- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

Hollywood is usually on the receiving end when it comes to lectures on the rise of violence in American culture, but yesterday Hollywood lectured back.

During a forum, "Youth Violence in America," sponsored by the Creative Coalition, a panel of entertainment figures blamed everyone but themselves for the recent rash of violent teen-age crime: graphic TV news, the free market, lack of parental involvement, overuse of anti-depressant prescription drugs and even a lack of art classes.

"The industry will give people what they want. As long as there's an appetite, the industry will feed it," said film director Sydney Pollack, who shared the panel with panelists ranging from former Education Secretary William Bennett to actress Juliette Lewis.

Whether Hollywood helps create that appetite is another question. Mr. Bennett said a constant stream of antisocial music, TV shows and movies will ultimately coarsen some children, while a few will try to imitate the violence they see in the media.

But talk-show host Montell Williams argued that TV news is more harmful to children, pointing to the graphic coverage of the Gulf war and the Rodney King beating.

"Those were considered justifiable violence, and we can show justifiable violence," said Mr. Williams. "But [not] make-believe violence."

He also chided parents for failing to watch television with their children to monitor the level of violence.

"We need P-chips planted in the back of parents' heads, making them reassume their responsibility over the home," he said.

Miss Lewis said many of the teen-agers who commit shocking violent acts are taking anti-depressant medication, a link that needs more study. She also advocated more art classes in schools.

"When kids spend 90 percent of their adolescence in school and schools are very different now than from how they were in the '50s I think kids need creative outlets," said Miss Lewis, whose creative outlets have included the movie "Natural Born Killers."

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman had agreed months ago to appear at the forum in the Los Angeles Public Library but backed out at the last minute.

The cancellation led to speculation that Mr. Lieberman was avoiding a showdown with the entertainment industry, which he has criticized heavily for its explicit depictions of violence and sex. Hollywood is traditionally a major source of campaign donations to the Democratic Party.

But Mr. Bennett, a longtime friend and ally, said the Connecticut Democrat was busy working on his speech for last night's Democratic National Convention. He added that Mr. Lieberman had given him his "proxy" to speak on his behalf.

Even so, Mr. Lieberman was there in spirit.

"We are all on this new, hit show called 'Everybody Loves Lieberman,' " said Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat.

Despite his Republican ties, Mr. Bennett said the nation needs someone like Mr. Lieberman as a moral voice.

"I'm suggesting for Democrats: What this country needs is a good case of Jewish guilt, and that's Lieberman," he said. "Instead of legislation [against media violence], maybe we should all just feel bad."

Mr. Lieberman's tough stand on Hollywood violence is well documented. Last year, he and Mr. Bennett released an "Appeal to Hollywood," which called on the entertainment industry to set minimum decency standards on movies, records, video games and television.

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