Debate Over Music Censorship Essay Research Paper

Debate Over Music Censorship Essay, Research Paper

The Grueling Debate over Music Censorship In March of 1998, Shawn Thomas, a musician was arrested, his crime was not murder or a traffic violation, and it was writing music. In his music, he criticized California’s ‘three strikes and you out law,” and when his parole officer heard it, he had Shawn arrested. This is just one example of the censorship of music. There are people and groups that plead for any form of censorship; however, there is a stronger and larger outcry against censorship. Only three points are relevant to both sides of the music censorship issue, and they include the following: the banning of albums, warning stickers, and the theory of music sparking violence. Therefor after examining both sides of the music censorship issue it is apparent that censoring musicians is a violation of the first amendment. As in every debate, there are groups of people for one side. Many stores that sell CDs of cassettes must decide whether to sell some albums or not. In a newspaper article by Edna Gunderson, she points out that Wal-Mart and Kmart account for up to 25% of the nation’s record sales. The fact that these stores sell one fourth of all the albums in the U.S. is great, but it is the albums they do not sell which is controversial. These stores refuse to sell albums, which have Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics stickers. Many artists who are banned from the CD racks in these stores feel segregated. Retail stores like Kmart do not want to be responsible for violence caused by music, so they decide to pull such albums from their shelves. This is just one example of how censors try to restrict music (Gunderson 3D). Trying to censor more artists, explicit lyric stickers were formed. In 1985, Tipper Gore, wife of now Vice-President Al Gore, and many more parents came together to form the Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC). Their job was to listen to albums and draw national attention to songs that they thought were harmful to children. They also experimented ways to keep songs they thought were harmful away from children (Gunderson 3D). In an essay by Megan Gilchrist she explains that after viewing and going over numerous ways to try and keep harmful music away from children, they invented a sticker. This sticker “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” placed on a CD or cassette is not to be sold to a minor. The PMRC wants storeowners punished who sell these albums, but very few states actually have a law prohibiting the sell of stickered albums. Topics they think are unsuitable include sexuality, violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicide. This is yet another attempt of censors trying to restrict musician’s freedom of speech (Gilchrist 1). Over the following months, much criticism has arised about music being the source behind violence in the United States. In an article by Yochi Dreazen he says, “President Clinton has been among those suggesting the entertainment industry bears at least some of the responsibility for the bloodshed for producing works that glorify violence and twist the minds of impressionable young people.” Censors feel that rap music is responsible for the Jonesboro schoolyard shootings. They think that Tupac Shakur and other rappers gave the kids the thoughts about ambushing and shooting victims. The warning labels mentioned before are supposed to keep this type of detrimental music away from America’s youth. The censors want to suppress many musicians’ first amendment rights in hopes of keeping violence from occurring (Dreazen 1-2). The opposition to the censors and the censorship of music is the vast majority of the American society. Many musicians feel that they are segregated because the two of the nation’s leading album sellers will not carry their albums. These musicians include the following: Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, Ice T, and the Insane Clown Posse group. Under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution it grants all people the freedom of speech, and when these artists cannot exercise their right of free speech, and have their album not able to be sold, they fell segregated. In most areas of the country Kmart and Wal-Mart are the only type of music store people can go to, so twenty five percent of the American population cannot purchase some artist’s albums. Musicians should be protected by their constitution, but retail stores like Kmart restrict their rights (Gunderson 3D).

Over past years, controversy has surrounded the explicit lyrics warning stickers placed on albums. With over millions of musicians trying to become the next Elvis, record companies will do anything to sell albums. One attractive way to call listeners’ attention is to place warnings on them. Dreazen also points out that the policy of not selling albums with warnings to minors is often ignored. Despite the fact that minors might not be able to buy some music, their musical taste will remain the same, buying records hyper, violent content. This is how restricting the sell of music is taking away musicians freedom of speech (Dreazen 1-2). Violence is a common problem with today’s youth. There is no telling what sparks teenage violence. Censors believe that music is the source, but that is a weak attempt to cover up for other problems of today’s youth. They are just troubled teens drawn to a certain type of music. The music does not make the decision to kill, the person does. When these psychologically teenagers are drawn to this music, it just makes the situation worse by amplifying their thoughts. Music is just a form of expression that gets blamed for violence today. Violence is definitely a problem today, but restricting musicians’ expression and speech because children listen to it is a violation of their rights (Dreazen 2-3). After viewing both sides of the argument I side with the opposition to censorship. Censorship is a major problem in today’s society. Families and people are complaining that the lyrics or rock and rap music effect their families and their lives. Words are just words, and nobody is forcing anyone to listen to the words. The majority of society is against it. Music is a freedom and is being taken away from us by censorship. Music is music, shows are shows, if there is a problem, do not listen to it, do not watch it, and do not buy it. Under the provisions of first amendment of the U.S. constitution, society has the right to free speech and press, right of assembly, and the petition of the government. Censorship takes place on many forms of expression these days and especially in the entertainment industry. To censor a person’s freedoms is constitutionally and to some people morally wrong. There have been many attempts to censor musicians and their music by banning their albums, placing warnings on their music, and claim that music leads to violence. When a person is born in the United States of America, he/she is granted the same rights as everyone else, and one of them includes the freedom of speech. Some people in the country are trying to restrict this right for some reason, but any form of music censorship is a direct violation of the first amendment of the constitution.


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