Due to the fact that this topic is such a divisive issue, an article regarding censorship had to be written in my opinion. But what exactly is censorship and how is it used? Censorship is defined the act of censoring. That tells us nothing. Censor means to examine, alter, delete, edit, or deem questionable material on the basis of morality. Ah-ha. Now we have something to examine a bit further. Let's take a look at this definition a bit closer.
Morality is defined as the conformity to rules of right conduct. Therein lies the major problem with all censorship. Morality is not something that is universal. My morality and view of right and wrong are not necessarily the same views that you have. This creates a major problem in a "free" society. In a "free" society, the United States for example, because of my First Amendment rights, I have the freedom to voice my opinion, assemble with like minded people, worship whatever god I choose, and finally write whatever I want to write. My opinion on every issue will not be the same as your opinion on every issue; therefore debates are inevitable and usually attain results on a certain issue (unless you are in American politics). If I want to write this article (and have the vehicle to write it), I have the right to write it regardless of whether it's what Johnny down the street wants to read or not. I have the right to be Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, etc. if I choose to be. I also have the right to assemble with whoever I choose to assemble with; whether it be a Catholic mass, satanic ritual, a fantasy football draft, or a musical performance. Therefore, in a society where we (the United States) claim to be the "land of the free", how can such a thing as censorship exist in a free society?
Questionable material is yet another phrase that is hard to conjure up to a person in a free society. What exactly is questionable material? Who decides that such material is questionable? Where did they get the power to make that declaration? Censors are found everywhere from the pulpit to the Senate. From Rev. Jimmy Swaggart to the infamous PMRC, there seemingly is always someone in a place of power there to tell you that their beliefs are right and everyone else is wrong. However, in a "free" society, they cannot do that. My view of questionable material is perhaps different than theirs' is.
I hear a lot about the effect on the "youth of America" in regards to a lot of these claims as to why certain entertainment should be censored. Personally, I believe what an American youth sees, reads, and hears should be left to the discretion of the parent. My problem with censorship does not lie with our youth. My problem with censorship is the utter hypocrisy of a person in power telling me, an adult, what is and what is not good for me to experience. Leave it to Jesse Jackson to protest that derogatory rap lyrics are destroying the black family and he himself has children out of wedlock. Leave it to Jimmy Swaggart to question sexual content in popular music magazines and then get busted for prostitution (oh yeah, and infidelity). What any adult in a "free" society wants to subject themselves to is their business and should not be censored or altered in any way, shape, or form based on another person's beliefs.
I personally haven't felt any type of censorship on a personal level. Perhaps that is due to the fact that if I want to find something bad enough I can usually find it and I know the outlets available to me in order to get it. Therefore, I do not shop at Wal-Mart for music due to the fact that Wal-Mart has a stance against any album that would carry the "Parental Advisory" sticker. They, in turn, accept the edited versions of these albums without necessarily (in my experience) providing the "edited content" tag to the album in question. I have also never been denied access to a concert or been given any restrictions on artists I am able to go see. But that doesn't mean that there aren't circumstantial restrictions even in our society.
We all are probably well aware of the PMRC which took place in the 1980's but in recent years I'm not sure most of us remember Clear Channel's restricted songs after 9/11. This list of 166 songs was made because these songs apparently were deemed inappropriate after the attacks. The list included many songs that dealt with war, bombings, airplanes, fear, and even New York in general (full list tracks can be viewed at Wikipedia.org). The list contained some of the most ridiculous censorship I had ever seen of both metal and non-metal songs. Boston's "Smokin'", Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight", and even Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Blowin' in the Wind" were on the list, and although they were not entirely banned it was "suggested" that not to play these songs. Clear Channel has over 1100 radio stations across the country and is very influential in United States radio. Even though, I personally have not been restricted, I assume the power of persuasion is something else to be discussed at a later time.
Although this article deals fairly generally with censorship, I'd like to relate it to the genre in which we all love. I've read numerous accounts on the internet that describe the most attacked form of music as heavy metal and the reasons why. I've come to the conclusion that society has a fear of what it does not know. It sees long hair, black t-shirts, moshing, dark song/album titles, the visuals that go with cover art or even perhaps a heavy metal concert, and the lyrical content and are afraid. Our music is not mainstream, it's not for the faint of heart, and it's not something that will ever be commercial again in my opinion. The lyrics deal with death, anarchy, loss, at times Satan, and resistance making it dangerous to those who don't take the time to understand the music and the reason it is being created. I view the music I listen to as art. I enjoy scratching beneath the surface to find the true meaning of what the artist is trying to convey and perhaps that is the difference. Mainstream music generally deals with happy yet superficial topics whereas metal is the thinking man's genre. Anything that takes that happiness, or level of enjoyment, out of the mainstream will forever come under attack for those who are intolerant or ignorant to our music. Although I believe I have outlined why censorship is for the most part hypocritical and asinine, I also believe that unfortunately it will be a struggle that the metal community will always be fighting against.