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Essay/Term paper: Music censorship

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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Marilyn Manson, The Beatles, NWA, Garth Brooks, and the king, Elvis, What do all these people have in common? Well, yes, they are all musical groups, but there is something more. Marilyn Manson is a heavy metal group who worships Satan, the Beatles were one of the greatest Rock N" Roll bands of all time, and NWA was a hard-core rap group from the 80"s. Garth Brooks is a country singer and greatest selling performer of all time, and well, Elvis is the king of Rock N" Roll. So what do they all have in common? All of these artists have or had songs with indecent or obscene lyrics.

Since the dawn of musical expression, there have been people trying to stop or hinder the constitutional right to listen and enjoy music of all forms. There were ordinary, everyday people during the infancy of Rock N" Roll in the 1960"s who made it their mission in life to stop so-called "obscene" music like the Beatles song "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds," from polluting our airwaves and minds. These groups succeeded in banning some songs from the radio, but most of their actions were for naught, because there was no real punishment for radio stations playing those songs labeled "obscene." By 1985, many people wanted to cleanse the music industry of its "indecent" music, so the most prominent group in the history of music censorship was started: The Parents" Music Resource Center (PMRC)-(A Brief…). This was just the first of many groups who made it their business to decide what the American Population should or should not listen to. These censorship groups have also been able to get government money in order to fight, lie, and bribe their way to censoring music. The PMRC and other organizations have also convinced government organizations like the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to regulate what music is played on the radio. Places like Target, Disc Jockey, and other local record stores are also forced to label music that the PMRC and other censorship groups find obscene (A Brief…)

Who is to say that what is obscene to someone might not be seen as obscene to another person? This question, as well as many others, brought forth many anti-censorship organizations who fight to give the people of America the right to listen to whatever music they want to, indecent or not. The First Amendment from anyone who tries to censor it protects music, like any other form of expression in the U.S. It is a violation of our constitutional rights for groups like the PMRC to censor music, but alas, they are allowed to tell us what they think is decent music and what is not. "The use of parental advisory labels, as with any system that aim to deny an individual the right to receive a form of communication, most certainly is a free speech issue" (Crowley). Censorship should be left up to the public because it is our freedom to decide to use our better judgment in deciding what we want to listen to, regardless of other"s opinions.

The Parents Music Resource Center and other censorship groups became a thorn in the side of free speech when many parents (like Tipper Gore) were outraged and disgusted by this new music known as "rap." Censorship organizations demand that these new performers like Ice-T and NWA become banned from the radio and their music be labeled as indecent and explicit in order to protect America"s Youth from listening to this so-called "filth." Rap has since been the biggest target for censorship, with groups going as far as saying that, "there has been a marked increase in explicit violence and misogyny in popular music, and it stands to reason that exposure to such hate filled lyrics has had a effect on kids" attitudes, assumptions, decisions, and behavior" (Senate subcommittee…). This is a crazy assumption with no facts to back it up. According to Vincent Shiraldi, the executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, "There has been a 30 percent drop in juvenile homicides between 1994 and 1996, and a 6.5 percent drop in homicides at school between 1992 and 1997" (National Campaign…). This obviously shows that music is not eh cause of juvenile crime, since crime has actually gone down progressively in the nineties.

The Federal Communication Commission has been around since the 1930"s much longer than the PMRC and other censorship groups. Their main objective was to regulate what radio stations did not give or receive any confidential information over the airwaves (Politics of.). The FCC"s most noted regulation is one that includes banning indecent and obscene material until late at night when children are not awake to hear it. They are also they authority that can give out citations to radio stations that do not comply with regulations on indecency and obscenity.

There are also groups, many unofficial, consisting of church members who call Rock N" Ross "the devil"s music" (A Brief…). They contend that heavy metal groups promote devil worship, and suggest in their music for people to do violent things. Some people have gone as far as to sue musicians because they believe that their sons or daughters killed themselves because the music they listened to. In 1987, the parents of a 19-year-old who said one of his songs promoted their son to commit suicide sued Ozzy Osborne (A Brief…). Luckily, in all such cases, the musicians are acquitted. These groups are a bit eccentric, and some of their views considered extreme even by most censorship organizations. These are the same groups in the 50"s that said Rock N" Roll"s "tribal rhythms" encourages young people to "behave in a hedonistic manner" (A Brief…).

Is there a difference between indecency and obscenity? Well, the FCC claims that "…broadcasters may not broadcast obscene programming; they may broadcast indecent programming only when there is a strong possibility that no children are in the audience" (Politics of…). If you compare the two words, "obscene" and "indecent," there really is no difference between the two. Webster"s dictionary defines obscene as, "repulsive by reason of crass disregard or moral or ethical principles," and indecent as, "grossly unseemly or offensive to manners or morals" (Webster"s…).

So, how do you regulate this law? The problem with many FCC regulations is that they are not quantative. For example, a speed limit says 35 MPH or 65 MPH, it doesn"t say, go a speed in which there is a strong probability that the road is safe enough to drive, and if you wreck you are likely to survive. If this were true, you would have a Geo Metro going about 30 MPH on the freeway, while a Volvo would go 80 MPH to the grocery store. If you were to censor all songs that supposedly influenced people negatively or had obscene lyrics, you would have to ban may songs that are considered decent by most of the censorship committees. We could start with the Beatles, (who wrote may songs about drug use), The Everly Brothers (Wake Up Little Susie), and top 40 and country music with their lyrics of depression, alcohol abuse, drug use, explicit sexual lyrics, and adolescent rebellion. It is only fair that if you ban White Zombie"s "Devil Man," then you should censor songs like Garth Brooks" "Friends in Low Places," too.

Censorship organizations also believe some music ruins the minds of children and turns them into anti-social, mean, or disrespectful members of society (Senate Subcommittee…). There simply is no proof of this wild assumption. It had never been proven that Ted Bundy or Charles Manson were the way they are because of Alice Cooper or Iron Maiden. Dr. Frank Palumbo, of the American Academy of Pediatrics states that, "To date, no studies have documented a cause-and-effect relationship between sexually explicit or violent lyrics and adverse behavioral effects" (Eye Out…). The assumptions made by many censorship groups remind me of a song my Montley called "Smokin" in the Boys Room." When I heard this song, I did not want to go to school, go in the boy"s bathroom, and start smoking cigarettes, I just like the song because it was catchy and Montly Crue was cool listen to in the eighties.

The FCC is hypocritical, redundant, and vague, while the many censorship groups like the PMRC make assumptions that they simply cannot reinforce. There are many reasons that censorship violates our First Amendment rights. "The principle of freedom of expression is founded on trust: that each member of society benefits from the free exchange of ideas, when all are permitted to speak and hear others speak" (National Campaign…). Why did Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other founding fathers write the First Amendment if it were not important? The First Amendment is the foundation of our country. What do you think would happen if we took away the freedom of speech? What will be next, taking away the freedom of religion? How about the freedom of the press? It just does not work; censorship has no place in democracy.

Censorship also brings about another nasty conformity. Remember in the 1940"s when Hitler had an entire nation believing that Jewish people should die, and all the books not adhering to his views should be burned? Censorship brings about close-mindedness and prejudice. What if they arrested Christopher Columbus because he said that the earth was round? Before the Renaissance Period, people were hanged for saying that the earth was not the center of the universe. Granted, comparing censorship to Gailileo is a stretch, but maybe not.

If you are wondering why this issue of music is important to you, why you should listen to my message, consider this: The FCC budget has tripled in the last ten years, costing the American Taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars. These tax dollars could be used to combat the real evils of our society that hurt our kids, drugs, and violence. "More healthy results can be achieved from providing alternatives for young people rather than spending so much of our time and energy discussing music distracts us from the real causes of crime: things like child abuse, poverty, parental neglect in care and time spent with their children, etc." (National Campaign…) And think of all the concerned parents who are reading their PMRC newsletter and donating millions of dollars to stop supposedly undermining part of our society.

Why do censorship organizations think that music negatively influences our youth when they have no concrete evidence? I have problems just like everyone else, but I do not blame my problems on music, nor do I look to music to solve my problems. Music is art, and art is anything aesthetic that can be appreciated by one person in some form or another. A plethora of musicians, many who aren't considered obscene or indecent, have made impassioned speeches to the public to fight ignorance and open their minds to music. Ani DiFranco, who says makes one such a plea,

"I speak without reservation from what I know and who I am. I do so with the understanding that all people should have the right to offer their voice to the chorus whether the result is harmony or dissonance, the worldsong is a colorless dirge without the differences that distinguish us, and that it is that difference which should be celebrated not condemned. Should any part of music offend you, please do not close your ears to it. Just take what you can use and go on." (DiFranco)

So who is to say what is and isn"t art, the PMRC? I think not. I listen to music that it is considered by some people to be offensive, but that doesn"t make me crazy or a bad person. "When we deny young people our trust, we deny them their role in society, leaving them cynical about the politic of democracy and feeling disenfranchised." (Crowly)

It is not music that has control over our youth. It does influence youth, but it is not the only power that does so. I credit my well being to my parents, good or bad. Music should not influence out children more than parents do. If music should happen to have this effect on the youth of America, parents should think of ways of how they can help to nurture their kids better. "We know that the discussion of the messages in a song and how it effects a particular child belongs in the home, between a child and their parent, not in the offices of a record company, in the back room of a retail store, and certainly not in a Senate chamber." (Eye Out…) Almost every delinquent person I have ever met is that way because of a broken home or a dysfunctional family, not because they listen to TOOL or Marilyn Manson. There are always exceptions to the rule, but how can you blame music for that? There are so many other factors that influence a young person"s life much more than music ever can. Music is, and probably always will be, the easy thing to blame for the problems of America"s youth.

Music should be left alone, left to evolve and regress, as it wants to because we have the right to choose what we want to hear; all censoring does violate the first amendment rights that we supposedly have. Parental Advisory stickers can and do censor musicians. If an artist"s painting or sculpture is removed from a gallery because some patrons may be uncomfortable with its image- that is censorship. When a band"s music is declared to be off limits for a group of listeners- that is censorship. So even though the FCC makes contradictory regulations and censorship groups like the PMRC do convince millions of parents that Marilyn Manson is the anti-Christ, we can still make a difference in the fight against censorship. There is an Anti-Censorship petition on the Internet that allows you to voice your opinion about censorship, to tell the government and all those censorship organizations that it is wrong to censor someone"s freedom of expression. I encourage you to log on to Http://xnet.com/~paigeone/noevil/petition.html and make your voice be heard.

So what if some music is out of the ordinary to some people, why not think of it as being insightful or a different view, instead of thinking if it is being obscene? Why can"t music be artistic instead of indecent? Why do we allow the government and all the music censorship organizations to deny musicians and the public our constitutional rights? And why do we pay millions of our tax dollars to try and undermine what our whole country was built upon over two hundred years ago? We must acknowledge that ratings systems of any kind can do and result in censorship. And we all must fight to preserve free speech for everyone regardless of whether or not we agree with the message. (National Campaign…) When politicians and religious leaders call for censorship because they personally find the message objectionable, or you wonder why you should join the fight against music censorship, please consider this quote be Martin Niemoeller, a Lutheran pastor who was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938. He said,

In Germany, the Nazi"s came for the communists, and I didn"t speak up because I wasn"t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn"t speak up because I wasn"t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn"t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn"t speak up because I wasn"t a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.


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