President Clinton outraged some rock 'n' rollers Monday by suggesting that music and other entertainment contributes to real-life ills and calling on those who create and distribute such work to "consider the consequences" of certain recordings, movies and video games.
"Our country is in the biggest f---ing denial it's ever been in," said Richard Patrick of the industrial-rock band Filter, responding to attacks by politicians and the media in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre that left 15 dead in Littleton, Colo.
Following a White House summit on youth violence Monday, President Clinton called on the makers of CDs, movies and video games to stop marketing violent products to children.
"We cannot pretend that there is no impact on our culture and our children that is adverse if there is too much violence coming out of what they see and experience," Reuters quoted the president as saying.
What the president and other politicians seem to be suggesting, Patrick said, is, "It's not the parents (who are to blame for violent children). It's not religion. It's not the fact that these kids have slipped through the fingers of society. It's not the institution that has failed kids. It's f---ing pop music. It's movies."
Buckcherry singer Joshua Todd said the notion that music makes people want to hurt others is absurd. By focusing on the entertainment industry, society is ignoring the real problem, he said.
"People are going to shoot kids in high school regardless of their listening to music," Todd said. "It has to do with a lot of other things than CDs and record stores.
"Just because they heard a song and had a problem with something before it, and they found reason to go off the f---ing edge doesn't mean the song is a problem. I don't understand that."
The President made his comments 20 days after the high-school shooting in which two students planned an ambush of their schoolmates and faculty, killing 12 of their peers, a teacher and injuring many others. The students then ended their own lives.
According to media accounts, the two students, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, were fans of such hard-rock and industrial bands as Marilyn Manson, KMFDM and Rammstein. Investigators confiscated CDs from both teens' homes but have not said what CDs were taken. Media reports repeatedly have focused on the students' fascination with the dark influences of goth music.
"We have to ask the people who produce things to consider the consequences of them, whether it's a violent movie, a CD, a video game," Clinton said. "If they are made, they at least should not be marketed to children."
Guests at the summit included Hilary Rosen, president and chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major record labels, and pop singer Gloria Estefan, according to White House spokesperson Victoria Valentine.
Alexandra Walsh, an RIAA spokesperson, said Tuesday that Rosen considered the summit a "constructive dialogue" on youth violence.
The focus of the meeting, Valentine said, was to develop a strategy on how to stop the spread of violence among young people and in schools. She said gun manufacturers, educators, cabinet officers including Attorney General Janet Reno, and high-school students also attended the summit.
A week earlier, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., held a Senate hearing on the marketing of violent entertainment products to children, but few representatives of the entertainment industries participated. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said during that hearing he might ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate companies' marketing strategies.
Rosen said she declined an invitation to that hearing because she felt music was being "scapegoated." "They just wanted to find a way to shame the industry and I'm not ashamed," she said.
John Woods, the president of Rock Out Censorship, an anti-censorship organization in Ohio, said it's unclear what impact the politicians' efforts might have on policy.
"There's supposedly already a voluntary labeling system by the record industry," Woods said, referring to the parental-advisory notices on albums with explicit lyrics. "What more do they want?"
But Woods said he fears a "knee-jerk reaction" in the wake of the Colorado shooting could lead to a rash of state proposals to ban or restrict the sales of certain types of albums.
Damon Dash, CEO of Roc-a-Fella Records, rapper Jay-Z's label, said Tuesday that music and other forms of entertainment should not be blamed.
"I can't see the music contributing to that kind of violence," Dash said. "That's something that has to be built in someone. If it's even triggered by music, it has to be built in. That's the responsibility of the families and the homes to make their children a little more secure and make them feel a little better about the value of life."
(Contributing editor Teri vanHorn contributed to this report.)