You're Wrong About

Tipper Gore vs. Heavy Metal: The Case Against "Porn Rock"

February 08, 2021 Michael Hobbes & Sarah Marshall
You're Wrong About
Tipper Gore vs. Heavy Metal: The Case Against "Porn Rock"
Show Notes Transcript

Sarah Marshall  0:00  

The internet is like a pipe full of soup.

Welcome to You're Wrong About, where we learn about the whole story behind the VH 1 countdown.

Michael Hobbes  0:25  

The Behind the Music of the Behind the Music.

Sarah Marshall  0:27  


Michael Hobbes  0:28  

I am Michael Hobbse, I'm a reporter for The Huffington Post.

Sarah Marshall  0:30  

I'm Sarah Marshall, I'm working on a book about the satanic panic.

Michael Hobbes  0:33  

And if you'd like to support the show, we're on patreon at and  we sell cute t shirts and mugs and face masks. And there's other ways that you can support us and we'll have links in the description.

Sarah Marshall  0:45  

And maybe someday I'll troll everybody and write a vegan cookbook called The Seitan-ic Panic and we'll sell that.

Michael Hobbes  0:51  

Oh my God.

Sarah Marshall  0:53  

It's pretty good, Mike.

Michael Hobbes  0:54  

And today we are talking about Tipper Gore versus porn rock.

Sarah Marshall  0:59  

I'm so excited about this. You have no idea.

Michael Hobbes  1:02  


Sarah Marshall  1:03  

You have some idea because I think that you're like, you're bursting with Tipper Gore gossip at this point. 

Michael Hobbes  1:08  

100%. This is like our favorite kind of episode because it is the lowest imaginable stakes. Nobody dies. Nobody gets harmed in any way. The ultimate sort of resolution of this controversy is this is how we got those dumb Parental Advisory stickers on CDs in the 90s.

Sarah Marshall  1:27  

What about the rights of kids to party though? I feel like that's probably harmed in the end. I mean, why else would they have had to fight for it around this time?

Michael Hobbes  1:35  

Well, what do you know about this whole thing?

Sarah Marshall  1:39  

Okay. Tipper Gore, at some point in the 80s, for some reason, I presume because she was a mom, stepped onto the national stage and was like, I am very upset about all of the terrible lyrics that the children are listening to. And so we had like a bunch of, I guess, concerned parents in Congress, people like getting up and in a deadpan reading, like NWA lyrics and stuff like that. 

Michael Hobbes  2:05  

That is like phase two of this panic. There's a very interesting dichotomy, actually, between the panic we're going to talk about about porn rock in the 80s. And the panic over gangster rap in the 90s.

Sarah Marshall  2:17  

Oh, that's interesting. Okay, so these are two separate panics. I imagine we're gonna be talking about WASP lyrics today.

Michael Hobbes  2:24  

Yes, we are!  The contrast is very interesting, because this panic is like, basically white on white violence. This is basically just a bunch of white parents yelling at men in tight pants. It's a moral panic, like, it's a straightforward moral panic. But it's also it's within the confines of sort of nice suburban white kids being preyed upon by white bands. And there's sort of there's a limit to sort of how much fear you can whip up about that, right? Like, it sort of hits a ceiling at a certain point.

Sarah Marshall  2:55  

This is like the tiny break that we took from racial panic. So it's like, we're like racial panic white flight, the suburbs. And then we're like, taking a little breather sitting on the bench, and we're like, let's have a little panic about heavy metal. Let's do Ozzy Osborne for a minute.

Michael Hobbes  3:11  

Yes. But I mean, at the time, this is the most watched congressional hearing in history. This was actually the beginning of senators starting to realize that this is one of the only ways that they can communicate directly with the public. By holding these basically stunt hearings.

Sarah Marshall  3:27  

They should have a podcast!

Michael Hobbes  3:31  

This is also, one of the things that comes up in the academic literature about this is that this obviously is not the first moral panic about music, but it is one of the fastest moral panics. So Tipper Gore like starts this organization in May of 1985. By November of 1985 there are warning stickers on albums.

Sarah Marshall  3:52  

I bet Ralph Nader is just sitting at home just like eating a big like ice cream straight from the carton, going "It's all about connections."

Michael Hobbes  4:00  

So what do you know about tipper Gore, actually?

Sarah Marshall  4:03  

She's the wife of Al Gore.

Michael Hobbes  4:06  

Is that literally it?

Sarah Marshall  4:07  

Literally it.

Michael Hobbes  4:08  

Fair enough. That's what I knew going into this. 

Sarah Marshall  4:10  

Yeah, everything else I say would be a complete guess.

Michael Hobbes  4:13  

I just want to preface this. We're going to be hard on Tipper Gore In this episode, like I think that what she was doing was bad and is a straightforward moral panic. But I also, I don't want to sort of go overboard. She's very open about her struggles with depression that start in 1989. So after this panic is over, her son is hit by a car and almost killed. And since then, she's been an advocate for sort of destigmatizing mental illness. She's done all this advocacy work on getting health insurance companies to cover mental illness. She also does like homeless advocacy, like she has a sort of second act in her career that is much more grounded in the realities of what's actually facing the country. Yeah, so I just want to say like, I'm not trying to throw out Tipper Gore, like cancel Tipper Gore. This is an episode in her life that I also don't think she is very proud of at this point.

Sarah Marshall  4:59  

Yeah. And I mean, I think that this is how it is with a lot of aspects of the satanic panic too, like people, people come to moral panics with all different kinds of baggage and some people transparently want to grow their careers. And some people are concerned parents acting entirely out of fear and love for their children.

Michael Hobbes  5:22  

Yes, it's very clear from this controversy that Tipper Gore is like, very obviously smart and hardworking. She's also as we will see, like quite a good political strategist. And I think that a lot of this was driven by the frustration of finding herself as a senator's wife.

Sarah Marshall  5:38  

Mm hmm.

Michael Hobbes  5:39  

That, you know, she and Al Gore, get married when she's 21. They have their first kid when she's 25. They eventually have four kids. As a young couple, she's in college. He's in law school. She's doing photography for the local newspaper, like she has basically this career ahead of her. And then when she's 28, her husband runs for Congress. So all of a sudden, her life gets shunted into this, like, congressional wife, your whole life is these miserable parties. And then every once a while, your husband trots you out on the campaign trail, and you just have to be at stuff.

Sarah Marshall  6:12  

And then he gets a hand job from an aide, and then you have to stand next to him as he apologizes on TV.

Michael Hobbes  6:18  

Yes. Like that's, that's the worst case scenario. And I mean, I think there is something with these, these roles that typically go to women, there's, there's a scene in the Al Gore biography, where they're sort of they're in a limo on the way to one of these, you know, fundraiser, some sort of event. And Tipper is like, okay, you know, who are we meeting with? What's the purpose of this, like, brief me on why we're doing this, and Al Gore is like, Look, it's not rocket science. Just go there and be nice to people. And it's like, no, it's actually really hard. Like, this is a very emotionally complex role. So basically, that's where she is in 1984. When all this starts, Al Gore is the Senator from Tennessee. She's been a sort of Congress wife for almost 10 years. Our story begins in December of 1984, when Wipper Gore buys the soundtrack to Purple Rain, so she innocently bought this album for her 11 year old daughter. Are you familiar with a song called "Darling Nikki?" 

Sarah Marshall  7:15  

Oh my goodness, am I ever.

Michael Hobbes  7:18  

Do you know the lyrics? 

Sarah Marshall  7:20  

Well, specificially, I know that it's something about the lobby of a hotel, I think. And then it's something something she was masturbating with a magazine.

Michael Hobbes  7:28  

Yes. "I knew a girl named Nikki, I guess you could say she was a sex fiend. I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine." Yeah, yay. 

Sarah Marshall  7:38  


Michael Hobbes  7:38  

And so she gets offended. She gets annoyed about this. I had no idea that these lyrics were on this album. There's nothing on the cover of the album indicating that it's not suitable for an 11 year old.

Sarah Marshall  7:49  

To be fair, I think this is a classic 80s parent problem where every year there are like 25 big media properties. And that is it. The PG-13 rating didn't exist until 1984. You know, until like, the mid 80s, a PG movie is gonna have boobs in it, potentially. And you just have to be like, okay, and like cover your kids eyes. There just wasn't that much media and it just sort of was offered to everybody, which is like really weird.

Michael Hobbes  8:19  

I mean this is sort of like, to the extent that Tipper Gore has a point, there was not a lot of information available at the time about what was in the media that people were consuming.

Sarah Marshall  8:27  

And it is called Purple Rain. It isn't called like, Minnesota Sex Concert.

Michael Hobbes  8:32  

Yes. I mean, one of the things,it's a little weird that Tipper Gore is always seen as the center of this panic because for years at the National PTA, the Parent Teachers Association, had been whipping up panic about rock lyrics. So in 1982, they had done a national campaign about another Prince song. It's called "Let's Pretend We're Married." And the lyric is "look here, Marcia, I'm not saying this just to be nasty. I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth. Can you relate?"

Sarah Marshall  9:03  

Mmm. What a weird title though.

Michael Hobbes  9:06  

I know, right? This was already sort of in the air in the 80s. There were Good Morning America segments. There were Newsweek cover stories. The idea of sort of "rock music is getting more explicit" was bubbling up as a thing that parents were concerned about. So the way the parents music Resource Center gets started is Tipper Gore gets linked up with Susan Baker, who is the wife of the Secretary of the Treasury, James Baker. Susan Baker has already been involved in this nationwide campaign that the PTA did earlier in the 80s. It didn't really go anywhere. And her crusade started when her daughter heard Madonna's "Like a Virgin."

Sarah Marshall  9:47  

Oh, come on. That song's about feelings. There's a whole conversation in Reservoir Dogs about.

Michael Hobbes  9:55  

This is a quote from Susan Baker in an oral history of the PMRC hearings that's published in Rolling Stone. She says, "The song was lLke a Virgin. My daughter said, 'Mama, what's a virgin?' And I said, 'What do you mean?' She said, 'Well, Madonna sings this song Like a virgin touched for the very first time. What's a virgin?' I was speechless. Here she was playing with dolls at seven."

Sarah Marshall  10:17  

You can just say a virgin is like the land that Walt Disney bought in Florida when he wanted to make Disney World. It has not been developed before.

Michael Hobbes  10:26  

There is something interesting about the idea that sort of the concept of a virgin is too much to explain to a seven year old.

Sarah Marshall  10:32  


Michael Hobbes  10:33  

I don't know that a seven year old can't handle that, or their seven year old can't be told what a virgin is.

Sarah Marshall  10:37  

kKds asked where babies come from when they're very small. If we're talking about sort of the wholesome past that America is built on, then we're talking about a lot of kids growing up on farms and knowing exactly what sex is from a pretty young age if they're helping out in any meaningful capacity.

Michael Hobbes  10:55  

Right. So Susan Baker and tipper gore get together in May of 1985. This time, instead of working through the PTA, they're essentially just going to use their Rolodexes. So for a month, they call up all of the Washington wives that they know and basically start telling them about sort of what's in the rock lyrics, how under regulated this is, how little information there is for parents, and they hold a meeting at a church. They tell everybody that like we're going to do a presentation at this church in Washington, DC. And we're just going to sort of make the case against rock and like why you should join this movement. 

Sarah Marshall  11:35  

Wow. A bunch of boomers making the case against rock, as I live and breathe!

Michael Hobbes  11:41  

Okay, just warning you. This is basically like this whole episode is like the case against porn rock, okay?

Sarah Marshall  11:47  

I'm very fond of porn rock. So I don't feel my foundations will be shaken very much. Oh my god, this is gonna be good.

Michael Hobbes  11:56  

A lot of this is based on Tipper Gore's 1987 book raising PG kids in an X rated society,

Sarah Marshall  12:03  

I'm gonna raise PG-13 kids, I think, or kids with some kind of French rating.

Michael Hobbes  12:09  

If you have $4, and like two hours, it is a good way to spend an afternoon. It is a classic moral panic book.

Sarah Marshall  12:17  

I don't know, you're a fast reader, man.

Michael Hobbes  12:20  

It's very short. It's only 215 pages. But a lot of those pages are appendices, where she lists the addresses of all of these organizations that you're supposed to send letters to, to complain about rock music.

Sarah Marshall  12:31  

She's like, here's my book, I did less work and passed the work on to you.

Michael Hobbes  12:36  

Yes, side note. She also does a bunch of organizations that are working on you know, banning Madonna feeling songs from record stores or whatever. And one of them, which is based on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving model, is Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons. Because a lot of this depends on sort of banning Satanism and banning the occult. It's such a great example of how a lot of these moral panic arguments, they don't hold up to sustained attention. The book walks through sort of all the things that rock is doing to our kids like sex and drugs and suicide and violence, blah, blah, blah. But in every chapter, the first sort of four or five pages of the chapter are like pretty well argued and pretty tight. And then the last half of the chapter is just like, Here's a bunch of stuff! Like there's one about like sex in music, where it's like, it's, you know, all these examples from music, and then she's just like, "and the kids in the jeans ads are too skinny!" And you're like this doesn't add--what? It just falls apart. 

Sarah Marshall  13:40  

I don't disagree with you Tipper, but why are you wasting my time? 

Michael Hobbes  13:44  

I know,  my favorite chapter in the whole book, she talks about concerts and like the nasty things that rock artists are doing at concerts, they're drinking alcohol on stage, and there's things that artists say between their songs at concerts, fine, but then she has this random anecdote about people being attacked by gangs of youths in the parking lot after a Diana Ross concert. And you're like, first of all, let's leave Diana Ross out of this, secondly thought that's after the concert Tipper, that doesn't have anything to do with song lyrics.

Sarah Marshall  14:19  

This is exactly like so many satanic panic books I have read where it's just like they just do not have the material for a whole book. They have maybe 80 pages worth and then they're like like, here are 50 pages of satanic symbols and they're all the logos of bands!

Michael Hobbes  14:38  

So okay, Tipper's first argument against porn rock is that it glorifies sex.

Sarah Marshall  14:45  

What is porn rock while we're on the subject?

Michael Hobbes  14:47  

I mean, this is yet another thing with moral panics.

Sarah Marshall  14:50  

Where it's like what is the thing you're talking about? And they're like, it could be anything, it could be anywhere and you're like, No, no, but what is though, and they're like "eh."

Michael Hobbes  14:57  

Half of her book she says like heavy metal is this dark occult. In a couple interviews  she's like, Look, it's only you know, 1 or 2% of the music. It's obscure. We really want to crack down on the extreme offenders. And then at one point during this national campaign, they released a list of the Filthy Fifteen, like the worst offenders. And the list includes Madonna, Cyndi Lauper--

Sarah Marshall  15:20  

Cyndi Lauper did The Goonies song!

Michael Hobbes  15:23  

I know! this is something that I think is like so typical of moral, panics where it's like, they change their definitions constantly. And they change what they actually want constantly, it's like, No, no, we just want some small warning labels on a couple songs. You read what they're actually putting out and it's like, Oh, you want to censor Madonna?

Sarah Marshall  15:40  

Yeah, it's like anything that talks explicitly about sex, which is frustrating because like, honestly, the fact that the song She Bop existed when I was a teenager, like 15 years after it came out, that song was still one of the only things that made me feel like I wasn't some kind of a crazy sex fiend when puberty hit.

Michael Hobbes  16:00  

That's the song! That's the song on the Filthy Fifteen.

Sarah Marshall  16:02  

Of course it is. Yeah, it's like one of the most empowering songs in terms of female sexuality that American pop music has ever produced.

Michael Hobbes  16:10  

I know. It gives me good vibrations. Okay, do you want me to read you some, some choice passages from Tipper Gore's book?

Sarah Marshall  16:17  

I would love that more than almost anything.

Michael Hobbes  16:20  

One of the hallmarks, I think of these sort of boomer led panics is that boomers will use previously controversial artists as examples of non controversial things. So like this comes up constantly in the hearing and in Tipper Gore's book. It's like "music has come a long way since Elvis and the Beatles." And you're like, Elvis and the Beatles were really controversial and the same social forces marshaled against them at the time.

Sarah Marshall  16:46  

Well and also just the fact that like things strike you is moral when they are familiar to you, you know, and you're like, this thing is bad. And this other thing is good. And you're like, these things are really functionally the same. But just like, one of them is something that you grew up with.

Michael Hobbes  17:00  

Yeah. This paragraph perfectly encapsulates all of this. She says, "it's a quantum leap from the Beatles' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' to Prince singing 'if you get tired of masturbating, if you like, I'll jack you off.' It's a long way from the Rolling Stones' 'Let's Spend the Night Together,' which drew protests in its day to Sheena Easton's 'Sugar Walls': 'You can't fight passion, when passion is hot. Temperatures rise inside my sugar walls.'"

Sarah Marshall  17:26  

I also think it's like you're just saying things are different, but like, you're just relying on that to rile up your reader. And it's like, you're not actually explaining to me why this thing is worse. And like, I think it's good to move in a more sexually explicit direction. Like if I'm some kid, and I hear a Prince song that says that, I'm like, Oh, so like, my sexual partner may be interested in masturbating me when I get tired. That's really great to know. I'm happy to have that expectation now. Because God forbid teenage girls have like expectations of their sexual partners, right?

Michael Hobbes  17:58  

I know! I also think that the comparison of the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" to Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" is interesting, because if we're talking about an 11 year old, an 11 year old would understand the Rolling Stones' "Let's spend the night together" as like a sexual thing whereas I'm not sure an 11 year old would understand what the fuck sugar walls means.

Sarah Marshall  18:18  

Could we hear some "Sugar Walls" lyrics?

Michael Hobbes  18:20  

Where's the really bad stuff? "Let me take you somewhere you've never been. I can show you things you've never seen. I can make you never want to fall in love again. Come spend the night inside my sugar walls."

Sarah Marshall  18:31  

If I were 11 I would assume the song was about a witch in love with a centaur.

Michael Hobbes  18:35  

Totally, like this is like Neverending Story shit.

Sarah Marshall  18:37  

And this is like, this is part of adolescence is like growing up and rewatching Labyrinth and being like, "Oh!"

Michael Hobbes  18:45  

This is also a fascinating juxtaposition. Her last example is, she says "where Elvis sang 'Little Sister' about his attraction to his girlfriend's younger sister, Prince now sings "my sister never made love to anyone else but me, incest is everything it's said to be."

Sarah Marshall  19:02  

That's like one step away from being like, while Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin, Prince is saying something about doing something even grosser with his cousin, and you're like, Well, all right. I mean, I'm not sure I a hundred percent agree with your police work there Tipper.

Michael Hobbes  19:17  

That's from like a seven to an eight, Tipper, that's not from like zero to sixty.

Sarah Marshall  19:22  

Right. It's just like Tipper, you don't have to use every example you can think of. Like some of these things are just brainstorming ideas.

Michael Hobbes  19:29  

Also, this is maybe my favorite example from the entire book. I had to call my boyfriend into the living room. She says "consider these lines from 'Relax' by the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood. 'Relax. Don't do it when you want to suck or chew it. Relax. Don't do it when you want to come."

Sarah Marshall  19:47  

I never knew it was "suck or chew it." Wow.

Michael Hobbes  19:49  

Me neither!

Sarah Marshall  19:50  

I always thought it was "sock it to it."

Michael Hobbes  19:52  

Also, she's talking about this as a sexual lyric, "suck or chew it"? What is being chewed during sex, Tipper?

Sarah Marshall  19:59  

That's what she thinks gay men do, I'm sure.

Michael Hobbes  20:02  

It's also such a fascinating example to me of the way that people who run these crusades need to collapse context for any of their arguments to work. What stands out to me about that excerpt is the first line is "relax, don't do it." She's offended by the fact that they say "come," but she's completely ignoring the fact that the entire song is about resisting temptation.

Sarah Marshall  20:27  

I mean, another thing is that like, nobody, we don't listen to the words of rock songs, like A because we can't hear them correctly half the time and especially couldn't in the 80s when people listened to things on the radio. And B, because you're just you're singing, you're grooving. Your critical brain isn't super engaged in that time in your life. You know, like, no one listens to the lyrics of "My Sharona" either. And that song plays at gymnastics competitions. 

Michael Hobbes  20:55  

See, I didn't even know it had lyrics. Okay, so I want to do like a little meta analysis here. I read a bunch of typologies of moral panics. And one of the theories for why this moral panic exploded and exploded so quickly in the 1980s is that basically we were overdue for one. There's basically three factors that lead to musical moral panics and they all sort of converge, and then we get a panic, and then we wait 10 years, and they converge, and we get another one. So the first one is the expansion of the teen market: this idea of sort of teens as a demographic that you market to did not exist before World War II. Like teens did not have their own money. They didn't really get allowances.

Sarah Marshall  21:36  

And if they had jobs, they were expected to bring their money to the family.

Michael Hobbes  21:40  

Exactly. And so it was only after the 1950s where America becomes much more prosperous, that, hey, wait a minute, teens have money and because you know, they're not paying rent or anything else, they actually have a lot of disposable income.

Sarah Marshall  21:51  

And they have access increasingly to automobiles as depicted in "Rebel Without a Cause."

Michael Hobbes  21:57  

Yes. And this brings us to the second thing that converges with moral panics is technology. So every time there's been a new musical technology, we get a moral panic like five years later. The big thing in the 1950s all of this like Elvis shaking his hips stuff was that there were now portable radios that kids could listen to away from their parents, and cars. Kids were driving around by themselves, and they were able to listen to music away from their parents. It wasn't like the vinyl record player in the living room anymore. One of the things that comes up a lot in the Tipper Gore hearings is headphones. The Walkman hit the market in 1979. And parents talk constantly about like, I don't know what my kids are listening to, they're sitting at the dinner table, and they have headphones on. I don't know what's going on in there.

Sarah Marshall  22:45  

Which is really interesting, because I think that like, that is a reasonable concern. But also, like kids need privacy, you guys.

Michael Hobbes  22:53  

Yeah. And also, I mean, so much of it is just from like, what you don't know. You fear what you don't know. And when you don't know what your kids are listening to--

Sarah Marshall  23:00  

They;re learning about their vaginas. And I don't want them to know they have vaginas until they're 25.

Michael Hobbes  23:05  

And also, another sort of common theme in these musical moral panics is racial anxieties. So there was a huge moral panic, apparently about the jukebox, when that started getting put into bars, because kids were gonna dance with each other, and they weren't just gonna like slow dance with a partner. And maybe your daughter is going to dance with a Black guy.

Sarah Marshall  23:26  

America is just the worst place, where like kids are dancing, and then it's like every single thing that kids can do, we're like, what if x thing leads to dancing with a Black kid? Can't have that, you know, it's just like everything leads back to just the same racial anxiety over and over. It's just like racial anxiety and gender anxiety. That's all we know. 

Michael Hobbes  23:47  

And then we also have another moral panic about music in the 1960s, like 10 years after the Elvis shaking his hips stuff, about the Civil Rights Movement, that once music starts to get more political, it starts to get anti Vietnam War, and it starts to get pro civil rights. We then get another wave of parents freaking out about what kind of music their kids are listening to, like, whenever you have these racial anxieties and music crossing over to each other or white artists performing traditionally black music and making it more popular, you get these massive white parent freak outs. Tipper Gore has kind of painted herself into a corner because she knows that the moral panic over Elvis shaking his hips was silly. So she can't sort of explicitly say just like sex and lyrics is bad. So what she does throughout her book is she couches all of this sexual, glorifying sex stuff in a moral crisis over teen pregnancy, which was definitely going on in the 1980s. 

Sarah Marshall  24:42  

So it's the it's the music that is causing it. 

Michael Hobbes  24:45  


Sarah Marshall  24:46  


Michael Hobbes  24:47  

This is an excerpt from an abysmal 1985 Time magazine article called "Children Having Children colon, teen pregnancies are corroding America's social fabric.": "In 1950, fewer than 15% of teen births were illegitimate. By 1983, more than half were illegitimate."

Sarah Marshall  25:08  

So we're concerned about the teens not getting married and further destroying their lives.

Michael Hobbes  25:12  

I know, and then they quote somebody from a Los Angeles adoption agency who says--this is the actual quote Sarah--sahe says, "unwed motherhood has become so pervasive that we don't even use the term 'illegitimate' anymore."

Sarah Marshall  25:25  

How dare we, how dare we stop relentlessly shaming the mothers that aren't married?

Michael Hobbes  25:31  

Like we're kind of nicer to people, like, is this bad? The smoking gun in this Time Magazine article that Tipper Gore cites in her book is "social workers are almost unanimous in citing the influence of the popular media--television, rock music, videos, movies--in propelling the trend toward precocious sexuality."

Sarah Marshall  25:52  

Okay, if the kids are having sex than I think it's the job of the adults in the room to make sure they're doing so safely, you fucking idiots.

Michael Hobbes  26:00  

I know. And then they quote one of these experts saying, "our young people are barraged by the message that to be sophisticated they must be sexually hip. They don't even buy toothpaste to clean their teeth. They buy it to be sexually attractive."

Sarah Marshall  26:11  

Teenagers want to have sex with each other you guys, like they have hormones coursing through them, like they're throbbing all the time. It is the adult part of society's job to kind of guide them and help them to do it in a way that stays safe for everybody. 

Michael Hobbes  26:29  

Well this is the thing. Tipper makes a big deal in her book about how America has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world, which is true, but all of the studies, which of course she doesn't cite, say that basically sexual activity, like the average age at which kids lose their virginity, how much sex they're having as teens, that barely varies across the developed world, like kids in Sweden are not having more sex necessarily. What's different is contraceptive use, and contraceptive education.

Sarah Marshall  26:55  

Oh my god, it's a twist.

Michael Hobbes  26:57  

And you can find data on like, premarital sex in the 1960s. That was like basically the same as it was in the 1990s.

Sarah Marshall  27:04  

This is one of the themes on our show, which is that the the the solution to the problem is highly visible, but no one wants to acknowledge it because doing so would be like, beyond our capacity as a society or as a government or whatever. And we're just like, what could the solution be? And every few years there's a study or whatever that can be like "it's this!" and we're like, "Aaaah!! We'll never know!!"

Michael Hobbes  27:26  

This is from the Time article. It says "changing human behavior is, of course, always an elusive objective. When researcher Douglas Kirby studied the behavioral effects of sex education, he found them to be few and far between. Sex education graduates certainly knew more about reproduction, but that did not significantly affect their habits. There was, however, one important exception. Kirby found that when sex education programs are coupled with efforts to help teenagers obtain contraceptives, the pregnancy rate drops sharply." So it's like Yes, so sex education works for the thing that this article is panicking about, like it reduces teen pregnancy, but it doesn't actually keep kids from having sex. 

They're like this is an interesting side point, but whatever, ignore it, move on.

I just love it. 

Sarah Marshall  28:12  

The point is, Cyndi Lauper should not be allowed to make her infernal videos.

Michael Hobbes  28:17  

Also do you want to guess statistics wise what year teen pregnancies peaked in America?

Sarah Marshall  28:23  


Michael Hobbes  28:24  


Sarah Marshall  28:25  


Michael Hobbes  28:28  

The year, literally the same year that Elvis shook his hips on the Milton Berle show and there was a huge freakout over it.

Sarah Marshall  28:35  

Oh so people were right to be concerned, he made all those kids pregnant.

Michael Hobbes  28:38  

If you look at the trend line of teen pregnancies, it's just like a ski slope.

Sarah Marshall  28:42  

Why can't you just be like "music needs ratings, boom the end." We're in a completely different area now.

Michael Hobbes  28:48  

We also have, this Time article ends with sort of like, we can't deal with teen pregnancy until we deal with the feelings of loneliness and disaffection among the youth. Like they make it this intractable problem.

Sarah Marshall  28:59  

Which is setting up to be like, we're gonna wage this pointless culture war. And then when it doesn't work, we've already created an alibi in advance for ourselves.

Michael Hobbes  29:07  

Exactly. Like the answer to the problem is in this article, like, why would we try to solve the impossible problem of teens feeling disaffected, when we can solve the pretty solvable problem that like Sweden has solved of just giving them contraceptives? Like it's so weird.

Sarah Marshall  29:23  

And it's like the teens will always be sad for the same reason that they need to have sex with each other, because their brains are rapidly expanding and they have hormones coursing through their bodies and they're growing inches as they sleep. Teens are very fragile. They need to be taken extra special care over they might shoot somebody.

Michael Hobbes  29:40  

Ooh, that gets us to our next thing. Yay. Okay, so the second reason why Tipper Gore thinks porn rock is bad is because it causes crime.

Sarah Marshall  29:50  

I knew it.

Michael Hobbes  29:51  

This is like one of the few places in the book where she's actually correct, that crime rates were going up in the 1980s.

Sarah Marshall  29:55  

Because they peaked like the year "Law & Order" started. That's how I always remember it. 

Michael Hobbes  30:00  

Here is an excerpt from her book, which you think is going to go in one direction but goes in a different direction. So here we go. She, you know, she's talking about like the sort of teen homicide rates are spiking, and there's all like actual legitimate statistics. And then she says, "In California, the governor's Task Force on youth gang violence reported that an estimated 50,000 teens belong to gangs in the Los Angeles area alone, many of them organized around heavy metal and punk rock music." My racial radar is up, I'm like, oh, here it comes, Tipper's gonna say something problematic.

Sarah Marshall  30:37  

You're like a dog who like sees his owner putting his shoes on, and you're like, I think we're going for a walk today! And then he like, goes into the backyard. And you're like, oh, my god, that was an unexpected permutation.

Michael Hobbes  30:50  

And she's like, Oh, it's a bunch of like heavy metal and punk rock fans,

Sarah Marshall  30:53  

That is the reality depicted it in Repo Man. They're gonna, they're gonna go order sushi and not pay.

Michael Hobbes  31:01  

But so I actually spent like quite a bit of time looking into why did the crime ratesspike in the 1980s? 

Sarah Marshall  31:07  

Is it because of the birth of home gaming?

Michael Hobbes  31:11  

It was Duck Hunt. There's the sort of the standard response is that it's gang related violence, and it's sort of the crack epidemic, that like cities got a lot more violent when crack hit the streets, basically. And it turns out that there's not a lot of evidence for that. First of all, as we discussed in many episodes, now, the idea of a gang related homicide is just one where the cops think that either the perpetrator or the victim was in a gang. You get a lot more of those in the 1980s in the 1990s. But also, Canada had just as bad of a crack epidemic as America did, but didn't have any rise in homicides.

Sarah Marshall  31:47  

Fuckin' Canada.

Michael Hobbes  31:48  

Fuckin' Canada. What they now think, is that the reason crime rates went crazy in the 1980s was guns. So in the 1970s, the ATF got its budget for enforcement cut. So all of a sudden, the ATF was doing few sort of like gun running investigations. They were doing a lot fewer compliance checks on stores for selling guns to kids that were under 18. And there's extra guns being produced, like guns just flood into American cities during the 1980s. One of the things, one of thr most amazing numbers I came across, in the early 80s like a dirt cheap, maybe stolen maybe used whatever nine millimeter handgun was 400 bucks.

Sarah Marshall  32:30  

Oh shit. Wow.

Michael Hobbes  32:31  

I know. But then by the end of the decade, the dirt cheap nine millimeter handgun is less than 100 bucks. It's like 95 bucks.

Sarah Marshall  32:37  

Well, there you go. And it's easier to have multiples too. 

Michael Hobbes  32:41  

And then there's just like more around, right, so you can get a used one easier, you can steal one easier.

Sarah Marshall  32:45  

Ambient guns.

Michael Hobbes  32:47  

As we've discussed, most homicides in America are like two dudes getting in a bar fight or like one guy shoves another guy or one guy's sleeping with other guy's girlfriend, and they get in one of these arguments. And one or both dudes has a gun.

Sarah Marshall  32:59  

And someone gets hot.

Michael Hobbes  33:00  

Yes. As you just think of like, the number of sort of altercations between dudes is probably pretty standard. But then when just you flood like 2, 3, 4 times the number of those dudes have guns versus not have guns, just a larger number of those interactions is going to become deadly. So like, that's what was happening. But of course Tipper doesn't show any interest in any of this. And she also feloniously oversimplifies another thing that she blames on porn rock, teen suicide. It's actually true that in 1950, four times more adults kill themselves than teenagers. And then by 1980, the rates are basically the same. So there's a massive rise in teen suicides as there's a massive fall in adult suicides. But it's almost all in rural states. It's almost all men. By the time we get to 1990, youth suicides in Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and New Mexico are four times higher than they are in Rhode Island. But like she's not interested in that because then, then you then have to establish that they're listening to more heavy metal in rural areas than in cities. She talks about this song, have you heard of this, the Ozzy Osborne song "Suicide Solution"? 

Sarah Marshall  34:13  

Oh, yeah.

Michael Hobbes  34:13  

There's apparently there's a kid in California, a 19 year old who killed himself while listening to Ozzy Osborne's album. From the title of the song "Suicide Solution," it's like okay, well, he's obviously suggesting suicide as a solution, right? But then, of course, it's like the most cursory glance at these lyrics. He's talking about suicide solution like solution like a liquid. He's talking about alcohol. The opening lines of the song are "wine is fine, but whiskey is quicker. Suicide is slow with liquor, take a bottle and drown your sorrows. Then it floods away tomorrows." The song is like pretty thuddingly anti suicide.

Sarah Marshall  34:53  

Yeah, anti drinking yourself to death.

Michael Hobbes  34:55  

Yeah, so Ozzy Osborne and CBS Records are sued over suicide solution, the case is thrown out, because come on. But then, in 1985, actually a month after the PMRC hearings, Judas Priest is also sued for causing a suicide. But then the Judas Priest one is really weird, because a judge rules that the lyrics are protected by the First Amendment. So you can't actually make the case that this Judas Priest album caused a kid to commit suicide just sort of on its face. So their entire case has to rest on backmasking, that there are subliminal messages in the music. The argument that they get in court is that there's backwards lyrics that say, "do it," and "let's be dead."

Sarah Marshall  35:43  


Michael Hobbes  35:44  

Judas Priest's manager, at some point, he takes the stand. And he says, if we were going to inject subliminal messages, they would say by seven copies, not telling a couple kids to kill themselves.

Sarah Marshall  35:54  

Yeah, or like "Vote for Carter" or something.

Michael Hobbes  35:58  

So that also gets thrown out like it doesn't, it doesn't go anywhere. But it's a big, it's a big media circus.

Sarah Marshall  36:02  

Yeah. And I also learned about it on a VH1 countdown.

Michael Hobbes  36:05  

I mean, to the extent that we actually have to explain the rise in teen suicides from 1950 to 1980, a lot of it is just statistical.

Sarah Marshall  36:13  

Like things are being counted differently?

Michael Hobbes  36:15  

Yeah, because a lot of kids killed themselves in the 1950s. And their parents didn't want to say that it was suicide, because there was so much stigma around suicide. They would call it an accident if a kid took too many pills, right. Another sort of theory for it is that it's many more kids living in divorced households, there's just less supervision: that when you're being raised in a single parent house, there just isn't someone around. So if you take a lot of sleeping pills, people might not notice you for a few hours. So right, according to this really interesting article that I found, every successful teen suicide represents about 400 attempts. So all it takes is just like for those attempts to become like a little bit more successful, and you'll have a massive rise in teen suicides. So basically, because you have more guns in the home, and you have less parental supervision, it just basically ticks upward a little bit, the number of suicide attempts to become successful suicides, and that's what gets you this much higher rate. 

Sarah Marshall  37:11  

Yeah, that makes sense. It at least makes more sense than "it is the music they are listening to."

Michael Hobbes  37:15  

Yeah, exactly. Which is a pretty low bar. Yeah. Okay. Are you ready to talk about Satan?

Sarah Marshall  37:20  

I'm so ready to talk about Satan. Is he going to be speaking in poems again?

Michael Hobbes  37:24  

Absolutely. I'm sending you a link.

Sarah Marshall  37:27  


Michael Hobbes  37:27  

Have you heard of Venom? Have you heard of this band?

Sarah Marshall  37:29  

Of course, I love Venom. 

Michael Hobbes  37:31  

Okay, this song is called "Possessed" and it's on Tipper's Filthy Fifteen list.

Sarah Marshall  37:36  

This is so Michelle Remembers.

Michael Hobbes  37:37  

Dude, I know. The rhymes? I know.

Sarah Marshall  37:40  

Yeah, "look at my eyes and you will see fire is burning inside of me." Did they read Michelle's book?

Michael Hobbes  37:48  

Do you want to read some of the choice lyrics out loud? You want to pick the most satanic ones?

Sarah Marshall  37:54  

"Through many a tormented night prevail they exorcisms shall but fail. Though crucifix doth burn my flesh I shall not yield to you unless I die. I am possessed by all that is evil. The death of your god I demand. I spit at the Virgin you worship and sit at my lord Satan's left hand." And then imagine your little daughter coming to you and saying Mom, what's a virgin?

Michael Hobbes  38:19  

I know. I mean, you know more about this than I do. But this does feel like straightforwardly satanic to me.

Sarah Marshall  38:26  

Yeah. In the most like Hammer Horror like Peter Cushing movie, Michelle Remembers, like, guy wearing a ring, like the most basic Satan kind of way. And it also feels baiting to me, you know, like, people are aware that we're having a satanic panic at this time. Like if I were a metal band, I would most certainly be writing like on the nose lyrics about how I'm friends with Satan. Because then people will be like, that band is friends was Satan. And I'll be like, yes, keep talking about me, please.

Michael Hobbes  38:58  

Yeah, that's the thing. Like one of the lines is "Satan is my master incarnate hail praise to my unholy host."

Sarah Marshall  39:04  

No ambiguity. They're like "we gotta just--it's gonna be a Filthy Fifteen you guys, if it were a Filthy Twenty-Five we could be ambiguous but like, we gotta just go for it."

Michael Hobbes  39:15  

On some level Tipper is right to be like, some of the songs are satanic. And it's like, Yep.

Sarah Marshall  39:20  

Well, I think what I love about this song is that it's like, like a Disney villain song. It's not like selling you on Satanism at all. It's like, I love Satan. And you're like, cool. You don't seem to be interested in getting me interested in Satan. In fact, you make it sound gross. It's not like "come be a Satanist. You can have sex and order sushi and not pay." It's like "I'm a Satanist. I'm gross. Fuck you." And you're like, great. You know, it's like listening to be prepared. Like that doesn't inspire me to lead a war against the other lions.

Michael Hobbes  39:49  

Have you heard of this AC/DC killing?

Sarah Marshall  39:51  

Ah, was this the one where the kid was on a bunch of PCP? 

Michael Hobbes  39:55  


Sarah Marshall  39:55  

And he like stabbed his friend in the eyeballs?

Michael Hobbes  39:58  

Yes. So this is an excerpt from a really good article called "Highway to Hell" by Justin Garcia that sort of run through all of the occult undertones of this music and all of the cases that came out. So he says, "in June 1984, a 17 year old Long Island satanist and drug dealer named Ricky Kasso brutally murdered accomplice Gary Lauwers in a Suffolk County forest by stabbing him multiple times and gouging out his eyes. At the time of his arrest, Kasso was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt and media coverage of the case publicized Kasso's keen interest in heavy metal music. Despite the fact that Kasso and Lauwers were both high on hallucinogenic drugs at the time of the murder, and that Lauwers owed Kasso money for drugs he had previously stolen, local police identified the murder as satanic due to graffiti that read '666' and 'Satan rules' near the murder site." So it's one of those things where it's like, there's much more proximate and convincing causes for this murder available. It's like, Yeah, he owed him money. And like they were both on PCP. But it's like, we immediately go to the exotic explanation.

Sarah Marshall  41:01  

And it's just like a tragedy when a teenager kills another teenager and like, you're, you know, the only response we can have to that is like, Wow, that's really sad and fucked up. And like, how did that happen? And how can we try and prevent that from happening again? But you know, how much better if you can just be like, 'Twas Satanism!

Michael Hobbes  41:22  

And like this, of course, sparks a bunch of tedious debate about AC/DC and what AC/DC actually stands for. The rumor is that AC/DC stands for "antichrist devil's children."

Sarah Marshall  41:34  

Yeah, it stands for alternating current and direct current.

Michael Hobbes  41:36  

Yeah, exactly. And like their logo has a little lightning bolt in it.

Sarah Marshall  41:40  

Because like one of the band guys saw it on his sister's sewing machine, right? 

Michael Hobbes  41:43  

Yes! It's just this weird thing. Like, if you somehow crack the code, the AC?DC stands for something satanic like, oh, it must be true. Like, well, wait a minute, just because they have a satanic name doesn't mean that like, they're responsible for murder. It's like, there's this weird obsession in moral panics with cracking codes and like, what could this stand for and like, what does this symbol mean?

Sarah Marshall  42:04  

You can see how QAnon is like growing in some manure that has been ripening and steeping for all these years. Yeah. The thing about this murder, which always gets cited in my satanic panic books--they're like, here's a satanic murder. And you're like, this is like a really sad fucked up teenager murder is what this is. We have a lot of those as a country, and we should talk about that and try and muster proportionate response to it, but like, don't sell this to me as a satanic murder. And also don't do it with the weird implication that this kid being a self proclaimed satanist means that actual Satan was involved, which often feels implied.

Michael Hobbes  42:44  

I mean, you don't want to be too mean about this. But the fact that this is being run by Christians who believe that the Bible is true and believe that Satan is a real figure, like there is some of that weird magical thinking going on. It reminds me of the kids in elementary school that couldn't celebrate Halloween because their parents were afraid of like dressing up in like scary costumes invites spirits.

Sarah Marshall  43:07  

Like, as Robocop? Will it invite the spirit of Robocop?

Michael Hobbes  43:12  

Another story that Tipper Gore is obsessed with and she mentions like three times in her book is Ozzy Osborne biting the head off the bat.

Sarah Marshall  43:21  

Another thing I learned about on VH1. My days of pretending to be sick and watching VH1 countdowns are like really coming in handy.

Michael Hobbes  43:29  

So he is in Des Moines, Iowa. It is 1982. He was on stage, one of his fans in the crowd had bought a bat at a pet store, and it died like three days previously.

Sarah Marshall  43:43  

Why was a pet store selling a bat? That's the real scandal here.

Michael Hobbes  43:47  

I don't know. It was the 80s,there was no funding for the ATF. You could buy anything. I don't know what was going on. But he basically has this dead like sort of half decomposing bat in his suit jacket. And then he throws it up on stage because people are throwing stuff at an Ozzy Osborne concert. Ozzy Osborne thinks it's a stuffed bat. Because why would somebody throw a real bat on stage? So then he bites the head off this real fucking bat and is like, Euch! And spits it out.

Sarah Marshall  44:19  

'Cause gross! And also they carry rabies.

Michael Hobbes  44:23  

Yes. And then so he does the rest of the show, and then immediately they have to rush him to the hospital to get a rabies shot.

Sarah Marshall  44:29  

Oh, what a pro that he just kept playing. You've got like decomposed bat blood in your mouth. You're trying to sing.

Michael Hobbes  44:37  

Tipper keeps bringing this up as like the evil mastermind Ozzy Osborne. And it's like, no, he just kind of a doofus who didn't expect this weird thing to happen.

Sarah Marshall  44:46  

He's her Barbossa.

Michael Hobbes  44:47  

Yes. Next reason that rock music is bad that she says in her book is, I'm kind of going to skip this one. She spends a lot of time talking about how it promotes drug use. The thing is, teen drug use rates were falling steadily throughout the 80s, like they fell steadily during that period. They sort of spiked up a bit in the 90s. But like, they were deliberately falling at that time. And the only interesting thing about this case is that it's the only time in her entire book that she mentions country music. I think it's weird to complain about sort of misogyny and sex and alcohol and all this other stuff. And like they have that in other genres of music, too. So listen to this one sentence. This is the only time that she discusses country music in her entire book. "Country music also contains many favorable references to alcohol, but by and large, young kids are not the mainstay of that particular genre's audience."

Sarah Marshall  45:39  

Kids listen to country music Tipper for goodness sakes. 

Okay, Tipper!

She's like, whatever.

Michael Hobbes  45:45  

There's also some good conspiracy theory stuff about because Al Gore is the senator from Tennessee, she can't go after Nashville. So she has to stay off of country music. Because like, that's a big economic driver in the state. So her last case against heavy metal music is, it's misogynistic. And like, it fucking is. I'm gonna send you some album covers. Hang on. I am not going to post this on our website, but you can Google to them very easily. So this one is called "Savage Grace."

Sarah Marshall  46:21  

Oh God.

Michael Hobbes  46:22  


Sarah Marshall  46:25  

This is really unpleasant to look at. And oh, and the album is called "Master of Disguise." Okay. So it's got a cop with a shit eating grin in the foreground. He's wearing those cop sunglasses so you can't see his eyes. And then behind him, there is a terrified looking woman who is naked, and I believe handcuffed to his motorcycle. And is also gagged and is looking at him in a terrified fashion. It's just like, this reminds me of the thing in Spinal Tap where the bandmates don't know the difference between the word sexy and the word sexist.

Michael Hobbes  47:15  

I mean, this is like a--this is like a rape photo basically, it's implying that he's kidnapped her. She is bound and gagged. She's obviously terrified. And he is laughing. Like, it's bad.

Sarah Marshall  47:26  


Michael Hobbes  47:27  

Here's another one. This one is from Venom. You may have seen this one. It's called  "Nightmare."

Sarah Marshall  47:32  

Yeah, I have seen this one. Okay, so this is--it's so gross. It's a woman. It's like a gross cartoon of a woman which also is a hallmark of this musical genre, and she is lying atop her bed hanging off the edge of it. And there is a gross, scary little leprechaun Satan man perched atop her, and he's got his claw hand on her boob. And she's completely naked. Obviously. It's not just overt, it's like baroquely overt. It's like, This album is about raping women. And we are not just going to say that, we are going to depict it in the art and we are going to depict it lovingly.

Michael Hobbes  48:24  

I mean, she, I don't think her case on this is particularly sophisticated. But it is I mean, most of these bands are dudes. And we have talked about misogyny and rock and roll before.

Sarah Marshall  48:35  

Yeah, the music industry is a nightmare for women, the comedy industry, the movie industry, the politics industry, like these things are all relevant.

Michael Hobbes  48:43  

It's easy to sort of dunk on Tipper Gore for like her bad arguments. But I also think that we should acknowledge that she does have a point when it comes to some of this stuff.

Sarah Marshall  48:54  

Again, like it's funny that a lot of these problems are the problems of a society that has not yet been able to do what we have at least attempted to do now, which is to live in this very, these very balkanized technological worlds, where everyone, we all have our own media, and we all have to be the programming executives of our own homes, which I you know, I will always argue that that's annoying to have to do. Like, that shouldn't be my job.

Michael Hobbes  49:20  

So I'm going to send you one more. One of the reasons why her critique of misogyny I think in the book doesn't really land is that it is itself extremely misogynistic. So this is another album cover that that really offends her. This is called WOW by Wendy O. Williams.

Sarah Marshall  49:38  

Oh, nice. Oh, I love it.

Michael Hobbes  49:41  


Sarah Marshall  49:41  

Yeah, it reminds me of like the Kate Bush Babushka outfit actually.

Michael Hobbes  49:45  


Sarah Marshall  49:46  

Okay, so she is wearing a cut off like ribbed white men's undershirt. Cut off right below the boob. And then she has it looks like it's spray painted silver, like a leather harness. And then she's wearing black panties. And like a silver, presumably leather--I don't know how to, like what kind of garment is this? It's like an outerwear underwear thing.

Michael Hobbes  50:10  

Yeah, I don't know what exactly. It's sort of like a chastity belt.

Sarah Marshall  50:13  

Yeah. And it's got like metal--again, it's like studded with metal bits. It's like industrial looking and cool. And it like, it's a very Road Warrior outfit. I cannot stress enough how hot this looks.

Michael Hobbes  50:26  

Yes. I mean, it's this is basically a road warrior bikini.

Sarah Marshall  50:30  

Yeah. And there's a fire behind her and she like doesn't give a shit. You know, you're just like, yes, let me hear this road warrior music.

Michael Hobbes  50:38  

So it is very jarring into Tipper Gore's book to have her bring up these examples of like, rape imagery. And then a woman is in a bikini on an album.

Sarah Marshall  50:47  

Well, they're both sexual. So.

Michael Hobbes  50:49  

And then like, among the sort of examples in this chapter that she uses, one of them I forget the song, but it's some female artists singing about like, I want his seven inches or something like that. And it's like, that's not misogynistic. That's just like a woman saying "I want sex."

Sarah Marshall  51:02  

It's a woman saying she knows how many inches she wants.

Michael Hobbes  51:05  

Exactlh, like that's, that's just in a different category, Tipper. And so she's like, she's toggling back and forth between these things that are like misogynistic, and these things that are just like women talking about liking sex. And you're like, let's separate out--let's do headings, Tipper.

Sarah Marshall  51:18  

Right. And this is also kind of the climate I remember coming of age in in the 90s. This idea of like, Let's protect the children. And it just all got sort of balled together like hibernating snakes. Because it was like, Let's protect the kids from stuff that is like misogynistic, and also let's protect the kids, let's protects the girls from the idea of like, being sexual. And it's like, well...?

Michael Hobbes  51:39  

Yeah, my sort of my beef with this entire thing, and what we see in some of these art based moral panics, is the total collapse of context. The sort of the moral content of a song or a book or a movie is much more about sort of the underlying message that's being conveyed. And so much of like, this method of cultural criticism is like, we're gonna take one line of a song and then say that it's bad. Like one of the examples that she gives in this chapter of like, rock and violence and how it's promoting violence against women is from a Who song where they say, "My love will cut you like a knife."

Sarah Marshall  52:14  

It's the most generic lyric. I mean, that's like a Bryan Adams lyric too. Who cares?

Michael Hobbes  52:19  

It's like a Dan Brown chapter opening. Yeah, that's not a violent--that's just a simile. A lot of older songs have like, absolutely atrocious moral content. What is the Beatles song that like? I think she was 16 if you know what I mean...

Sarah Marshall  52:34  

"Well she was just 17 if you know what I mean." Yeah. And it's like and of course the context is you're supposed to be like "I do know what you mean."

Michael Hobbes  52:43  

So that's it. That's the case that's the case against porn rock, that's why porn rock is bad.

Sarah Marshall  52:47  

All right. Well, Ithink that porn rock should have a choice between death or exile.

Michael Hobbes  52:52  

So we're gonna do a little more sort of walking up to what happens before the hearing and then next episode, we're going to talk about the hearing itself. Okay. Basically what happens after this is the parents music resource council goes on a six month long awareness raising campaign, they give interviews to journalists. So there's eventually 150 news stories written about this panic and they go and they give talks to various you know, libraries, PTAs. The only sort of thing of substance that they do is they write a bunch of letters to you know, radio stations, and especially the Record Industry Association of America, basically demanding that they put a rating system on albums. So their proposed system is, every album will get a specific rating for what the lyrics contain. So you get an X for sexually explicit lyrics. You get a D/A for songs that glorify drugs and alcohol, you get a V for songs that glorify violence and you get an O for songs that glorify the occult.

Sarah Marshall  53:55  


Michael Hobbes  53:56  

Over the summer, they get a ton of mainstream support. So one of their major financial backers--This is dark--is one of the Beach Boys, Mike Love. We also get Paul McCartney contributing to this.

Sarah Marshall  54:09  

Yeah, I get what you're saying, that is dark.

Michael Hobbes  54:11  

And then Coors, the beer company provides the PMRC with offices. Like the irony of an alcohol company contributing something to save the youth?

Sarah Marshall  54:22  

They're like, could we get some more songs about Coors?

Michael Hobbes  54:27  

There's also, this is also bad, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both like sign statements and get on board.

Sarah Marshall  54:35  

You know, kids need something that is their own thing. And if their parents try and invade that it will just make it more intense.

Michael Hobbes  54:42  

Doctors, man. Come on. So okay, we're gonna do a little game.

Sarah Marshall  54:48  


Michael Hobbes  54:48  

So I am going to send you two paragraphs, and you have to read them. And then guess which one is from Tipper Gore and which one is from George F will the conservative columnist.

Sarah Marshall  55:02  

Oh goodness.

Michael Hobbes  55:04  

I'm gonna email these to you, hang on.

Sarah Marshall  55:05  

I hope you keep your little mm-hms in sometimes. Okay, paragraph A: "the change in popular culture coexisted with the breakdown of the nuclear family. When the nuclear family started to decay, there was also a breakdown in the immunization system to evil." What the hell does that mean? "Since children today lack the stable family structure of past generations, they're more vulnerable to role models and authority figures outside established patriarchal institutions. I see the family as a haven of moral stability, while popular music is a poisonous source infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle."

Michael Hobbes  55:44  

Good stuff.

Sarah Marshall  55:45  

Top drawer bullshit. Paragraph B: "Rock music has become a plague of messages about sexual promiscuity, bisexuality, incest, sadomasochism, Satanism, drug use, alcohol abuse, and, constantly, misogyny." Jesus Christ. "The lyrics regarding these things are celebratory." They celebrate bisexuality, Mike!

Michael Hobbes  56:11  

I know, can you imagine?

Sarah Marshall  56:12  

"Encouraging or at least desensitizing. By making these subjects the common currency of popular entertainment, the lyrics drain the subjects of their power to shock, their power to make people blush. The concern is less that children will emulate the frenzied behavior described in porn rock than that they will succumb to the lassitude of the demoralize, literally, the de moralized."

Michael Hobbes  56:39  

Unmoral, yes.

Sarah Marshall  56:41  

Yeah, wow. Okay, I'm going to say paragraph B is George Will, because it's the loopier one.

Michael Hobbes  56:48  

On pure stylistic points? You are correct.

Sarah Marshall  56:53  

Yay. Well, this is the one that also includes bisexuality on a list of with incest, sadomasochism, and Satanism, and I just feel that our Tipper wouldn't do that.

Michael Hobbes  57:05  

That was very astute. It is the most left field thing in a sentence that like has a lot going on.

Sarah Marshall  57:11  

One thing you can say about George Will, there is always a lot going on, like several times each paragraph you're like "you want to run that by me again, there, George?"

Michael Hobbes  57:23  

So this is sort of like, the closing of this episode is about the detour that the Democratic Party took in the 1980s with this shit. Every state except for Minnesota goes for Reagan in 1984. And so everything that the democrats do after this is based around like we have to appeal to conservative voters.

Sarah Marshall  57:43  

Yeah, there's nothing like behaving in a defensive position as a defining party trait for 40 years, like what could go wrong.

Michael Hobbes  57:51  

So we have to repeat all of their framing. We have to sort of construct problems the same way that they construct them, but then propose different solutions.

Sarah Marshall  58:01  

It just sucks. It's like being a white chocolate salesman in a chocolate convention. You're gonna, it's just never gonna get you anywhere.

Michael Hobbes  58:08  

Yeah, Tipper Gore is putting out rhetoric that is literally indistinguishable from conservative moral panic bullshit. Every interview you watch with her, she's always like, now I'm a liberal. I love rock and roll but--and then it's just George F Will shit.

Sarah Marshall  58:24  

Well, and it's like selling someone a by definition crappier version of the thing that they already have, because you're like, I am appealing to you by using the same template. But I'm taking out the things that you like, and it's like, you just have to make it its own thing.

Michael Hobbes  58:38  

Yes. There's actually this fascinating debate between William F. Buckley, you know, the conservative commentator and Tipper Gore.

Sarah Marshall  58:45  

Oh boy.

Michael Hobbes  58:46  

Where she's trying to make her case. And she's always saying, you know, I don't want to censor any music. I think the free market should take care of this. She can't make a sentence without all of these caveats. And then we cut to William F. Buckley, and he just says, I think this music is pornography and it should be banned. This is why you never win with this because you can't out-moral panic the Republicans.

Sarah Marshall  59:13  

Ah, yeah, you can't. And they're not bound by fact, and they never really have been.

Michael Hobbes  59:18  

He has a very clear message, like a message that I find completely abhorrent, but it's very easy to summarize, whereas Tipper is like this music is terrible and this you know, she classifies it as a form of child abuse, but we shouldn't do anything about it. And we should just like let the record companies rate it.

Sarah Marshall  59:35  

Nobody wants to sound like Jimmy Carter, because everyone knows that if you sound like Jimmy Carter, you're dead in the water.

Michael Hobbes  59:41  

This is the thing is like all of this happens at the same time as the rise of the evangelical right. So one of the reasons why Tipper Gore's books sold so well is because they would sell it at Christian conferences, and Focus on the Family was selling copies of her book. And Pat Robertson was talking about it on The 700 Club.

Sarah Marshall  1:00:01  

So she's, um, she's in bed with Jellicles.

Michael Hobbes  1:00:04  

Yes. So what she's doing is, you know, we can ally with them on this one issue and we can reinforce word for word their narrative of American history where the institution of the family has been destroyed. This is like fire and brimstone preacher stuff, we can reinforce all of that just on this one issue, and it's not gonna have any other repercussions. As soon as we get the warning labels, we're done.

Sarah Marshall  1:00:29  

Human beings are intrinsically bad, but the solution is inour homes but I won't say how,  goodbye!

Michael Hobbes  1:00:34  


Sarah Marshall  1:00:35  

I mean, the thing I'm most sympathetic to is like, we got to protect our kids from these, like, in some cases really kind of rough and toxic, like depictions of, you know, sexual violence. But also like kids encounter stuff that's inappropriate for them. And that's also just part of childhood. And it's okay, that it happens sometimes, like kids also are pretty good at like, if they have the freedom to like, push away something that they don't like, like, they'll pretty much do that.

Michael Hobbes  1:01:04  

I mean, so much of this is about scapegoating. There's some really good historical literature on this, that one of the things that you see across moral panics is you just want to blame all of society's ills on something specific. It's harder to say like, you know, generally stagnating wages and the country becoming more conservative and, you know, house prices going up and all this sort of inchoate stuff. It's so much easier to just say like, all of the problems with childhood today are Twisted Sister's fault.

Sarah Marshall  1:01:35  

These children should take it, they should continue taking it.

Michael Hobbes  1:01:39  

That was good. We're gonna talk about that song so much next week. 

Sarah Marshall  1:01:45  

Thank you! Thank you.

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