by | Jun 6, 1999 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Let’s see. Our kids adore pro wrestling. They are mesmerized by gory video games. They sing along to rap music that celebrates killing cops. They line up every weekend for movies, from “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” in which people shoot one another with lasers, to “The Matrix,” in which almost everyone is left bloody and dead.

Tell you what. I’m going to save the government some money. Instead of following President Bill Clinton’s “bold” move last week — ordering a $1 million, 18-month government study on whether Hollywood markets violence to children — give me five bucks and listen very closely.


There. Think of all the paperwork I saved. Not to mention the $999,995.

Clinton’s ordering of a “probe” into the entertainment industry is like sticking a thermometer into the sun. Why bother? The average American already knows the answer. We may not grasp foreign affairs. We may not understand interest rates. But we do know entertainment.

And in America, it often means violence.

The average American parent sees things like this every day: children making
“boom” sounds while playing with gun-toting action figures. Children body-slamming friends with a move from the World Wrestling Federation. Children hypnotized by video games in which warriors slice the heads off their enemies.

Do we really need the Federal Trade Commission to tell us that the entertainment business loves violence, and sells it to whomever buys it regardless of age?

Of course not.

And that’s the point.

A study of the obvious

Clinton has become the Zen master of what I call denture politics — all shine, no teeth. Remember the national dialogue on race. Did that change anything in your neighborhood? Now, after Columbine High School, Clinton wants to show he’s responding to our pain. His heart may be in the right place. But with Hollywood and violence, our president is once again chomping with all the bite of a frog.

Oh sure, ordering a federal agency to investigate a problem — like getting seems like a serious move, until you see what’s inside.

In truth, this 18-month probe will study the obvious, come back with the obvious and report the obvious. By that point, the anger over recent high school shootings will long be gone, as will the million dollars of our tax money. Clinton will barely care, since 18 months from now, we’ll have a new president-elect.

In fact, by that point, Clinton will be boxing up souvenirs from the Oval Office. And he might find photos of the myriad Hollywood types he has courted, befriended and de-funded over the years. They paid to finance his election. They slept in the Lincoln bedroom. They rallied when he behaved with the same sexual morality as one of them, a casting director in a room full of desperate starlets.

And this is how he thanks them? With an 18-month investigation?

Well. Come to think of it …

It’s yesterday’s news already

Of course, after the tragedies in Colorado and Georgia, Clinton is not alone in his finger-pointing. Parents blame schools; schools blame parents. Society blames the gun lobby; the gun lobby blames society.

And everyone blames the entertainment industry. And why not? Bloody violence has so saturated this business, they should change “fade to black” to “fade to red.” Rap is frequently about violence. Wrestling is about violence. Teen slasher movies are about violence. “Jerry Springer” is about violence.

Let’s face it. Violence doesn’t infect entertainment. It is entertainment.

And of course, in typical fashion, those getting rich off this business deny charges of pandering to the worst in human nature. They say, “If people didn’t want it, they wouldn’t buy it.”

But the great unspoken axiom to that sentence is this: “If it wasn’t offered, they would buy something else.”

Be honest. Americans always will seek entertainment. And many will go to the lowest common denominator. But eliminate the crude and rude, raise the level a bit, and there’ll be no outcry. Viewers will simply watch the less offensive material.

So when entertainment moguls such as Edgar Bronfman Jr., head of Universal Studios, complain that teen violence is a societal problem, not an entertainment problem, they are lying, and they know it. What they’re saying is that violence is a societal problem — and they have every right to make a fortune off it.

And when Clinton claims he’s taking action with this probe, he’s also lying. Because he knows this report will fade quicker than Pauly Shore’s movie career.

In the end, our kids-and-violence problem boils down to this: It’s not about who started it; it’s about who’ll do something to fix it.

I got five bucks that says nobody



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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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