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17
to inspire loose moral behavior and juvenile delinquency. In 1966, when John
Lennon was misquoted about the popularity of Jesus among young people, it was
widely assumed that Lennon's comments were dismissive of Christianity. Even
with a far less sophisticated news media, this belief quickly spread, causing boy-
cotts, protests, and record burnings across the United States. It was even assumed
by some that the Beatles were Communist agents intent on corrupting America's
youth.
18
In 1970, as part of the Nixon administration's anti-drug efforts, the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) sent a telegram to all radio owners warning
them to remove all songs condoning drug use.
19
By almost any community stan-
dard, the songs in question including "Yellow Submarine," "Eight Miles High,"
and "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" contained no actual drug references whatsoever,
literal or figurative. During the 1985 U.S. Senate hearings on popular music
(spurred by the efforts of the Parents Music Resource Center , PMRC), Twisted
Sister's Dee Snider commented on allegations by PMRC founder Tipper Gore
(wife of then-Senator and future Vice President Al Gore) concerning the lyrical
context of Twisted Sister's song "Under The Knife."
In his testimony, Snider explained the intended meaning of the song (it was
about a fear of doctors and surgery), saying that the only explicit violence and
sexual imagery was "in the mind of Mrs. Gore."
Who is to say when musical performance is too violent, too sexual, or carries
"dangerous" political or social messages? If a performer pumps their fist in the air
during a performance, who is to say that the act is implicitly violent or a call for
political dissent? Even if the performer didn't intend it to mean this, is it appropri-
ate to consider alternative interpretations? And when someone in power makes
such a declaration, should those judgment calls be accepted blindly by others?
Does a society have a call to action when anyone interprets a musical expression
to contain messages that, arguably, are not apparent to others or are not in line
with the stated intention of the performer?
Additionally, as assumed judgments against performers spread, so do the calls
for punitive action against them, creating a culture of intolerance to any political
dissent. As is illustrated in this report, this "echo chamber " and the knee-jerk
reactions it sparks, are the central cause of most current calls for censorship against
musicians in the United States.