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Protest Music, Censorship, and The Fall Of Free Speech in the Post-9/11 World

May 21, 2011 2 comments

Introduction

On the Ninth of September, 2001, the world was shocked, and forever changed by the events being broadcast from The World Trade Centre in New York City. At 08:46 EDT, a hijacked American Airlines passenger plane, Flight 11, crashed in to the north face of Tower One at 466mph. At 09:03 EDT, a second hijacked American Airlines passenger plane, Flight 175, crashes in to the south face of Tower Two at 590mph. All aboard both planes are killed instantly. At the time the second plane hit Tower Two, most major news broadcasting services were already covering the first crash, so millions saw the second crash happen live. Almost 3,000 more people died in the resulting fires and collapse, including members of the New York City Fire department & New York Police Departments. Not only was 09/11/01 a major catastrophe for human life, changing the way people perceive life, culture, and especially air travel, it also changed the rules of journalism, free speech, censorship, and music for the last decade, and carrying on, still, in to today. All of a sudden, words and phrases (such as “bomb”, “air crash”, and “terrorism”) were considered a social norm; no longer taboo, but to be considered polite dinner conversation. With the beginning of the United Kingdom & United States invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, “war” was added to that list, including all the bloody, violent, and potentially harmful words and imagery associated with it. What is more interesting though, is that while every news channel, newspaper and magazine were discussing the war effort, beaming home new images of victorious United Kingdom and United States troops, as well as the images of our wounded, a more silent struggle was occurring on our own doorsteps, between artists and their promoters, record labels and radio stations, with many artists and bands hinting and intimating at having to tow the party line in order to keep hold of their careers. The author will now cover the details of this alleged unofficial censorship, as well as looking in to the effects that this has on an artist’s creativity, and whether or not Mans God given free speech has finally been repressed by Mans need to be comfortable.

1. The Background of 9/11

On September 9th 2001, the terrorist group Al Qaeda coordinated a series of suicide missions deep within American territory. 19 members of Al Qaeda flew two Boeing-747’s in to the World Trade Centre New York. Everyone on board, and hundreds in the buildings, were killed. Tower One and Tower Two both collapsed within 2 hours. The terrorists also crashed one plane in to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and one in to a field in rural Pennsylvania, just outside of Washington D.C. Even though members of the crew and the passengers tried to retake the plane, in the end there were no survivors from either of the crashes. 2,976 victims & 19 hijackers died as a result of the attacks, with the majority being civilians from over 90 different countries. The United States responded to the attacks by launching the War on Terrorism, invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban who had harboured al-Qaeda terrorists, and enacting the USA Patriot Act. Al Qaida claimed responsibility for the attacks, claiming them to be a measured response to western aggression, and Osama bin Laden was immediately placed at number one on the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) and Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA) most wanted lists, sparking the invasions of Afghanistan, and later Iraq (though the reasons for the invasion of Iraq are less certain, the then president of the United States, George W. Bush, did approve it as part of the same mission). Later, George W. Bush gave his mission accomplished speech after installing a democratic government to the people of Afghanistan, and the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein. United Kingdom and United States forces are still in both countries.

2. Protest Music post 9/11

Prior to 9/11, the role of music in politics was mostly used in the protest area, beginning in the 1900’s, though not really coming to light until the early sixties with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War in the seventies, moving on to the anti-Reagan movement in the eighties and the Women’s Rights Movement in the nineties. With the rise of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement in the late nineteen fifties and the early nineteen sixties, several artists took advantage of, and rose to fame on, the back of the protests and released songs that captured the mood of the times, including; Bob Dylan with “Only A Pawn In Their Game”, Pete Seeger with “We Shall Overcome” and John Lennon’s famous “Give Peace A Chance”. In the seventies the same artists took advantage of the Vietnam war to launch another wave of anti-government protest songs, boycotting the war and demanding the army send the soldiers home. In the nineteen eighties and the nineteen nineties new artists rose to prominence amongst the protest music scene, though without many causes to uphold. With the advent of the War on Terror, new artists rose to prominence to voice their feelings on the American government, and war. Anti Flag, Rise Against, and Sage Francis, in particular, were most prominent amongst these. Meanwhile, artists who had previously opposed the war were surprising fans and critics alike by standing by the governments decision to go to war. Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and U2 were most prominent amongst these. Whilst their anti-war counterparts are less well known, the same could be said of these artists the last time war came around. Perhaps these new voices of dissent will find themselves the poster boys for the next war, in a new generation.

3. History of Censorship in the United Kingdom
Censorship is the suppression of speech, or other public communication, which is considered to be offensive, objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or perverse by a government, state, or other governing body. Usually, this is upon request of a majority vote from the public, or simply by the government, or by certain television bosses, newspaper editors, radio producers, who do not feel that certain content is suitable for their target audience, though this is not always the case. China, North Korea, Uruguay, and Chile have, amongst others, been party to suppressing information that they do not want the general public to have, especially when involving freedom of speech, which may result in dissention and/or outright rebellion within the country, especially when anti-government sentiment is running high. England does not employ censorship laws to its newspapers and news broadcasts, but rather runs on a “self-regulation” basis, where the editor or producer of a news paper or broadcast will be responsible for making sure that nothing printed or broadcast is unsuitable for public consumption. Though, there is no reason why the government could not enact emergency laws when in great need of a media blackout. Such was the case in 2008 when Prince Harry Windsor was to be deployed for active duty in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence contacted the editors and producers of the major news providers in the United Kingdom, asking for their assistance in keeping this fact quiet, using the agreement that exists between police and journalists in regards to kidnappings (journalists do not report it as it happens, in return for full access afterwards), as it could compromise the Prince’s safety (http://www.bbc.co.UnitedKingdom/blogs/theeditors/2008/02/news_blackout.html). The author will now look at the new form of censorship that emerged after 9/11, and its effect on artists and music in general.

4. Unauthorised Censorship
In the 2007 book, “Music in the Post-9/11 World” (Music in the Post 9/11 World, Routledge, 2007) musicologist Martin Scherzinger published a paper entitled “The Double Voices of Censorship After 9/11” (Scherzinger, Martin. The Double Voices of Censorship After 9/11, Music in the Post-9/11 World, pg 91-121, Routledge, 2007). In this paper he discusses a case reported on by Tim Robbins, an American actor and activist, claiming that he received a phone call in April 2003, shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan by coalition (United Kingdom & United States) forces, from “A famous middle-aged rock-and-roller” to “thank me for speaking out against the war” only to tell him that he could not speak out himself, because he feared repercussions from Clear Channel, the company that promoted his concerts and appearances, as well as owning the radio stations that played his music. This is not the only instance of Clear Channel executives forcing their views on their clients: directly after the attacks on the World Trade Centre, Clear Channel issued a “no-play” list to all of its radio stations, around 1200 at the time, comprising of 156 songs (www.popculturemadness.com, http://www.popculturemadness.com/Music/911.html, 2001). The station stated that this was in deference of the public mood of mourning. Whilst some of these songs seem good choices for this list, Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” (in which the main refrain is “Let the bodies hit the floor”), Saliva’s “Click. Click. Boom” and, possibly, The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Aeroplane”, as well as everything ever recorded by Rage Against the Machine, others seemed to be picked less for their questionable lyrical content, as for the political and religious beliefs of the artists in question. Cat Steven’s “Peace Train”, The Doors’ “The End” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” all made the “do not play” list. Ironically, though, another song made that list; John Lennon’s “Imagine”, which became something of an anthem for certain groups after 9/11. This is not the first instance of this kind of censorship on the radio; In 1940, NBC radio issued a ban on any songs containing potential sexual innuendo, calling them obscene. This included Billie Holiday’s rendition of “Love for Sale”. In 1942, the United States government issued a ban on weather reports, in case it helped the Axis forces plan attacks, and a ban on public requests for songs, in case it was used to send coded messages. But radio stations were not the only ones to get in on the act, MTV Europe also stepped up and issued a memo to the heads of its broadcasting stations, stating that “The ITC (The Independent Television Commission) have created a ‘War Time’ Programme Code to censor what is seen on TV”, as a result, MTV can not “broadcast material which offends against good taste or is offensive to public feeling.” (http://www.internalmemos.com/memos/memodetails.php?memo_id=1424) Some of these songs ranged from having “valid” reasons to just being outright ridiculous. For example, the author can understand that System of a Down’s “BOOM!” would be a valid contender for censoring, as it contains images of war, as well as facts and figures pertaining to projected casualties in the war in Iraq, and also Outkasts “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” as the title may cause some offence. But also included in this list were Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”, as it contained images from the film “Armageddon”, and any video by The B-52’s, as the name of the band is taken from the name of a war plane. Considering that at the time of this memo’s distribution in 2003, the public mood had shifted to an anti-war stance, it seems plausible that this comes from more of want to not displease the government, as from any worry over offending the public. As disturbing as this form of censorship is, it gives us a great insight in to the behind-the-scenes goings on of the music industry, and shows us two things: 1) That the musician feels restricted in what they can say, but not in the way that they should (I.E. by the government or state), and 2) that the artist is not receiving help from an official censor on what they can and can not say, therefore having to stumble in the dark and possibly bring down the vengeance of the aforementioned promotions company. This form of censorship was completely unprecedented, and greatly at odds with the official form of censorship rules. In this way, we find the traditional rules of censorship challenged, in particular; a) that censorship belongs to the public – it is up to the public to make their decisions on what they find acceptable, with the majority vote being what we see on television, and in newspapers (for example, mankind, on the whole, is still squeamish of the idea of nudity before the watershed, as well as other less-than-“wholesome” things such as swearing, sex, murder, etc) and b) that what the public “votes” for is backed up by legal proceedings, so that if a censorship regulator disagrees with the public sentiment, they can not enforce their own beliefs on the public, making the vote made by the public legal and government backed. For example, the current ban on the showing of a woman’s breasts on public television would be counted as an uncontroversial case of moral censorship, with the majority of the public agreeing with this, and therefore making it legal – after the events of 9/11, no new censorship laws were passed in regards to music, in the United Kingdom or the United States. So why are artists censoring themselves? In the case of this “famous middle-aged rock-and-roller”, that would seem obvious, but why other artists? And why the sudden turn around for so many former protest-music artists? The author hopes to find the answers as this piece progresses.

5. Music and Politics Do not Mix

In the wake of 9/11 the role of music in politics seemed to make a drastic shift. Artists and bands were so fired up over the attack on the American infrastructure that they no longer wished to oppose war. Where artists such as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and U2 had all previously been the loudest voices in opposition to war, they were now ready to provide the soundtrack for the march to war. With the death toll at a staggering 2,973 from the attacks on the World Trade Centre alone, tensions were running high. This would probably account for the unusually high amount of pro-war songs and the high level of support for George W. Bush’s attack on the middle-east. Sure, there were still bands and artists around to protest going to war, but this was now fast becoming viewed as un-patriotic, even traitorous. The majority of artists were all so up-in-arms about the twin towers that they were willing to call for Bin Laden’s blood along with almost everybody else. U2, normally so ardent about leading sold-out-crowds in raucous chantings of “No more war!” offered a deep ambivalence in Jan ’02 when they displayed a banner containing the names of everyone who died in the 9/11 attacks during their super-bowl show, set to their anthem “Beautiful Day”. Neil Young, once so famous for songs such as “Ohio” and “Cortez the Killer”, now sings: “Let’s roll for freedom; let’s roll for love, going after Satan on the wings of a dove” in his hero-honouring antithesis; “Lets Roll”. Young wrote “Lets Roll” in honour of the passengers of Flight 93 who managed to subdue the planes hijackers before they could complete their mission. Unfortunately, the plane came down in Pennsylvania, killing all on board.

Before the first bombs had even dropped on Afghanistan though, bands such as Flogging Molly and Anti-Flag were already in the studio, and they offered other, less jingoistic views on the aftermath. Unfortunately, George W. Bush and Tony Blair have never been big fans of poppy anti-establishment-post-punk and their views went unheard for a long time until the blood cooled in the public and others started to speak up, too. One artist that was not afraid to share his opinions with the world was an underground rap artist named Sage Francis. He released a song at the end of 2001 titled “Makeshift Patriot”. The song is less about the attacks, but about Americas reactions to them. In the song, Sage Francis slams George W. Bush for his trigger happy ways, as well as attacking the media for using the World Trade Centre disaster as a way to boost ratings. The opening of the song is in spoken word, a recording of a staged telephone conversation between Sage Francis, and a man named Frank. In it he describes watching the news as “watching some bull shit on the news… reporters, trying to a frigging Emmy” Later, he boldly throws out the lines: “When times like these arrive I freestyle biased opinions every other sentence/ Journalist ethics slip when I pass them off as objective/Don’t give me that “ethical” shit” as well as a whole verse devoted to a mock-up of Bush’s retaliation speech:

“There is a new price on freedom, so buy in to it while supplies last./ Changes need to be made;/ No more curb side baggage, seven p.m. curfew/ Racial profiling will continue with less bitching/ We’ve unified over who to kill, so until I find more relevant scripture to quote/ Remember, our god is bigger, stronger, smarter, and much wealthier/ So wave those flags with pride, especially the white part.”

This song is considered by many to be a masterpiece of protest music, and includes a clip from the movie Don’t Look Back at the end, which is taken from a Bob Dylan interview by Time Magazine.

Another who was not afraid to share his views, or at least to bring down media based wrath on his art, was Steve Earle – a country music singer who enjoyed minor success in the late 80’s, until drugs ruined his career. After an enforced stint in rehab in 1995, he came out fighting, enjoying a moderately well received comeback. His 2002 album “Jerusalem” featured the song “John Walker’s Blues”, a song written and sung from the perspective of John Walker Lindh, the 21 year old California native, who confessed to joining the Taliban, and taking up arms against the west. In his typical style (a Texas country drawl), Earle sings:

“We came to fight the Jihad and our hearts were pure and strong/As death filled the air we all offered up prayers/And prepared for our martyrdom/But Allah had some other plan, some secret not revealed/Now they’re draggin’ me back with my head in a sack/To the land of the infidel”

For this verse alone, there was media outrage. New York Post writer Aly Sujo wrote this after interviewing various figures in the music industry;

“Bill De Main, a Nashville-based music writer and lead singer for the band Swan Dive, says Earle’s political leanings “probably finished him off in mainstream country.”

Earle became an outlaw country rock star in the 1980s with “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road,” but his heroin addiction nearly cost him his career.

He got sober after he was arrested for drug possession and spent three weeks in jail, and launched a successful comeback with his own Warner Brothers-distributed record label.

The new album’s political agenda, which comes at a time of corporate conservatism, was encouraged by Artemis Records’ outspoken chief Danny Goldberg, who once tussled with then-Sen. Al Gore ( news – web sites)’s wife Tipper over rock lyrics and censorship.

Earle has said that the new material serves as his response to the more reactionary elements of post-Sept. 11 politics.

A smattering of like-minded New Yorkers who heard an advance copy of the Lindh song said they were enthusiastic.

“Steve Earle is standing up against the new patriotism, the ‘You’re with us or you’re against us’ mentality,” said Joan Hirsch, manager of Revolution Bookstore, which stocks anti-war pamphlets and leftist literature.

“(The song) speaks of the U.S. demonization of anyone who would go against the traditional American way,” Hirsch said. “It’s important for people to come to the defence of artists who are speaking out.”

But Martha Bayles, author of “Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music” and a literature professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, said Earle’s apparent identification with Lindh reflected “a psychological need to repeat the good old days of the radical 60s, just like Mom and Dad.”

“Never mind whether the cause makes any sense — the point is to march in the streets and get on TV. It sounds as if Earle is singing to this crowd,” Bayles said” (http://www.freerepublic.com, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/720311/posts, Aly Sujo, 22/07/2002)

To the author this seems a blatant attempt at trying to seem objective, whilst finding as many people to glorify the views of the writer as possible.
Others flew to the stages and offered songs of support, fear, dissent, or anger. One of the first of these songs recorded and released after 9/11 was the infinitely forgettable cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” led by Bono of U2, and Wyclef Jean. Other celebrities were involved, making the cast of contributors look like a Who’s Who of poppy sell-outs. Originally recorded to serve as a fundraiser for AIDS in 3rd world countries, the single tried to take on the sound of comfort in the early post-9/11 times. Unfortunately, the song’s high celebrity content let it come across as being hollow and crass, though the author may argue that with the mass media onslaught of hard hitting images the world had just lost the ability to be properly affected by anything softer than large scale death and destruction.

6. The Unintended Downfall of Free-Speech

The post-9/11 world saw another subtle, almost trivial, change. With the entirety of the world riled up over the attacks on the U.S, artists, bands and radio DJ’s around the world (without conference or any visual interference from the government) seemed to suddenly become entirely too wary of being politically incorrect. On Clear Channels orders, DJ’s were suddenly pulling tracks from playlists for fear of causing offence to faceless individuals they had never met. Artists themselves were removing tracks from albums for the same fear in the instance of the Strokes’ “New York Cops” and Dave Matthews deciding not to release “When The World Ends” as a single. It was suddenly easier to do an industry sponsored benefit concert or simply to stay quiet than to take a stand and find that their opinions were pushed to one side, in favour of the government’s own views. Of course, this could again be Clear Channel, the aforementioned repressor of free-speech in middle-aged rock-and-rollers. One such example of extreme political correctness interfering with free speech and creativity was the case of the pulling of Blink-182’s original video for their single “Stay Together for the Kids”. The video was a concept the band had been working on for 2-3 months prior to filming, with director Samuel Bayor, and features the band playing in a derelict house that is being demolished. The song itself doesn’t have any relation to 9/11, dealing directly with divorce instead, but as filming for the video finished on 9/11 record label MCA decided that the images on screen were too alike to images being broadcasted from Ground Zero. Bass player and vocalist for Blink-182 Mark Hoppus stated,

“…in the end we decided that the images in the video looked too much like the images that were coming back on television from the disaster, so we (the band and the label) decided to re-shoot the video and to change a bunch of stuff to make it easier to watch”. (Mark Hoppus, 9/5/2002. The Urethra Chronicles Pt 2: Harder Faster, Faster Harder by Blink-182 & MCA, May 2002)

To me, this seems to be a sign of how sensitive the times became directly after the attacks on the World Trade Centres. That a music video dealing with the effects of divorce, and containing no bombs, aeroplanes, terrorists or any anti-America message could be scrapped, simply because it showed a house being demolished seems to be a little over the top. The rest of the entertainment industry suffered too, with albums, films (The original trailer for the Spider-man film featured Spider-man catching an escaping helicopter in a giant spider web spun between the Twin Towers) and even games (Westwood Studios recalled all remaining copies of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2) being pulled from shelves because they depicted the World Trade Centres in some sort of disaster, sometimes even just because they bore their image. On the other hand, the author can also understand instances where it seemed appropriate for the government to take action, as in the case of left wing funk-metal band Rage Against the Machine. Martin Cloonan reports that in September ’01, Rage Against the Machine had their entire forum and message boards wiped clean, after their internet service provider received continuing requests from the United States federal government. According to Cloonan, these message boards and forums were used by fans to voice political and social debates. The American government, however, deemed them to be carrying “anti-American sentiments” (Cloonan, Martin. 2004. “What is music censorship? Towards a better understanding of the term.” In Shoot the Singer! Music Censorship Today, edited by Marie Korpe, 3-5. London and New York: Zed Books) Reports abound of other, less controversial, artists feeling the same political pressure. The artist Moby apologised for slamming the FBI and CIA for not protecting the American public which, in his view, is what these agencies are meant to exist for. Kevin Richardson, of The Backstreet Boys, is said to have expressed “regret” over a question he asked in a Toronto interview; “What has our government done to provoke such attacks, that we do not know about?” On a more “local” level, a student run new-music group, Ossia, at Eastman School of Music, was forced to cancel a scheduled performance of Stockhausen’s Stimmung in New York City, by the head of the school, after Stockhasuen’s voicing of his opinion that the attacks on the World Trade Centre were “the greatest artwork in the cosmos”. Whilst all of these things were on a small scale, individualistic level, considered together, as a whole, they do seem to point to the need of the public to fall in line with government values in time of major social and political crises. Whilst all of this was going on in music circles however, it seems that the film industry did not suffer the same censoring pressures. Within a few years, films such as World Trade Centre, and Fahrenheit 9/11 had hit cinema’s to rave reviews, even though they still depicted the same death and destruction at Ground Zero that some artists songs had only, even vaguely or not at all, hinted at. Even a film called Loose Change, released in 2005, which provides compelling evidence that Al Qaida was not involved in the attacks on the World Trade Centre at all, but rather it was coordinated by elements of the American government, drawing evidence from discrepancies in the historical records of 9/11. Whilst the film was distributed over the internet, rather than through a publisher, previous evidence states that this would be no problem for the US government to tackle, possibly in the same manner as the forums on Rage Against the Machine’s website. Journalists, of course, have argued and refuted the claims made in Loose change, but the film has still sold over one million copies, with many more being given away. So this begs the question; was the government involved at all in decisions such as Clear Channel’s “do not-play” list? Or is it simply that music reaches more people than film, therefore film is likely to be a threat? The author thinks that it may well be the latter. With the advent of the iPod and other personal music players, music became available to the masses on an unprecedented level. Whilst there was no evidence of iTunes censoring the music it was selling, this does not mean that there was no struggle behind the scenes, or that any of the songs on the “do not-play” list had even made it to iTunes yet. This is all speculation, of course, as the author has no solid proof of this. Admittedly, imagery such as that included in the aforementioned original trailer for Spider-Man was removed, but this was a decision by the producers in charge. In the case of rap-artists The Coup, however, the decision to pull the artwork for their then forthcoming album Party Music, was a decision by the artists record label 75 Ark, rather than the artist themselves. The albums artwork featured the artists stood in front of the World Trade Centre as it explodes. The artwork was meant to represent “the capitalist state being destroyed through music”. Although the bands lead member Boots Riley had originally expressed hope that the original artwork would remain, he later told Wired.com: “Two hours after the thing happened, we got the call saying, “OK, you’ve got to have another album cover. No discussion,””

Riley remembers. ‘That was it. It was one of the first things that I saw in a series

of censorship.” In a later public statement, the label would say “75 Ark recognizes and supports the artistic freedom of its artists, however recent extraordinary events demand that we create new artwork for the album” (Crash in to me, baby: America’s implicit music censorship since 11 September, http://www.freemuse.com, http://freemuse.synkron.com/graphics/Publications/PDF/18.pdf, June 2004)

The artwork was later re-designed as a hand holding a martini glass, with flames emanating from the glass, supposedly to represent the same thing.

So, if this was the start, where will it end up? If radio stations can justify pulling records in case they offend those have suffered in terrorist attacks, directly or not, how long until radio stations can pull a song because it criticises the government, or even a particular MP or senator? Whilst defending music in this way is seen as trivial, or even frivolous by some people, in the wake of such tragic and horrific events, what it boils down to is defending mans right to free speech. If an artist can not voice an opinion in a song, how long until it becomes illegal for the Average Joe to voice an opinion on the street, especially an opinion that is not in keeping with an idea that the government wants to further? The defence of artistic rights is a prime example of defending civil liberties, even if it does fall on the edge what civil liberties laws are about. Many believe that new laws, such as the United States Patriotism Act, search and seizure laws in England, as well as the police forces ability to hold a suspected terrorist for as long as they need to prove guilt or innocence, may be in the best public interest. But if it were to ever come out that the government were behind the banning of certain music, how would the public react? Suspected terrorists are one thing, but not being able to hear “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” on the radio may prove to be another.

7. Conclusion
After all of the research involved in this paper, the author has seen many arguments for and against the idea that free speech has fallen, and that behind the scenes censorship is being implemented. Whilst companies such as Clear Channel and MTV have issued statements denying that any form of censoring of playlists has occurred, all of the above mentioned songs, as well as the songs included in the complete lists were conspicuously missing from playlists during the time that they were reportedly implemented. It seems to the author that if this kind of censorship were going on, it would seem slightly hypocritical as every news channel in England, and likely in the United States too, were running clips of the planes hitting the World Trade Centre, as well as the downed plane in Pennsylvania, and the plane that hit the Pentagon. If a song mentioning bodies hitting the floor (Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”) can be construed as offensive, inflammatory, or just plain insensitive, how is running constant clips of the actual act itself not considered in the same way? Maybe it is, as Sage Francis says in “Makeshift Patriot” (“Can you count how many times so far I ran back this same damn tape? While a camera man creates news and shoves it down our throats on the West Bank, With a ten second clip put on constant loop to provoke US angst”), a way to keep the anger up in citizens, to keep reminding them why they go to war, and possibly to keep them from thinking it through. If so, the author would have to think that this would explain why the government would want anything likely to draw attention away from al Qaida removed from circulation. If not for this reason, then surely the news channels, newspapers and magazines, should have all fallen under the same sort of censoring. After all, it is said that a picture paints a thousand words. How many words does an actual video clip of the act paint? The author feels that whilst this form of censoring went on, it can not be as widespread as the author was first led to believe, otherwise broadcast and paper based news would surely have gone the same way, as well as the film industry. Maybe it is as Clear Channel claims and these “do not play” lists were never circulated. Maybe they were, and were purely the choice of the company. The author feels that it is likely that the public will never know the truth, or maybe it will just be a long time in coming. It is the author’s personal opinion though, that these “do not play” lists were circulated in an attempt to cast Clear Channel in a good light, by making them seem like sensitive corporate giants, rather than a faceless media conglomerate. In the case of the unknown rock-and-roller, it is most likely that it was their own conscience, rather than fear of repercussions that led the artist to keep quiet. The question that the author must now ask is this; with the recent death of Osama bin Laden, are we going to go back to that day in 2001 where the world stands still, and freedom, and free speech is again threatened, not just by faceless groups of terrorism, but by the very government who sets itself to protect us? The author prays that we never have to find out. Finally, it is the author’s personal feeling that every man, woman or child must make his or her own decision as to whether they oppose or support war, not the owners of radio stations.

If it were not already so obvious, one could surmise that the music industry is a very fickle place to work. When artists feel that they must remove songs from their records just so that they can still sell them, is that a high sense of morality? Or is it more likely political correctness gone mad? One can understand that in the wake of 9/11 certain actions would become unacceptable; comics making jokes regarding the World Trade Centre would always be a sore topic, but to demand that a $500,000 music video be scrapped due to the use of a demolition team seems to be a little ridiculous. With tempers still high, and political correctness becoming more and more an issue, even within the music industry, how long will it be before it becomes illegal to voice an opinion that does not agree with the current political climate? Will the fear of being deemed traitorous to ones country finally remove the ability to speak freely? Will artists such as Sage Francis suddenly become, not voices of anti-war campaigners, but treasonous individuals deemed to be sowing discontent in society? Or will society plunge back into the days where saying anything you liked was acceptable? The ability to say what one wants to is one of the most basic human rights. Of course, there will always, as always, be restrictions to what one can say without others disagreeing. And once again, this is a basic human right. Though, as long as artists and the music industry regains its former dynamic of standing up for what it believes in rather than what won’t upset people, one doesn’t think there should be anything to worry about in the future.

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