HISTORY AS IT HAPPENS: ANATOMY OF AN ANTI-CENSORSHIP CAMPAIGN
By: Randy Lee Payton
It was late July 1994 when R.O.C. got the notice that one T.J. Rooney, a State Representative from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. was planning to introduce legislation which would make selling or buying 'stickered' recordings in Pennsylvania to/for anyone under 18 a State crime. The bill--titled H.B. 2982--was to be proposed to the Pennsylvania State Senate's Judiciary Committee in September. There wasn't much time so we were going to have to move fast! With 17 other state legislatures sitting on similar proposals (just waiting to be introduced by their own homegrown opportunist politicians no doubt-waiting to see how H.B. 2982 in PA. would float) it was crucial that anti-censorship forces organize to not only blow H.B. 2982 out of the proverbial waters but to make the bill's backer(s) SCREAM FOR MERCY as a tactical lesson to discourage the entertainment of similar fool bills in other states. Wish we could say "nothing personal," T.J., but we take your scapegoating of young people's creative expression to serve your petty political aspirations VERY PERSONALLY...
The gears to crunch H.B. 2982 were put into motion. R.O.C.'s National Office's proximity to Pennsylvania (plus our many, many friends and and associates ALREADY in place throughout the state) was a big plus. John and Kenny of Florida R.O.C. composed a flyer detailing the bill and how people could help stop it, as well an anti-H.B. 2982 petition to circulate throughout the state. The actual 'kick-off' to the campaign came at a Motley Crue/Type O Negative/Kings X concert at the Star Lake Amphitheater near Pittsburgh. Audience response at the R.O.C. table was enthusiastic and righteously indignant --i.e., PISSED OFF-- upon hearing about the bill.
Pittsburgh TV station WPXI-11 featured the story live from the concert, talking about the bill with both R.O.C.'s John Woods and Motley Crue, whose new lead singer John Corabi commented, 'It's really stupid. They're worried about what we're saying on a record, yet there's people starving in the streets." The Crue's Nikki Sixx told WPXI that "(This is everything that happened in Germany in the 30's. I'm so proud to be an American yet I'm so scared we're going down that same road. And believe me, that road is taken one step at a time." Amen, brother. When WPIX called Rep. Rooney for comment he was quoted to have ALREADY begun impugning the motives of the bill's mounting number of opponents. "Any opposition to the bill...is simply motivated by the fear of losing money. " (Gee, T.J., you should save such cheap allusions for those later, bound-to-be desperate stages of your fated bill. It's a trifle early for those kinds of muddy little insinuations at this point, don't you think?)
Steubenville-Wheeling's WTOV-TV 9 featured stories on the bill twice in 3 days, the second time with footage from the Crue concert and our R.O.C. table. Motley Crue invited John to lay down a rap about H.B. 2982 from the stage during their set (to a thunderous audience response.) Our pal John Horstman, editor of Big City Nights music paper could be seen talking about the bill and R.O.C.'s call for stopping it in it's tracks on TV news in Erie, PA. Country music station WWVA actually gave the story strong play, with news spots of John denouncing music censorship from a telephone interview running throughout the day we tuned in. Our news release on H.B. 2982 turned up in the cyberspace of Internet as well as going out nationally and internationally as part of an Associated Press wire about the bill. John could also be heard on an early August Sunday on Mike Stark's show on KNAC radio in L.A. describing the bill's ominous implications (if passed) for other states as well. And happily, our press release has elicited phone inquiries to the R.O.C. office from, newspapers throughout Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and T. J. Rooney's hometown paper in Bethlehem.
We were off and running!
Meanwhile, the mass base solidifying against H.B. 2982 has been quite exciting. From the labor front, Bob Chatelle, Political Issues Chair of the 4000-plus National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981, AFL-CIO) and Bob Brown, President of District 1, United Electrical Workers of Philadelphia will be submitting testimony against the bill. Meanwhile, Diane Johnson from the Delaware Valley Coalition for the Homeless and folks from Philadelphia's Voices From the Front anti-poverty group have expressed interest in submitting testimony against wasting public monies on a nonsense, out-of-touch, ill-conceived piece of legislation (and it's subsequent enforcement) rather than addressing the VERY REAL social problems which exist...
"I JUST WANNA TESTIFY..."
H.B. 2982 has been scheduled for public hearings at 11:00 am on September 12, 1994. The hearings will take place in Room #140, Main Capitol building in Harrisburg.
Anyone wishing to get on the list to testify or submit written testimony, for the official record, should send their names or written testimony to: Office of State Representative Thomas Caltagirone, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Attn: David Krantz, Executive Director, Box 210, 106 S. Office Bldg., Harrisburg, PA 17120, or call (717) 787-3525. We have been advised that persons wanting to testify should send in their names for the agenda as soon as possible. If you submit written testimony, please send a copy to THE ROC, POB 147, Jewett, OH 43986. PH/FAX: (740) 946-2011. Let's give 'em hell!
NEWS FLASH...NEWS FLASH...NEWS FLASH...NEWS FLASH
Just as we were going to press, the confirmation came in. On September 8, 1994 a debate on H.B. 2982 will be held in Pittsburgh between the bill's author, State Representative T.J. Rooney and Dave Marsh, editor/publisher of Rock & Rap Confidential, founder of Creem Magazine, former editor of Rolling Stone, best-selling author, lecturer, leading anti-censorship activist, and along with Stephen King, a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders. The square-off begins at 8:00pm followed by music from yet to be announced local bands. BE THERE!!! GRAFFITTI SHOWCASE CAFE, 4615 Baum Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA. For more info call: R.O.C. 740-946-2011, or Kelley 412-782-2317. We sure hope Mr. State Representative doesn't suddenly come down with a bad case of cold feet!!!