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Music Censorship Essay, Research Paper

Music Censorship

Society in general has always had its faults and glitches, some of which were remedied, others which will never be solved. Media, more specifically in the arts, have never been perfect and have always taken criticism throughout the history of time. In the last few decades or so though, censorship and music has gone hand in hand, one not being able to exist without the other. When a problem occurs in society where music is involved, the masses immediately look for a scapegoat in order to deter the blame from a rational explanation.

There are many organizations in which their primary goal is to use music as the scapegoat for society’s problems. People Like Tipper Gore (wife to Vice President Al Gore) who take stands and use their feeble attempts like the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center [co-formed with Susan Baker]) to censor music. Although it may be the most prominent group in the history of music censorship, The PRMC’s primary focus was getting record companies to monitor and rate their artists’ releases with a system similar to the MPAA system for movies (the system which gives movies the G, PG, R ratings). Their efforts sparked a renewed interest by a variety of groups to censor music and lyrics that lasted for more than five years. The PMRC may have good intentions as to music that they think should not be able to get into the hands of young children, but in no way should they even attempt to make an artist change his/her lyrics for the sake of society.

To blame the actions of people on the music they listen to is an idea that has spawned into a horrendous mindset. If a man kills another man wearing the T-shirt of a questionable rock-band, for some obscure reason, the band may be questioned in relation to the murder. Frank Zappa, an eclectic and eccentric musician who recently passed away, has opposed censoring music, and ridiculed Gore’s assertion that certain types of music could promote deviant behavior saying, “I wrote a song about dental floss but did anyone’s teeth get cleaner?” As specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Steve Feld : [Music Censorship and Human Rights] www.indiana.edu ethmusic/censorship98.html) everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”

On April 20th 1999, a devastating incident occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage during their school hours killing students who were popular, or were involved in sports, or maybe didn’t share the same religious views as them. Immediately after the news hit America, the instantaneous blame for their killing was the music they listened to, and their beliefs.

To say that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were completely responsible for their actions is a quasi-false statement. Of course, they committed the crimes, not anyone else, but if one read the details concerning the matter, they stated that they had constructed dozens of pipe bombs in their houses, and also had an array of automatic weapons that could arm a small militia. Where were their parents when this was occurring? Did these two boys who allegedly came from nice suburban families really have parents who were caring and concerned with their sons behavior patterns? The answer I’m afraid is no. People try and try again to blame the music they were listening to for their actions, but they failed to see the fact that these two kids were just insane.

It seems as though in society today, it’s not plausible to be just “crazy” anymore, there needs to be something before it. In the case of the Columbine kids, there is nothing more to the story but two mentally unbalanced and disturbed kids who snapped. It wasn’t the music they were listening to, it wasn’t the movies they were watching, and it certainly wasn’t the video games they were playing. It was merely two insecure and mentally unstable boys who came from household where the parents or guardians could not care less about them, or maybe even feared them.

So where does society get off blaming music artists for just expressing their freedom of speech? The answer lies in the fact that society does not want to hear about the boys next door who just decided to snap and kill, they want to hear about the deranged killers who hid in their basements, secretly constructing a terrorist-esque arsenal, and dressed in black while listening to rebellion inducing music. We, as a society rely on our insecurities to blame something for our problems. Whatever that “something” may be, it should stimulate our senses, and make us come back for more.

There were no secret messages hidden inside lyrics, nor were there tempting rhythms to kill, there were just two mentally unstable kids, with an insecure family to back them.

Ultimately, the censorship that goes on in America today will most likely continue to happen, due to powerful men and women who join the bandwagon every day. There are though, groups whose main priority is the fight against censorship, and will offer the best ways to fight it including boycotting, and more simply, by just sending a letter. Although the tragedy which occurred at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado can never be fixed, hopefully the public and society will learn from their mistakes, and not try to deny the reality of youth-America today, and keep music censor-free, the way it was meant to be.


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