Last week’s Hollywood-bashing by the U.S. Senate was little more than the kickoff of a culture war for votes.
Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democrats’ general in charge of morals, sermonized that the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado “was a warning that the culture of carnage surrounding our children may have gone too far, and that the romanticized and sanitized visions of violence our children are being bombarded with by the media have become part of a toxic mix that has actually now turned some of them into killers.”
What the modern-day Moses who’s No. 1 among senators in donations from the insurance industry ($197,419 this year and last, more than $420,000 since 1989) didn’t say was what a killer fundraiser he is from the industry that he preaches against.
He also didn’t acknowledge that the Hollywood he vilified gives plenty of money to Republicans who are trying to pin this morality tale on the donkeys.
In fact, Senator John McCain, who chaired last week’s September 13 moralistic anti-Hollywood hearing, is the top congressional recipient in 1999-2000, from either party, of money from TV/movies/music donors, with $365,193. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second at $360,700, the pious Utah senator Orrin Hatch seventh at $95,000, Hillary’s foe Rick Lazio eighth at $88,342, and Lieberman 17th at $35,100.
Lost amid the hypocritical moralizing by both parties was the most entertaining part of the Hollywood scuffle: DePaul University professor Michael Eric Dyson opening a can of whup-ass on the U.S. Senate.
Last in line among the witnesses, Dyson delivered a scolding that was more dramatic than 99 percent of Hollywood’s product. No one from the mainstream press wrote or broadcast a word of it last week.
Five hours after Lieberman’s hypocritical polemic, Professor Dyson took issue with it—and showed the hearing for the pre-election scare tactic that it was. Helpfully translating hip-hop vulgarities into messages that might reach these old white men, he tried to argue that the senators were missing the point of the roots of violence. “Violence is old,” he told the senators. “Violence pervaded America way before Columbine. As LL Cool J said, ‘Columbine happens in the ghetto every day.’ ”
Social scientists have been telling Congress for years about the possible causes of violent behavior, about the horrors of the juvenile justice system and the real-life violence that traumatizes adolescents who are mostly black or Latino. Do white kids become violent because they’re exposed to, say, violent video games? No one knows.
The most recent—and perhaps the most thorough—study of the video games that people play was conducted last year by Australian professor Kevin Durkin and an associate. The study, sponsored by the Australian government, found that “there is little evidence to support fears that playing computer games contributes substantially to aggression in the community.” The Aussie study hasn’t made news in the Western Hemisphere.
Lynne Cheney, wife of the GOP’s vice presidential candidate, suggested that the real purpose of the hearing was a chance for politicians to take the high ground.
“There is a problem with the products they market, no matter how they market them,” Cheney said during her ass-chewing of Hollywood, a perfect sound bite for the midday newscasts. Not missing her chance to smear film honcho and prime Democratic fundraiser Harvey Weinstein just hours before Weinstein was to host a big party for the Democrats, Cheney said for the cameras, “Shouldn’t people of stature go to Harvey Weinstein, who is the cochairman of Miramax, for example, and ask him to pledge in the future he will not fund works that debase our culture and corrode our children’s souls?”
Yes, and shouldn’t people call in the bankers and insurance companies who throw campaign soirees for Cheney’s husband and give them a public caning for such practices as redlining and charging high fees, creating economic circumstances that are probably much more corrosive?
Dyson testified last on the last panel of speakers at the dog-and-pony show. That meant he had plenty of material to sample and throw back at the senators. Replying to McCain’s partisan dig at Hollywood’s imminent fundraisers for Democrats, Dyson told the panel, “We wouldn’t simply point our fingers at Hollywood. My God! If we’re going to talk about the ways that corporate capitalism has undermined the best interests of the citizenry, we’ve got to start with the United States Senate.”
None of the senators seemed too interested in pursuing that subject. Why would they be? Everyone knows that big business generally favors Republicans while it graces both parties with millions of dollars. For obvious reasons, they didn’t want to talk about money from bigtime Hollywood, either: According to the Center for Responsive Politics watchdog group, Republican Party committees have gotten $3.7 million in hard and soft money during the current election cycle from the TV/movies/music industry. That’s more than they have received from lawyers/law firms, Big Tobacco, utilities, or commercial banks.
Natural Born Killers: a favorite of Columbine killers Harris and Klebold, who inspired the FTC report
Alan Horn: chief of Warner Bros. movie studio, which released Natural Born Killers. Warner Bros. Is part of the Time Warner conglomerate.
Bush: Time Warner president Richard Parsons gave $1000 to Bush last year and $1000 this year.
Hillary: $5000 from Time Warner PAC
Gore: Horn gave $1000 to Gore/Lieberman General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund.
Hatch: Horn gave $1000 to Orrin Hatch Presidential Exploratory Committee Inc. on Sept. 29, 1999.
Lazio: $5000 from Time Warner PAC
Lieberman: No. 1 recipient ($5000) from pro-Israel California PAC, one of whose largest donors ($2500) was Horn
McCain: $5000 from Time Warner PAC
Democrats $222,137 soft money from Time Warner
Republicans $128,000 soft money from Time Warner
Kids: Larry Clark’s vision of a violent teenage wasteland
Michael Eisner: CEO of Disney, and boss of Harvey Weinstein, whose company, Miramax, released Kids
Bush: $1000 from Eisner on June 29, 1999
Hillary: So much money and fundraising help from Miramax and Hillary-party boy Weinstein that it can’t be counted
Gore: $1000 from Eisner on Sept. 13, 1999
Hatch: $1000 from Eisner on Feb. 14, 2000
Lieberman: $500 from Eisner in 1993
Democrats $258,056 in soft money from Walt Disney Co.
Republicans $350,370 in soft money from Walt Disney Co.
Rob Zombie: The man who brought us La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One and Hellbilly Deluxe
David Geffen: Head of Geffen Records, Zombie’s label; DreamWorks partner with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg (founder of arcade chain GameWorks)
Hillary: Geffen gave a $7000 Christmas present last year to the Democrats’ New York Senate 2000 fund.
Gore: $4950 from Geffen on Nov. 11, 1998, to Leadership ’98 (formerly known as Friends of Albert Gore Jr. Inc.)
Hatch: $1000 on March 13, 1998, from Katzenberg
Lieberman: $1000 on June 16, 1993, from Katzenberg
McCain: $1000 on March 18, 1999, from Geffen
Democrats $525,000 in soft money from DreamWorks’ three partners
Eminem: The singer of “Kill You” and the kind of songs that Hatch and Lieberman condemn
Edgar Bronfman Jr.: Boss of Seagram’s, which owns Universal Studios, Interscope (Eminem’s label); Edgar Sr. heads the World Jewish Congress
Bush: $1000 from Bronfman Jr. on July 26, 1999
Hillary: $2000 from Bronfman (either Sr. or Jr.) on Oct. 21, 1999; received an award from World Jewish Congress
Gore: $1000 from Bronfman Jr. on Nov. 5, 1999
Hatch: $4000 from Joseph E. Seagram and Sons in 1997–98, second-highest amount for a Senate candidate
Lazio: $1000 from Recording Industry Assn. of America PAC, to which Bronfman is major contributor
Lieberman: $500 from Interscope cofounder Ted Field in 1994 (Bronfman later paid $200 million for Interscope)
McCain: $2000 in 1998 from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons
Democrats $779,220 soft money from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons
Republicans $326,769 soft money from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons
Hollow Man: The grotesque sci-fi flick about a violent invisible guy
John Calley: Chief of Japanese-owned Sony Pictures Entertainment, which runs Columbia Pictures, which released Hollow Man
Bush: $500 from Sony senior music executive Frank Calamita
Hillary: $1000 from Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
Hatch: $1000 from Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
Lazio: $1000 from Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
McCain: $1000 from Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. in ’97–’98
Republicans Sony Music Entertainment Inc. gave $107,880 in soft money to 1999 Republican Senate/House Dinner Committee.
Fatal Attraction: Dem pal Michael Douglas gave McCain $1000 last Feb. 17.
Sumner Redstone: CEO of Viacom, which owns CBS, Blockbuster, Westinghouse, 1400 movie theaters, and Paramount, distributor of Fatal Attraction
Bush: $1000 last March from the wife of Paramount Pictures chief Kerry McCluggage
Gore: $2000 from Redstone in ’99
Hatch: $1000 from Redstone in ’98
McCain: $3000 from Redstone in ’98-’99
Democrats $25,500 from CBS in ’99–’00
Republicans $3000 soft money from Viacom in ’99–’00, $39,205 from CBS
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 19, 2000