Friday, October 2, 2009

10 things Ray Bradbury and musician Nikki Sixx have in common: #2 - Opposed to censorship

#2. Both SF&F author Ray Bradbury and Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx are strongly opposed to censorship.

Ray Bradbury has been a longtime opponent of censorship, which he once defined as “when government controls things, and you cannot publish or sell or find in a library the books that you want.” His classic novel Fahrenheit 451 is perhaps the quintessential fictional work about censorship and is read more widely today than when it was first published in 1953.

Bradbury discussed his views on the First Amendment, freedom of expression, and censorship in a 1991 interview with Gauntlet, a publication devoted to the subjects. Here are two excerpts from the interview:
Gauntlet: Your first stories predated McCarthyism. What prompted you to explore censorship?

Ray Bradbury: Well, book burnings in Russia and China over a period of time; and Hitler’s book burning in Germany; and the history of the burning of libraries at Alexandria -- two by accident, I believe, and one on purpose. Thousands of volumes lost. And since I’m a library person and I’ve grown up in libraries and been educated by them and never made it to college, the library, to me, is central to my life.

Gauntlet: Had you experienced censorship yourself at this time and have you experienced censorship of your work since then?

Ray Bradbury: I haven’t had any trouble. The last time was 35, 40 years ago. Nothing in recent years at all. I have good relationships with my editors everywhere in the world, so the problem just doesn’t occur. […]

Gauntlet: What’s your feeling about the 2 Live Crew controversy; explicit lyrics in music and explicit sex in moves?

Ray Bradbury: All this talk about arresting people for selling pornographic records bothers me. What we should worry about is movies broadcast at the wrong hours. Wait until the kids go to bed, then you have the right to put anything on the air you want. As for record stores I think that under a certain age... kids learn about sex early enough, and to learn the wrong sex, dirty sex, that’s not what sex should be. It should be beautiful. You should have wonderful love affairs, and long before we’re married. But my goodness, can’t they be decent instead of indecent? So all I’m saying... instead of arresting people, they should say, “Look don’t let anyone in this particular store under a certain age. They can’t buy the record.”

Gauntlet: Just like they did with pornographic magazines...

Ray Bradbury: Sure. Sure. We have laws on alcohol and a lot of other things.

Gauntlet: Who are more dangerous -- censors of the right (Donald Wildmon, Jesse Helms, for example) or so-called “Yuppie liberals,” those in political in-groups like gays, blacks and feminists?

Ray Bradbury: Well, all of them. It’s the left and right, liberal and conservative. The liberals... in fact, the history of the world, in recent times, is liberals burning books all over the world. Chinese Communist liberals, left-red radical liberals burn millions of books and millions of librarians and teachers. So, that’s the worst thing in modern history. Russia’s done it over a period of time, maybe not as much as Red China, but the record, if anything, is worse among the liberal nations than what it is in what you’d call more conservative nations.

Gauntlet: At what point does irresponsible journalism in tabloids like the National Enquirer infringe on First Amendment rights of others, if at all?

Ray Bradbury: Well, they’re such a joke, it’s hard for me to believe anyone takes them seriously. And you have the right to sue, so I suppose... most of us are never going to appear in these magazines so we haven’t anything to worry about. I don’t think they infringe on anyone. A lot of these people like to be infringed on; they’re public figures and they want people to know about their dreadful affairs.

Gauntlet: Are you a First Amendment purist or do you see limits to free expression? Just where do you draw the line at what should be censored, like kiddie porn for example?

Ray Bradbury: Well, of course -- that’s reprehensible. If you get those guys in jail they’d be killed by the other prisoners and one sympathizes with that. You can’t mess around! I mean, just because you want to fiddle with some 9-year old boy or girl, should you be allowed to do it and can you take pictures of this and sell them? No, I don’t think so.

Nikki Sixx has also been a staunch opponent of censorship and has, over the years, been one of the music industry’s poster boys for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

In the mid-1980s, Mötley Crüe and other recording artists were targets of a campaign by the Parents Resource Music Center (PRMC) to have the music industry voluntarily place labels on records and CDs warning about explicit lyrics. Co-founded by Tipper Gore in 1985, PRMC drew up a “Filthy Fifteen” list of obscene songs to illustrate its point. “Bastard,” a track on Mötley Crüe’s album Shout at the Devil (1983), was #4 on the list. At a Congressional hearing held in late 1985, Tipper Gore made a presentation entitled “The Smut and Sadism of Rock,” in which she read lyrics from two other Mötley Crüe songs, “Live Wire” and “Too Young to Fall in Love” (watch a two-minute video on YouTube about the Mötley Crüe-PRMC controversy). Before the hearing concluded, the music industry agreed to put generic "Parental Advisory" labels (known as “Tipper stickers”) on selected releases at their own discretion. A couple of years later, in 1987, Nikki Sixx told the Los Angeles Times how he felt about Tipper Gore and PRMC: "She's an idiot. I'd tell it to her face. And these parents are ignorant, screaming and preaching against us. They don't know what they're talking about."

In 1993, William Kilpatrick wrote in his controversial book Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong: “And when Nikki Sixx, a member of Mötley Crüe, was asked by Creem (a teen magazine) how he felt about the concerns parents had with explicit lyrics, he replied, ‘You know what I say? I say fuck ’em. It’s freedom of speech; First Amendment.’”

In 1998, Nikki Sixx was arrested after a Mötley Crüe concert in Las Vegas and charged with provoking a breach of the peace for having told the audience that "Every time we come to town, the (expletive) cops tell us we can't be Mötley Crüe. If they don't like it, we can start flipping over cop cars like we did a couple of years ago." The case was later dropped when the local district attorney agreed that Sixx’s comment was protected by the First Amendment.

In 2005, amid the battle over the Federal Communications Commission and decency standards on television, Mötley Crüe filed a lawsuit against NBC, claiming that the network violated the band's free-speech rights and weakened its record sales by banning it after lead singer Vince Neil used an expletive on the air in a December 31, 2004, appearance on The Tonight Show. "We meant no harm, but it feels that we're being singled out unfairly," said Nikki Sixx. "This is a discrimination issue, pure and simple. All we've ever asked is to be treated like everybody else, which is why we're taking this action." The lawsuit was later dropped.

Pictured: Original cover of Mötley Crüe's album Shout at the Devil (1983).

Previous entries on the Ray Bradbury-Nikki Sixx 10 list:

#10. Both are Angelenos who once palled around with a motley crew doing crazy things

#9. Neither attended college

#8. Both are intimately familiar with Playboy magazine

#7. Both created an illustrated man

#6. Both have exploded on stage

#5. Both have had their lives impacted by a horrible car accident

#4. Both are stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

#3. Both hate the Internet

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