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ISSUE 117 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/17/2003

Profiteering disguised as political speech

By Clare Kennedy
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 17, 2003

Three weeks ago, Billy Tourtelot, lead singer of the little-known Tampa Bay heavy metal band Hell on Earth, announced his intention to have a terminally ill fan commit suicide on stage as a “political statement” in support of physician-assisted euthanasia.

The local media treated this as the sick joke that it is by ignoring it and informing the proper authorities. Hell on Earth had never had much success in the Tampa Bay area and was little-known on the music scene, so every now and then the band would put rats in a blender or, if the mood struck them, simulate sex with a skinned calf onstage to generate morbid interest in their brain-addled scream rock.

Among the few who actually had heard them, their music was considered a farce. It isn’t easy for any death metal band to establish street credit when their album is called “All Things Disturbingly Sassy,” now is it?

However, as fate would have it, the Associated Press picked up the press release and that’s when the international media feeding frenzy began. In the blink of an eye, Rolling Stone and “Good Morning America” were interviewing Tourtelot like he actually had something to say. Hell on Earth’s album is now sold out and their web site, which was reported to have a live feed of the suicide concert, was receiving 800 hits per second before it crashed from overuse.

The suicide has not yet taken place, but it nauseates me to think that we are rewarding this kind of behavior with our attention and money. I hate to sound like my grandma, but what is the world coming to? It is completely indecent, and this story should never have run in any national news syndicate.

There are those that have taken the high road, however. The New York Times, for instance, instructed its reporter to monitor what was going on but refused to run the story unless something actually happened, so as not to draw attention to this disgusting publicity stunt.

Unfortunately, the international sensation is symptomatic of a larger, even more disturbing phenomenon. I like to call it the Jerry Springer Syndrome. Has the American public really become so jaded and callous that someone tragically ending their sad life on stage to promote a song like “My God is Heroin” can draw 800 people per second? Does it take that much to shock and fascinate us nowadays?

This is a trend in almost all areas of our culture. Even the fine arts are degraded by self-aggrandizing morons who will go so far as to trivialize the Holocaust to get the attention of the public. Recently, there was an art show hosted by a Jewish heritage museum in New York City that featured a concentration camp made out of a Prada hatbox. The artist, who is Jewish, explained that he meant to make the point that “fashion is like Fascism.” (Luckily, this show was kept quietly under wraps).

Using death and destruction as entertainment is nothing new. Morbid curiosity has been deeply ingrained in the human psyche since the beginning of time. The difference is that now a steady stream of this life-cheapening trash is available for us to gawk at 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The giant media monopolies and their accompanying parasites such as Tourtelot are always willing to cater to the lowest common denominator at the expense of society. We need to turn the television off and remember that life is not a gimmick meant to sell beer and albums.

Contributing Writer Clare Kennedy is a first year from Tampa Bay, Fla. She majors in English and history.

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