Lieberman, McCain seek media cease-fire

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An entire nation was stunned by the recent events that unfolded in Littleton, Colo. Had this been an isolated incident, we could have written it off as a tragic anomaly.

However, the reality is that it was not. Rather, it represented another escalation in an ever-increasing pattern of youth violence in schools, neighborhoods and communities across America.

This is an extraordinarily complex problem, with many contributing factors. However, what it comes down to is responsibility, and the most basic and profound responsibility of our society is raising our children. We are failing in that responsibility, and the extent of our failure is increasingly measured in the number of deaths and injuries of children in the schoolyards and on our streets.


Primary responsibility lies with families. America is not parenting its children. We are not adequately involving ourselves in our children's lives. This is our job, our paramount responsibility, and most unfortunately, we are failing. We must get our priorities straight, and that means putting our children first.

However, parents need help. They need help because our homes, families and our children's minds are being flooded by a tide of violence. This dehumanizing violence pervades our society: Our movies depict graphic violence and our children are taught to kill and maim by interactive video-games. The Internet, which holds such tremendous potential in so many ways, is used by some to communicate unimaginable hatred: from images and descriptions of violence, to how-to manuals on everything from bomb construction to drugs.

Our children, more than any other generation, are vulnerable to the images of violence and hate that are dominant themes in so much of what they see and hear.

Two weeks ago, we joined a bipartisan group of legislators to call upon the president to convene an emergency summit of the major entertainment conglomerates and the interactive media industry to discuss solutions to the deluge of violence in the media. We were pleased to see the president responded so quickly. These industry leaders drive our culture -- much of it good -- providing tremendous opportunities for so many in countless ways.

We have called upon these leaders, as responsible corporate citizens, to come together on a common goal: protecting the innocence of our children. This is not a call for censorship. It is a call for responsibility and citizenship.

Unfortunately, the president's summit proved to be more symbolism than substance. In fact, the entertainment industry emerged from the summit without committing to a single measure aimed at ending the marketing and distribution of violence to children.

We believe there are some concrete, voluntary measures that the entertainment and marketing community can take to reduce children's exposure to violence in movies, music, TV programming and videogames.


First, the entertainment industry can work with its advertising and marketing to declare an immediate cease-fire in the "virtual arms race." By this we mean an immediate cessation in the practices of glorifying violence in the advertising and promotion of movies, music, TV programming and video games. Graphic images of human suffering and death are all too common fare in the promotion of these products and services.

Secondly, these industries can work together to end the practice of marketing violence-laden products to children. Evidence presented during a recent Senate commerce committee hearing made clear that a growing number of leading companies are targeting adult-rated movies and videogames, loaded with violence, to young teens.

Third, the music industry should work with its advertising and marketing to provide clearer and more effective labels and warnings for ultra-violent and obscene recordings. This would empower parents to make educated decisions about what their children are listening to.


The advertising industry in America is one of our greatest assets. It represents a mindspring of creativity and imagination that helps to drive the most powerful market system the world has ever known.

We challenge this industry to turn its incredible creative energies toward helping entertainment companies to understand and appreciate their responsibilities as corporate citizens, and to do their part in fulfilling the most primary responsibility of our society, our children.

As we have said, this is a complex challenge. Working with the media we can come to consensus on immediate measures to curb children's access to the types of excessive and gratuitous violence that is currently flooding our homes and families.

Children are not simply small adults. Childhood is a time of innocence, a time to learn discipline and values. Our children are our most precious gift, and we must work together to preserve the sanctity of childhood.

U.S. Sen. McCain is a Republican from Arizona. U.S. Sen. Lieberman is a Democrat from Connecticut. In the wake of the Littleton tragedy they jointly introduced legislation directing the U.S. surgeon general to conduct a comprehensive study of the impact of media on children.

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