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Pearl Jam and Lollapalooza Censorship: A Rock Concert Pointing to Bigger Problems?
It appears as if pop culture has another censorship issue on it's hands after Pearl Jam's recent performance at Lollapalooza. If you've been following the news recently, or any of the other major music news sites on the Internet I'm sure you've caught at least a small glimpse at what has taken place. Apparently At&T "mistakingly" censored part of their webcast of the band's performance, which as is pretty expected when dealing with a band like Pearl Jam, did not go over well.
This wasn't really a surprise when I first heard it. The show was all ages, so I didn't really see anything odd about them censoring explicit language during the webcast. Still, this particular incident was different. The band censorship was about certain anti Bush political references that were made during the song "Daughter". Pearl Jam has always been a band that wears their political values on their sleeve and carries that into their stage performances (Eddie Vedder did perform in presidential masks before didn't he?). Hearing that they had made political statements during their performance was hardly shocking.
I don't think this issue would have really made a big impression in a regular situation, but the newscasters who reported the censorship yesterday morning (when I first heard about it) made a very interesting comment in my mind. It was a pretty straight forward comment simply meant to add that little bit of humor that has become the staple of the "entertaining news" era, but I think it was surprisingly telling. The newscaster simple chuckled about how AT&T claimed that the performance had been edited by accident and said something akin to: "Right, yeah, I accidentally hit the edit button...". A simple slightly sarcastic statement meant just to add a little color and humor, but it got me thinking about issues of artist expression, censorship and pop culture as a way of pointing out larger problems... amongst other issues.
Obviously this is another situation that reinvigorates the debate as to whether or not rock stars should be so vocal about their political opinions. Some people might claim that they're just expressing their opinion and it is their right to support political causes... others would say rock stars should shut up because they're entertainers, and should stick to making music, not making political commentary. I won't really get into that debate because it has very little impact on me personally; I tend to be more focused on the music itself than the band's political viewpoints.
Instead of going in that direction, this event sent my thoughts towards ideas of how censorship of pop culture might be a sign of a bigger problem. Artists cannot make political statements against the current president without being censored?... that sounds a lot like dictator style censorship to me... I'm not going to claim that's what is happening here, but it does seem a little shady that a very political band is censored, by "mistake", for making statements against the current president... statements that didn't even contained any profanity or other explicit language...
Other sources have also raised issues of Net Neutrality, censorship as a whole, freedom of expression etc, when discussing this issue... and I can see why they have chosen to go in those directions. It was, at the very least, an "interesting" and thought provoking incident and overall a great representation of how something as simple as a rock concert can get people stirred up and talking about other important issues.
Maybe everyone is blowing this whole thing out of proportion... that also seems likely as the media does have a way of running with a story and making the tiniest things into huge issues, but I still think it's important to take a look at some of the issues censorship events like this raise.
Personally, I'm not going to say definitely if I think it was a mistake or not. I will say that I think that assuming it was without question purely a true mistake/accident might be dangerous... wouldn't want to be ignoring the signs of something far more serious.
Well, in the end, Pearl Jam has had a lot more publicity (not that they needed it), and has released uncensored versions of the performance along side the edited one on their website to allow us all to take a look for ourselves and draw our own conclusions.
Check it out and see what you think, here's the band's website: http://www.pearljam.com/