Music and Criminal Behavior

Music and Criminal Behavior. The role that music plays in influencing adolescent criminal behavior

Prior to speaking about the actual role the music plays in influencing criminal behavior in adolescent, I would like to note that music as a mean of verbal (vocal) communication certainly influences people who listen to it. In the ancient Rome and Greece the troops prior or during the war would listen to various marches that would motivate them, make them aggressive and brave and willing to die for their emperor. Just because music is a mean of communication of the singer’s emotions or thoughts it is perceived differently by different people. There can hardly be any music that is loved by absolutely everyone, and there can hardly be any person who hates absolutely every kind of music. In the following essay I am going to speak about the ways how music affects human behavior, stressing the importance of violence with regard to music. Also I am going to present various educated findings regarding the common myths, misperceptions and the government response to various types of music, exploring correlation between Music and Criminal Behavior.

Currently, it is rap music that is considered to contribute to the increased violence in the main metropolitan areas among adolescents. At the same time, heavy metal and hard rock is believed to give the listeners only the negative emotions, images and ideas to implement in real life (Glassner, 89). Certainly, no one would object the statement that teen minds are more perceptive and less skeptical than the minds of the adults, yet still it does not mean that the music is their sole motivator of committing a crime or engaging in a violent behavior. Thus, the first myth that many people have about the direct correlation between Music and Criminal Behavior is disproved: adolescents receive over 50% of information from their parents, 20% from peers, and 30% from school and other areas (Ro, 90).

Aggressive Music and Criminal Behavior

Furthermore, these aggressive types of music (rap and heavy metal especially) give the adolescents the way to pour out their emotions and attitude towards the problems, difficulties and misunderstandings. Parents still love to blame musicians like Dr. Dee, Eminem, 2Pac, and bands like KoRn and Limp Bizkit for their child’s problems. Music is an excuse for bad parenting. “One should look at the family background of the person committing the crimes” (Glassner, 90). Thus, the ignorance regarding the nature of criminal behavior is also unveiled. Most criminals come from dysfunctional families, which would explain why a person would turn to crime in life (Strasburger, 8).

Also I would like to note that another reason a person would turn to crime is being sexually abused as a young child rather than being exposed to Eminem or Marlyn Manson. This would definitely cause a person to go a little crazy. When someone hears some lyrics from Eminem, 2Pac, or Rammstein they do not immediately jump up and do what the song says. It is a well known fact that lyrics from the most popular signers (rappers or rockers) are created for commercial and entertainment purposes only. It is a well known fact that it takes $30,000-$50,000 for a single song track to be recorded (thus making it over $300,000 in recording costs only for a single album), let alone the costs associated with the production and distribution of these songs to the listeners and the salaries of the promoters (Ro, 93). It is no wonder why the music directors, singers and promoters must agree whether or not the music will be accepted by the market prior to selling it. In other words, the only reason why Eminem sings about homosexual and drugs is because he (and his team) expects these words to be loved by his fans and his album to be bought and listened to (Strasburger, 9).

Personal intelligence, Music and Criminal Behavior

Another statement that needs to be made is the personal intelligence, reason and understanding of what to do and what not to do. If Kurt Cobain from Nirvana sings “rape me”, still it is at the person’s discretion whether or not to allow himself/herself to be raped and subjugated. If Eminem sings about killing his wife or father, it does not mean that people have no choice but to follow his advice. In other words, if Mr. Bush would sing about making another war, say with India, it does not mean that all Americans would agree with his ideas and does not mean that all Americans who listen to the presidential speech or song would follow him.

Music just like advertising delivers a message to a person prompting the person’s mind to act in a certain way. Yet it is a person’s will, reason and perception of justice that governs whether or not to buy what the commercial says or what the music sings (Kenvatta, 29). In other words, if the commercial is all about selling you a rain coat, but you prefer your school jacket, it will make you either find the commercial annoying, or you would consider the benefits and costs of getting the rain coat. If you believe that your friends would not like you abandoning your school jacket (and so school spirit) you would not buy the rain coat. If a song tells you to kiss the behind, kill cops, or do other stuff, you also start to think about what the community will think of you and what civil penalties you might face (Glassner, 95).

Here I would like to give a good example of Music and Criminal Behavior. In 1988, several police-murderers claimed to do so because of the song “cop killa” written by Ice-T. But should the musician be held responsible for the actions of others? In my opinion, not at all. This would be similar to blaming Mr. Nobel for inventing a dynamite (Ro, 98). On one hand his invention contributed to the mass murders and mutilations caused by this explosive, yet on the other hand, his invention is still used in various coal mines to separate the ore/coal from the rock or in various engineering works, when it is necessary to cut through the rock. The same can be said about the inventors of a gun or a nuclear fusion. If a murderer uses a gun or hostile regime develops a nuclear bomb to jeopardize the lives of innocent people, the inventors appear to be bad and immoral, yet when the same inventions help to power nuclear power plants to provide hospitals with electricity and households with heat, or providing the peacekeepers and freedom-fighters with sophisticated rifles, it appears that after all the inventors are not so bad. Therefore, one has to understand that it is a personal decision to commit an act rather than a song’s or the author’s fault (Strasburger, 12). I personally find that the presence of such gangster songs with swear language, and promises to kill as a sign of democracy and freedom of speech. It should be noted that, although not every democratic country has such aggressive songs that oppose the public moral and status quo of things, absolutely no country that has an authoritarian and non-democratic regime has these songs present. In other words, if one to listen to all Cuban, Chinese, Belorussian, or Arabic songs (well, with the exception of probably Turkey which is considered democratic), he/she would not find songs that use swear words or aggressive language, simply because the ruling class (or person) fully controls the media (Glassner, 99). So, while we hear Dr.Dre singing about his desire to kill Mr.President, we can be certain that in the USA one is free to express himself/herself (Ro, 120).

Examples where Music and Criminal Behavior correlated.

Marilyn Manson is a name that has been a pain in the head of the US society as a moral and ethical issue for the parents and kids of the generation “X”. He is one of the most controversial artists in the world today, one who chooses to express himself in a way that provokes in the most extreme methods possible. His moral, ethical and religious actions have been questioned repeatedly. His ethics may be a representation of how disorientated American society has become in the late 1990s. there has been numerous attempts to sue Manson yet because of the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech, he is still able to sing what he feels like (Kenvatta, 30).

Another music band, called “three-six mafia”, was also blamed by the US community for creating songs that supposedly contributed to the murder of many police officers. This group was banned from 40 US states, because of the block buster song “Tear the club up”, yet the group went underground and did not lose the popularity (Strasburger, 15). On the contrary, people wanted to listen to their songs which opposed the existing government, morality, American dream and peace. An interesting fact is that every time the group would start singing this song “tear the club up”, the mass would become wild and uncontrollable and would engage in various aggressive actions. So, is this a groups fault for writing such song, or it was each individual’s motivation to come to a song notorious for its effects, and engage in a riot, rather than to go to a Britney Spears concert? I believe that it is a personal motivation, because if a person knew about the song effects and disproved both the song and the effects she/he would not attend the concerts (Ro, 124).

Another misconception regarding the information we hear about the contribution of songs to the aggressive behavior is the belief that mass media is right about whatever it says. After all, people love to hear about something shocking or bad rather than to the routine news of how good things are and how sweet is Shakira.

It is believed that heavy metal and rap songs do not motivate people to act bad, but rather reflect the bad in people depicted in songs. Just like the Wall Street Journal that considers the state of the US economy and if it is bad says it, so does rap or heavy metal state about what is considered to be good or bad in a given community or group. And whenever after the news expressed in the Wall sTreet journal the US market overreacts and also badly influences the stock prices or creates a panic, it does not mean that things are so bad after all (Ro, 129). The same is about songs that sing about murders on the street, rapes, perversions and molestations—they reflect or maybe somewhat exaggerate the realities to which the attention should be paid. Therefore the songs are the messengers of the poor communities’ realities and thus, should not be blamed (Glassner, 112). Whenever, one thinks why the authoritarian/communist countries do not have such songs, she/he should try to understand that the governing regime tries to create the illusion that everything in the society is smooth and fine as depicted in the songs that survived severe censorship (Kenvatta, 34).

Rock Music

Heavy metal and rock is another type of music that is considered to be the source of aggression and the root of evil in adolescents. Yet there had not been found any verifiable and reliable correlation between heavy metal and aggression. The only correlation between various types of music and adolescents was reflected in the clothes they wear. Thus, if a person wears oversized clothes, baggie jeans, and a baseball cap, such person is likely to be a rap fan (Strasburger, 17). If a person is noticed in tight leaver jacket, has black pants and a harley Davidson let alone a mullet, and a pack of cigarettes, he/she is likely to be a heavy metal fan. If a person wears torn shirts, has many pierced body parts, she/he is likely to be an alternative music fan based on such common prejudices about these music culture. And just because heavy metal, hard rock, rap or alternative music causes adolescents to satisfy their own ego, express they rebel behavior, it does not mean that it immediately prompts people into violence. Certainly, many types of music might prompt people into using drugs to assimilate their music leader (and the drug use might cause violence), no music directly influences people to act violently (Strasburger, 18).

Music is just a communication mean between the singer and the audience, and the audience in order to provide a feedback strives to either wear what the leader does or to assimilate them in other ways. If their leaders go to jail, the fans get a lesson of how not to behave instead of blindly following the footsteps of a criminal singer. And the reason why, the rap, rock, funk, etc. music leaders sing about breaking the law and do not break it themselves is because of the commercial bottom line of each music project (Kenvatta, 39). Living in a competitive world, the musicians besides satisfying their own desire to write and compose music, must also strive to satisfy the demands of the market as it had been previously noted in this essay. If the rap singers thought that after committing a crime themselves, they would only increase their own popularity among their fans and will reap more money, do you think they would be now sitting and composing the music? No, they would engage in a violent behavior themselves, watch their popularity soar, and enjoy the fame and money. The reason why they do not do what they sing is because, the fans would disappear after finding they leader messing up with the law (Kenvatta, 40). Fans act just like the corporate stock holders, who would leave the company, sell the stock after the SEC starts an investigation (Glassner, 114).

Another argument against the common misperception of rap, and hard rock music is the time argument. In the early 1900s, with jazz music gaining popularity, the society faced similar issues as it currently faces with hard rock, and rap. Jazz was usually reserved to the blacks who at that time were considered inferior to the whites in every aspect (Ro, 132). It was true that because the black population was discriminated against by the whites, various instance of blacks attacking the whites did happen. Jazz was considered a black gang music that caused the blacks to hate the whites act violently against the US society. The whites who listened to Jazz (among them Scott Fitzgerald) were considered as extremely eccentric people. Nowadays, although jazz as a style did not change, the majority of the rap and heavy metal critics would rather watch the adolescents listen to jazz than to rap and heavy metal which is relatively novel. Rock-and-roll was also considered as something extremely bad and immoral, and the only reason why Elvis went to serve in the Army was because the politicians thought that by doing so they would break his rebellious spirit and kill his talent. I would not be mistaken to if I hear that nowadays, rock-and-roll which indeed managed to survive the hardships of censorship of the 1940s-1960s does deserve to be called music and is recommended to the listeners as a substitute for rap and hard rock. Another example is Marylyn Monroe who besides various innuendos that questioned the traditional US puritan morality and family chastity was well-known to have contributed to the infidelity of the US most famous president JFK (Strasburger, 20). Yet now, the current rap and rock critics would surely say that Marylyn Monroe and her music is GOOD while the modern day music is BAD simply because Monroe music just like Rock-and-roll and jazz passed the test of time. The modern day rap and hard rock faces similar allegations as jazz did in the years 1900-1920s, Elvis in 1930-1940s, and Monroe in 1950s (Kenvatta, 43). Now those who in the past would stand up for their right to listen to elvis, doors or any jazz musician, criticize rap and rock. It would not be a bad guess to say that, in some 20 years after rap and rock passes the test of time and new musical styles would arrive, the current rap and rock lovers would be among those who criticize the new music and promote rap and rock as non-violent and GOOD in some future (Glassner, 120).

In conclusion I would like to say that the myths of rap or rock causing violent behavior were never proved statistically. There was found no strong relationship between violence and any type of music listened to today. Of course the way the music fans dress and the way they pierce their bodies and talk might scare some snobs, yet it bear no relationship with the actual violence that used to take place prior to the invention of rock and rap and continues to do so (Kenvatta, 45). If a person after committing a murder would say that he/she did so because the tunes in the Mozart’s music caused him/her do so, no one would consider blaming Mozart simply because that music passed the test of time. Another proof that the music does not have any direct relationship to the person’s actions is the fact that the US Army, Navy, ROTC, Air force, ground troops or the CIA do not make their employees and the recruits listen to Eminem, or Merlyn Manson, although these professions especially nowadays indeed require soldiers who fight for the freedom in the world to have some more aggression than the terrorists or other hostile groups. If there was a tune to make soldiers more willing to kill, we would surely have the US military use it to program the soldiers. Another example is the immoral behavior of Bill Clinton and Monica. Although there was no violence involved, yet if people do what they listen to, both of them must have been fond of rap that promotes “smoking poles, raping sluts”.




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Strasburger, victor, Adolescents and the Media : Medical and Psychological Impact, Prentice hall, 1995.


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