Research Paper Topics Music Censorship

Music Censorship

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Music Censorship

Although is clearly states in the first amendment 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 to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances," censorship in America still exists in a big way. "Music censorship is the term used to describe the act of editing, altering, or preventing the listener from hearing the music as the artist created it in order to either deny certain information or to act as a moral gatekeeper of potentially harmful material"
(http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~barndollar/courses/spring98/students/fabfive/index.html).

The Censorship of music in the United Stated is documented as far back as 1954, when "Michigan congresswoman Ruth Thompson introduces a bill in the House that would ban mailing of any pornographic recording, punishable by five years imprisonment and a $ 5,000 fine" (http://ericnuzum.com/banned/fifties.html). Even Elvis Aaron Presley, ‘The King of rock-n-roll’ was once thought of as obscene. In 1957, when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan show for the third time, the cameramen were told to only film him from the waist up. "Elvis’s dancing was considered lewd" (http://ericnuzum.com/banned/fifties.html).

In 1964, "Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh asks the State Broadcasters Association to ban the song ‘Louie, Louie’ by the Kingsmen because he considers it to be pornographic." (http://ericnuzum.com/banned/fifties.html). This trend has continued all the way up to the nineties, and I’m sure it won’t stop any time soon. In the past ten years especially, music has been under attack by many law makers, prosecutors and critics of morality and good taste. One attack on this freedom comes from parental advisory stickers. These stickers are used as a form of censorship against an artist and their lyrics. If a label will produce an album, I don’t think there should be any reason that the consumer can’t decide for him or herself if lyrics contained in the album are found obscene or otherwise unsuitable. In order to begin the debate on whether or not parental advisory stickers serve as a form of censorship, one must consider what the word censor implies. The word censor means "the power to suppress publications or excise any matter in them thought to be immoral, seditious or otherwise undesirables"(Webster Dictionary 227).

The question of what constitutes "proper" language and obscenity has been greatly forced upon the music industry.

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The government oversteps the constitution in concluding on which lyrics are appropriate for children. Legislation on this topic has been in effect since the mid 1950's. Further legislation was not passed until 1985, when music labeling was voluntarily adopted by the Recording Industry of America. Later in 1990, although each company retained discretion regarding the labeling of specific records, the size, placement and wording of the logo were standardized. The current labeling consists of a black and white logo, fixed to the permanent packaging on the bottom right hand corner. For all the controversy these stickers stir up, do they really serve a practical use for protecting the young people of the nation? Parental advisory stickers, voluntary or mandatory, act as a form of censorship because the stickers effect the availability of a sound recording. More and more music stores are restricting the accessibility of works deemed to be offensive to one group of citizens or another.

In 1992 it was announced that Ice T's song "Cop Killer" would not be in future albums, and that all existing albums would be recalled. Consequently, approximately 1,400 stores dropped the album. Many major retailers will not purchase, and therefore not display, an album with any kind of parental advisory sticker on it. While it is true that legally these labels do not prohibit sales to anyone, the labels "amount to an elegant form of censorship, elegant because it is censorship made to look like consumer information." (1) As controversial as records like Ice T and other artists who use either swears or sexually explicit material are, artistic pieces no matter what kink of message they send, or however unpopular they may be, are still protected by the first amendment to the constitution. The people who vote for and pass the laws prohibiting free speech are taking it upon themselves what they think is moral and right for the rest of the country. I feel I can make up my own mind about what type of music I listen to, how about you?

One organization claiming to protect the children is the Parents Music Resource Center. At the center of the music labeling controversy, the P.M.R.C., "feels that current levels of violence, racism, brutality towards women, drug and alcohol glamorization in music, lyrics, videos and stage shows need to be addressed through public discussion and debate"(Hull 23). "The P.M.R.C. hopes to prohibit the sale of records to minors that contain lyrics about sex, drugs and alcohol, murder or suicide"(Weinfeld 46). If that were the case, even the bible may be labeled with a parental advisory sticker, with its descriptions about crucifications, stonings, and other primal methods of punishment. One must also take into consideration that no direct link between exposure to sexually explicit material and antisocial behavior or sexual violence has ever been established or proven.

Many organizations have been founded as a counter attack to the Parent's Music Resource Center. One group that works for freedom of expression call themselves, Parents of Rock and Rap. Members include students of all ages, parents, grandparents, college professors and musicians. No matter what side of the issue you stand for, the issues as of now have to be settled by the consumer. "Restricting the purchase of displeasing recordings is censorship"( Zeinert 27).

The entire system must be carefully examined, including prior court rulings and decisions on the music industry and the way in which we protect our children from what they see and hear. One must ask if it is constitutionally moral, and then we may begin to change the warning system, so that our guaranteed freedoms do not die. Personally, I feel that any type of censorship is wrong. However, it does not mean that in does not serve its some purpose in cases. That is up to the individual in hand.



Censorship In Music

Censorship in music is a topic that has brought about much controversy in the past two decades. There have been many different arguments on the topic, however the question still remains as if it should be censored or it should not be censored.

Before you can form an opinion on this, you must hear both sides of the argument on this much-debated topic. Some people believe that music should be censored so all audiences can hear it without it containing any controversial lyrics. Others believe it should not be censored and musical artists should be able to speak, sing, rap, or rhyme freely without anyone censoring them.

"Whether a person finds a work obscene depends largely on his or her moral or religious beliefs. These views change with each generation and further complicate the censorship dilemma." (Censorship by, Bradley Steffens page 97)

The quote above is very true. Religious or moral beliefs have a great influence on how a person feels about censorship, and as generations pass on the common beliefs on it may change. Right now, America is more uncensored than ever. However, things were very different a few generations ago.

Some people believe music should be censored. They believe some of the language musical artists use is vulgar, obscene, and crude. Also the fact that music is played on medias such as radio and television, which are free to listen to by all audiences, and there are many parents that would not wish for their kids to hear foul language. So on radio and televison any controversial language is either silenced, edited out by a soft sound, or some artists make two versions of their songs; one that is made for the artist's album, which is uncensored; and one for televsion and radio with any controversial words change to be acceptable for all audiences. This does not include cable television, which can be audited by parents since the parents must order and pay for the channel to be viewed.

"Preventing or punishing speech is a clear violation of the First Amendment."

(Censorship. Opposing Viewpoints by, Greehaven Press page 147). This quote here is the "battle cry" of many anti-censorship groups. When you really think about it, it is a violation of the First Amendment, which says: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press". The First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech, and censorship is violating peoples' rights to say whatever they want to say. It is sometimes difficult to understand when a child gets punished for using foul language meanwhile the child's parents have the right to critiscize and petition the government whenever they feel the need to do so. Many musical artists feel that when they are forced to change lyrics their rights are being violated. In some artists' songs they like to express their feelings towards somebody or something, and it hurts them to be censored because the new words implemented are not from his or her heart. They feel that they are being held down.

Due to the amendment made by our founding fathers I do not believe there will ever be an answer to the question whether or not music should be censored. The way I see it, it should not be censored. Many children often hear explicit language from older siblings or parents at an early age. They believe that since someone they look up to uses those words, they should too. Eventually, everyone will be exposed to language they do not find acceptable. Foul language is not permitted on medias such as television or radio because it is an all audience media. However, on albums the artist is allowed to use any words he or she sees fit.

"The vexing question, of course, is, Who should decide what you read or view- the church, the state or you?" (War of Words: The Censorship Debate by George Beahm page xiii) In my opinion, the answer to that question is: you. Censorship on television channels such as Nickelodeon , or PBS is understandable due to the fact that mostly young children programming is broadcasted on those stations. However I find it unnecessary to censor stations generally viewed by older audiences. It is now a requirement by law for record companies to put stickers on tapes and compact discs that say: "Parental Advisory. Explicit Lyrics". The reason that law was passed was because many angry mothers and fathers sued artists and/or record companies for releasing albums that contained explicit lyrics, and now their child goes and repeats their newly learned words to people such as their teachers, principals, and other friends who then spread word around to their parents. I would tend to believe that many of those parents used those same bad words in front of their children at one time or another. They probably did not say it to their face, but the fact still remains that the child heard his or her parents say those words, thus the child assumes it is normal to say that word. Many parents also complain that the art on music albums' covers and insides. They argue saying that too is vulgar and should not be allowed.

I believe music should not be censored due to our First Amendment right. When a parent hears foul language on their child's stero or television, they should not complain to the network or record company, they should complain to themselves. The government is doing all they legally can to protect the childrens' young ears from the foul language that is out there. If a parent hears their child listening to foul language, they should not complain to anyone but themselves. If they do not wish for their child to hear foul language they should have supervised their children more closely. If they take their child to a record store and buy them a new tape or c.d., the parent should have listened to the music by him or herself and scan for anything questionable. If they don't like the content, they can always return it to the store. This way they can be positive that their child is listening to music that is acceptable in their eyes.

In conclusion, censorship in music is wrong in my opinion. Artists should be allowed to say whatever they want. That is what our founding fathers based this country uopn: freedom. The government is doing an excellent job in making the First Amendment suitable for all. If parents have a problem with it, it is because they did not properly supervise their children.

Bibliography

Beahm, George. War of Words, Ed. George Beahm. Kansas City, MO 1993

Greenhaven Press. Censorship. Opposing Viewpoints, Ed. Lisa Orr. San Diego, CA

Steffens, Bradley. Censorship. Ed. Lucent Books

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