Since getting a whiff of what was cookin' in the wake of the Columbine Tragedy, uninvited politicians in Washington haven't been able to pull themselves away from the visiting room of the poor victims they claim to care so deeply about. It has been nearly 2 years since the April 20th, 1999 Colorado school shootings, and nearly every elected official continues to partake in this twisted bipartisan slow-dance around the coffins of the corpses, gracefully side-stepping over any of the real reasons this tragedy may have occurred, while pointing a finger at easy targets such as the entertainment industry and lack of federally funded faith-based initiatives.
In June of 1999, Bill Clinton, never one to miss an opportunity to exploit a disastrous event for his political gain, danced between a couple of coffins and over to the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department, ordering a "youth violence study" to see if entertainment companies were marketing "violence" to children and teenagers. Old Bill spent one-million dollars of tax-payer money to conduct this study. I don't want to hop onto the "Government Waste" bandwagon, but couldn't Mr. Clinton have saved about $999,999.80 by turning on his television set and figuring it out by himself? Then the million could have went to counseling the survivors of the Columbine tragedy, rather than taking advantage of its victims. In the end, I don't think it would have taken Bill any longer than 12 minutes to figure out what it took the FTC over 12 months to "conclude."
In September of 2000, the FTC announced that, yes, some violent video games and movies had been advertised in a way that appealed to some teenagers and some teenagers actually had had access to some of the violent video games and movies they found appealing. Upon hearing this "startling" fact, Capitol Hill went berserk. Senator John McCain ordered up a biased (against violence in movies, music and video games) panel to argue their case during a couple of hastily assembled, widely publicized, Senate hearings; Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman swore that, if they were elected to office, they would propose legislation to "sanction" the entertainment industry if it didn't follow their absurd, indeterminate guidelines within 6 months and Senator Chicken Little was the first to cover his head and insist that the sky was falling. The entertainment industry caved to the political strong-arming and began releasing more PG-13 movies, and agreed not to advertise the remaining R rated movies between 8 PM and 10 PM (the best time to advertise to a mass audience), hours that the Senate defined as "family time." If this is really "family time," I thought to myself, what the hell is the TV doing on?
This temporarily appeased the senators, and a few months went by without incident, but the slow-dance began again when Senator Joseph Lieberman, joined by Senator Herbert Kohl and Senator Sam Brownback, announced on January 25th, 2001, that he was "disappointed" in the entertainment industry for not doing a good enough job upholding its commitments to congress and that he "had hoped that the entertainment industries would meet this challenge voluntarily, for self-regulation is the optimal solution. But if they are not going to act," he vowed, "we will." Lieberman said that, in February of 2001 (that'd be right around now, kiddies), he is going to introduce legislation that would allow the FTC to essentially circumvent the First Amendment and punish companies that advertise "adult" material to teenagers or children. Seeing as it was Lieberman who initially pressured, and eventually convinced, video game manufacturers into adding ratings to their games, I feel he shouldn't be the one using the ratings the industry voluntarily created as a favor to him against said industry. Something stinks like a preplanned, carefully orchestrated, First Amendment violation, and I hope I'm not the only one sniffing it out.
Throughout this 22 month dance around the caskets, no political leader ever brought up the fact that Australia, England and Canada, all countries with far stricter gun control laws than the United States, watch the EXACT same movies, play the EXACT same games and watch the EXACT same TV shows as we do, but don't have thousands of teenagers murdering other teenagers. No political leader brought up the fact that, with rare exception, Columbine being one of them, most school shootings occur in POOR areas, not necessarily areas where video games are played more often, or violent movies are watched more frequently. No political leader brought up the fact that most of the teenagers doing these shootings had a poor family life, were abused as children, and were ignored by overworked parents. These problems, the REAL problems, would actually make a McCain, or a Lieberman or a Brownback have to WORK for their livings. It's far easier for these politicians, and even the "concerned" parents who vote for them, to blame everything on violence in the media and lack of prayer in schools, and go about their fundraising.
It is clear that this problem is far bigger than a violent episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the next Eminem CD. It's clear that this problem is so big, it couldn't be caused by a television show or dirty lyrics. It has been PROVEN, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it isn't the show or the lyrics that are causing these problems, because, in the other countries where these shows and lyrics are wildly popular with teens, these problems do not exist. This is a problem with AMERICA, not American entertainment. But coming to terms with this, and working on finding a solution for it, is too overwhelming a prospect for these sleazebag politicians to fathom. Instead, they'd rather get rid of a few of our First Amendment rights, and let the next generation of sleazebag politicians clean up the mess.
So, how can we lessen the violence in America? Let me count the ways:
1. Tougher laws on guns. People don't shoot people, idiots, guns do. I don't think we should outlaw guns, because, God Forbid the gun collector doesn't get his 70th handgun this Christmas, but I think we can limit these guns to hunting guns, and the collectible handguns can come with their shaft twisted into a nice looking pretzel shape, rendering them useless.
2. It's the taxes, stupid. People need to keep paying them, rich people need to pay MORE of them, and we need to start using the money the state and government take in to help the people who need help the most. A tax cut for the richest of the rich, as George W. Bush is proposing, is the WORST thing we could possibly do. We need to give children and teenagers places to go, if they are feeling alone, have been abused, or just need some time to unwind. We need a place for a father or mother to go and talk with someone when they are feeling overwhelmed with work and raising children. We need to smoothly segue into the third way we can lessen the violence in America, right about now.
3. We need to raise the minimum wage to a LIVING wage so no one has to work themselves sick. No one in this country should be working 3 jobs just to get by. This tears families apart and leads to things like alcoholism which leads to things like child abuse which leads to things like a pissed off child taking his rage out on the world by gunning down his school.
4. We need to give more money to failing schools in poor neighborhoods. We need to bring more jobs to poor neighborhoods. We need to pay people more in poor neighborhoods. We need to get things working so there are no such thing as "poor" neighborhoods!
5. We need to stop this futile war on drugs, which has so many innocent people caught in the crossfire, it's insane. Legalize it, morons! Makes the Gov. money on the taxes they would bring in, saves the drug-user money buying from a legitimate business, and gives the rest of us a chance to focus on fixing things rather than throwing otherwise productive people into overcrowded prisons for smoking dope. Getting 5 years in a maximum security prison for puffing on a joint is one of those things that would cause people to lose hope in the system, becoming disgruntled. Lost hope causes disgruntled people to do hopeless things, like random shootings, for example.
6. We need to start giving MORE to secular charitable organizations so they can improve themselves and become as productive as all of those "faith-based" organizations George W. Bush keeps praising. We don't need to give ANY Government money to exclusionary faith-based groups who help only the converted. Leaving people out is at the root of this problem. It's also a violation of separation of church and state, no matter what the Republican spinsters have you believing.
7. We need Universal Healthcare, so anyone who needs to can get a mental disease treated before it turns into a social nightmare.
8. We need to END CORPORATE WELFARE! We need to dump the WTO and bring American jobs back into America (suddenly we have living wage jobs in poor neighborhoods)! When people feel useful, they don't tend to go on killing-sprees. A steady job and good income make people feel useful, as strange as that may sound.
What we DON'T need is another lecture about violent entertainment "destroying" our youth. I dread hearing Lieberman and his cronies going off on the newly released Hannibal. "The studios aren't listening," they will claim, as Lieberman tries to lube up his bill and slip it through congress, and up the asses of Americans everywhere, "just look at Hannibal, a movie so grotesque, a prominent Australian critic no one has ever heard of couldn't stomach it!" It's almost as if Lieberman waited until mid-February to introduce this new legislation right when America is focused on violent entertainment such as Valentine, the XFL, and Hannibal; all three of which appeal to teenagers.
Based on audience reaction to Hannibal (and to a lesser extent, the tedious sleeping pill known as the XFL), the Lieberman rhetoric is starting to work. Critics and audience alike are claiming it "went too far," unlike the first one, which they claim didn't "show" the violence. That's how HYPER-SENSITIVE (so much for "desensitization") we've gotten over the past decade, due to the "violence in the media" crap the politicians keep shoving down our collective throat. I watched Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal back to back and found that Silence of the Lambs contains MORE violence than Hannibal, but, ten years ago, there wasn't a Columbine, and only the poor, non-voting minorities were shooting each other, so the politicians didn't give a rat's ass, and the rest of us could enjoy a movie for what it was . . . entertainment. Silence of the Lambs actually won best picture, director, screenplay, actor and actress for its "violent" efforts. If it would have been released today, the only notice it would get from anyone would be a notice from politicians that they are about to "sanction" the studio that released it; each of these politicians all too willing to scream "Cannibal!" while ignoring a country being eaten alive by greed and stupidity.
Email Alex Everyone has an opinion on these issues! The best ones will probably be printed. Anyone who figures out what is special about the title graphic I made for this update (it has something to do with one of the three novels featuring Hannibal Lecter) within one week of this posting will receive a totally Juicy grab-bag stuffed full of video games, books, magazines, the next two chapters in Dead Dogs Don't Roll Over and whatever else I can think of! I'll also consider you a genius, since figuring it out will be nearly impossible. Quid Pro Quo! Anyone submitting their guesses with no feedback on this update will automatically be disqualified. Good luck!
©2001 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. You may not copy this without permission from the author. A reader tried to copy me once.....I ate his liver with some Fava beans, and a nice Chianti.
Back to the juicy cerebellum
PS - To the people who keep hoping somebody else will do it for them: no, I haven't gotten the $70.00 yet. Sorry to ask you for $10.00 or $20.00 for 6 years of entertainment. I know it's too much. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here. A big thanks to the 3 people who have actually sent something and a big "do you get pleasure out of being a lying ass?" to the person who promised to send "at least" $50.00, and never did.