Censorship In America Essay Research Paper Marilyn

Censorship In America Essay, Research Paper

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 the 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


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


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 is not art, the PMRC? I think not. I listen to music that it is

considered by some people to be offensive, but that does not 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. 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.

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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