Clutching a copy of Marilyn Manson's Antichrist
Superstar album, a teary father told a Senate subcommittee that is investigating the influence of violent song lyrics on youth that the album was
the "hand grenade" that led to his son's suicide.
Raymond Kuntz of Burlington, N.D. told the subcommittee Thursday afternoon
that his 15-year-old son Richard had shown him a copy of the album, about
which he was writing an English class term paper, before he died. "I
failed to recognize that my son was holding a hand grenade," Kuntz said,
his voice wavering.
But Manson fans who were present at the hearing but did not testify criticized the hearing as one-sided. "I find it very offensive that Senators would parade Kuntz up
here as political fodder just to further their own right-wing agenda," said
Martin Gruss, a 32-year-old Silver Spring, Md. resident wearing a Manson
T-shirt. "I've had friends who have killed themselves. Parents of suicide
victims are going through very emotional stages, where they want to blame
everybody without looking at the reality of the problem."
"Tupac Shakur [in his music] is responding to a
pre-existing violence," said Columbia University
professor Michael Eric Dyson, a Baptist minister and author of Between God and Gangsta Rap, who
reeled off lyrics from Notorious B.I.G., N.W.A. and Snoop Doggy Dogg as he
called the hearing a "disingenuous" action from politicians eager to cut
welfare and pass crime bills. "Many in the American media and in American
society don't have cognizance of [that pre-existing violence]: that is, the economic terror, the
sociological terror and rhetorical terror being directed at them by United
States Senators who -- if you were listening to CSPAN last year -- called
people on welfare wolves. That distracts people from the real sources of
violence in society."
Earlier in Kuntz's testimony, he told the Subcommittee on Government
Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia how his son had
committed suicide in bed in December 1996 while listening to the
Antichrist Superstar album.
"Our children are quietly being destroyed, dying by this man's music by
ones and twos in scattered isolation," Kuntz said before issuing a call to
make the record industry's voluntary parental warning sticker program
Testimony during the two-and-a-half hour informational hearing was weighted
heavily in favor of those who concur with subcommittee chairman Sam
Brownback (R-Kan.) that action needs to be taken within the music industry
to curtail violence in popular music or better warn parents of its
Witnesses for that opinion included hip-hop critic C. Delores Tucker, who a day
earlier had sent a statement to the shareholder's meeting of Seagram Co.
demanding that the company sell off its share of Interscope Records,
Manson's label, and distributor of Death Row Records (Tupac Shakur, Snoop
Also on the panel were a pediatrician who said the most disturbed children
he sees are those who are involved with music such as Manson's, and a
Stanford University professor who said his research has found children who
listen to violent, sexual or misogynist music become more accepting of such
Defense of the music industry and its artists fell to Hilary Rosen,
president of the Recording Industry Association of America, who, during
occasionally heated exchanges with Brownback and Sen. Joseph Lieberman
(D-Conn.), contended that record companies act responsibly by labeling
albums with potentially offensive content with parental warning stickers.
Brownback asked Rosen if record companies consider song lyrics such as
Manson's "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" when they decide whether to market an
"They look at the whole work," Rosen said. "They look at whether the
record has any kind of message that has some validity in today's society.
But more importantly, they're not trying to pull the wool over anybody's
eyes. They recognize that this is not appropriate for young children.
That's why they put the sticker on it."
Brownback also grilled Rosen on the demographics of who buys music with
"Young people don't have to go to music to find messages against women,"
Rosen shot back. "They need not look much farther than many corporations,
the floor of Congress or many ethnic cultures."
After the hearing, several people who requested to testify but were denied
a seat on witness panels staged a press conference. Dyson blasted the event for not including a broader
spectrum of views. "There was not an engagement of the complexity of rap
on all fronts," he said.
The day ended in a near brawl as activist William Tucker,
husband of C. Delores, approached Dyson and threatened him for calling his
wife "mean spirited." "You bring two pairs of glasses next time," Tucker
shouted at the bespectacled Dyson while being led away by a companion.
[Fri., Nov. 7, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]