A ROC ANALYSIS: BEHIND H.B. 2982: A PACK OF JACKYLS!
By: John Woods
Back in 1989 there were a number of events that led to the founding of Rock Out Censorship. One was the campaign of terror being conducted against musicians and the record industry by Tipper Gore and her gang of high-class D.C. housewives better known as the PMRC. Another event that was a real eye-opener for us was to witness first-hand, a rock-bashing seminar conducted here in Ohio by two kooks (John & Larry) from Frontline Ministry. And lastly was the fact that, at the time, the Pennsylvania example of what something called a "warning sticker" for records was to look like was the model being considered by at least a dozen other states. This was all prior to the total capitulation of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to the whims of Tipper Gore's PMRC, which led to the development and implementation of the present day "Parental Advisory" stickers. In the very first issue of THE ROC we called the whole warning label campaign "a smokescreen designed to do nothing more than help usher in total censorship." We stood by that opinion then, and we continue to stand by it now. In fact, our analysis was confirmed when a loose-tongued PMRC spokesperson named Rev. Jeff Ling let the cat out of the bag when he blurted to the press, "Do you think explicit music should be out of stores? Sure I do. And I think labeling will do that." So here we are in 1994, and the battle rages on. Once again the state of Pennsylvania is in the forefront of attempting to censor and eliminate selected forms of music. And again, as in 1989, R.O.C. will respond with a counter-offensive of mass grass-roots action to combat it. Sitting in the Judiciary Committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly is a proposed piece of legislation known as H.B. 2982. The bill was introduced on June 22 by State Representative T.J. Rooney, a "liberal democrat" from the Bethlehem/Lehigh Valley district. (Gee, we're damn sure glad this guy wasn't a "conservative.") If passed, H.B. 2982 would make the sale of ALL recordings which bear the PMRC inspired / RIAA approved, "Parental Advisory" stickers ILLEGAL to anyone under the age of 18 in Pennsylvania. H.B. 2982 specifies that owners/employees of record stores who violate the provisions of the bill will be fined $25 per album, for the first offense, and $100 per album for subsequent violations. The foreseeable chilling effect with this will be that more and more record stores are going to feel much safer by not stocking "stickered" material at all. And we're not just talking about only the big corporate chains here either folks. This type of legislation will scare a lot of "independents" and Mom & Pop outlets. H.B. 2982 is very specific when it addresses the "punishment" for anyone under the "tender age" of 18 who's caught buying, or attempting to buy a "stickered" album. The bill calls for ALL violators to be sentenced and shipped-off to perform 25 to 100 hours of community service" at a domestic violence, or rape crisis center. Is T.J. trying to imply some connection between music, domestic violence and rape? In his press statement made the day after he introduced the bill, he clearly implied a connection between music and what he called "youth violence." Rooney said, "it's a straight forward attempt to deal with one of the possible causes of youth violence." Yeah, right! Tell us Mr. Rooney, what are you basing that brilliant assumption on? As the old lady in the hamburger ad used to say, "WHERE'S THE BEEF?" There has NEVER been any creditable establishment of a link between what a person sees or hears as entertainment dictates their actions. Even the infamous "Meese Commission on Pornography" failed to demonstrate a factual link. So, T.J., where's your facts? T.J. goes on to say, "many of these labeled recordings espouse racial hatred, advocates for the assault of law enforcement officers, and denigrates women." WOW! Are there any "hot-button" issues left that this guy won't try to blame on rock and rap? We would not argue that all of these are things that happen in society, but we take strong exception to words like "espouse" and "advocate." Music, like all art has done for ages reflects the beauty of a society, or the ugliness of it. Why don't folks like Tipper Gore and the rest of these "self-proclaimed saviors of society" spend as much, or more time as they do bashing music on solving some of the REAL issues on the streets? Just a few are JOBS, HOMELESSNESS, HUNGER, EDUCATION, and the list goes on and on.
Rooney shows where he's really coming from when he credits his proposed bill to the "pioneering efforts of groups like the PMRC." This fact alone should set off alarms throughout the anti-censorship movement. Remember what Jeff Ling said about the REAL motives behind warning labels. Could Mr. Rooney be trying to make those motives an absolute reality? We say YES! Before I get into what R.O.C. plans to do about this bill, let's look at what some other folks are saying about it, and comment on their reactions. In the July 23 issue of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE, Paul Russinoff of the RIAA called H.B. 2982, "maybe one of the more disturbing we've run across so far." R.O.C.'s only question to the RIAA is simply this: What are you going to do to fight it? Are you going to jump-in and join us in the trenches, or are you going to hide in Washington D.C and remain silent, much like you did in the State of Washington with the Erotic Music Bill. If you're not willing to get your hands dirty fighting bills like this, turn some of that $700,000 that you claim you spend a year fighting censorship over to groups like us and by-God we'll give them one hell of a good fight!" Russinoff went on to say !hat, "faced with the prospect of a labeled disc being used as a mandatory line of demarcation barring the sale of labeled recordings to all under the age of 18, our members may well choose to cease labeling altogether and thus avoid any penalties H.B. 2982 imposes." Hey Paul, that's the best idea we've heard from the RIAA in six years! The fact is, Paul, you guys should have NEVER agreed to put them on records in the first place!
R.O.C. was predicting bills like H.B. 2982 five years ago when your organization fell on your knees before the PMRC. So, Paul, at the end of the day the final analysis is that you're as guilty of fostering the kind of censorship attempts that we're today witnessing in Pennsylvania, as is Tipper Gore, her pet monkey protege T.J. Rooney or (for that matter) any of their counterparts in the cracked Theocratic Right.
"...a goofy, unconstitutional bill" --NARM
Mickey Granberg, government relations director for the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) calls H.B. 2982, "a goofy bill that's so unconstitutional I don't know where to start." Granberg added that, "NARM will be monitoring the bill and plans to have local retailers testify at committee hearings in late September." Although we feel NARM could do more as well, at least it's good to see they have a bit more balls when it comes to addressing this bill. R.O.C. kicked off its campaign against H.B. 2982 on July 31 at Star Lake Amphitheater in Burgettstown, PA. That night's show was King's X, Type O Negative, and Motley Crue. During Motley Crue's set, I was invited on stage by the band to tell the crowd about H.B. 2982. The crowd response was great! Over at the R.O.C. booth people were lined up to sign the petition against the bill and get more information. Many good contacts in the Pittsburgh area were made that night. Other actions like this are being organized all across Pennsylvania, from Erie to Philadelphia. Dates and times are still being scheduled, so call us at 740-946-2011 for updates.