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Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2000 /14 Teves, 5760

Michael Medved

Michael Medved
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Who is more "Twisted," Rocker or his heavy metal critics? --
DESPITE ABJECT ATTEMPTS to apologize for his crude, rude interview with Sports Illustrated, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker continues to draw denunciations from the leading moral authorities of our time.

These ethical experts include presidential candidates, Hollywood starlets and now, amazingly, heavy metal musicians.

Rocker's remarks 'were way too damaging to be considered flip comments,' declared a recent expression of conscience. 'One must take responsibility for the ramifications when you say something like that. This is just another voice in the crowd that lets him know that what he did was not acceptable.'

The source of this weighty judgment was one Jay Jay French, guitarist with the esteemed 1980s ensemble Twisted Sister. Their song, I Wanna Rock, had been played over the public p system at Atlanta home games as a way of introducing Rocker when he entered the fray in late innings to overwhelm the opposition. Because Rocker said contemptuous things about 'foreigners' in general and New York fans in particular in his infamous interview, the members of Twisted Sister now insist that their uplifting musical offering must no longer be sullied by association with so insensitive a person. They've formally requested that the Braves find another song to hype up the fans for next season's appearances by Rocker. In the spirit of his repeated apologies, perhaps they might consider Give Peace a Chance, or We Are the World.

One need not be a Rocker fan or apologist to see the absolute absurdity in all this. The members of Twisted Sister, of all people, suddenly weigh in on the issue of 'ramifications' of self-expression and demand that society refuse to accept certain verbal excesses.

To refresh the memories of those who may have chosen to forget some of the uglier aspects of '80s pop culture, this is the same band that proudly crooned such deathless ditties as Burn in Hell and Kill or Be Killed. Lead singer Dee Snider filed his teeth into points to make them into photogenic fangs. Their song Shoot 'em Down expressed raw hatred for arrogant, attractive, popular people and included the immortal lyrics:

Well they think they're hot
Well I say they're not
They shoot us down for fun
If they wanna play
Then let's make 'em pay
Shoot them down with a f--n' gun!

By what moral standard are these poetic words acceptable and Rocker's offhand reference to a still-unidentified teammate as 'a fat monkey' is not?

The lyrics by Twisted Sister, chillingly suggesting firearms violence by youthful outcasts against popular classmates, emerged as part of a copyrighted song after rehearsal and recording sessions, deliberately injected into America's cultural bloodstream. Rocker's thoughtless statements came as part of a long, rambling interview, much of which he blabbed to a reporter as he was driving. Which tasteless statements represent a more serious, studied, premeditated assault?

Recently, Rocker endured another self-righteous condemnation from nother 'twisted sister': the spunky and talented actress Sarah Jessica Parker. As a guest on that august forum of ideas that convenes each morning with Regis and Kathy Lee, Parker opined: 'It is unacceptable' - that word again! - 'in the year 2000 for anybody to denigrate an ethnicity, a lifestyle, a point of view. You cannot be a major league baseball player and talk about other human beings that way. It is unacceptable! And his apology last night - no! Because it's too destructive, that kind of language, you can't talk about each other that way. End of story!'

The audience applauded wildly, and Regis Philbin looked on with a smug, beatific grin, as if awed by the ethical splendor of his guest's arguments. Never mind that this same Ms. Parker is the star of Sex in the City, a controversial cable show that has shocked many viewers with its explicit and raunchy content. Imagine for a moment that some critic would declare of the theme of her program that 'it is unacceptable. You can't talk about human intimacy that way. End of story!'

Undoubtedly, Parker and her colleagues would fire back that any such judgmental verdicts about their work would inappropriately limit their freedom of expression. But why should painstakingly crafted television episodes receive broader First Amendment protection than offhand conversation with a reporter? Should expressions of intolerance receive universal condemnation, while we blithely accept glorification of irresponsible sex and, in the case of Twisted Sister, angry violence?

If nothing else, the Rocker ruckus has served to expose the profoundly hypocritical double standard of leading figures in the entertainment industry. They say that a professional baseball player must acknowledge his potential to influence our young with mindless comments, but popular musicians or TV actresses who draw even more adulation can never be held responsible for the moral messages of their work.

Yes, Rocker's rough language was indeed 'unacceptable,' but so are cultural contributions that unmistakably encourage reckless sex and random brutality. Moreover, the beleaguered relief pitcher has tried to apologize several times. When potentates of pop culture such as Parker and Twisted Sister begin to offer similar apologies for their own destructive influences, perhaps we can take more seriously their pompous pronouncements of disapproval.

JWR contributor, author and film critic Michael Medved hosts a daily three-hour radio talk show broadcast in more than 120 cities throughout the United States. His latest book, written together with his wife, is Saving Childhood : Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence . You may contact him by clicking here.


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© 2000, Michael Medved