James Evans is a huge metal fan. One of his favorite bands is the Bay Area thrash band, Exodus. One day, he decided to post a line from the band’s song, “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer).” Needless to say the authorities were not too thrilled about it.
On August 28, he was arrested and jailed. He stayed behind bars for eight days because he could not afford to pay the $1,000 bail.
The reason for the arrest? He was supposedly making terroristic threats by posting the line below:
“Student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate. Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gun fire ends in debate.”
Exodus had always been known for writing controversial songs serving as social commentary. “Class Dismissed” is no different, as it talks about the many different shootings happening in schools around the U.S. as of late. So admittedly, it is a bit too much to arrest as man for posting a shabby line from a song from a band that he likes.
The band’s leader, Gary Holt, even spoke against this arrest, stating that we live in a “paranoid society” where even the most simple things such as Facebook status messages are seen as threats to security. The issue of whether or not the arrest violated the First Amendment is also floating around. Sure, the lyrics are pretty messed up, but as I said, the song was meant as a social commentary common to Exodus’s many songs—in this case, a condemnation of violence against the sort of activity involving school shootings from the perspective of a murderer..
As far as I’m concerned, there are many other bands who wrote (and write) songs which are far more sinister than any of which Exodus whipped up. Who’s to say what would’ve happened if he posted lyrics from the more extreme subgenres in metal that draw on ultraviolence as a knowingly hyperbolic form of entertainment?
Fortunately for this metalhead, the case was recently dismissed by the court, stating that Evans did not violate any laws and that he was being protected by the First Amendment, as I suspected they would. After all, it’s ridiculous to assume that lyrics posted without context automatically mean a threat. Evans’s only real mistake was neglecting to attribute the lyrics to the song to avoid any misunderstandings, but who knows if even that wouldn’t have kept him from getting in trouble?