The wrong side of history
The whole PMRC music censorship flap of the 80s and 90s is a rare—BUT NO LESS DEFINITIVE—example of Democrats being just as bad, if not far worse, than Republicans can be.
The PMRC (“Parent Music Resource Group”) was headed by Al Gore’s then wife, Tipper Gore and Susan Baker, wife of Bush I’s then Treasury Secretary, James Baker, two bored Washington socialite busy-bodies who wanted to “make a difference” and get on tee-vee and stuff. Although the PRMC was nominally non-partisan, I blame the Democrats for supporting it more than I blame the Republicans (they didn’t call those Parental Advisory warnings “Tipper Stickers” for nuthin’).
The whole thing made it impossible for me to vote for Bill Clinton, with Gore as his running mate (both elections) and I didn’t vote for Gore in 2000, either. Clearly at one point in his public career, Al Gore backed censorship and thought crime as a winning political stance—he supported his wife’s efforts all the way—and frankly I didn’t need to know that much more about him. Gore might have rehabilitated himself somewhat with his environmental advocacy in recent years, but I still suspect that underneath he’s a total dickhead, nevertheless…
In 1990, The Oprah Winfrey Show hosted former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra, Tipper Gore, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, future Fox News pundit, Juan Williams, Ice-T and Nelson George to discuss the PMRC issue.
For those of you too young to have lived through this, here a succinct bit of background from Biafra’s Wikipedia entry that will fill you in:
In April 1986, police officers raided his house in response to complaints by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). In June 1986, L.A. deputy city attorney Michael Guarino, working under City Attorney James Hahn, brought Biafra to trial in Los Angeles for distributing “harmful material to minors” in the Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist. In actuality, the dispute was about neither the music nor the lyrics from the album, but rather the print of the H. R. Giger poster Landscape XX (Penis Landscape) [NSFW link] included with the album. Biafra believes the trial was politically motivated; it was often reported that the PMRC took Biafra to court as a cost-effective way of sending a message out to other musicians with content considered offensive in their music.
Music author Reebee Garofalo argued that Biafra and Alternative Tentacles may have been targeted because the label was a “small, self-managed and self-supported company that could ill afford a protracted legal battle.” Facing the possible sentence of a year in jail and a $2000 fine, Biafra, Dirk Dirksen, and Suzanne Stefanac founded the No More Censorship Defense Fund, a benefit made up of several punk rock bands, to help pay for his legal fees, which neither he nor his record label could afford. The jury deadlocked 5 to 7 in favor of acquittal, prompting a mistrial; despite a motion to re-try the case, the judge ordered all charges dropped. The Dead Kennedys disbanded during the trial, in December 1986, due to the mounting legal costs; in the wake of their disbandment, Biafra made a career of his spoken word performances. His early spoken word albums focused heavily on the trial (especially in High Priest of Harmful Matter), which made him renowned for his anti-censorship stance.
No one has posted Biafra’s amazing 45-minute long “Tales from the Trial” rant on YouTube, but I’m sure it’s pretty easy to track down.
Below, highlights of Jello Biafra absolutely eviscerating Tipper Gore’s pro-censorship arguments. This is an amazing piece of history, it really is: