The PMRC is why when i was younger i essentially rejected the Democrats and thought i was a Republican libertarian (I was also, and probably always will be, conflicted about abortion). It's why i voted for Nader (or essentially against Tipper Gore, founder of the PMRC) in 96. As far as i was concerned, the Democrats were the party of authoritarian Big Government, trying to tell me how to live my life and what music i could listen to. By 2000 i had internalized most of Nader's criticisms and while i certainly didn't consider myself a Republican, i always figured the Democrats for a bunch of phoneys and no better. I've not really seen anything that's changed my opinion on that subject, but i've come somewhat away from the strategy of supporting a third party and now see benefits in the strategy of supporting primary challenges to longstanding Democrat milksops.
The evolution of my opinion in the last 6 years is the result of a couple of things:
- Watching the disaster of the Nader / Green split during the 2004 election, and the utter failure of the Greens to actually build local movements.
- Reading too many blogs, which with the exception of Left I On The News, tend to be of a center-left persuasion.
- Watching the Bush administration for the past 6 years and realizing that as bad as the Democrats are, the Republicans are much, much worse, in every respect.*
It's a compromised strategy. My politics are Green, and i disagree with the Democrats on goals and methods for a lot of issues. But at least for now, i'm seeing if it's possible to effect change from within.
So now i'm looking at primary challenges, and 'tis the season for the 2006 election, if you are interested. We've already sent money to a number of candidates that are challenging conservative Democrats, including Ned Lamont, who is challenging Joe Lieberman. I dislike Lieberman especially. In addition to the obvious stuff (he's for the war, he's for the Patriot act, he voted for Alito), he's the leader in terms of politicians who criticize video games and especially music. This blog, DownWithTyranny gives a little history of the PMRC and Lieberman that i thought was interesting in that it shows how Lieberman is basically more or less responsible for alienating young people from the Democrats (and in most cases, politics in general):
First a little disclosure. DWT is the nom de guerre for Howie Klein, former punk rock dj, former founder and president of alternative rock label 415 Records, former general manager and vice president of Sire Records and former president of Reprise Records. I am now retired from the music business but there is no question that Joe Lieberman's frontal assault on the music business was something that very much disturbed me. In fact, several of his and his allies' prime targets were personal friends as well as business associates. (And one of the albums he fussed and fretted about most obnoxiously, BODY COUNT, was a record I was Executive Producer of.)
The story starts with the founding of the PMRC and if you're too young to remember, you ought to read about that sad chapter in American political/cultural history (in that link back there or either this one here or this Gore-bashing right wing point of view here). The principals' names should all sound familiar: Tipper Gore (wife of Al), Susan Baker (wife of Bush family retainer/fixer James), Nancy Thurmond (one of the Strom wives), Lynn Cheney (lesbian pornography writer and wife of alcoholic current vice president Dick). This gaggle of powerful men's wives was the forerunner for three of Washington's most celebrated, loud-mouthed hypocrites: Bill Bennett, Sam Brownback and, of course, Joe Lieberman, who took up their campaign almost as soon as he was elected.
To quote the Republican National Committee (who carelessly hypocritically left out Lynn Cheney's participation in the PMRC, the group's mission "was to clean up raunchy lyrics and suggestive album covers in the music industry. The group pushed for a 'rating system similar to that for films, printed lyrics on album covers and under-the-counter obscurity for covers depicting violence or explicit sexual themes'... In August 1985, under pressure from PMRC and other parents' groups, record companies agreed to place the warning 'Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics' on albums and cassettes containing explicit lyrics. However, for Tipper and PMRC, that language was not enough and the group continued its war on controversial music lyrics," eventually bringing the mess before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Artists like Jello Biafra, Ice-T and Frank Zappa showed how dangerous the PMRC's plans were for freedom of speech and expression, with Zappa explaining to the senators that "the complete list of PMRC demands reads like an instruction manual for some sinister kind of toilet training program to house-break all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few," adding, dramatically "Ladies, how dare you?... Bad facts make bad law, and people who write bad laws are in my opinion more dangerous than songwriters who celebrate sexuality. Freedom of speech, freedom of religious thought, and the right to due process for composers, performers and retailers are imperiled if the PMRC and the major labels consummate this nasty bargain." (Among the artists specifically attacked by the PMRC were Madonna, Prince, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, Cyndi Lauper and Sheena Easton.)
People often ask me what happened and what was the big deal. Lieberman knew exactly what he was doing-- far better than the batty wives' group that preceded him-- when he insisted on ratings on CDs and it had nothing to do with helping parents supervise their children. Few people understand-- the way Lieberman did-- that in the late 80s something like 70% of all recorded music was sold in stores in malls and that malls have very stringent lease arrangements about their tenants not selling "pornography." Over the course of this controversy two of the Senate's most uptight and close-minded prigs, Sam Brownback and Lieberman, pushed for the kinds of stickers that would make it impossible for the kind of music they objected to-- like anything talking about masturbation or homosexuality, for example-- to be stocked by 70% of American retailers. The effect inside the music business was chilling-- and instantaneous. Suddenly a whole new internal bureaucracy had to be created to police every record and suddenly artists were being pressured-- sometimes overtly and sometimes less overtly-- to cave in to demands by two really reactionary fundamentalists whose values are far from mainstream. In one fell swoop Lieberman destroyed an alliance between young voters and the Democratic Party that had started with John Kennedy's election as he ham-fistedly savaged their culture for his own political ambitions. (emphasis mine)
*Sidenote: Actually, this one is a little tricky. When Bush was first elected, I said to min that because of the Nader challenge, Democrats will be sure to highlight every 'bad thing' that Bush did as an example of why the Greens ruined everything. Early on in the Bush administration, when the Democrats were howling about an executive order about acceptable levels of mercury in water that Clinton signed at the very last minute before leaving office, after having been in office for 8 years, that Bush immediately reversed, i saw it as evidence that i was right. Then al-Qaeda attacked, bestowing Republicans with the political capital to act without restraint. And act they did, enacting policies more awful than i could have imagined when i was agreeing with Nader that there aren't any real differences between Republicans and Democrats. Although it's important to notice that for the most part, Democrats have supported most of Bush's agenda. So Nader was wrong. The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats won't come up with the really bad ideas on their own, but they will still go along with them if someone else suggests them.