Grieving dad pleads with Senate to leash labels

WASHINGTON — Under the glare of television lights and a standing room only crowd, the father of a teenage suicide victim testified in the U.S. Senate on Thursday that shock rocker Marilyn Manson was responsible for his son’s death.

Raymond Kuntz compared the Marilyn Manson CD “Antichrist Superstar” to a grenade that killed his son in his own bedroom. “The music wasn’t symptomatic of other problems. I would say the music caused him to kill himself, ” Kuntz testified.

Kuntz, who lives in Burlington, S.D., was testifying in front of the Senate subcommittee charged with oversight of the District of Columbia.

Since taking over the subcommittee last year, chairman Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has used it as a base to blame the recording and television industries for undermining the nation’s morality.

Recording Industry Assn. of America president and CEO Hilary Rosen found herself in the difficult position of disagreeing with an obviously distraught father about the cause of his son’s death. But Rosen was forced to press the point, noting, “The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry lists 14 signs to look for in a suicidal child. Music choices are not among them.”

But as far as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) is concerned, the recording industry execs must shoulder some of the blame for moral decay of America’s youth.

“Often we’ve heard that a record never killed anyone, and we are casually dismissed as prudes and censors,” Lieberman said. “This has got to stop. The men and women who run Seagram, Time Warner, Sony, BMG, EMI and Polygram must stop hiding behind the First Amendment and confront the damage some — and I emphasize some — of their products are doing.”

Like Lieberman, Kuntz said corporations must be held accountable for the lyrics of the artists. “By their nature, corporations do not have consciences,” Kuntz said. “But even though they are soulless, corporations do have social obligations and responsibilities.”

Kuntz specifically targeted Universal Music Group, which has a 50% interest in Interscope Records, Marilyn Manson’s label.

Brownback pointed out that while most other crime statistics are going down nationally, the crime rates among youth are rising and “there has been a marked increase in explicit violence and misogyny in popular music.” The Kansas Republican want on to cite specific examples, including, “Don’t Trust a Bitch” by Mo Thugs and “Slap a Ho” by Dove Shack.

“Given that the average teen listens to music around four hours a day, it appears young fans of such music will spend a good chunk of their formative years tuning into messages of violence and hate.”

Lieberman and Brownback insisted that they are not interested in censoring the record companies through legislation. However, Lieberman did urge Rosen to toughen up the warning labels on records with adult content.

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