Censored in the U.S.A. | Teen Ink

Censored in the U.S.A.

March 17, 2009
By Joey Ciurlino BRONZE, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Joey Ciurlino BRONZE, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

America, country of the free. In this country we possess the right of freedom. We are allowed to
speak out mind, as we have the right to free speech. It is in the constitution. Tell me; do you like
being able to speak your mind? Correct me if I am wrong, but I am betting that you enjoy that right.
Now tell me, what would you do if a musician came out with a song discussing your religion? Or if
your children hear an explicit song on the radio or on a CD? Would you sit there and ignore the
music? Or would you try to censor the artist? Would you try to prevent them from performing in your
town? Would you attempt to have their albums banned from entering the shelves of your local record
stores? Is that what you would do?

Trying to ban an artist, to prevent them from performing, trying to ban their music is what
censorship is. Concerned parents, religious groups, and politicians have all tried to achieve
censorship of certain artists. Some attempts have failed, others have succeeded. People have tried
to censor music for religious reasons, due to obscene lyrics, and for radical political views, among
others. What these people do not seem to understand is that music is a way for a person to express
themselves, it is a way for them to speak their mind. Censorship if basically a person's way of
shutting up someone with differing views them then. If someone does not like what an artist is
talking about in their lyrics, they will try and censor them. Censorship of music is not new though,
the ideas have been around for ages. For example, in 1865 following the civil war, Southerners were
forbidden from publicly singing pro-Confederate songs. Censorship is not new, but it is still a
problem. Censorship is a bad solution to a nearly nonexistent problem. Censorship is a violation of
our rights, and so why use a non-constitutional solution to a nonexistent problem?

As citizens of the United States of America, we have to the right to free speech. It is in the
constitution. There are some restrictions to it though. Obscene speech (speech that appeals to the
prurient interest, depicts or describes sexual conduct in an offensive way and speech that lacks
serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value) is prohibited, as well as fighting words
(words meant to incite violence). Many people have tried to ban music due to it being obscene, as
they put it. But, all music passes the SLAPS test. The SLAPS test is a test designed to see if a
piece of art or other work is obscene or not. SLAPS stands for serious literary, artistic,
political, or scientific value. If something being accused of obscenity does not have any of those
values, then it is considered obscene. But music itself is art, so therefore it passes the SLAPS
test without a doubt. Music is protected by free speech, and is not considered obscene due to it
having artistic value.

People for ages have said that music has major influence on the kids. What influence? Music,
contrary to popular belief, does not have that great an influence on kids. People say that music has
caused people to become violent, commit suicide, and do drugs, among other things. In the words of
Eric Nuzum, 'This is not true, but it is very difficult to shrug off completely any influence that
rock themes and lyrics may have on an already disturbed child. While it may be possible to prove a
correlation between teens who commit suicide and an interest in heavy metal music, it is not so easy
to demonstrate-or disprove-any cause and effect relationship.' While it is likely that disturbed
individuals are more likely to enjoy heavy metal music then others, it is hard to demonstrate an
actual relationship between violent, suicidal, and self-destructive behaviors. In 1885, former Black
Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne was in a lawsuit blaming his song 'Suicide Solution' for the
suicide of a young fan. A couple blamed Ozzy and his record company CBS Records for the death of
their son, John McCollum. They claimed its lyrics encouraged their son to commit suicide. The young
man tragically died by firing a handgun into his head while listening to the song. But, the parents
acknowledged he had emotional problems. Now that is a sensible solution. The boy had emotional
problems that could have been what the sadly drove him over the edge, but the parents did not want
to blame their son for his death so they tried to blame Ozzy. Needless to say, Ozzy won the lawsuit.

The McCollum v. CBS court case (Ozzy case referred to in paragraph 4) is a small example of a big
problem. People are blaming music for their problems, and ignoring the problem on the larger scale.
The PMRC (Parents Music Resource center) tried to censor music because they thought it would
influence their children and other parent's children to do bad. Why blame music for causing a
child to engage in alcoholic habits or drug usage when there are much greater causes? Things like
the people the child is friends with, the environment that the child lives in, and the child's
life at home are much bigger factors. Who is more likely to do drugs and drink before twenty one, a
child with delinquent friends, who is surrounded by druggies and drinkers, and with a bad
relationship with his or her family, or a child with clean friends, who lives in a drug free
environment, and with good relations with family but listens to music which explicitly refers to
drugs and alcohol? If I am not mistaken, I would think you would say the child who lives in worse
conditions would be more likely to drugs. Music does not have as big an influence as people say.
People say that rock and rap music makes their children want to do drugs and drink. Religious groups
say that heavy metal music causes children to practice the occult. But what they do not realize, it
is not what the artist intends by their music, it is what the listener perceives. In 1987, an
interesting study was conducted by social scientist Patricia Greenfield. She played Bruce
Springsteen's classic 'Born in the U.S.A.' to groups of children of varying ages and then
asked them what the song meant. She asked some fourth and eighth grade students what the lyric
'Sent me off to a foreign land, to go kill a yellow man' meant. They were asked who the yellow
man referred to in the song was. None of the students acknowledged the true meaning, a Vietnamese
soldier. Most of the students said it meant a man splashed in yellow paint or a man with a yellow
mask. Many of them said the song's theme was about pride in being an American, not its true
meaning, which discusses the Vietnam War. What all this is saying is that it is not what the artist
intends by their lyrics, it is what the listener perceives. If the listener cannot see the
artist's true lyrical theme, then the listener will come up with a meaning that fits their views
and beliefs.

Music is a tool for a musician to express themselves and their views. Some artists will want to express their more radical views in their music. Views involving religion and radical politics, lyrics describing drugs, alcohol, suicide, occultism, and sex. People blame music containing those themes for drug usage, alcohol usage, occultism, and suicide among our children. What these people are not doing is attacking the root problems. We should be taking on the problems such as how the children get the alcohol and the drugs. In the words of Marilyn Manson when asked what he would say to the kids involved with the Columbine incident, 'I wouldn't say a single world to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one ever did.' We should not waste our time blaming music for suicide among our kids. We should be listening to what they have to say, we should be watching them for the warning signs of suicide. People should not be blaming music for our problems, and trying to censor it. Music is an artist's way of saying what they want to say. There will always be musicians who support radical views or musicians that want to talk about drugs and alcohol in their lyrics. There is no stopping them. Music has always been a tool for people to speak their minds, and it should continue to be that way. Musicians should be able to say what they want without fear of censorship. If you do not like the message in a musician's lyrics, then do not try and censor it. You think a musician referencing drugs in their music will make your kid do drugs? How about worrying about where the drugs come from. Worried that a song about suicide will make your kid commit suicide? How about looking for the actual warning signs of a suicidal person in the child. Do not blame the music for the problems in our society; blame the actual causes of our problems.

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This article has 13 comments.

on Aug. 28 2011 at 4:37 pm
callie15 BRONZE, North Plains, Oregon
3 articles 21 photos 424 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?"
-Chuang Tzu

"No man with a good car needs to be justified!"
-Wise Blood

I agree. We should listen to what we want to without anyone stopping us. However, I do get why certain people prefer their lyrics to be clean. The solution? Having both options. Lots of music groups have both the explict and clean versions, so you can choose what suits you best. That doesn't work in all cases, but it is a solution none the less. There, problem solved :)

on May. 10 2011 at 7:49 am
rageagainstthemachine BRONZE, Waterboro, Maine
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:



on Apr. 17 2011 at 3:05 pm
Ever heard of the band OTEP? I think this would be a band you might enjoy listening to, if you don't already. I think she's the best ever, and her messages go deep. If she was forced to censor her music it would be horrible. I think that when some people hear her music some people wonder why my parents let me listen to it, but just because she talks about death a lot and drugs and all that stuff it doesn't mean that she wants people to do it! I believe that adults don't see the true meaning of the music sometimes.

on Dec. 7 2010 at 2:04 pm
Exactley!!!! Do not censor! If parents dont want there kids listening to that music them dont let them listen! It's like with Eminem! If you dont like hime swearing every other word then dont let your kids listen to it! Then again my parents dont let me llisten to songs with swear words. but still the artist put them in there for a reason!!! DUH!

on Nov. 11 2010 at 1:13 pm
Oh my goodness, thank you for whom ever posted this!. it is helping me verry well in my debate class work :)

on Jun. 14 2010 at 9:07 pm
MCRlover2011 BRONZE, Kemp, Texas
4 articles 2 photos 85 comments

Favorite Quote:
Be yourself, don't take any one's (ugh they keep editing this T_T) shit and never let them take you alive!!!- Gerard Way

I think ppk need to calm down- Music should never ever be censered, that's a smack to the artist face and it's just wrong. if you don't want to your kids hear a song that has the f word thrown in don't let them listen to it, don't ruin it for the rest of us who aren't bothered by a bad word or two

on Apr. 19 2010 at 11:13 pm
songofheaven BRONZE, East Amherst, New York
2 articles 2 photos 51 comments

Favorite Quote:
I have found power in the mysteries of thought. -Euripides

Good point. I listen to Zeppelin all the time. They aremy favorite band. However, am I smoking? No. Am I Drinking? No. And am I practicing the occult? No! It's how I've been raised that matters. Are some albums more thought provoking than others? I think so. But does listening to "The Wall" by Pink Floyd make me feel depressed? Nope.

I think you make a great point here. Music alone doesn't necessarily make us feel a certain way, it's the circumstances surrounding us that has a larger effect.

Anoma21 said...
on Mar. 26 2010 at 10:26 am
You've got this wrong, censorship is not saying that you don't like a particular song so you're not going to listen to it, it's saying that you don't like a particular song so you're not going to let other people listen to it, big difference

on Nov. 24 2009 at 10:00 pm
JacksonC BRONZE, Winter Park, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 8 comments
Haha. Indeed. And, I'm glad you enjoy their music, too. I am a huge fan of the band, and actually just had my review of their 'The battle of Los Angeles' album published in the Teen Ink magazine. And yeah, so much passion is put into every performance, that their concerts just swell with infurious rage and rebellion, that it really does make me appreciate their music more. I'm glad I've found somebody else who also likes them too. ;-)

Joey C. said...
on Nov. 17 2009 at 7:07 pm
Dude, Rage Against The Machine are one of my favorite bands. Their music is very passionate, and should not be censored. Their music is their way of speaking their views, which is something I think music is very important for. Music is a tool for speaking your thoughts about anything. For RATM, its the government and politics and other things along those lines.

Wolf said...
on Oct. 4 2009 at 1:53 pm
How is censorship free speech? Its denying someone their right to free speech. They can't take away someone's right to free speech.

Sean3 BRONZE said...
on Sep. 23 2009 at 10:21 pm
Sean3 BRONZE, Fowler, Colorado
1 article 0 photos 13 comments
Good point, but cencor chip is saying- I think this is bad, so i am not going to listen to it, so, technically cencorchip is just as much free speech as the music that they are cencoring

on Sep. 13 2009 at 2:51 pm
JacksonC BRONZE, Winter Park, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 8 comments
Wow, this is powerful stuff. I totally agree with your views, though and think that Censorship is mostly unnecessary. Although some obscenity can be totally inappropriate, unnecessary, and used in a stupidly overused manner, most of it is meaningful and represents a strong emotion. Perhaps the best example of this would be 'Rage against the Machine', one of my favorite bands. Although they have been censored many times, they're music is so passionate and meaningful that I totally disregard the music as unnecessary and deem it as powerful and revolutionary. The band strongly opposes the government, and supports many charities and organizations (Anti War, Women's rights, and UNITE to name a few) but uses the music industry as their megaphone, that similar to the likes of a raised fist, or a sign with anarchist words scrawled onto it. Great article, man. I favorited it.