By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
It has often been said that people fear what they don’t understand. Thus, whenever a dissident opinion is vocalized, the threat of widespread hysteria looms in the background. In an ideal world, that is where America’s media and politicians would come in, clarifying misconceptions and sorting out situations in a level-headed and unbiased manner, thus eliminating the threat of mass pandemonium.
Unfortunately, that is not how reality always plays out.
Indeed, over the past several years, the government and the mainstream media have perpetuated, not alleviated, a great deal of fear over a blatantly ludicrous theory: that violent or depressing music is somehow responsible for self-destructive behavior.
While non-conventional artistic expression has always been attacked by the political and social establishments (everyone from “metal heads” to hippies have suffered such persecution), the most recent crusade against “musical immorality” is generally regarded as having begun in the 1980s.
During this time, an absurd conspiracy theory, now referred to as the “Satanic Panic,” was advanced by individuals from all ends of the political spectrum. Self-proclaimed experts and journalists alike held that there was a vast satanic conspiracy to wear away at the fabric of American morality. Allegedly, cults sacrificed animals and people, drug abuse and molestation ran rampant, and Luciferian conversions reached an all-time high. The explanation for the sudden rise of ungodly behavior lied in the fact that
Devil worshippers found a stunningly effective means of subverting family values: subliminal messaging through music.
The stories of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” and musically inspired deprivation were pumped into millions of homes courtesy of talking heads like Geraldo Rivera and Oprah Winfrey. Politicians, led by Tipper Gore, embarked on a misguided crusade to prohibit explicit lyrics, attacking artists like Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Twisted Sister, and even pop-star Cyndi Lauper.
Not surprisingly, the conspiracy had no basis in reality. Despite the frequent warnings, not a single shred of evidence to support any form of music or occult related violence, sadism, or murder ever manifested. It was all sensationalism, and yet it has continued to influence American intolerance for decades.
Since the late 1980s, the paranoid propaganda has continued its evolution. Americans have blamed several tragedies on the allegedly destructive influence of modern music; industrial and gothic bands have been the scapegoats for virtually every social ill in the past twenty years, from drug abuse to suicide.
Few individuals know this as well as Scott Putesky, a founding member of Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids, arguably the most controversial band in the world.
Marilyn Manson shocked, terrified, and angered suburban parents from the very beginning. Known for their dark stage antics and disdain for gender identity, the band quickly became a favorite on MTV, but a frequent target at the pulpit.
“Criticism will happen,” said Putesky. “Sing controversial songs in another, less popular language and no one will care. Music is a matter of taste – mass promotion or consumption of music is a matter of money.”
While Putesky helped propel the band to superstardom, he left mid-way through the production of their incredibly controversial album, “Antichrist Superstar.” Shortly after his departure, two psychologically disturbed students at Columbine High School in Colorado mercilessly gunned down their classmates. The senseless act of violence sickened the nation, leaving many in search of someone to blame.
The media held bands like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails responsible for the shooting. Their gothic imagery and depressing lyrics made them easy targets for attack; despite the fact neither killer was a fan of either band.
The political establishment was once again mobilized to combat the imaginary threat. Senator Joseph Lieberman embarked on a crusade to sedate Marilyn Manson, launching a widespread panic that ultimately resulted in the cancellation of several live performances. The Connecticut Senator’s efforts closely mirrored those of Tipper Gore a decade earlier, not only in their disdain for freedom of speech, but also in their inability to curb the popularity of the music.
Putesky believes that such efforts to censor music are futile, especially when viewed from a marketing standpoint:
“It is a waste of time to censor music,” said Putesky. “Prohibiting it makes it more intriguing, thus delivering it to the interested market, which creates popular demand. Besides, no one wants to censor music, they censor lyrics. [If you] sing controversial songs in another (less popular) language, no one will care.”
While the McCarthyesque hype surrounding Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails has quieted significantly over the past decade, politicians and pundits have continued the long held tradition of blaming music, movies, video games, and literature for society’s ills. Such irrational fear has led to the widespread curbing of American’s freedom of speech, and media-sanctioned persecution of numerous subcultures.
“We have to remember how sheltered most normal people really are,” said Putesky. “Goths represent weirdness, counter culture, free thinking, and unfamiliar ideals. Squares don’t get [their] quiet internal passion.”