Dee Snider was part of the unlikeliest culture war trio … ever.
The Twisted Sister frontman, alongside Frank Zappa and John Denver, testified before Congress in 1985 against warning labels on records.
Social conservatives with the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Council), including Democrats like Tipper Gore, demanded something be done about R-rated music lyrics from Prince and other adult-minded musicians.
Snider, known for his androgynous face paint and heavy metal growl, proved a credible defender of the arts.
“Ms. Gore claimed that one of my songs, ‘Under the Blade,’ had lyrics encouraging sadomasochism, bondage and rape,” Snider said in pointed turn of his testimony. “The lyrics she quoted have absolutely nothing to do with these topics. On the contrary, the words in question are about surgery and the fear that it instills in people. … I can say categorically that the only sadomasochism, bondage and rape in this song is in the mind of Ms. Gore.”
In 2021, Snider carried on with his free speech defense, blasting Cancel Culture and its insidious tendrils.
“It’s censorship. And censorship has changed quite a bit. I mean, you go to when I was in Washington testifying. By the way, it was a bipartisan effort — it was the Democrats and Republicans who were joined together in putting a leash on rock and roll. But it was definitely a conservative attitude — it was a more conservative attitude, wanting to censor music. Now censorship still exists, but it’s gone from the right more to the left. We’re in this P.C. [politically correct] world where we have to be careful about what we say and who we offend, and it’s a very odd thing.”
Then Elon Musk bought Twitter.
Now, Snider has had a change of heart regarding free speech. In October, he blasted Musk’s interpretation of free speech.
“There’s this idea, and Elon Musk is a champion of it, that free speech is saying anything you want whenever you want. That is not what they meant when they wrote the First Amendment… You never could say something that could endanger someone’s well-being, whether it’s physical or mental, with your words. You were never allowed to scream ‘Fire’ in a crowded movie theater when there’s no fire, because people can be hurt. You can’t say things to people or post things online that could hurt people psychologically [emphasis added], mentally and physically destroy their lives. That’s not free speech. That’s being an [a**hole]. Okay, so there’s a difference between being an [a**hole] and having free speech. So that’s the biggest threat, quite honestly, is a misinterpretation of what free speech means.”
Earlier this week, Snider doubled down on his Musk attacks. He sneered at Musk’s X for restoring Alex Jones’ banned account.
Jones, an unabashed conspiracy theorist, got booted from Twitter in 2018 for allegedly violating the platform’s abuse policies. His removal proved one of the first dominoes to fall in the current censorship crisis, including social media giants blocking President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riots.
Snider blasted the decision to restore Jones on X via, where else, his X account.
Twitter users quickly educated Snider on the matter.
This is exactly what free speech is. Don't follow him. Mute him if you want. It's easy.
— Sharon Cabana (@sharoncabana) December 12, 2023
Free speech does come with some caveats. The prime example is shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, of course.
Jones felt the boundaries of free speech when he falsely claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting that took the lives of 26 people, mostly children, was staged. Parents of the slain children sued Jones and he was forced to pay $1.5 billion as a result.
Other X users weighed in on Snider’s free speech reversal.
The issue is who determines the lie. For Example, tons of folks got online told us Masks and Vaccines worked, Ukraine would win the war etc…
Turns out those facts were incorrect.
People expressing different opinions got shut down.
— Jason Robertson (@JRobFromMN) December 13, 2023
What about politicians who knowingly lie? Would they be punished under Snider’s version of free speech? How? And what about people who claim to be psychologically wounded by words? Doesn’t he realize the Pandora’s box that could open?
Actually, it’s already open. Remember the “words are violence” battle cry that went silent following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel?
And like Robertson said, who decides what’s a lie and what’s real?
Snider, of all people, should know the shades of gray in this conversation.