I don't know about you, but Al Gore is starting to scare the hell out of me. Yeah, I know he's better on gay issues than Dubya. Not that Dubya really HAS any issues, other than the ones that need to be worked out in double sessions with a good family therapist. Dubya's such a thick necked frat boy he makes Ross Perot look like a statesman. And a protest vote for Nader seems so Northern California. I won't even think about voting Nader until he addresses some of those "genital issues" we've heard so little about.
In the past few weeks, Gore's been talking a lot about parents and the need for record labeling. I thought for a minute he was just having a Tommy Lee Jones acid flashback, but then I remembered a term paper I wrote in 8th grade. It was on the Parents Music Resource Center. The PMRC was an 80s group fronted by Al and Tipper Gore and a lot of concerned DC wives. Smack dab in the middle of the Reagan Bush dynasty, it amounted to a version of the McCarthy trials fronted by soccer moms.
The hearings featured such cultural luminaries as Dee Snider, who was the lead singer of Twister Sister and Frank Zappa, God rest his soul. The committee dragged out pop music icons and grilled them about their lyrics, which the suits said promoted satanism, violence, drug use, and, oh yeah, homosexuality.
So now we have these cute little parental advisory labels on our CD cases. Basically, any hip hop release whatsoever. And heavy metal, which is now kinda like the historical equivalent of big band or polka. It's ovah!
I assumed Gore would bury this, be embarrassed about it, maybe chalk it up to the conservative 80s. But NO. He's trotting out the "protect our children" crap again. And Tipper's poised to lead up this little witch hunt the same way she did in the 80s.
What scares me most is not the record labeling itself. It's the censorship that record companies and artists absorb. If you look at CDs in big chains like K-Mart or Best Buy, many of the labeled ones have two versions-one clean, one dirty. How many artists don't get two versions pressed by their record labels? If they don't get into these chains, it's pretty much a guarantee that they're going to move a lot fewer copies. So how many of these artists are anticipating this in the recording studio, with producers breathing down their necks, telling them which lyrics are gonna keep them from selling 100, 000 copies at the chains? Sheryl Crow learned this the hard way when an anti-gun song got her pulled from Wal-Mart.
TV shows with gay content already get labeled and moved to later slots. Scripts get censored to avoid labels. A parental advisory is like an NC-17 film rating. Producers trim the juicy bits to make it more acceptable so they can sell it to more advertisers. It all adds up to a big choke hold on our ability to be real people in the media.
Al Gore's latest PR stunt is all about kissing conservative butt. He's got an extensive track record with censorship and now he's bragging about it. Why aren't groups like the Human Rights Campaign being remotely critical of this? Don't they get the queer connection? We need to look at a lot more than 3 or 4 gay-related issues. What good is a hate crimes bill if we can't communicate with each other?
Nowadays, with the internet, it's even scarier. Censorship is a slippery slope. All they need is a couple of right wingers on the new labeling committee and we'll get listed faster than you can say Homosexual Content.
My fear is that once federal committees step up monitoring music and other art forms, the web will be next. Forget V-chips. It's much scarier than that. If schools and libraries start filtering out gay and lesbian as x-rated words, then queer kids and adults without home computers will lose access to the larger queer world.
Tipper needs to be kept on a choker leash from the get go. The health care system was Hillary's beltway hobby. Government assisted surveillance of children shall most certainly be Tipper's. Gone are the days when first ladies changed china patterns.
Kirk Read lives in Northern California. His commentary can be found at Gaybc.com and www.temenos.net/kirkread