By JAYNE CHUNG
History has shown that President Trump prefers a restricted news media, as he deems media “the enemy of the American people.” Following the release of his latest music video, rapper Snoop Dogg has joined the ranks of artists such as Meryl Streep, SNL and the Hamilton cast who have expressed criticism towards the President only to be berated online via Twitter.
The controversial Snoop Dogg video is a remix of the song “Lavender” by the band BadBadNotGood, which features a clown named “Ronald Klump” who bears Trump-esque characteristics, most noticeably the sunburnt orange skin and the oversized, boxy suit. In one scene, Snoop points a toy pistol at Klump’s head and pulls the trigger, only to reveal a cartoon-style “bang” banner. Later in the video, Klump’s character is seen in chains.
In response to the music video, President Trump shot back the message, “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!” through his personal Twitter account. A similar attack was made to renowned actress Meryl Streep, who denounced the President in her Golden Globes speech; while Snoop Dogg was described as “failing,” Streep was dismissed as “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.”
Trump’s outrage was echoed by conservative media and politicians, most notably Fox News anchor Kimberly Guilfoyle, who called for Snoop Dogg and his fellow rapper Bow Wow who defended the video to be “killed” by the Secret Service. Florida Senator Marco Rubio also condemned the artist, stating, “You know, we’ve had presidents assassinated before in this country, so people should be really careful about that.”
Could Snoop Dogg be jailed for his music video? Under Title 18, Section 871 of the United States Code, it is a felony for anyone to “knowingly and willfully” threaten to “take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States.” Trump’s suggestion that Snoop deserves jail time would be valid if it could be proven that Snoop made the video with the sincere intent to encourage violence against the President. Though provocative and somewhat silly, Snoop Dogg’s video cannot be considered inflammatory enough to argue that he was inciting the public — the cartoon shooting is more reminiscent of underlying, comedic violence in children’s’ shows such as Looney Tunes than a real call of violence towards the President.
Furthermore, even if Snoop aimed to depict a real assassination, the music video arguably falls under the category of satire or parody and, in that case, is protected under the First Amendment. Though some consider the video to have crossed a line, Snoop has the right as an artist to explore the reasons behind a character’s desire to to kill the president of the United States and to express his disapproval of the government through the presentation of an action as violent as an assassination. No matter who the president is, Snoop has the artistic license to draw attention to the dangerous political climate, a deteriorating society and even the potentially destructive fallout of such a crime.
Amid the controversy hides the true intent of the video. Snoop Dogg, an advocate against gun violence, actually created the video with the purpose of addressing police killings of black men, specifically the police shooting of motorist Philando Castile, which was recorded by his girlfriend. The video includes a scene echoing the shooting in which a white, doughnut-eating cop shoots a man during a traffic stop, sending confetti flying from the driver’s chest while a young black man captures the scene on his cellphone.
“I feel like it’s a lot of people making cool records, having fun, partying, but nobody’s dealing with the real issue with this … clown as president and the …[things] that we dealing with out here,” Snoop told Billboard about the video concept. “So I wanted to take time out to push pause on a party record and make one of these records for the time being.”
Fortunately for Snoop Dogg, according to Twitter, there were over 320,000 mentions of Snoop and Trump the day after the release of the video, which earned his video over 3 million views and counting on YouTube. Trump’s Twitter slam of Snoop has ironically given Snoop’s “failing” career and his video a huge boost of momentum.