I’ve just returned from a trip to Chicago, to do a bit of music writing and enjoy the hospitality of our cousins across the pond.
It was a wonderful trip in so many ways, the city was welcoming, the music festival was amazing, the acts were fantastic and I even got a cool interview with one of my all time punk rock heroes.
But the trip also gave me a chance to reflect on the often stark differences between here and the US.
On Friday morning I had to go to a radio station, the breakfast show DJ one of the city’s most popular and beloved. Can you imagine Chris Evans, Steve Wright or Chris Moyles making jokes about the mentally handicapped, world religions, or arguably sexist remarks about female politicians without there being some sort of major backlash?
In both countries we all enjoy the benefits of freedom of speech, but it seems that in the US there is much more of a tollerance for being offended.
I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing, and though I was not particularly amused by the comments, and there is no doubt that they had the potential to offend, I would defend the DJ’s right to make them.
I think in this country there is a huge grey area surrounding one’s ability to express a view or make a joke - people genuinely fear breaking some moral code or unwritten law - we are defintely a milder bunch.
In the US freedom of speech seems to also mean something that is able to transcend good taste .
On the freeway we travelled past a van bedecked in anti-abortion slogans.
But, the van’s occupants also took the message one step further, including a giant photographic picture of an ‘aborted fetus’ on the side of the vehicle.
I am relieved that I am unlikely to see such a thing on the M25 anytime soon, but there was no reaction from drivers on the road that day. Perhaps this kind of shock tactic is more commonplace in the States.
So, I submit that maybe while we could say what we think a little more, isn’t it nice that freedom of speech here mostly includes considering the feelings of others?
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