Lieberman and Censorship

“The story starts with the founding of the Parents Music Resource Center. The principals' names should all sound familiar: Tipper Gore (wife of Al), Susan Baker (wife of Bush family retainer/fixer James), Nancy Thurmond (one of the Strom wives), Lynn Cheney (lesbian pornography writer and wife of alcoholic current vice president Dick. This gaggle of powerful men's wives was the forerunner of three of Washington's most celebrated, loud-mouthed hypocrites: Bill Bennett, Sam Brownback and, of course, Joe Lieberman, who took up their campaign almost as soon as he was elected.

To quote the Republican National Committee... the Parents Music Resource Center mission "was to clean up raunchy lyrics and suggestive album covers in the music industry.” The group pushed for a 'rating system similar to that for films, printed lyrics on album covers and under-the-counter obscurity for covers depicting violence or explicit sexual themes'... In August 1985, under pressure from PMRC and other parents' groups, record companies agreed to place the warning 'Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics' on albums and cassettes containing explicit lyrics…

People often ask me what happened and what was the big deal. Lieberman knew exactly what he was doing-- far better than the batty wives' group that preceded him-- when he insisted ratings on CDs and it had nothing to do with helping parents supervise their children. Few people understand-- the way Lieberman did-- that in the late 80s something like 70% of all recorded music was sold in stores in malls and that malls have very stringent lease arrangements about their tenants not selling "pornography." Over the course of this controversy two of the Senate's most uptight and close-minded prigs, Sam Brownback and Lieberman, pushed for the kinds of stickers that would make it impossible for the kind of music they objected to-- like anything talking about masturbation or homosexuality, for example-- to be stocked by 70% of American retailers. The effect inside the music business was chilling-- and instantaneous. Suddenly a whole new internal bureaucracy had to be created to police every record and suddenly artists were being pressured-- sometimes overtly and sometimes less overtly-- to cave in to demands by two really reactionary fundamentalists whose values are far from mainstream. In one fell swoop Lieberman destroyed an alliance between young voters and the Democratic Party that had started with John Kennedy's election as he ham-fistedly savaged their culture for his own political ambitions.

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EDWARDS: You have taken on Hollywood...


EDWARDS: ...and that can't help you with your fundraising.

LIEBERMAN: (Laughs) Well, it hasn't. I just felt as a father that I didn't like what was coming over the TV. When I first focused on what my 4-year-old was watching and then television, video games, music... I believe in the First Amendment. I don't believe in censorship, but I do think that as a public official I have First Amendment rights myself to say to people in the entertainment industry, 'Hey, some of this stuff you're putting out is so hyper-violent, so sexually inappropriate that's going to our kids -- that's what I'm really worried about it -- that it's creating role models for them or a sense of what's acceptable that's really not good for our country and our society. I hope Mr. and Mrs. executive of an entertainment industry company make a decision sometimes that says, 'OK, I'm not going to go here even though I can make some more dollars that way, because it's just not good.' I don't hesitate at all about that... I think we've actually made some progress in that way, particularly in getting some of the entertainment industry -- the movies, particularly -- to be much tougher about not marketing products -- movies -- that they rate as acceptable only for adults to kids, which they were doing for too long. Yea, it's maybe hurt some fundraising, but so what? That's what this is supposed to be all about, doing what you think is right.

Source: NPR May 27, 2003:



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