15 November 2000
A View on Music and the Government
The censorship of music and other forms of entertainment by the government have long been the topic of discussion among social and political circles. Some forms of censorship such as warning labels for parents can be helpful. However the censorship of music is just not right, and the government has no right to do so. All too often the government gets on a self righteous feeling and thinks that it is it’s right to control what goes in or out of this so called “free nation’s” minds.
Censorship in music falls into one of those categories in which the American people and the American government, which is supposed to be a representation of the people, have extremely conflicting ideas on the subject. Some say that the government should regulate the music industry. They say that the American people don’t know what is best for them as a whole. Their proof is in the increase in violence, crime,
Unadulterated sex and other “taboos” that have been on the rise in recent years.
There are those that say that the government should only slightly be involved. These are the proponents of warning labels and the like, and that is about the extent of what they want the government to interfere with. The remainder generally says that the government has no right infringing on entertainment at all. They say that the government does not have the right to decide what the people can or cannot see, read, or listen to.
Most of those who are of the opinion to let government help regulate the entertainment industries take the all too familiar tragic occurrence at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado as proof of their position. On April 20, 1999, two students interred the school and killed twelve other students, a teacher, and then themselves, and set the media and the entertainment worlds ablaze. The two killers were said by their peers to be avid fans of Marilyn Manson, and were even said to almost idolize him. Marilyn Manson is the all to accused shock-rocker who has been described by the music press as an “ultra-violent satanic rock monstrosity” (Jipping).
There have also been several other reports of teenage killers who have been big fans of rocker. Thurston High School student Kip Kinkell, who murdered his parents and two students in Springfield, Ohio, was said to be a listener of Marilyn Manson. In Edinboro, Pennsylvania, Andrew Wurst killed a teacher at his eighth-grade dance. In Pearl, Mississippi, Luke Woodham murdered his parents and a classmate. Both of these kids were heavy listeners of Marilyn Manson (Jipping).
People are using the increase in violence among children as proof that violent-themed music is causing a change for the worse in kids and young adults today. It appears to me that this is a case in which people want to blame someone or something, and his is the easiest and most obvious choice. An easy assumption, but it is just that, an assumption. When asked for proof, as has occurred in recent years, various reports are mentioned that supposedly has scientific proof of the correlation between increase in violence and violence in music. A recent article in The World & I quoted the American Medical Association in September of 1996 as saying “the link between media violence and real life violence has been proven by science time and again.” How can the American Medical Association have jurisdiction over the music industry to say what its product effect? Music has nothing to do with medicine. Psychology, maybe, but definitely not medicine.
A vast majority of media publications refer to these reports, but never give the information to find the report oneself. This to me is no coincidence. Every article that I have read in my research has quoted lines out of context in an effort to emotionally sway the reader.
Out of context of the feeling of the songwriter, not of the lyric. First of all, songwriters write for themselves. Even with more songwriters today openly saying that they like being rock stars for the money, they began writing for themselves. Even if they didn’t get paid to write, they would still write. Therefor their songs are representations of their mood and thoughts at the time. Every person has their own deep dark thoughts that would shock others, and they keep them intensely private. However some choose to express it in their lyrics, they are still just words.
The problem comes when people fail to realize this. The problem comes when people have to be spoon-fed their thoughts, and the ones to young to do so have parents whom are the same or do not care. My parents raised me, and then let me go to make my own decisions. I was not left alone to my own devices as a fifth and sixth grader. But this is just a personal anecdote.
I say that people today need a mind of their own. I say that people need to blame themselves for the things they do. People need to stop avoiding the issues of personal integrity and respect. People need to pressure parents to raise their kids in such a way as to teach these things to them.
When my grandparents were growing up, Elvis was thought of by many as the devil. They thought that his hip swing was too sexually explicit for the young girls of the day to be seeing, much less enjoying. Led Zeppelin was thought of in much the same way. Today, Elvis is considered a king and Led Zeppelin is considered on of the most influential bands of all time. The adults and the establishment of the day for both artists harshly criticized them, some even calling them satanic. Countless social problems dealing with youth were blamed on their music. Yet today, both of these artists are considered classics.
The trend is sadly spreading to other nations. French rappers NTM were arrested for so called offenses against “public authority” in 1996. In Pakistan, popular rock group Junoon has been repeatedly banned because of the content of their lyrics. Nigerian Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti was regularly imprisoned. His son now leads his Movement Against Second Slavery (Naylor).
There is evidence of what is happening. Strauss Zelnick, the head of BMG Entertainment, has said that the Federal Trade Commission’s survey shows that seventy-four percent of parents are satisfied with the current system of parental advisory stickers, which warn parents of explicit lyrics (Oppelaar). If the American people supposedly need their entertainment screened for their own good, then why do so many of them say that they are satisfied with the current limited form of warning labels. Why does the government want increase the level of censorship, when the American people say that they like the current level?
The incident at the Woodstock ’99 Festival in rural New York is another attempted example of violent actions and violent music. On the last day of the festival the crowd was whipped into a frenzy of burning cars and speakers and people dancing naked among the flames. Ironically, the band playing at the time was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even more ironic is the fact that they were doing a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” (Naylor). Five hundred riot police were called in. Later that evening, Limp Bizkit stirred the spectators into an even greater frenzy. The mob eventually destroyed the entire park. Many had the nerve to say that it was the actions and words of Limp Bizkit that caused the actions of the crowd. This is also the same festival that had five-dollar hamburgers, two and a half-dollar cokes, and unsanitary toilets of which there were too few to begin with.
Again, an example of using the first and most obvious scapegoat that is available. The bottom line is that music does not cause action. Music is thoughts, feelings, moods, attitudes, and ideas. Music is not a tool to affect the nation and its actions, and there has been no conclusive evidence otherwise.