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"If he's to be taken literally, then so is Britney Spear's invitation to 'hit me baby one more time," says one article in Advocate Magazine. They are speaking in reference to the rapper Eminem one they heavily talked-about topic of music censorship. What is music censorship? There is a great deal of confusion (one everybody's part) as to what freedom of expression is in the US, and how it applies to music.
Everybody knows that there are radio stations, religious and community groups, retailers, and record labels that "censor" musical artists in some way today. Obviously not everyone wants to hear what certain artists want to say, but how far should censors go? How far can they go before taking away right of free speech, freedom of expression, or any other first amendment rights? Lets figure out.
The first amendment states:
Congress shall make no law representing an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Notice that the law applies only to the government, its laws, or its agencies. Not to any religious groups, retailers, or record companies. Hard to believe, but only in rare cases is what we call "music censorship" actually a violation of civil rights. For any group besides the government to censor music is entirely legal. In other words THEY determine what is best for YOU based on what THEY think. Pretty scary to think about especially here in America. Isn't it supposed to be the land of the free?
What do you think about this? Not sure what to think? I took a survey of your peers ages 15-18, male and female, asking them this question: Do you think rap and/or alternative music negatively affects teens? One out of twenty-five people said yes. Now I can guess what parents would say to this survey. They would say that we are too young to know better, but there are adults out there that agree with us.
An organization called R.O.C. (Rock Out Censorship) has been aggressively opposing censors of popular music since 1989. It was founded to act as a voice of music fans against censors. Guess where they are based in?
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To hear about music censorship today, all you have to do is turn on MTV or your local news. You will hear stories of people such as Eminem everyday. Basketball star Allen Iverson has faced suspensions from the NBA for his recently released album. Members of Supreme NTM, one of the most popular rap groups in France, are facing jail time for their lyrics. One of their tracks "Police" was charged with the crime of an "outrage against public authorities." Their case is yet to be determined.
Thankfully here in America nothing like that can happen, but for how long will it stay that way? Do you think what is happening to NTM is right? Do you a musical artist should be able to go to jail for their music? Like I mentioned before nothing like that can happen here in America, but I'll tell you what can happen:
Let's say you're a rapper looking to make it big. You have some talent, and you record a few tracks. You submit your tape to several record companies, but many turn you down because of content. They say you have talent, but you are too vulgar for their style. You finally get a record deal and record an album. When you look to release that album you turn to the biggest retailer of popular music in the US, Wal-Mart. Unfortunately they tell you that they won't stoke your album because it holds a parental advisory sticker. So then some other retailers pick up your album and you get lucky, people like you stuff. Everything's working out for you, then the media gets a hold your album. Soon you have religious and community groups along with the entire media tearing you and your album apart. All of this because you want to tell people all over the US what it was like in your neighborhood growing up.
This story, believe it or not, happens to musical artists all too often. People ask why must the music be so vulgar. Well, have you ever read a war novel or seen a war movie? If you take all the references to violence, obscenity, and anything else offensive out, then it would no longer be a war novel or movie. You wouldn't realize what it was like to be in that war, which is the whole point of that particular film or book. The point is if you take away all the obscenity then the music loses its realism, and its point.
Now I'm not saying everyone should be able to hear this type of music. Obviously some elementary level children might not be mature enough to understand it. Some teenagers aren't mature enough. It isn't all to be taken seriously, which is where several artists get in trouble with media, parents, religious groups, and such. Immature kids listen to the stories some of these artists tell about there live and take it seriously.
An article in Billboard Magazine says, "Eminem's provocative rap demands listening between the lines." Do you know what this means? If you don't, then you probably shouldn't be listening to Eminem, because out of all the vulgar and obscene groups and artists out there, Eminem is the king of them all. But even Eminem says in his latest release "Stan" that he shouldn't be and doesn't mean to be taken seriously.
The whole problem is that all of the opposers of this type of music won't take the time to sit down and realize what I just told you. They hear the music, and the obscenity, and they go AWOL. They never take the time to try to understand why it is they way it is and why these people saying the things they are saying. It's people like this who are trying to make it illegal to express what you want to say.
So al in all what I'm saying is this: Free speech in this nation doesn't go very far. This is proved by this whole music censorship issue, and soon it could be even less if certain people get their way. These people might have good intentions, but they haven't found out the entire story. They are just compulsively acting. Unfortunately they might get their way if something isn't done. If they get their way then it might be illegal to call someone a name if he cuts you off on the highway. What do you think of that? The point is supporters of free speech and freedom of expression need to stand up with organizations like R.O.C. and protect our rights, not only for us, but also for the future of music.