”K Essay, Research Paper

Brad Miska

Period 8 English

CENSORSHIP…Who gives a F**k!!!

My life has been nothing but censorship since the time I was born. When I was very young and lived in Chicago there were all sorts of interesting things around to play with. My parents physically censored me by putting me in “baby prison.” They felt that certain things needed to be censored from me because of their potential danger. So I was kept out of harms way in the playpen or crib. As I grew older and was no longer watched by my parents 24 hours a day, I realized that I was censored by others. In school, it was constantly no to this and no to that. All that negativity is not good for children, all day long. It was always interesting to me as to why we recited the pledge of allegiance in school, what if you are not American? I also was not allowed to watch the news. My parents felt it was “real violence”, and not appropriate for me, that was parental censorship. When I was old enough to go out with my friends I became confused when my parents said I could see an “PG-13″ rated movie but the theater wouldn’t let me in. When I argued that “my parents said I could go see it!!”, the theater management always said things like I need to be 13 or must be accompanied by a parent and so on. I then proposed this question, my parents said I could see it, now why can’t I see it? The answer to that question is the government doesn’t think I am old enough. My mom said live with it, there is nothing you can do. I think that made me more inquisitive.

That was just the beginning, I was too young to go on certain rides and too young to go into stores like Sharper Image and I was too young to purchase the music that I really enjoyed. When I was able to get my hands on a Compact Disc I had wanted, it sometimes had a “Explicit Lyrics” warning sticker on it. I would go home, listen and enjoy only to get lectured by my parents. They said things such as; you can’t have anything that contains profanity, or any type of objectionable material. “Then again I am only going to encounter it in the real world!!!”, I would reply. Obviously there are many different views to take on this issue, and I knew there was a long and difficult battle ahead of me until I was 18.

I contend that censoring music is a necessary evil but, it should be allowed to a minimal degree. Instead it is the parents that need to be the censor for their children. With proper “tools”, such as Advisory stickers, I believe parents can effectively control objectional material in they household. Also there is much controversy on whether or not the government is playing the part of the parent.

A Censor, from the Latin word censere, to judge, is an official with the power to examine literature, mail, etc. and remove or prohibit anything considered obscene, objectionable, etc.-to subject to censorship.What a censor edits, might violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” In my opinion and the opinion of countless others, censorship is unconstitutional. The general wording in the First Amendment allows many different interpretations. Because of these various interpretations, ProCensorship and Anticensorship organizations/factions have formed. One of the most powerful groups you want on your side for anti-censorship is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). From 1925 to the present, the ACLU “has been on the forefront of the fight to protect constitutional freedoms through the court systems.”

Legislation has been proposed for the prevention of explicit lyrics with a multitude of bills never passing or if they had, not being enforced. In the state of Washington there was a law passed called “The Erotic Music Bill.” This 1992 law stated that store owners had to place an “adult only” label on certain recordings. It was also stated that it was a crime for anyone to sell a CD or tape that had an “adult only” label on it to a person under the age of eighteen.” The law was passed but was never put into effect because the State Court declared it Unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment to The Constitution of the United States. That is just an example of why restricting the sale of controversial music or video will never work! Pro-censorship groups are lobbying for legislation to attempt to censor music right now. In Montana, lawmakers are trying make some money on so-called obscene music/art by fining up to $50,000 and 10 years in prison for purchasing and selling music that has the “sticker” on it. In Pennsylvania, they want you to be at least 18 years old to purchase a CD with explicit lyrics and being caught could get you up to 25 hours of community service. In South Carolina, the retailer would get fined for a third offense which is considered a felony which is up to $2000 and five years in jail.

The Parent’s Music Resource Center (P.M.R.C.) does not want recordings that include topics of sexuality, violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicide to be produced. They also want store owners to be punished if they produce or sell any music that contains these previous topics. Many people think it objectionable to have unlabeled CDs available to parents and children. Tipper Gore is the leader of the P.M.R.C and is working non-stop to get censorship into effect in conjunction with the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). The issue of censorship was pushed constantly by PMRC so that the RIAA, as a compromise, made up a sticker in 1990, that warned of obscenities in musician’s lyrics. The “Parental Advisory-Explicit Lyrics” sticker also known as “Tipper Stickers”, was introduced but that still wasn’t good enough for Tipper Gore and her P.M.R.C. It is also the belief that the stickers make children more curious and then they want them more, but there is no evidence supporting that yet. The P.M.R.C. seem to think that parents can’t do the job of parenting, They want more than the “Tipper Sticker”, they want all obscenities vanquished from the face of the planet. They think that if they continue to push, they will win. The government obviously doesn’t think it will work, even if a law does pass, it would be repealed because it would be unconstitutional. The FCC (Federal Communications Committee), created in 1934 to regulate communication by radio, wire and cable, has fined many bands and radio stations for profanity used on the air. They are being hassled by groups such as the P.M.R.C. who feel a much larger fine would decrease the use of profanity.

Not everyone believed in the P.M.R.C. In 1989, ROC (Rock Out Censorship) was founded and they began to set up booths, with the approval of the band management, at concerts to educate the music fans about what is going on with all of the censorship battles. In 1992, they gathered more than 35,000 signatures in a bold attempt to remove the warning labels, and now have well over 50,000 signatures. They have sent numerous letters to MTV and radio stations in hopes of getting support for their cause. Here is a great quote from a letter to MTV from ROC-”..The Government Subcommittee basically told the industry that “either you clean up your industry, or we’ll [the Government] clean it up for you”. This is hardly the language of a voluntary system. It is the language of censorship. It is not voluntary when you are put under the barrel of a gun….Today the censors target violence and sex, tomorrow it will be opposing political thoughts.” ROC contends that the First Amendment states there is freedom of speech, so it’s wrong to censor. They will continue to fight the “Tipper Sticker” and censorship. They will go as far as the P.M.R.C. will go, but in the other direction.

The ROC members are not the only ones who are against censorship and the P.M.R.C., bands such as Megadeth write songs showing their view. They wrote a song against censorship called “Hook in Mouth” on their CD called So Far So Good So What. Here are some lines from the song, “Hook in Mouth”, “A little man with a big eraser, changing history…Altering facts and figures, events and every issue…Rewrites every story, every poem that ever was…Replacing rights with wrongs…You say you’ve got the answers, well who asked you anyway? Ever think it was meant to be this way?” These lines show they are against Censorship. The next lines which are the chorus are really interesting, “F, is for fighting, R is red, ancestor’s blood in battles they’ve shed. E, we elect them, E, we eject them, in the land of the free, and the home of the brave. D, is for your dying, O, your overture, M is for money and you know what that cures. This spells out FREEDOM, it means nothing to me, as long as there is a P.M.R.C….IM not a fish, IM a man, Hook in mouth!!!!!!!” They believe that the P.M.R.C. takes away our freedom and we are caught on their “Hook”. I really like this song. Soundgarden had things to say as well. Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron interviewed by Angie Beardslee in the Rock Out Censorship Website in 1996 said he feels censorship is un-American. He also was very clear on his opinion that “Every kind of music is art. Music is art!” Kids have been put right in the middle of this mess.

Who are their parents? Most children were raised by their parents, who fed them, clothed them and took them to the park. So who bought the kids their CD’s before they were old enough to buy them themselves? Their parents did. That is why kids feel that if something is going to be censored from them, it should be done by their parents. They say that the Government gave us the freedom, now they shouldn’t try and take it back. The kids are always hit with the thought that they buy CD’s for the Lyrics. They say that they don’t purchase the music for the lyrics, they buy it for the music, but when they mess with the words it messes with the full version of the song, it is considered art and should not be tampered with. When a authority figure censors something, not only does it affect the “art” but it affects the enjoyment of the music as well. The government is acting as the parent of all of the children out there. Is it necessary to tell the parents that they aren’t doing a good job raising their children? There are parents on both sides of this issue. Is it true that many parents can’t control their children and need help by government? Kids say that it should be the parents job. It is proven that the way a child will act as an adult is not only because of the way they were brought up, but also by the environment in which they were raised. Music, wel


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