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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

American censors: say it ain't so, Joe

How committed to free expression in a secular society are our elected leaders? Howie Klein, former head of Reprise Records, writes memorably and with telling details about firsthand encounters with censorship instincts of US politicians like Connecticut Democrat Joseph Lieberman, and it’s an ugly, ugly portrait. “People often ask me what happened [with the parental ratings implementation] and what was the big deal. Lieberman knew exactly what he was doing… when he insisted on 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.” Klein characterizes the failed Vice Presidential candidate and his compatriots this way: “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… to be stocked by 70% of American retailers. The effect inside the music business was chilling—and instantaneous. senasor-lieberman.jpgSuddenly 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.” Klein quotes Danny Goldberg, former chairman of Warner Bros Records and his book, “Dispatches from the Culture War: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit.” “When former LBJ advisor Jack Valenti, then head of the movie industry trade organization, and a friend of Lieberman’s was asked by Danny if he had ever told Lieberman about the First Amendment implications of the type of censorship he was advocating, Valenti replied, “When people get very religious and they believe their course of action is sanctioned by a higher authority, there’s not much you can do to communicate with them— left, right or center.” [More venom at the link.]

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