem a more pressing matter than the four presidential assassinations in America’s history.
Trump is no stranger to the line between comedy and libel; he defended artist Ted Nugent, featured in Trump’s campaign ads, who is known for threatening violence upon Democrats. In 2012, Nugent said that if President Barack Obama won a second term in office, Nugent would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” His comments, defended by Trump as a “mere figure of speech,” spurred a Secret Service investigation. During a National Rifle Association meeting in 2015, Nugent also threatened to shoot Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid — crossing the line between of freedom of speech and a credible threat.
Republicans criticize the left for silencing free speech on college campuses and inciting violence against controversial right-wing speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos or Richard Spencer. But if Trump can’t handle satire from a 45-year-old “failing rapper,” then making America great again may lay out of reach. Snoop said he does not plan to apologize to Trump; he crafted the video to talk about social problems bigger than his video — perhaps Trump should do the same.
To be truly bipartisan, American politicians, artists, and citizens alike need to understand and respect free speech, especially when we disagree. Violence cannot encroach upon political debate, no matter the party. Snoop wanted to make a song “that was not controversial, but real — real to the voice of the people who don’t have a voice.”