Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Band Banned: A Free Speech Violation by the Orange Bowl? SMUT (Stanford Marching Unit Team) Banned from Orange Bowl Halftime Ceremonies

The National Football Post writes that Stanford Band banned from halftime of the Orange Bowl.

Matt Hinton, Dr. Saturday, has the best writeup of this event at Orange Bowl bans Stanford Band from halftime, for the sake of LeBron's ego, inter alia:
"Just to be be fair, Virginia Tech's band [was] also ... banned. Both [played] a six-minute pregame show instead.

Honestly, I can't imagine why the Orange Bowl would be concerned about the intentions of a collection of overachieving mischief-makers that traditionally enjoys a pregame meal of beer and doughnuts."
Matt Murschel at the Orlando Sentinel writes in Orange Bowl officials ban Stanford Band as follows:
"According to MSNBC’s R.J. Middleton, the reason for the banning was the possible outrage the Stanford Marching Unit Team or SMUT as they are called, would have caused with its halftime show entitled “Recent Events in the Pro Sports World in Miami.”
Orange Bowl officials apparently were scared off by the possibility that the Stanford band would do something to mock South Beach’s hottest commodity, LeBron James.
Really? First and foremost, most halftime shows aren’t even broadcast on national television. Only actual fans at the game would see it and most of them would probably be standing in line to either buy a hot dog or to use the restroom."
Here is a YouTube Video of the Stanford Band pre-game Rally in South Beach Miami:

The Stanford Band surely has some of the most intelligent, creative and best musicians in the country as far as collegiate bands are concerned and many of their halftime performances are true classics of sophomoric humor.

Refusing collegians permission to play at halftime because organizers are "afraid" of what they may portray is a free speech scandal and is called the "chilling" of free speech in legal circles. You can not shut people up just because of what you are afraid they might say. That is not the American way.

One of the problems with modern America is that free speech violations are a matter of course at many institutions, under the motto that there is only one way to think, and that is THEIR WAY, or, in the instant case, marching bands are allowed as long as they do not march to the beat of a different drummer. That is only a short step away from proscribing what they are to play and how they are to play it.

The country is in dire economic straits in part precisely because it is not able to withstand legitimate criticism under the motto that what has been or is being done is RIGHT, regardless. Contra views are unacceptable, even as parody.

There is very good reason why the digital revolution is centered in Silicon Valley (i.e. more or less surrounding Stanford University) and not in Miami or similar venues and it has to do with the concept of freedom of speech (expression), thought and inquiry. If people are already stressed in their tolerance level by a bunch of college students marching around, playing music and presenting parodies of current events, ideas or beliefs, then we can rightly not expect too much innovation and progress from those who advocate censorship to spare their feelings.

Why are thousands of high tech companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, Google, Yahoo and Facebook headquartered at Stanford and not in Miami? The story of the birth of the silicon transistor gives us the necessary insight (from Wikipedia, Silicon_Valley#Stanford_Industrial_Park):
"Silicon transistor and birth of the Silicon Valley
In 1953, William Shockley left Bell Labs in a disagreement over the handling of the invention of the transistor. After returning to California Institute of Technology for a short while, Shockley moved to Mountain View, California in 1956, and founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. Unlike many other researchers who used germanium as the semiconductor material, Shockley believed that silicon was the better material for making transistors. Shockley intended to replace the current transistor with a new three-element design (today known as the Shockley diode), but the design was considerably more difficult to build than the "simple" transistor. In 1957, Shockley decided to end research on the silicon transistor. As a result, eight engineers left the company to form Fairchild Semiconductor. Two of the original employees of Fairchild Semiconductor, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, would go on to found Intel.
"Thus, over the course of just 20 years, a mere eight of Shockley’s former employees gave forth 65 new enterprises, which then went on to do the same... Conflicts between creative teams and their veteran leadership were of course common in all American industrial parks, both before and after the aforementioned disagreement at Shockley. However, the crux of the matter is that, with the exception of California, all across America there are many different agreements signed between business owners and their employees that restrict the employee’s right to quit and join competing firms or, even worse, go on to create his or her own company in direct competition with their former employer. These non-compete agreements, which new recruits are required to sign ... play the role of graphite rods in a nuclear reactor, slowing the chain reaction of creation of new start-ups all over America"
If you think like the "run of the mill" and are bound by convention(s), you are not tolerant to the expression of critical ideas in any form and you can not possibly envision new worlds that deviate in any way from what you are used to. Indeed, you are likely to hinder progress, rather than to promote it.

That is why some people regard the Stanford Band as a breath of fresh air as compared to conventional marching bands, prancing in cadence to military commands, nothing wrong with that either. Every marching band has its "message", whether it be the style and design of the marching performance or the choice of music. We think it would be equally incorrect, by the way, to ban a marching band from a collegiate halftime performance just because it was a "military-like" performance. If military marching is OK then constitutionally protected parodies should also not be banned.

Open minds are open to new thoughts and new ideas and are able to deal with criticism of all kinds. When people are intolerant of parody and can not share the humor, this is in fact an indication that the parody is justified. When you start to CENSOR collegiate marching bands, the nation is in dire straits as far as tolerance is concerned -- as it is in fact.

To closed minds, the Stanford Band is a threat to their oh so sensitive feelings. But closed minds have no future. The world does not favor sentimentality. Either you move forward, or you are left in the dust. Grow, or die. That is the rule of the world.

Just imagine if the Stanford Band halftime show had featured a parody of BCS!
As it should have, if were not already so planned. But could it be banned? Would such a ban be legal? There you see the crux of the free speech issue.

See also
SFGATE.com -- Stanford Band banned from Orange Bowl halftime
SBNation.com -- Orange Bowl 2011: Stanford Band Banned From Performing During Halftime Show

[Update: of the San Francisco Chronicle writes at SFGATE.com : "Band on the run? A report before the game that the Stanford band had been banned for a halftime performance was incorrect. Neither school's band was scheduled to be part of the halftime show, which featured the Goo Goo Dolls. Each band was limited to a six-minute pregame show." Well, that is a nice way to get out of the legal free speech bind now is it not?]

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