HITS Daily Double
Do we really want a culture tailored to the most impulsive, most suggestible, least discerning citizens?


Once Again, Music Provides Politicos With A Convenient Scapegoat For Societal Ills
Even before its April 24 release, the Federal Trade Commission’s new report on the marketing of violent entertainment to kids had a familiar ring. Like a sequel to a Hollywood blockbuster, the document—which chastises the music industry—represents a political effort that’s flashy, safe and without much depth.

This new political actioner stars Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in a role previously played by Tipper Gore, Dan Quayle and other giants of modern discourse.

McCain, eager to regain some of the visibility he enjoyed while battling Dubya in the primaries, will no doubt generate plenty of headlines (and plaudits from conservatives) by "taking on" Big Media. Would-be culture cop Joe Lieberman (D-CT), meanwhile, offers solid support from across the aisle.

While it certainly could be argued—though probably not proved—that violent content in music contributes to the overall cultural climate, it’s hard to imagine what could be done about it. More to the point, who’s qualified to decide which music is too "violent"?

Pop music has long been a convenient whipping post for conservatives. In the ’50s, rock & roll’s "jungle rhythms" threatened the ancient edifice of segregation. In the ’60s, protest songs attacked the Vietnam War, racism and sexism. The party anthems of the disco era challenged homophobia. Metal’s defiant stance was a convenient target for Reaganites. "Cop Killer" and hardcore rap drew the ire of activists during the administration of Bush Sr. just as the Rodney King story was breaking.

Hip-hop is currently being singled out—a reliable index of its tremendous popularity. During Tipper’s crusade in the late ’80s, heavy metal was the scapegoat of choice. Of course, the more graphic images on records by Eminem and other multi-Platinum acts make the material probed in the big-hair era look pretty innocent. But there are quite a few of us who enjoy this stuff, however extreme, and who manage not to engage in acts of violence in real life. Do we really want a culture tailored to the most impulsive, most suggestible, least discerning citizens?

Policing what kids can hear ultimately has to fall to parents. It would be nice to hear some politician somewhere suggest that horrors like Columbine take place because some parents can’t be bothered to stick their heads in the garage long enough to ask, "Whatcha doin’, kids? Makin’ shrapnel?"

Is it even conceivable that music, or any other form of entertainment, could have as shattering an impact on a kid’s psyche as negligent parenting? Of course not, but there’s no political percentage in that bit of truth.

And if we’re looking at external reasons for sociopathic behavior in the young, let’s meditate on the obscene soundtrack of a besieged environment, the proliferation of firearms, decades of brutal intervention abroad and erosion of civil liberties at home supervised by the foes of musical obscenity. What kind of "example" does this set for the young?

The same old crusade is back, this time with a new set of targets. Will the public continue to buy it, or like some bloated blockbuster, will it fade away as quickly as the box-office receipts?