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When Republican senators hop on the dais to address the District’s problems, they generally harp on Mayor Barry, the city’s tradition of lazy management, and Mayor Barry. At a hearing of his District oversight subcommittee last Thursday, though, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback unearthed a new culprit: Axl Rose. With the help of a distinguished panel of experts, Brownback examined the sinister effects of violent lyrics in such Guns N’ Roses classics as “Paradise City” on youth in the “District of Columbia and across the nation.” So that’s where all those ugly hankyheads came from.
If Brownback’s hearing represents the new face of D.C. oversight, the case for statehood is improving.
“Did you see any D.C. youth there?” asked ACLU legislative counsel Solange E. Bitol. In fact, the only kid who testified on the scourge of nasty music had to be imported from Philly. Throughout the afternoon testimony, the District was mentioned only tangentially, and only one of the panel witnesses hailed from D.C. The lineup included a social critic, a pediatrician, a representative of the music industry, and a grieving father from Burlington, N.D.
No matter. The hearing’s tenuous link to the District doesn’t concern Republicans like Brownback, who know that you can always pack a hearing room by blaming pop culture for society’s ills. Record industry lobbyists, Hill staffers, and others elbowed each other for a precious seat at the hearing.
The attendees got an earful on the destructive impact of tunes by Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Guns N’ Roseshardly perennial playlist favorites on popular D.C. stations. Anti-rap activist C. Delores Tucker was the only person who even remotely addressed the music District kids listen to, as she launched into her routine attack on record companies that distribute gangsta rap. Frank Palumbo, a D.C. pediatrician, said linking violence and music is baseless. “No studies have documented a cause-and-effect relationship between sexually explicit or violent lyrics and adverse behavorial effects,” said Palumbo.
Despite hours of windbagging, the panel managed to gloss over the most controversial music in D.C.: go-go. Although go-go detractors blame the pulsing music for rousing D.C. nightclub crowds to violence, it’s not a national craze that fills the coffers of recording companies. As a result, go-go doesn’t make for a suitable scapegoat at a Senate hearing.
Local activists, who commonly gather early outside oversight hearing rooms, sat out Brownback’s foray into moral politics. “What response can there be to such idiocy?” said ubiquitous D.C. politico John Capozzi. “When the car drives up next to you, and the windows are dark and the music is loud, they’re not listening to Marilyn Manson.” CP