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Senate Turns Up Attack On Anti-Social Pop Lyrics ‘Shock Rockers’ Tied To Suicide; Stricter Warning Labels Sought

David Stout New York Times

A father on Thursday told a Senate committee exploring the effects of music on children that his 15-year-old son killed himself last December after listening to songs about death and the Antichrist.

“He was a good boy,” a weeping Raymond Kuntz of Burlington, N.D., said of his son, Richard. “The music wasn’t symptomatic of other problems. I would say the music caused him to kill himself.”

Kuntz submitted a copy of a paper his son was writing for an English class. Kuntz said the album “Antichrist Superstar” by “shock rockers” Marilyn Manson was a favorite of his son, who seemed trapped in gloom as he wrote of the band.

“Marilyn Manson shows that it is possible for Christian society to produce someone who is against everything it stands for,” the boy wrote. “Believing that what he is doing is good and promoting it through music, he gains followers by epitomizing children’s black thoughts of rebellion.”

Kuntz said producers should be forced to attach labels to their albums to warn public officials, store managers and parents about lyrics laden with themes of violence, sex, drugs and death.

A music industry spokeswoman who appeared after Kuntz, Hilary Rosen, said the boy’s death was a reminder “of how precious our children’s lives are - and how vulnerable.”

“We are parents, too,” said Rosen, the president and chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America. “There are songs I wouldn’t want a 10-year-old to hear anymore than I would want them to see scenes from ‘Chain Saw Massacre’ or ‘NYPD Blue.”’

Rosen said that the music industry was working against violence and drug abuse, and that the efforts had sometimes gone unnoticed. And she said voluntary “parental advisory” stickers, which the industry has been affixing to albums since 1985, were more sensible than mandatory warnings, which she said would smack of censorship.

Indeed, Rosen said, the Marilyn Manson album that Kuntz blamed for his family’s heartbreak had such a label.

The hearing was called by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who heads the government oversight subcommittee of the Governmental Affairs Committee. Its purpose, he said, was to gather information.

Dr. Frank Palumbo of Washington, testifying on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that while the academy opposed censorship, its members were deeply concerned about some of today’s music.

Conceding that no studies have established a cause-and-effect relationship between violence in lyrics and violence, Palumbo said, “We can all acknowledge the overall effect music has on people, including adolescents and children.”

C. DeLores Tucker, the chairwoman of the National Political Congress of Black Women, deplored “violent, pornographic” music that degrades black men and women.

There was an agreement of sorts between Brownback and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. Brownback deplored the spread of “exceptionally violent, crude, brutal, anti-woman songs.” Lieberman said the lyrics of some music were “reprehensible,” containing “some of the worst thoughts I’ve ever heard.”

Their remarks put them at odds with Rosen, who asserted that much of the alarm about today’s music was reminiscent of the parental furor over Elvis Presley four decades ago.

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