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Is Congress getting back into the censorship business?

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Capitol_l

Capitol_lI’m surprised no one has noticed the connection between two events that happened on Capitol Hill Tuesday: The House of Representatives held hearings on what to do about objectionable rap lyrics, and two congressmen introduced a bill called the “Family Friendly Flights Act” that would restrict the showing of in-flight movies with adult content. As an election year approaches, looks like Congress is getting ready for another round of ritual theater in which it acts like it’s doing something to protect kids from grown-up entertainment.

I’m not too worried that actual government censorship will take place here; for one thing, Congress hosts these hand-wringing sessions every few years, but usually without actually passing legislation. Plus, everyone at the rap hearings (music executives, rappers, civil rights activists, and legislators) seemed to agree that federal regulation is not the answer. On the other hand, self-policing doesn’t seem to work either. Labels may release CDs with diluted language, and broadcasters may bleep the most offensive words, but no one doubts that kids are still getting the complete message. And airlines have been cavalier about complaints from parents that their kids are captive audiences who can’t help but watch violent and sexual images screening above every seat.

I suppose we’ll have to wait for the market to provide solutions — rappers and hip-hop labels who cater to an audience that wants clean lyrics, airlines that provide individually programmable screens for each passenger. Meanwhile, I wish Congress would consider it a higher priority to protect us from real gangstas than the imaginary ones on the airwaves, and from real weapons on planes, rather than just images of weapons.

addCredit(“Capitol building: Michael Rieger/ZUMApress”)

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