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The traditional ballads of the Atlantic Isles are littered with violence.

In the Cruel Mother (Greenwood Sidee), the mother kills her newborn twins with a penknife.

But the difference is that she suffers the repercussions and the act is not glorified.

"Seven years in the flames of hell"

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Kat, they’re not prosecuting words. They are prosecuting actions that were immortalized in song lyrics

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"it is the acts we must prosecute, not the words." Kat Rosenfield"

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions.” Lao Tzu"

"You will know them by their fruits." Jesus

Because a train runs several times an hour by my grandchild's house blowing its horn, I had many occasions to begin singing "Folsom Prison Blues." Great song. But with my grandchild listening and soaking up every word being spoken or sung in the house, the lyrics took on a new significance and kept me humming rather than singing:

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son

Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns"

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die

When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry

When Johnny Cash sang that to the inmates of Folsom Prison, they cheered right after the word "die."

Ms. Rosenfield may be correct that we shouldn't legally prosecute people just for descriptions of heinous acts in books or songs. But neither should we dismiss the great power those words have to shape our lives, including an inclination toward evil.

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I believe there is a significant difference between “murderous” country music, mystery novels etc. and rap. The guy who shot a man in Reno is a dumbass stuck in Folsom Prison, serial killers in novels are usually evil and/or deplorable and the good detectives basically slay them like knights slayed dragons. However, violent, sexist guys in rap are often the heroes of the song, the cool ones. That’s what makes rap more problematic, and possibly more predictive of actual violence.

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founding

Agree wholeheartedly that words equal not violence. So, I propose that if we are to disregard lyrics (as I think we should), we should also disregard things like a remote prior text message where a defendant expressed a slur or joke about a group (which I believe can be used to help prove that the crime committed was in fact a "hate crime"). Because as vile as a stereotyped slur or dumb joke may have been, it does not even remotely indicate that a person would harm a member of that group intentionally for the express reason that the victim is part of that demographic.

Alternatively, if we are to use all of this as evidence of character, we should use it all, including lyrics (not a path I would advise!).

Just my 2 cents.

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Lest we forget that "Thirty years ago, a committee known as the Parents Music Resource Center [which included Second Lady Tipper Gore] made a playlist of what it deemed the most offensive music at the time, including songs by megastars like Madonna and Prince" https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/pmrcs-filthy-15-where-are-they-now-60601/

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This has to be the most inane argument I've encountered in some time. Ok, then, we'll convict him on his deeds. But someone else ought to beat the crap out of him for his lyrics, anyway. The question is why women, in particular, are listening to this garbage, and defend it. It is depraved, it has always been depraved, and the whole point of it is depravity. And it's pushed into people's ears at decibel levels that are hurtful, on purpose. It's one of the countless iniquities people put up with because they can't afford to be perceived as intolerant. One ought to consider the masochism of all that instead of this silliness.

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I mean... if Bizet had composed Carmen and then murderered a gypsy, the opera would likely be a part of the court proceedings. I love Kat but this essay could be summed up as: Did the writer/musician/rapist commit the crime they wrote about? Yes? Probably relevant to the case. No? Cool, keep writing.

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Amazing justification for obscene and misogynistic garbage masquerading as "art."

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Can't agree with this article. There has got to be a limit somewhere. We can't go around promoting violence and hate and not expect some really bad repercussions, especially on our youth, and especially on those living on the fringes who have no one to guide them and help them realize that these words are not to be taken literally. Study and after study and after study shows that violent movies, video games, etc literally DO promote violence. Unfettered words of hatred and violence DO have consequences. Those promoting it should take responsibility for the hate they spew out.

Children become desensitized to violence and mimic what they see and hear.

Hate and graphic violence is not art. Let's call a spade a spade.

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"Study and after study and after study shows that violent movies, video games, etc literally DO promote violence"

this is factually incorrect. In fact the studies show the exact opposite. Hundreds of millions of people play games like Grand Theft Auto, or Modern Warfare and don't go on shooting spree's.

People that watch the Matrix don't turn into kung fu killing machines. And while Rap is actually the most popular music genre in America we had three decades of falling crime.

And while my wife likes watching murder shows I'm 99.9999% confident she's not going to kill me.

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Smoking does not kill EVERYONE, but it does kill 30% of the people who smoke....AND it is still bad for your overall health and well-being... and second-hand smoke is also bad for people subjected to other people's smoking.

It's the same idea with violent video games and shows. There are definitely people, youth especially, who are VERY negatively affected by violent video games. It even changes their brain makeup!

Research: _______________________________________________________

"Researchers in China, for example, performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on the brains of 18 college students who spent an average of 10 hours a day online, primarily playing games like World of Warcraft. Compared with a control group who spent less than two hours a day online, gamers had less gray matter (the thinking part of the brain).

As far back as the early 1990s, scientists warned that because video games only stimulate brain regions that control vision and movement, other parts of the mind responsible for behavior, emotion, and learning could become underdeveloped.

experts agree gaming has addictive qualities. The human brain is wired to crave instant gratification, fast pace, and unpredictability. All three are satisfied in video games.

Violent video games are of concern to many experts. In a study of 45 adolescents, playing violent video games for only 30 minutes immediately lowered activity in the prefrontal regions of the brain compared to those who participated in a non-violent game. Previous research showed that just 10–20 minutes of violent gaming increased activity in the brain regions associated with arousal, anxiety, and emotional reaction, while simultaneously reducing activity in the frontal lobes associated with emotion regulation and executive control.

The dopamine release that comes from gaming is so powerful, say researchers, it can almost shut the prefrontal regions down. "

(brainandlife)

Being a masters in education myself, I can assure you that the following, and its implications of what we teach our youth is quite true: "Practicing anything repetitively physically changes the brain. With time and effort, you get better at the specific task you're practicing, whether it's shooting at the enemy in a video game or hitting a baseball. Those repetitive actions and thoughts stimulate connections between brain cells, creating neural pathways between different parts of your brain. The more you practice a certain activity, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. That's the structural basis of learning.

The very nature of action-entertainment games not only attracts young people with focus, attention, and anger issues (particularly in the case of violent games); it also tends to reinforce these negative behaviors.

The stakes may be higher for a child with anger and behavior issues who finds solace in violent video games. While experts disagree about what (if any) impact violent games have on actual violent behavior, some research shows a link between playing violent games and aggressive thoughts and behavior.

For a kid who already has an aggressive personality, that could be a problem, say experts, since video games reward those aggressive tendencies. In fact, two separate studies found that playing a violent video game for just 10–20 minutes increased aggressive thoughts compared to those who played nonviolent games."

brainandlife

NIH: National Library of Medicine:

"Violence in VGs is a matter of intense debate, both in public opinion and in the scientific context [101,102]. A vast majority of common opinions, parents and educators consider the violence of VGs as the most negatively impacting feature to emotional and relational development of youth and children. Actually, studies agree on the negative impact of violent video games on aggressive behavior. Several meta-analyses have examined violent VGs [6,7,8,103] and, although they vary greatly in terms of how many studies they include, they seem to agree with each other. The most comprehensive [8] showed that violent VGs, gradually and unconsciously, as a result of repeated exposure to justified and fun violence, would increase aggressive thoughts, affect and behavior, physiological persistent alertnes, and would desensitize players to violence and to the pain and suffering of others, supporting a perceptual and cognitive bias to attribute hostile intentions to others.

Similarly, experimental, correlational and longitudinal studies supported the causal relationship between violent VGs and aggression, in the short- and long-term, both in a laboratory and in a real-life context. A greater amount of violent VGs, or even a brief exposure, were significantly associated with more positive attitudes toward violence [104], higher trait hostility [105] and with increased aggressive behaviors [106], physical fights [107] and aggressive thoughts [108] and affect [109]. In a two-year longitudinal study, children and adolescents who played a lot of violent VGs showed over time more aggressive behaviors, including fights and delinquency [110]. Saleem, Anderson and Gentile [82] examined the effects of short-term exposure to prosocial, neutral and violent VGs in a sample of 191 children of 9–14 years old. Results indicated that while playing prosocial games increased helpful and decreased hurtful behaviour, the violent games had the opposite effect."

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Yes for the most part your stats are right. Most people are not going to act out from watching violent video games or movies of perverse music lyrics.

Yet there is another statistic. I am 73 years old and I watched this major cultural change.

There were millions of guns in America from the American revolution until the 1990s with plenty of violence, but the violence was pointed. Directed at an issue or someone.

The random shootings. Killing for killings sake began to happen with the introduction of violent games, music and the more sophisticated portrayal of the visual image in movies.

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I definitely agree there's been a culture change.

As for the mass shootings, I think the increased prevalence of them is in large part driven by the media. We know that the huge media coverage of Columbine spurred numerous copy cat shootings.

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I am sure the media makes some difference, but again, pediatric studies show repeatedly that kids exposed to violent video games and shows are very negatively impacted by what they see.

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Nope, you are wrong that violent crimes videos do not harm kids and have not had an impact on society. My pediatrician who trained at Cornell and SUNY, and who has practiced medicine for over 30 years, said there are NUMEROUS studies, repeated by many medical schools, over many years that show the EXTREMELY negative impact of violent video games and TV shows on children's behavior.

Just because you and your wife are able to keep your heads on straight, it doesn't mean everyone can.

Not everyone who smokes is going to die of lung cancer... but 30% of people will.

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Smoking does not kill 100% of the people who smoke, but we do KNOW that smoking is very bad for your health. It's the same concept with violent videos and shows.

I did not say that everyone responds badly, but it does indeed influence children's behavior in a very bad way. Shootings are up all over the country. No conscience crimes and desensitization to people in pain is common. Crime rates are thru the roof, and it's not JUST because of defund the police, but even if that exacerbates the problem, that people want to do these crimes in the first place speaks volumes.

Chicago just had a gang who attacked a couple, killing the pregnant woman's baby, and it was committed by 10 teenagers. The two who were caught were a 17-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. What were this couple doing... going on a date and walking down the street. Per the news article the teenage thugs kept saying: We own the street. We own the street. You can’t walk around.’ I was wearing like a nice dress and heels. Like I was out on the date with my husband, and they dragged my dress on the ground, and they said, like, ‘we own the street. You can’t just walk around prancing in your little dress.’ And they were saying things that just didn’t make any sense to me because they don’t know me personally.”

Seconds after the mob set upon the husband, a teenage girl began dragging the wife by her hair and pepper sprayed her in the face while another began beating her and kicking her in the stomach. The attack was so brutal, it left the woman with bald spots from where chunks of her hair were torn from her scalp."

Do you really want people to write lyrics like: "Yea yea yea man, take a gun and shoot all the kids at school, because hey man, that's what I likes to do! Yea yea yea..." You are going to try to tell me that that is art and that won't have a negative impact on some kids somewhere... and not just one or two kids! This is fed into the minds of millions of kids. It's time for us to start acting more responsibly. Our words DO make a difference.

If you don't believe that, then maybe none of your words above make a difference either and what's the point of your responding to my comments?!

I'm sure a song like "K*ll Mathew cuz that would be great" would kinda piss you off... and rightly so. What we say matters.

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Actually we had 30 years of decreasing crime.

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Not sure what slice of time you are looking at, or specifically what kinds of crimes you are talking about, but overall violent crime rates have been thru the roof for quite a while now. FBI data shows that.

Filling our kids heads with hate-filled words, and showing them graphic violence does indeed promote violence in kids. This has been documented and proven repeatedly. This is the area that we need to address and NOT ignore.

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There was about a 30 year stretch of them going down. Early 90s to almost 2020

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At least you hope like hell she isn't.

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btw, guess who committed the beheadings for ISIS? Teenagers who were shown videos on how to hate. Teenagers who became totally desensitized to violence and hate.

Look at the Palestinian protestors... mainly young college aged kids who were lead by hate instigators with their propaganda and videos.... Students who only the summer before would have denied ever wanting to hurt ANYONE or threaten a fellow student, but there they were just a few short months later trying to literally get at Jewish students JUST for being jewish... Fellow classmates! Fellow students at their universities. Unbelievable. Student Palestinian protesters who fully supported Hamas!

Soooo much influences our kids. Over and over again, many of these protesters didn't even have a CLUE what "From the River to the Sea" even meant, but they were willing to resort to violence to defend the slogan. Columbia most recently comes to mind...

YES, what we say DOES matter!!!! It's what journalism is after all, isn't it? If you insist that this spewing of hate and violence doesn't make a difference then you might as well cancel journalism too.

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Kat,

Brilliant essay, as usual.

One note: Bob Marley wrote and first performed "I Shot the Sheriff." Clapton's version was a cover. To your point, I don't think Marley killed anyone either.

American country music had a strong influence on Reggae since one of two radio stations in Jamaica in the day played country music. The Reggae artists took to the narrative element. An album came out called "Reggae's Gone Country" a few years ago. For more information: https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2011/09/01/140120452/reggae-loves-country-a-50-year-romance.

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Willie Nelson did a Reggae album called Countrymen. FWIW I love the old Reggae- Tosh, Marley, Third World, Jimmy Cliff. The new stuff is too Hip-Hop for me.

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Best confession murder

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14WE3A0PwVs

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Sucks, because our children are not protected from hearing this absolute garbage and getting desensitized!

Btw, never liked fairy tales either!

There is enough evil without getting. bombarded by our cultural subcultures!

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Rap music is a sewer. It prides itself on being incurably foul-mouthed; it brandishes the morals of a wife-beater; its lyrics don't even make grammatical sense; its videos are bling-bedecked nouveau riche fantasies; and it projects an impotent tough-guy aggro ("Young Thug" as a stage name - really?) that fools nobody.

"Rap is, of course, one of few worlds in which being a convicted felon helps rather than harms your credibility." Is it any wonder then, that as Coleman Hughes has repeatedly pointed out, a majority of African-Americans loathe the genre?

Why the Free Press has stooped to defending the indefensible beats me.

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It's impossible to warm to a genre of music whose practitioners think that the plural of "woman" is "bitches".

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I can't even count the number of times I've read articles about various street crimes in which the perpetrator or victim (or both) was described as "an aspiring rapper." Never seen such an article that described "an aspiring muralist" or "an aspiring accordion player." And to take one example from the article, everybody has always known that Alice Cooper is an ACT; Vince Furnier doesn't live the life of Alice (apart from the alcoholism he overcame). But in the violent sub-culture that is hip-hop living that life is called "cred." It is what is aspired to. If it walks like a duck and it raps like a duck...

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