On Wednesday, John Hinckley Jr. – the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and was found not guilty by reason of insanity – was granted an absolute discharge from psychiatric care under which he had been held for decades. Now that he’s a free man, Hinckley’s first order of business is to embark on what he describes as a “redemption tour,” performing his original music in venues across the country. But a place he won’t to play? Brooklyn’s Market Hotel, which recently announced on social media that it was canceling the July 8 sold-out performance of the would-be killer.
“It’s not worth betting on the safety of our vulnerable communities than giving a guy a microphone and a paycheck from his art who didn’t have to earn it, who we don’t care about a artistic point of view and which disturbs people in a dangerously radicalized and reactionary climate,” the venue wrote in a statement posted on social media, claiming to have received “very real and increasingly serious threats” from people irritated by their decision to book Hinckley.
“There was a time when a place could welcome something like this, maybe a little offensive, and the reaction would be ‘He’s just a guy putting on a show, who it hurts – he’s a free country,” the statement continued. “We don’t live in that kind of free country anymore, for better or for worse.”
Of course, that’s a stupid excuse. The Market Hotel is free to house a mental patient who tried to assassinate the President, but people are also free to be pissed off about it! (As long as their anger doesn’t translate into actual violence.) Living in a “free country” doesn’t mean you’re immune to criticism. But the location statement only gets more defensive from there.
They make extremely valid points about how “ex-convicts and people with mental illnesses can recover” and the importance that “they can improve themselves and gain a chance to fully reintegrate into society.” But beyond that, it doesn’t seem like they fully understand why booking Hinckley was always a bad idea.
“It bears repeating that this guy playing is not harming anyone in a practical way,” they wrote. “He’s in his 60s with an acoustic guitar. All the outrage and concern is entirely about the Quotation message he sends end of quote. Make no mistake: canceling this concert won’t deter would-be assassins or have any effect on mass shootings, and it certainly won’t reverse the horror of what Hinckley did 40 years ago. . It’s also ludicrous to claim that allowing the show to inspire a future killer – “I want to be like Hinckley – he has to play Market Hotel.” We are a small venue and it’s only a concert. It doesn’t “matter” – beyond the strong emotions it was used to stir up.
Has anyone thought, however, that it might harm Hinckley? The Market Hotel freely admitted they had only booked it in an attempt to be ‘provocative’, noting that it ‘didn’t deserve it’ and that they ‘didn’t care [him] artistically. They’re just trying to exploit him and his notoriety for their own profit, and in many ways it seems worse than if they really dug his music. Instead, they were ready to take a seriously mentally ill man fresh out of decades of institutional care and let people watch him like a zoo animal so they could look pissed off and make a few bucks. Weren’t we still reeling from the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas – an event that requires taking in someone who committed a nefarious act of gun violence to try to extract money from his mediocre music a decidedly evil look – they absolutely would have continued the show.
Instead, the event is canceled and Hinckley himself seems to understand the decision. “I watch the news like everyone else – we live in very, very scary times, to be honest,” he said. Told The New York Times. “I would have continued the show only if I was going to feel safe at the show and feel the audience was going to be safe.”
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