THE SHOW MUST GO ON

by: Dave Marsh

The dogs and ponies are all lined up. The FTC has announced that music is bad, because it sometimes talks about violence. The FBI has announced that you can tell if kids are going to blow up their high school if they listen to the wrong music.

The Senate teeters on the edge of a hearing next week, to be chaired by John McCain, one of the few politicians with the guts to say that what this country needs is a law against such music and other forms of media that talk about such stuff.

Not only that, McCain says, he doesn't want the hearing to feature spokespeople from the showbiz lobbies on Capitol Hill. He wants actual record executives.

This is a wonderful idea and even if McCain has to use Congressional subpoena power, he should definitely get these folks up there. By the end of it, Tommy Mottola, who has the best hair in the bunch, might be on his way to eclipsing Rick Lazio. Let 'em try to remember which one is Strauss Zelnick of BMG and which one is Vic Azzoli of Atlantic. Let 'em try to comprehend the meandering anecdotes told by the industry's most venerable executive, Ahmet Ertegun, or the Casey Stengel act that Interscope's Jimmy Iovine, mastermind of Eminem and Limp Bizkit, turns on at will.

Best of all, let 'em try to cope with Howie Klein of Reprise.

Klein hates record labeling and all other forms of censorship. He has never allowed a record to be released with one, not even the albums by Madonna and Alanis Morissette that made his fortune. He's not fond of grandstanding politicians and he finds the behavior of his fellow music execs at best callow. "I will be mortified if I see record companies being apologetic for the way artists express themselves," he told SonicNet. "If I get a chance, I'm going to remind the committee of the importance of freedom of speech."

What Klein told SonicNet cuts to the nub of the matter. "The right- wing fanatics want to find a scapegoat but it can't be the gun industry because they pay their bills."

If they were honest, the other execs would probably say something like, "We don't know why this stuff is popular, and it embarasses the hell out of us, but what can we do? The milquetoast stuff politicians like is moldy and stale."

Then again the hearings might be canceled, because Joe Lieberman is likely to demand to speak and the Republican majority doesn't want to give him a place to grandstand. Lieberman is a fanatic censorship advocate, out far beyond the Al 'n' Tipper show, and his presence has the potential to push the right-wingers even further into pulpit-pounding fulmination. Maybe we'll get that law after all--it'd clearly be unconstitutional but who'd bet that Al Gore wouldn't sign it? Especially if it were a choice between that and sleeping on the couch."

[Editor's Note: The references made by Dave Marsh regarding needing a law passed wittily and wittingly articulates a desire on the part of many free-speech activists to call the bluff of the Censorship-by-Intimidation crowd in our government. This strategy would have them pass their clearly unconstitutional legislation, then we could finally see the matter settled in the courts through challenges that will undoubtedly be made by the ACLU and the entertainment industry, have such legislation declared unconstitutional, and then be done with this nonsense once-and-for-all, or at least until the next bit of legislation passes the following year.]



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