Consider these facts: Since 1965, the level of violent crime among juveniles has risen by 300 percent in the United States. Juveniles now account for one-third of all murders nationwide.
In Utah, lawmakers next week will begin considering whether to open criminal proceedings when the defendants are 14 or older. The reason? Kids are committing such heinous crimes that it no longer makes sense to protect them from publicity.That is the raw and ugly reality of life in the '90s, something that ought to wake Americans like a cold shower. Unfortunately, reality probably isn't raw and ugly enough to wake those who think state government should be forced to allow Marilyn Manson to play at the state fairgrounds.
Marilyn Manson is a musician, to use the term quite loosely. His name is an amalgamation of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, which fits because his form of entertainment deals exclusively with sex and violent death. His song titles include "Cake and Sodomy," "My Sweet Dark Savior" and "Killing is Fun." Most of his lyrics are too vulgar to print. They deal with Satan worship, suicide, rape and murder. He has been known to cut himself with broken bottles and perform sex acts on stage.
His stated goal is to upset the moms and dads of America, which hardly makes him original or noteworthy. Every recent generation has had its shock artists, going back through Alice Cooper all the way to Frank Sinatra and beyond. Defenders of the absurd like to note that as early as 1963, the FBI was using sophisticated audio equipment to decipher the smut they knew must be hidden in the song "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen.
This is supposed to make us feel better about Manson and several other entertainers today, as if one day soon we'll look back and smile on our innocence. But that logic doesn't apply here any more than the logic that says a parent who once was concerned about the safety of a child carrying a candle should now look the other way when that child douses the house with gasoline and lights a match.
Officials at the Utah State Fairpark recently canceled a Manson concert after learning what type of performer he is. A half-dozen ticketholders quickly sued, claiming a government entity has no right to deny a concert based on content. A judge denied a motion that would have forced the concert to go on, but he made it clear the decision would have been different if Manson himself were in court asserting his First Amendment rights.
In the meantime, Manson played at Wolf Mountain, resorting to hackneyed stunts like ripping a Book of Mormon on stage.
Frankly, the let's-shock-the-grown-ups shtick has become a bit worn. As a parent, I treat Manson the way I would an obnoxious drunk on the street. I steer myself and my family away and ignore him. If he wants to truly shock parents, he ought to cut his hair, wear a suit and tie and play love ballads on an acoustic guitar.
But the notion that Manson has a free-speech right to use taxpayer funded facilities at the fairgrounds is wrong. This has little to do with free speech. If I exposed myself and performed lewd acts on a street corner, I would be arrested. Why should Manson be allowed to do these things on stage for money?
In the name of tolerance, modern society tends to err on the side of allowing and accepting actions that are counterproductive. Tolerance is good. But, at the same time, society often fails to unmask the actions for what they are.
Perhaps it is difficult to draw a direct connection between performers who glorify violence and the coincidental rising tide of violence. And perhaps a steady diet of chocolates won't make a person fat.
Last summer, a crazed man ran through Saltair stabbing people at random during a concert by Slayer, a group similar to Manson's. He disappeared untouched into the night with the strains of a song called "Mandatory Suicide" pulsating through the air. A mere coincidence?
The late justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said freedom of speech doesn't extend to the person yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater. One could argue that people who sing and scream about suicide, murder and illicit sex in a room full of impressionable teenagers who are confused, high and slamming into one another in a frenzied dance are not much different.
But, as I said, this is not a free-speech issue. This is a question of how to rein in a generation that is riddled by violence and a lack of respect. The theater already is on fire. Someone needs to stand up and yell.