james_evans_LEAD

Back in the fall of last year we picked up the story of 31-year-old Kentucky citizen, James Evans, who went to jail for eight days for posting lyrics of thrash metal crew Exodus‘ song, “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer),” on his Facebook page, purportedly prompting enough complaints to Muhlenberg County school officials due to its graphic content to prompt police to issue a warrant, claiming that Evans “threatened to kill students and or staff at school.”

We, with the rest of the sane world, including Evans, were clear about our stance on this — that the incident was a glaring example of civil rights being violated, and that all things considered — lyrics posted verbatim in a Facebook post — an abuse of power. Evans, thankfully, as we roll into the era of lyrics used in courtrooms, has not let the issue rest, joining forces with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky to sue Muhlenberg County police for an unlawful arrest and prosecution.

It’s a slippery slope. We obviously, as a preventive society, want to be aware of suspicious social media activity so that crisis scenarios can be stopped before they begin. And perhaps etiquette in the future will mandate a quote credit so that context is always clear, but we also can’t let fear rule us. Especially when working with assumptions.

Again, Gary Holt, founder/guitarist/songwriter of Exodus and his statement following the arrest that pretty much sums it all up:

The idea that an individual in this great country of ours could be arrested for simply posting lyrics to a song is something I never believed could happen in a free society. James Evans was simply posting lyrics to a band he likes on Facebook, and he was locked up for it. The song ‘Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)’ was written as a view through the eyes of a madman and in no way endorses that kind of fucked up behavior. It was the Virginia Tech massacre perpetrated by Seung-Hui Cho that was the subject and inspiration to write the song, one in which we put the brakes on playing it live after the Sandy Hook shooting, as we did not want to seem insensitive.

As some of us in EXODUS are parents, of course these things hit close to home, it’s every parent’s worst fear. These moments are the stuff of nightmares, and life, as well as music, isn’t always pretty. But when we start to overreact to things like lyrics by any band, including EXODUS, and start arresting people, we are caving in to paranoia and are well on our way to becoming an Orwellian society.