Manson Rallies Invoke Columbine
by Ari Armstrong
[The following article originally appeared in the August 2001 edition of Colorado Liberty.]
On June 20 I spoke at a free speech rally prompted by the controversy surrounding shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. Following that rally, Pastor Jason Janz led his own rally asking Manson to stay out of town.
Janz invoked the Columbine tragedy as a motivating factor in forming his group. Columbine victims showed up to support both sides. Angela Sanders, daughter of the slain teacher, said people shouldn't blame music for violence. "Blaming Marilyn Manson for Columbine is like blaming Eminem for domestic violence, Britney Spears for teen sex, or Bill Clinton for adultery," she told the crowd.
Steve Schweitzberger, author of the insightful "40 Flags of Columbine" (http://users.sedona.net/~redstone/ columbine/fortyfla.htm), circulated flyers at the free speech rally denouncing violence in entertainment. Schweitzberger's daughter was in the library during the Columbine murders. Tom Mauser, who suffered the loss of his son, attended the second rally in support of Janz.
In many respects, the two rallies were not in conflict. The first rally supported the right of free speech; the second rally used free speech to ask Manson to stay away.
Still, Janz laid out some positions at odds with libertarianism. He supports pornography laws, and he suggested he wants strict enforcement of drug prohibition. He also called for new legislation to restrict minors from attending select concerts. While most libertarians would praise Janz for practicing "citizenship, not censorship," as Janz put it, they would be uncomfortable with the state involvement Janz advocates.
At the free speech rally, some speakers also criticized Manson, though they said he should be allowed to perform. In my speech, I defined censorship as "the use of force to prevent or discourage someone from speaking freely." I pointed to a recent FCC fine imposed on a Colorado Springs radio station for playing Eminem as an example of censorship. I said the FCC flagrantly violates the First Amendment and should be abolished.
I also called for tolerance. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," I said, invoking Voltaire. I said that David Horowitz, Mark Twain, and John Steinback have recently been targeted by the politically correct crowd.
Old Questions Revisited
Libertarians have suggested specific solutions to the Columbine tragedy. In this issue of Colorado Liberty, three of those solutions are detailed. Barry Fagin argues that responsible parents don't resort to calls for censorship. For libertarians, freedom literally means responsibility. If we are free, we must take responsibility for our own lives and for helping to build a healthy community.
In another article, Larry Welshon describes an education system he believes works better than the government school system. To my mind, education reform is the single most important policy change that would help prevent problems in our schools. In a recent fundraising letter, Marshall Fritz of the Separation of School and State Alliance referred to policies at Columbine High School as a reason to end government involvement in education.
Finally, philosopher David Kelley offers an Objectivist take on Columbine. He urges students to become independent thinkers and actors and to start contemplating the basics of morality.
The debate about Marilyn Manson isn't really that significant. What's significant is the deep wound that remains in our community following the horrifying deaths at Columbine. The recent debate shows that wound still needs our attention.
In the wake of Columbine, we've seen reactionaries on both the left and right. The left proposes more statist controls of civil arms; the right proposes more statist controls of entertainment. Libertarians remain steadfast in their belief that we need more liberty, not less. In the words of Alexander Berkman, "Be it never forgotten that the cure for evil and disorder is more liberty." This issue of Colorado Liberty offers a few essential ingredients for the libertarian cure.