Morgan Wallen

When are we gonna let this guy out of the doghouse?

Let’s get very specific here, and leave emotions aside. What Wallen said is vernacular that is used in the black community all the time, the N-word is a part of hip-hop culture and employed on recordings. That does not make Wallen’s usage right, but it does speak to intention.

Now let’s be clear. Only black people have the right to use the N-word. They have reclaimed the use of a derogatory term and switched the meaning to be positive for themselves. Kind of like Donald Trump and “fake news.” No, I do not think they’re equivalent, I’m just broadening understanding of what went down here.

So what we’ve got is a hip-hop culture so pervasive that an ignorant guy from Tennessee used the N-word to say goodbye after a night of drinking. If you’d asked this idiot, he’d have said he thought he was doing nothing wrong, that it was a term of endearment. Watch the video, too many people are commenting without having seen it:

If the goal is to educate people and have them change their behavior, at this point Morgan Wallen is being done a disservice. He issued an apology video, I suggest you watch it: The original was posted to Instagram, where people speak to each other unfettered. Instagram is the public square of today, not the “New York Times” or CNN or Fox, to their ignorance and chagrin. Instagram even supersedes Facebook, although they are both owned by the same parent company. And, Facebook skews old while Instagram skews young, to active music listeners who are aware of Wallen.

So, what is the appropriate penalty for Wallen’s crime?

Well, for the politically correct police, for media insiders, for those who have contempt for someone with a southern accent, it seems to be expulsion forever! Wallen’s career must be killed just like Billy Squier’s. As for those Dixie Chicks, they were excised by country radio. And that was wrong. But let’s not rewrite history, the Chicks doubled down, they were the opposite of conciliatory. That was their choice. My only point is these are false equivalencies.

So what message is the holier-than-thou cancel culture sending Wallen fans? That they’re ignorant and to be laughed at. Their feelings should not be considered at all. So, you’ve got a huge swath of Americans giving Wallen no break, and another huge swath embracing Wallen, to a degree as a protest.

And there’s no umpire in music. No one to mete out the appropriate punishment. So is Wallen going to be excised from the airwaves and playlists forever? When does he get out of music jail?

Maybe Wallen should apologize directly to those who’ve dropped him. Individually. Cumulus, iHeart, Big Loud and the streaming companies who have demoted him. Come on, what is worse than standing up in front of your parents, or the school principal, and admitting you’re wrong? Talk about shame. But if we never let Wallen back he and his fans will become embittered, the problem will only get worse.

Now the truth is if Wallen had employed an anti-Semitic trope, this would be more difficult for me. Then again, if Jewish culture was so pervasive that Wallen used a term that showed he was influenced by it and embraced its language as his own, that would be different. Once again, Wallen was not using the N-word as a put-down, and if you think otherwise, you yourself are ignorant.

The truth is Morgan Wallen is the best thing to come down the pike for country music since Chris Stapleton. But Stapleton is 42 and Wallen is 27. Stapleton kicked around in the fringes of the spotlight before he broke through. Wallen was essentially nowhere and then he got somewhere. And believe me, being thrust nearly instantly into the public eye is quite discomforting and alarming. You want to be famous, but you’ve got no idea that people and the media are out to get you, anybody with a profile has experienced this, it’s good copy, it garners eyeballs.

So Wallen is the best thing to happen to country music since Chis Stapleton because his music is more authentic than what Nashville has been selling. Nashville has been pandering for years. Talking about trucks, family and babies. As if no one involved ever swore or crossed the line. Instead of homogenizing himself for the radio, Wallen sounds like he’s from the country, he’s got a twang, he’s closer to the roots of the music than anybody presently on the airwaves. What Nashville is purveying is middle class safe, when many people are struggling.

As for country music itself…too many commenters are too good for the format/music. They think it’s hicks singing unpalatable songs. But they have universities in the south, there are smart people in the south, just because they talk differently we’re going to take them off the playing field?

The public has spoken. Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous” has been number one for six weeks straight. Not that the public is always right, but when was the last time we had a white musical artist speaking from the heart that has resonated at this level? I can’t remember!

Cancel culture has gotten out of control. There’s a cabal of people looking for infractions, trying to get everybody to check themselves, to subdue their behavior. And it’s not only speech, it’s books and movies too. You just can’t do that, someone might be offended.

I’m not saying everything is okay, but that the line is unclear, and until we push back instead of backing down and discuss where the line should be we’re doing our culture a disservice.

Do I think what Morgan Wallen said was right? No. Do I think he should be penalized for his behavior? Absolutely. But does it have to be black and white, does Morgan Wallen have to be deleted from mainstream behavior forever?

This country is divided. And it’s very clear that one side is being fed disinformation on a regular basis. And if you’re not scared, you must be on the side trading in falsehoods. Wallen got caught partying during Covid and was kicked off SNL. That was the right move, but SNL let him back on! As for his partying… Too many citizens are victims of unending falsehoods such that they don’t know what the truth is. All these right wing “news” outlets saying Covid is a hoax and masks don’t work… Who do we hold responsible, them or those they’re speaking to? By keeping Morgan Wallen in the doghouse we’re just reinforcing the beliefs of those we should be embracing, saying the left is intolerant and one false move and you’re out. That everyone should hew to their dictates. Statues of Confederates torn down? Yes. Renaming schools with the moniker “Abraham Lincoln”? Ridiculous. If we continue with this zero tolerance policy no one will be free, no one will pass. Because the truth is we are all human and we make mistakes, if not in the public eye, at least in our family and communities. Imagine if we could never recover from those statements.

I call for Morgan Wallen to IMMEDIATELY be reinstated on radio and streaming service playlists. Let this be a teaching moment. Let these outlets put out press releases saying what the point is, that it’s been made, and they’re embracing Morgan Wallen back into the fold, because America is one big tent and we all need to get along, that we all make mistakes, but they are all different and should engender different penalties and Morgan Wallen has paid the price.

And he has. Come on, this scandal will be part of his career forever. It will be on his Wikipedia page for time immemorial. It will be in plain sight. It will fade, but it will be there. Wallen made a mistake, but he was not being aggressive and poking society in the eye. He was just drunk and ignorant and he should know he can’t say that.

I think he now does.

And many more people do too, especially his fans.

But if we continue to nail Morgan Wallen to the wall, the tide will turn, the accusers will lose more than the offender. What did Don Henley sing, that it was about forgiveness?

We need some of that here now.

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