Testifying before a Senate committee investigating how violent imagery is presented to young people, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities set her sights on Eminem on Wednesday.
Former Chairman Lynne Cheney (who is also the wife of Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney) argued that the rapper "promotes violence of the most degrading kind against women" in her statements to the Senate committee.
Wednesday's hearing was staged after the Federal Trade Commission issued a report on Monday that stated that the entertainment industry was directly marketing material with adult themes to an underage audience.
Cheney held up Eminem as the most scathing evidence of that practice, saying, "I want to focus on one company, Seagram, that is currently marketing Eminem, a rap singer who advocates murder and rape. He talks about murdering and raping his mother. He talks
about choking women slowly so he can hear their screams for a long time. He talks about using O.J.'s machete on women, and this is a man who is honored by the recording industry." [RealVideo]
Cheney delved into specific Eminem lyrics during her time with the committee, delving into his track "Kill You."
"He begins by describing the satisfaction of raping and murdering his mother and then goes on to imagine the joys of murdering any woman he might come across," Cheney said. "'Wives, nuns, sluts,' whoever 'the bitches' might be, he will kill them slowly, leaving enough air in their lungs so their screaming will be prolonged. He will paint the forest with their blood. 'I got the machete from O.J.,' he shouts, 'Bitch, I'm a kill you.'"
Cheney then shifted her focus to Seagram, the parent company of Eminem's record label, Interscope Records. Cheney invoked last year's shooting at Colorado's Columbine High School in drawing a link between entertainment and
action, and called on Seagram and the entertainment industry to take responsibility for the effects of its work.
"The time has long passed when we can shrug off violence in the entertainment industry by saying that it has no effect, by saying it's just coincidence that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the murderers of Columbine High, were fans of the shock rocker Marilyn Manson, also distributed by Seagram," Cheney said.
While not calling for an outright ban of the rapper or explicit material, claiming to "have long been a vocal supporter of free speech," Cheney did call on regulation within the entertainment industry and, specifically, for a detailed rating system for music. Cheney argued that this "age-labeling" would allow record labels to regulate themselves, as the movie industry does, and would "also give retailers information they need in order to decide who should be able to buy certain materials and who should not."
Wednesday's committee hearing also saw Democratic
vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman tee off on the entertainment industry, testifying that young Americans are engulfed in a "culture of carnage."
Long an outspoken opponent of Hollywood violence, Lieberman said that parents today are "locked in a losing competition with the culture to raise our children." Like Cheney, Lieberman also evoked the shooting at Columbine High School in his comments to the committee, calling the event "a psychic breaking point for our country.... It was a warning that the culture of carnage surrounding our children may have gone too far."
Lieberman and Cheney were part of a string of speakers at Wednesday's hearing. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, and a parade of Republican and Democratic congressmen addressed the committee and railed against Hollywood.
Speaking on behalf of major U.S. record labels, Recording Industry Association of America President Hilary Rosen emphasized the music industry's current
voluntary warning label policy.
Rosen also took aim at the theory that violent music and movies can affect behavior, pointing to a study that found that when "parents were asked what most influenced their kids, they said television, movies, the Internet, games, music, and their friends. When teenagers were asked, they said, overwhelmingly, parents, teachers, and their church were the most important influences on their lives. I am sympathetic with parents who feel that their children are no longer under their moral control. But it just isn't the case. "
Artemis Records President and CEO Danny Goldberg went on the offensive, telling the committee that he believes "15 years of youth culture entertainment bashing in Washington has greatly contributed to alienation and apathy on the part of young people in politics."
DreamWorks/SKG principal Jeffrey Katzenberg, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, and Sony Pictures chairman and CEO John Calley were invited to the hearing
to represent the entertainment industry, but they did not appear. The committee is expected to reconvene in two weeks to give Hollywood a chance to discuss the issues at hand.