Free Speech v Censorship: From Explicit Lyrics to Trigger Warnings | Retro Report


This is a question, particularly for older people. When was the last time you listened carefully to some of the words the rock singers sing? Rock music has always been controversial but in the 1980s, many parents felt lyrics had finally gone too far. Songs glorifying rape, or incest, or bondage Rock lyrics have turned from “I can’t
get no satisfaction” to “I’m going to force you at gun point to eat me alive.” Some of it is encouraging unlawful behavior
and music is harmless? I don’t think so. The high-profile crusade raised age-old questions
of what crosses the line. I said, “If I’m going to go to jail for
something, I’ll go to jail for free speech.” You know what I’m saying? People have been complaining about popular
culture since ancient Greece. There are quotes from Plato about the violence in Greek tragedies and their effect on kids. Aristotle disagreed. It really raises the question of how do we
know? How do we define harm? MTV gave musicians of the 1980s
a new kind of exposure. Today, rock and roll comes right into your
living room and not just on records, but in living color. Our daughter was only seven. And she came to me one day and she said, “Mom, what’s a virgin?” And she said, “What does that mean?”
I said, “Oh, my gosh.” And then Tipper, her daughter
bought Purple Rain, Prince’s Purple Rain. “I met a girl named Nikki
I guess you could say she was a sex fiend.” I did not feel that was appropriate for my
then ten-year-old child to have purchased. It just made us angry and we knew that others
didn’t know about it so we just thought, you know, “We have to do something.” Susan Baker and Tipper Gore formed the Parents
Music Resource Center, or PMRC, though they soon became known by a different name. The Washington Wives they’re called.
Mrs. Albert Gore, the Senator’s wife, and Mrs. James Baker,
the wife of the Treasury Secretary. They compiled a list of songs they found particularly
offensive, branded the ‘Filthy Fifteen’. It was Motley Crew. It was Wasp. It was the,
the album that had the guy with the codpiece that had the
big buzz saw on it. I mean, please. I think maybe rating records is going too far. I don’t know. That would be like rating books. If it looks like censorship
and it smells like censorship, it is censorship, no matter who’s wife is talking about it. It’s censorship. As the PMRC grew to include the wives of 10 Senators and 6 House Representatives, the Senate held a hearing on rock lyrics
in September of 1985. If you could speak directly into the microphone.
Thank you. Some say there’s no cause for concern.
We believe there is. The PMRC argued that songs about sex and violence
were having a dangerous impact. Teen pregnancies and teenage suicide rates
are at epidemic proportions today. And they gave Senators a taste of the Filthy Fifteen. In all candor, I would tell you it’s outrageous filth and if I could find some way constitutionally
to do away with it, I would. It wasn’t the first time that pop culture
had been accused of poisoning America’s youth. In the 1950s, politicians took aim
at a different menace: comic books. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe,
holding a woman’s head that’s been severed from her body.
Do you think that’s in good taste? Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. The post-World War II boom in horror, crime, and romance comics alarmed psychiatrist Fredric Wertham,
who testified at Senate hearings in 1954. It is my opinion without any reasonable doubt, and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency. There was just one problem with Wertham’s case against comics: he manipulated his research to prove his point. Historian Carol Tilley recently uncovered these distortions, but Wertham had already left his mark
on the comic book industry. The comics publishers in 1954 came together
to create the Comics Code Authority, the CCA. Publishers would have to submit their stories
and artwork to the Code Authority for approval. In short, comics have undergone a major face-lifting. There were smaller publishers that chose to
go out of business rather than try to comply with the code. It was an industry regulating
itself, taking away its provocative edges and dulling them for a very long time. Three decades later, the Washington wives
proposed a code of their own, an explicit lyric warning label,
which the industry soon agreed to. But the idea of a warning label
worried musicians like Frank Zappa. They may say we are not interested in legislation,
but there are others who do and there’s this fervor to get in
and do even more, even more. A few years later, Zappa’s fears became a reality. In 1990, a federal district court judge in
Florida ruled that some of the 2 Live Crew’s songs were obscene, and could not legally be sold
or performed in three Florida counties. Yesterday Ft Lauderdale authorities arrested
store owner Charles Freeman. He had refused to stop selling the group’s best selling
album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be. My reaction was, “Are these people crazy?” Adults should be able to listen
to whatever they want to listen to. Group leader Luther Campbell refused to cancel
an upcoming concert. It was important to perform, you know, and
exercise my free speech. Undercover officers, who had been hiding in
the audience, arrested band members Luther Campbell and Chris Wong Won on charges of
violating Florida obscenity laws. If performers do things that outrage the people
in a community, this is probably going to happen. I mean that is not what we were about.
But I’m not surprised. Campbell was acquitted on obscenity charges,
but found that all the controversy surrounding 2 Live Crew had an effect Florida officials
didn’t anticipate. It took us to a whole other level as a group.
On one end we became household names. But on the other end it became bigger than 2 Live Crew. This is gangsta rap. It is raw, in-your-face
music that reflects violence, drug use In then end, neither warning labels nor legal
challenges dulled music’s provocative edges, despite occasional flare-ups in the press. Hip Hop. Is it art or is it poison? Today, the parental advisory label is less
controversial, but also less relevant. The difference now, of course, is that the
way that we buy music and share music is so completely different. Sociologist Karen Sternheimer studies popular culture. She says neither comic books in the 1950s nor rock music in the 1980s had the impact on children that critics claimed. It’s really difficult to think about the
complexities of what actually causes things that we consider to be social problems. So it’s easier and much more visible to say, “Oh, well, these movies right now. Or there’s video games. Or there’s music that’s really graphically sexual.” Whether or not they’re effective, warning
labels have become such a part of daily life that, today, it’s not just parents who are
calling for them. Some students are calling on professors to
implement what are known as trigger warnings. Labels used to flag course materials deemed
violent or sexually explicit. A trigger warning or a content warning kind
of warns the person that, “Hey, this is coming up.
You’re going to deal with some tricky stuff. Make sure you’re ready for it.” In 2014, Bailey Loverin sponsored a student
resolution at the University of California Santa Barbara, calling for trigger warnings
on course syllabi to alert students who have had a traumatic experience like sexual abuse. It’s about students that could be suffering
from PTSD and not wanting to be triggered in the middle of an 800-person classroom and
feeling afraid or feeling completely out of control. Growing up in a society that has all these warnings already it’s not necessarily an irrational proposal. Students on several college campuses support
trigger warnings, but many professors fear they could limit exposure to ideas, and the
proposals have been publicly criticized. There’s such a sort of moral fervor to protecting
people from potential emotional harm. It’s taking on this edge that I actually think that it’s preventing people from talking to each other. Even one of the staunchest advocates of labeling
thinks this goes too far. But for her, it’s a question of who gets to decide. I don’t think labeling is a bad thing. But for curriculum and things,
I don’t know that the kids get to call the shots.

10 thoughts on “Free Speech v Censorship: From Explicit Lyrics to Trigger Warnings | Retro Report

  1. "I don't know that the kids get to call the shots." Ms. Baker pretty much summed up the entire theme of all the moral panics: it's never about the children.

  2. When i was in middle school, they explained to me that "from this point on (6 grade and up) you will be exposed to materials that will cause you to lose your innocence of the world (topic in discussion was the holocaust)". Look i understand that PTSD is an important issue, which is why it is always good to have sensible/understanding instructors, but that trigger warning campaign is dumbest thing i have ever heard… you are limiting not only your education but the educations of others by restricting a discussion about those heavy topics.

  3. Putting labels on things is the first step to restricting those things. And yet, I want to know what's in that song or video game that my child wants. Now that we have the internet in our pocket, it's easier to research the music, and video games, and movies and TV shows that our kids are watching, but it still helps as a starting point.I guess my problem is, I agree with both sides.

  4. Not people mainly Females, females tend to hate FREE WILL, they simply can't comprehend it, they legislate based on feelings rather then logic. Males understand how things function, (its a fact, of Science) they overlay concepts to to see the pattern , thus the conclusion or effect and side effect.. Females lack this area as their brains contain more connections from side to side rather the front to back males have which results in spacial logical thought, understanding spacial concepts and how things function. females do better with grammar, word for word details, and they focus on faces and emotional awareness. Males do not want to give up their own FREE WILL to the control of other males, so all males end up naturally having the same amount of power. FEMALES USE institutions to END free will and freedom to Feminists, and most Females they don't see the side effects of what they think is "hate speech" and there for they legislate to control peoples FREE SPEECH. Since the female voter we have lost most of our constitutional protections, based a false dichotomy of "safety". From Prohibition, to the war on drugs to censoring speech, to safe space, and rape culture, and arresting males who don't sit with their legs crossed on public transit to safe space for the females duffle bag purses. "Its called man spreading". As every femenist cause its Hypocritical based on fantasy and outdated expired studies that are over 60 years old. This clinical mental oppression perpetuated by female teachers keeps the circle of BS going strong. They care about the imaginary "gender-wage-gap," and at the same time never say a peep about a hidden epidemic called "The-Gender-Wage-Gap. (www.RealSexism.com)

  5. Is it really shocking that a 7 year old has heard the word "virgin"? Is it inappropriate to refer to "The Virgin Mary" in front of children according tot that idea?

  6. "F is for fighting, R is for red,
    Ancestors' blood in battles they've shed.
    E, we elect them, E, we eject them,
    In the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
    D, for your dying, O, your overture,
    M, they will cover your grave with manure.
    This spells out freedom, it means nothing to me,
    As long as there's a P.M.R.C."
    — Megadeth "Hook in Mouth"

  7. I hate people like that. We should ban the bible first cus it more than supports rape, violence, murder, slavery andworshipping a supposed god without empirical proof.

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