American fear:: censorship of Popmusik
In the USA prevails a climate of intolerance. Pop music is particularly affected by censorship...
While Europe passionately discusses the borders of the freedom of opinion, A 60 page strong report about music censorship in the USA appears after September 11, 2001. Although it partly addresses cases, which occurred briefly after the attacks, and to a large extent, it clarifies: The border between free society and non-free society runs not only between the Islamic world and the west, but crosswise through both. The proponents of an open society face the lawyers of a disciplined society. And now of all people, the latter, in the USA, now have the last word. “If censorship in the "axis of evil” has a negative impact, should censorship in the "axle of good” have a positive impact?” asks the report which the organization Free MUSE published.
Free MUSE has existed for six years and documents music censorship world-wide.
The organization, which has its head office in Copenhagen, was made up so far of countries such as Afghanistan, Zimbabwe or Nigeria. Now the US journalist and author Eric Nuzum has come to the conclusion that also in the USA “critical” musicians are meanwhile exposed to restrictions, from boycott appeals to national censorship.
The USA, then it seems, became their own Pop-culture suspect. Their promises of sexual and political emancipation are viewed as attacks on the integrity of an America, which is in the "war on terror". Above all Christian-conservative groups exert pressure on supermarket chains and media outlets: Pressuring them to take critical music titles from their programs. And artists and entertainment companies are far too often rushing to obey. Self-censorship also spreads, because the media’s power is concentrated in the hands of a few.
The Religious-right owners of the supermarket chain Walmart exert a substantial influence on cover art and lyrical content of CDs on their shelves. The entertainment companies follow the "suggestions", because approximately nine per cent of all CDs which are sold in the USA go through the Walmart check-out lines. The Country musician Willie Nelson released his 2005 album "Countryman" with two different Covers. On the original a hemp leaf was shown, and for Walmart the cover was changed to a tree. The offensive against the freedom of opinion began just a few hours after the September 11 Attacks. The largest owner of radio stations, CLEAR Channel, sent a list with more than 150
"doubtful" titles to his stations with the “request” to not to play them.
The list included "Peace Train" from Cat Stevens and John Lennon’s "Imagine". In an atmosphere heated by nationalism, CLEAR Channel obviously did not want to ask 110 million potential listeners of its 1170 stations to see Lennon’s vision of a world without religion and love of one’s fatherland.
Eric Nuzum describes in detail, how the attacks on “critical” artists in the time following spread, often coordinated by religious-right internet forums such as freerepublic.com and reactionary channels such as Fox news. For example, in the summer of 2002 CNN moderator Steve Gill demanded a boycott of
Steve Earle’s "John Walker's Blues". In the Song the rock legend tells the history of US citizen John Walker, who followed the Taliban and was taken prisoner by US Troops during the invasion of Afghanistan. Earle sings: "I'm just an American boy raised on MTV, and I've seen all those kids in the soda pop ads, but none of 'em looked like me”. The newspaper "New York Post” therefore called Earle an "America Hater".
In 2003 several radio stations banished the group Jethro Tull from their programs, because singer Ian Anderson had said that he was bothered by the US flags hanging in front of each house. The New York Police refused to offer their usual after concert escort to Bruce Springsteen because he played
"American Sky", a Song about an African immigrant, who had been shot by New York policemen.
Causing more attention, A singer of the Dixie Chicks expressed that she was ashamed by the fact that George W. Bush came from Texas. Within a few days the music of the Dixie Chicks disappeared into thin air. Band member Emily Robison received death-threats, and her property was devastated. In Bossier City, Louisiana, they rolled over and crushed their CDs with a tractor. In July 2004 after a performance in a Las Vegas Casino the singer Linda Ronstadt was immediately kicked out of the building. She had dedicated an encore to the Bush critic Michael Moore. In August of the same year Kansas’ Minister of Justice allowed 1600 CDs to be confiscated, among them the works of Lou Reed and Rage Against the Machine. Musicians are affected most by censorship, in whose texts
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), responsible for the monitoring of the radio and television market, relies on the “Radio Act of 1927” to forbid the broadcast of obscene and indecent contents. Until 2001 the FCC defined the showing of sexual activities as “indecent”. Then it extended the definition to “sexual allusions”. The punishment for offences increased from 27,500 dollars to 500,000 dollars. Songs, which different stations took from their programs: Lou Reed’s "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Money" from Pink Floyd. The American fear can be read from its numbers. In the year 2001 the FCC received 350 complaints because of offensive broadcast content, and more than one million in 2007.
Matt Lehitka for Street Voice Group - svgn music news - Internet: www.svgn.eu