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the facts on social science
sting's impact on youth violence in america
by jeffrey d. walker
2.19.01
general

By virtue of four years of my life devoted to what I like to refer to as “college,” I am a “Social Scientist.” That’s right, I got an undergrad degree in Sociology.

Today, I bring this knowledge to you. Using my ability to watch sociological patterns and statistics, I have uncovered the singular reason behind youth violence in America.

The answer is recording artist Sting.

Now, I know most of you don’t have the training I do, so I’m going to go through this in layman’s terms.

Music lovers the world over know of rock super-group, The Police. Their hits included Message in a Bottle, Don’t Stand So Close to Me, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, and Wrapped Around Your Finger, just to name a few. Songs by The Police echoed from radios and into the hearts of people the world over. Eddie Murphy even sang Roxanne [another Police hit] in the 1982 movie 48 Hours.

At the helm of this super group was their talented and handsome vocalist, identified simply as Sting. Clearly, without Sting’s genius, The Police would have been no more popular than television series T.J. Hooker.

But, as quickly as we fell in love with The Police, they disbanded. In 1984, the world lost its music. Who could we turn to?

The youth, especially the youth of America (who are well known for their acts of lawlessness), took the loss of The Police especially hard. Sadness and confusion developed. Catchy hip-hop, and its evil stepson gangsta-rap, lured the youth in. The late 1980s saw a dramatic rise in youth-gang related violence.

Without The Police, youth crime went unchecked all over the nation.

Seeing this, Sting rushed into the studios to record more albums in the hopes of once again soothing the souls of our youth. [Sting also realized that his million dollar checks from the record company stopped coming once he quit making albums; another reason to return to work]. While his tunes We’ll Be Together Tonight and If I Ever Loose My Faith in You had minimal success, they were not popular enough to stop the violence. The youth of America was in a violent uproar unlike anything seen since those wretched hippies.

Sting had to get his message out to the youth once again. But how? As an aging rocker, he was having trouble reaching the youth. His first attempt was to reach out to the very young, by recording the Grammy winning Circle of Life on Disney’s The Lion King Soundtrack. While, The Lion King was Disney’s top grossing film of all time, [certainly due to Sting’s influence], the kids he reached were too young to have an impact on the violence of America’s youth. He had to reach the older children.

Finally, the opportunity presented itself. In 1997, Sting collaborated with Sean “Puffy” Combs on Every Breath You Take. The tune featured rap lyrics in a tribute to the fallen Christopher Wallace, a/k/a Biggie Smalls, a/k/a Notorious B.I.G. Unquestionably though, despite any additional lyrics, the song was a full revival of the 1983 song of the same name by Sting’s former group, The Police. The music was the same. The chorus was the same. Sting even revealed himself alongside Puffy in December of 1997 on the MTV music awards to help him perform the song.

All the attention was focused on Puffy. Some accused him of exploiting the death of his colleague for profit. [Incidentally, it was Puffy’s vehicle Biggie was riding in when he was gunned down.] Some said Puffy was an illegitimate artist, who could only steal other people’s ideas in the form of sampling rather than composing anything original. [Incidentally again, it is rumored that his departed cohort Biggie actually sampled his nickname from a box of Wendy’s fries, which he ate with reckless abandon.]

Yet while the media focused all of its attention on Puffy, the youth had their eyes firmly fixed on Sting. Just one year after the horribly disappointing Mercury Falling album, Sting had returned to their airwaves reviving one of his most popular hits. Moreover, he had transformed the song into an anthem in remembrance of a life lost due to gang violence. Sting saw the elevated level of gang violence in America, and addressed it with a subtle message endorsing the opposite.

And they listened. The FBI crime index notes a sixty-eight percent fall in the homicide arrest rate for juvenile murders since its peak six years ago. Murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault are also at their lowest point since 1988. Youth crimes, in general, are at a 25-year low, according to the government’s largest crime survey. Further, no 300 plus pound rappers have been the victim of gun violence since the release of that song.

Trying to bring the whole world in line with his important triumphs in America, Sting’s latest album features a duet with a Middle Eastern vocalist. Yet another example of Sting’s commitment of bringing people together.

And all of this boils down to one important point:

Sociology is useless. This is one of the main reasons that I attend grad school now.

Do you know why I was foolish enough to get a Sociology degree in the first place? I’ll tell you: I was foolish enough to believe that it was a legitimate discipline. By adding the term “science” to the word social, I believed I was engaging in a true and accurate study of the world by which I could analyze, deduce, and thereby help improve and revolutionize civilization.

I would make it better, faster, stronger.

At the end of the four years, I was dismayed (to say the least) to realize that social science is as useful as knife in a gunfight. The studies and analysis engaged in every day by respected social scientists are simply a creative spinning together of evidence and figures to seem like a systematic behavior of people.

However, much like a David Copperfield magic show, what you are seeing is a very controlled observation. A limited viewpoint. An illusion.

Numbers and factors based on human interaction are not distinct and repetitive like the rules of a physical science. Experiments using people cannot be successfully controlled, thereby keeping out latent variables affecting the outcome. Each person involved has their own opinions, biases, morals, and that pesky thing known as free will which makes one person’s rationale completely removable from any others.

In other words, it all comes down to personal circumstances. There is no study that may extrapolate a simple factor that manipulates people as a group. My senior year, I wrote a paper disproving all of the research that has been done indicating that violence on television makes children more violent. And I got an A.

So take it from me: don’t listen to anything a Social Scientist has to say to you. Just tell him or her about Sting.

[Thanks to Columbia House, Billboard.com, VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever 1997 edition, and CNN.com for data used in this article.]


ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER

A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker

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COMMENTS

adam kraemer
2.20.01 @ 4:13p

So you're saying it's all about an added Police presence?

jeffrey walker
2.22.01 @ 1:05p

adam, I think it's much deeper than that. I think it is more a question of, who really is the man?

joe procopio
2.22.01 @ 9:26p

Not that I don't love your column, cause I do. But you'll never get me to believe that the Police wasn't mostly Stewart Copeland. Take away his drumming and they're Cheap Trick with a reggae flavor. Proof? "Brand New Day." If you play that song backwards it says "Compaq bought me a castle."

tracey kelley
2.27.01 @ 5:46p

interesting observations - truly. No smarm from me. Therefore, I hate to be contrary, but I know from having the CD (don't ask why, please) that Elton John wrote (with Tim Rice) and sang Circle of Life from The Lion King . Perhaps your copy is a Kenyan bootleg or something.

jeffrey walker
3.2.01 @ 10:41a

Ok, Ok. Tracey you found the flaw. That's the same reason they laughed at me when I presented this theory for my Master's Thesis. I still haven't recovered.

tracey kelley
3.6.01 @ 11:59p

No, I feel certain this piece wasn't accepted as your thesis because you chose not to use antidisestablishmentarianism in a sentence.

adam kraemer
3.7.01 @ 11:34a

I prefer antedisestablishmentarianism. That's what comes before.



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