California Considers Ban On Businesses Who Support Music

By David R. Parvo

On March 26, 1998, the Los Angeles Times reported that the California Assembly is considering AB 2357, which was introduced by Assemblyman Keith Olberg (R-Victorville). AB 2357 seeks to prohibit any state investment fund from making new or renewing existing investments in any business that directly or indirectly "writes, records, produces, advertises, markets, sells or otherwise promotes any song, lyrics or other musical work that explicitly describes, glamorizes, or advocates acts of criminal violence, obscene sex acts, illegal use of controlled substances, criminal gang activity, degradation of females, and violence against a particular race or ethnic group." With this bill, Olberg is targeting what he deems to be "trash music" and "death metal", but the bill is so broad that it would cover most popular music, musicals, comedy and opera. Companies that would be impacted include among their number such industry giants as Time Warner, Viacom and Sony, the parent companies of media outlets, along with any major corporation that is the primary funder of arts presentations or recordings.

AB 2357 and bills like it is simply a form of economic strong-arming; they are used by the legislators of this country to slam open the door for more censorship-friendly legislation to pass on through. Supporters of AB 2357 attempt to buttress their argument by saying music kills, much like supporters of tobacco and gun divesture bills have successfully done. However, music is quite different from earlier divesture targets for it is expression through and through, unlike tobacco, guns and South Africa. Also, there is no credible scientific evidence anywhere that links music with either violent crime or suicide. Government restrictions on its dissemination and production are anti-democratic and shows the patronizing attitude of many lawmakers in this country regarding it's citizens ability to make judgements for themselves.

According to the bill's main supporter, Keith Olberg, Democrats are applying a double standard. "Both the First and Second Amendments pertain not to groups but to individuals," the Olberg lecture begins. "When it suits those with a liberal philosophy, they treat constitutional protections as group rights." "On guns, the group rights theory says society has a right to take the weapons off the street. But the Bill of Rights is attached to individuals. You as a human being have a natural right to speak, and government should not interfere with that speech. The same law applies to protecting yourself and your family." Free discourse is clearly protected by the First Amendment, to BOTH individuals and groups which has allowed the arts in this country to flourish. First Amendment rights do not end where the most conservative elements in our society begin to get offended. The intent of AB 2357 is to suppress freedom of expression and to repress creativity by declaring certain subject matter to be out of bounds for First Amendment protection. The restriction of musical expression is far more damaging to our democratic society than the lyrics themselves could ever be.

A hearing date for California investment bill AB 2357 has been set for 4/22/98. A bill which is quite similar to this was just thrown out in Texas. But to express your dissatisfaction with AB 2357 and with those who support this undemocratic legislation, please contact those who are involved at:

Pro-AB 2357
Assemblyman Keith Oldberg - R
State Capitol
Rm 4117
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-8102

Anti-AB 2357
Assemblywoman Carole Midgen - D
State Capitol
PO Box 942849
Sacramento, CA
Phone: 916-445-8077

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