The police are trying to bully Quentin Tarantino from speaking out

Director Quentin Tarantino attends a march to denounce police brutality in Washington Square Park October 24, 2015 in New York City.  © Kena Betancur
Celebrities like Quentin Tarantino have the right to speak out about issues that are important to them. They should have the right to free speech without being threatened with loss of income, says political cartoonist Ted Rall.

RT: Do you think Quentin Tarantino may have given too much ammunition to critics of black civil rights activism by using the word “murderers” when referring to police?

Ted Rall: It all depends what the meaning of murder is. According to the dictionary, a murder is an intentional killing. And by that definition there have been many murders of innocent black people and non-black people in the US at the hands of police. So, I don’t think there is anything wrong at all with calling shooting someone in the back as they are running away “a murder,” for example. That is one example of something that has actually happened. So, I would say that Mr. Tarantino is perfectly justified in what he said and I support him.

RT: And how do you think these statements will affect the career of the film director?

TR: There is some anger particularly on the reactionary right and this is being stirred up by the Police Union here in the US, which are very powerful politically. But I don’t think that it reflects the way that many Americans feel about it. Certainly, not the way many black people feel about it. And for that matter a lot of white people are really fed up with the excesses of the police, and especially in the post 9/11 era, but these abuses go back as long as anyone can remember. He is going to take some heat because he spoke the truth. And so, it could impact him. But on the other hand, I always wondered what kind of person would decide what movie to go see based on the politics of the director. As for me, I often go see films that are directed by feature actors who I don’t support their politics. But, so what? When I choose what to do on Friday or a Saturday night and what movie to see it is going to be based on whether I think it is going to be entertaining or interesting. I think that is how most movie goers actually make their decisions as well. 

RT: Tarantino reportedly is expected to apologize for what he said. Do you feel this will be sincere or is it all about Tarantino realizing how much he might be getting hit in the wallet here?

TR: There is no doubt that it is riskier to speak your mind politically when you are a famous person and when you are notable, and then you become a target. These cops are bullies, they are trying to bully Quentin Tarantino and send a message to other people that if they have the temerity to take on the cops, there will be consequences and it will hurt them in the pocket and their reputation. Personally, I think cops should spend a little bit less time cracking down on their critics and little more time retraining and learning how to do community policing and not being so fast to shoot people, especially when they are not armed. We are dealing with a country in which a police officer shot an unarmed black child in Cleveland within less than two seconds after he arrived upon the scene. So, there was literally no time to stop and think about anything – he just shot the little kid.  So, this is really the issue here. And I, personally, have paid the price myself for criticizing the cops as a cartoonist and even lost work over it. I would hate to see people like Quentin Tarantino stop speaking out about issues that are important to them. They have the same rights to free speech as any other American and they should be allowed to exercise those rights without being threatened with the loss of income.

RT: Why do you think we’re seeing groups like Black Lives Matter get called “radical” and even being directly compared to terrorists like ISIS on the US conservative media?

TR: It is a smear campaign. Look, ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not radical – there is nothing radical at all about saying that people who are black have the same right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as anyone else. And anyone who says that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a radical group just doesn’t know what they are taking about or they are lying. Either way, I don’t really know that those are people I would want to listen to.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.