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 one can form an opinion on this, one must hear both sides of the argument. Some 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.
Music is a way to express yourself freely, and should be kept that way. 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 (Lombardi).
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 small attempts by the Parents Music Resource Center 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 (Nuzman). To blame the actions of people on the music they listen to is an idea that has turned into a horrendous mindset. If a man kills another man wearing the T-shirt of a questionable rock-band, for one reason or another, 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 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” (MTV). When one really thinks about it, it is a violation of the First Amendment.
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 criticize 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 (Feld). 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.
Society has set standards for certain genres of music that people will automatically be thought of a certain way if they listen to that kind of music (Sparrow). 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 (Sparrow). 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 (Toppo). 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 (Xing). Due to the amendment made by our founding fathers, it is hard to decide if 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 (Lombardi).
Music should not be censored due to our First Amendment right. The government is doing all they legally can to protect the children s’ 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 CD, 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 parents can be positive that their child is listening to music that is acceptable in their eyes (Xing). 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 upon, 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.
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.