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ABOUT The World ...  

Par Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul Valéry à Montpellier.

  The Parent's Music Resource Center from information to censorship. 


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But however unobtrusive censorship may appear, one has to pay attention to its ideological basis, since a parallel can be drawn with the much more disquieting American situation. Censoring implies the existence of a 'public spirit'. There seems to be a threshold beyond which liberty must give way to control in order to protect the foundations of a country's collective identity. A fictitious, homogeneous community made up of 'average people' is the necessary pre-requisite for the establishment of any restriction on individual freedom. In most countries, such a spirit developed around the notions of family and race. The protection of youth requires a union of hearts and minds.

The whole country must be united in the defence of its children. Many French laws are drawn up with these notions in mind: the 1881 Act on slander and libel which alludes to the 'feeling of fraternity that unites the members of the French family', the 1939 Act called 'Code de la Famille' which instituted numerous tax deductions, grants and allowances for families with children in order to protect 'the family and the race', etc. Ultimately, this is what is at stake with censorship, both in Europe and the United States: a collective indignation, a public reprobation that tries to impose family values and the spirit of the race. Family and race may in themselves be respectable, even desirable values. 
What is more disturbing is their use as an ideological justification for censorship.

In this respect, the example of the Front National is particularly telling. In March 1988, the Front National, the far-right French party of Jean-Marie Le Pen, contributed directly to the election of three candidates from the moderate Right as Chairmen of Regional Assemblies. Immediately after the election, the National Front demanded that the conditions of the deal be met, i.e., the setting up of a 'national cultural policy' based on family principles and French values and threatened with drastic cuts in the budgets of dissenting cultural institutions. 
The following study of the PMRC analyses in what manner this spirit can be implemented, under the guise of information, and how any type of censorship is in fact a form of exclusion, the sacrificial expulsion of everything that interferes with the smooth working of the great national family.
 

Birth of the PMRC
 

In the early 1980s, the National Parent/Teacher Association, a 5.4 million members American organisation, incensed by the lyrics of some rock songs, particularly the line 'I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth' in 'Let's Pretend We're Married' by Prince, (1999, Warner Bros., 1982), suggested to use a symbol on some records to warn prospective buyers of their contents. It publicized its proposal by a series of letters sent to influential personalities. A certain Susan Baker was among the addressees; she listened carefully to other songs, notably Prince's 'Darling Nikki', 'Sugar Walls' by Sheena Easton and 'Eat Me Alive' by Judas Priest, and what followed was the setting up of the most formidable censorship machine in American popular music. For Susan Baker was the wife of Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III.

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° Rubrique About The World