aol attacks springsteen fans
  by Dave Marsh

On AOL's Bruce Springsteen discussion board, the fans wanted to talk
politics. AOL said its infamous Terms of Service (TOS) forbade such
controversy. So the fans talked about song lyrics, and several posted
excerpts from Bruce's songs. Everyone who did this was served with a
TOS violation and the posts were deleted. When the posters asked why,
they were told  that the lyrics were "vulgar." If they protested further,
they were suspended from AOL for a week.

Among the lines that TOS thinks are too vulgar: "Bobby said he'd pull
out / Bobby stayed in" ("Spare Parts"), which explains how Janey got
pregnant; "Janey's fingers were in the cake" ("Spirit in the Night"),
which is as gross as "Little Miss Muffet"; and "Pink Cadillac" where
Springsteen declares "My love is bigger than a Honda, it's bigger than
a Subaru."

Now if Springsteen were to do something truly vulgar, like use "Pink
Cadillac" to pimp for General Motors, TOS wouldn't ban it. AOL crams
vulgarity of that sort down the throats of its subscribers the instant
they log on. As for the sexual stuff, one of the highest traffic areas
on AOL is its chat rooms for kids, which a child abuse expert told me
he considers the single most effective trolling ground for child sex
predators. AOL has never done anything meaningful to protect
subscribers from that.

AOL basically doesn't have to care. If you want to be in on that
Springsteen discussion, you'll play by its rules, even if those rules
basically leave you nothing to talk about, including the color of his
wife's hair. ("Red Headed Woman" was banned in its entirety.)
If you object, they'll toss you out and don't expect to get a refund
on this month's bill.

This isn't about Springsteen or Bruce fans. It's about AOL, which
happens to be one of the corporations in the American record industry
cartel. Will artists signed to its Warner/Reprise, Atlantic and Elektra
subsidiaries face pressure _not_ to release songs with lyrics like
"taste your sweet red wine" or "late at night when I'm dead on the line
/ I think of your pretty face when I let 'er unwind," the offending
passages from "Book of Dreams" and "Ramrod"?

One of AO-Hell's kingpins Robert Pittman, the first honcho of MTV.
Pittman forbade MTV from showing any video featuring black artists, on
the grounds that viewers wouldn't put up with race mixing. Pittman, a
native Mississippian, is also a major supporter of the most infamous
advocates of music censorship, Al and Tipper Gore. The record division
of AO-Hell is under his direction. One of the first things that happened
after Pittman took the helm was that Howie Klein left. Klein ran the
Sire and Reprise labels with great success, in part because he refused
to _ever_ put warning labels on his release, which was of great
assistance to Madonna and Alannis Morrisette, among others.

Many AOL subscribers have hard drives loaded with.mp3 files, none of
them purchased from the cartel (because the cartel doesn't sell them).
Presuming that the record biz ever realizes its dream of being able to
invade the hard drives of file-sharers to find such "evidence," who do
you think the first people they attack are going to be?

Is this paranoid? Don't ask. You might find your account suspended.

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