Arrest of Boston Bombing Rapper Raises Questions of Free Speech

You’re not supposed to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater, but what about yelling “bombing” in a crappy rap?

Cameron D’Ambrosio, Massachusetts teen and future guy-who-wishes-he-was-a-rapper, was jailed last month for posting these “lyrics” on Facebook:

Warning, the lyrics are (needlessly and overly) vulgar:

No one should have to read these lyrics, so I’ll highlight the offensive line: “F**k a Boston bombing wait till u see the s**t I do, I’ma be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!” These lines secede lines about “going insane and making the news.”

After a month in jail, D’Ambrosio was released last week after a Grand Jury declined to indict him. You know, because he did nothing wrong.

This story brings up interesting issues of free speech. Sure, the rap is stupid, but did D’Ambrosio deserve to spend likely traumatizing jail time for doing nothing wrong? Someone owes this kid a month.

There are a few arguments for prosecuting D’Amboriso, and each is -in my opinion – stupid.

The lyric is offensive to victims of the bombing.

An 8-year-old was killed in the Boston attack. What if his parents had seen the lyric? How hurtful would that be? Well, they never would’ve seen it–the post would’ve faded in Facebook obscurity–if the police hadn’t gotten involved.

The post can be perceived as a threat, and D’Ambriso may have been a terrorist, nipped in the bud.

You know who didn’t post threatening raps on Facebook? Dzokhar Tsarnaev. James Holmes. Adam Lanza. None of these real terrorists ever posted their intentions online. This may be an unfair generalization, but I think it can be compared to how people who post about how depressed they are on tumblr, etc are very rarely actually depressed, and people who actually suffer from depression will stay quiet or be outwardly happy. 

Posting flippantly about bombings creates a perception that bombings are okay.

No. No it doesn’t do that.

The post may have caused panic, like shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

Again, no one would’ve seen it if it weren’t for the government’s actions.

The government made a new law that being a bad rapper was illegal. 

Hmm, I actually kinda support this one.

So clearly, arresting this kid was poor judgement, but what does this mean for free speech in America? With the revelations regarding the PRISM program, fears over infringements on free speech are even more important: your Gchat about wanting to blow up Starbucks because the line is too long might be read by an overzealous NSA employee.

Overzealously punishing unlikely terrorist threats is thought of as a conservative action, but liberalism has had its own crusades against free speech lately, too: The Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis issue and the increase in discussion of rape jokes come to mind. No one got arrested for either–The Onion’s social media manager and tons of brash desperate unfunny comedians remain unjailed, and that’s as it should be.

Words obviously have the potential to hurt, just as threats are obviously dangerous, but we must remember that free speech is important, even if you are protecting mediocre rappers and comedians who are so desperate for material they resort to rape jokes.

We just have to remember that our words can have an effect on society, and therefore we have to be respectful of them. Because free speech is something we put so much effort into protecting, it is one of few things in life we must hold sacred.