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Back on warpath

Culture warriors target H'w'd again

WASHINGTON — The Senate is poised to establish a Special Committee on American Culture that will have a broad mandate and the power to subpoena documents and witnesses.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is expected to head the bipartisan Culture Committee. Brownback is a vocal critic of Hollywood, which he has suggested is responsible for creating a culture of violence and profanity that has undermined the morality of America’s youth. A Senate subcommittee is expected to vote as early as today to decide whether the full Senate should vote on establishing the committee.

Entertainment industry lobbyists had expected the Senate to reject Brownback’s call for a special committee, but are now less optimistic. “If you asked me three weeks ago, I would have said maybe not. Now it looks likely,” one industry source said.

Not just violence

Brownback spokesman Erik Hotmire pointed out that the special committee will also look at family issues such as out-of-wedlock births and divorce, not just the entertainment industry. The goals of the committee include collecting data on the impact of pop culture; exploring links between violent entertainment and crime; and investigating possible connections between explicit sexual material and teen sexual activity.

But creative industry lobbyists, who were working Tuesday night to turn back Brownback’s efforts, point out that the Federal Trade Commission is already investigating the entertainment industry in connection with marketing violence to young people.

In addition, President Clinton has asked the Surgeon General to look at the effects of popular entertainment on kids. And Congress is also still weighing a proposal to create a national commission on youth violence that would also take a look at popular culture’s impact on the behavior of the nation’s teenagers.

In addition, D.C. think tank the Center for Media & Public Affairs today is releasing a study on violence in entertainment, including feature films, TV and musicvideos.

Congress has been struggling with ways to address youth violence since April, when two students killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., before taking their own lives. Republicans have been quick to blame popular culture for inciting the violent spree and a handful of other incidents that have struck the nation’s school yards during the last several years. But Democrats insist most of the blame should be targeted at the firearms industry, which is resisting tougher gun control laws.

Under the proposal now circulating, the committee would only be authorized to work until Dec. 31, 2000.