Did California really ban LED gloves and pacifiers at raves?

I generally have a lot of respect for Reason magazine, because they’re interesting, relatively honest and nonpartisan. This video by Reason.tv, however, fell short of expectations.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm3qQyWXoe0?rel=0&w=487&h=277]

As you can see, the title of the video is “Ravers vs. The Man – CA Bans LED Gloves and Pacifiers.”

And that’s where the trouble begins.

The truth is, California has not banned anything with Assembly Bill 74, which was signed into law a couple days ago. Dubbed the “Concert and Music Festival Safety Act,” it’s pretty straightfoward and noncontroversial. It requires that anyone organizing a event that is expected to draw over 10,000 attendees on California state property must present an action plan detailing how the promoter will maintain law and order and prevent accidental death.

That’s it. That’s all it does. There is no mention of LED gloves, pacifiers or raves. If you don’t believe me, read the bill yourself. It’s only a few paragraphs long.

Coming from a newspaper background, I can understand the temptation to write an exaggerated headline to attract more eyeballs. But Reason’s misleading presentation goes beyond the headline and continues in the editing of an interview with Fiona Ma, who introduced the bill.

It starts at about 4:12 in the video.

Narrator: “Ma may be approaching the rave issue with a lighter touch now, but her push for regulation has still targeted specific aspects of rave culture, such as the use of LED gloves and pacifiers, which she says promotes drug use.”

Ma: “Can’t wear gloves with lights. You can’t walk around with stuffed animals. I mean, all the things that the ‘rave culture’… the promoters have tried to break down and make it more like a concert where people go to a venue to enjoy themselves and not have all the things that are associated traditionally, in the past, with raves. No pacifiers, for example. Nobody was allowed to have pacifiers in their mouth.”

If you look carefully at the words Ma used, it is clear that she is not talking about what her regulation targets. She is talking about steps promoters have voluntarily taken in the past to discourage “rave culture” and make their events more like regular old concerts or music festivals. Yet the Reason narrator’s lead-in, and the cutting of the context of Ma’s quote, misleadingly suggests that Ma is saying her legislation bans pacifiers and stuffed animals.

This is sensationalism. Reason took a relatively meaningless piece of legislation and tried to make it sound far more extreme than it really is. While there is no doubt in my mind that public officials get way too worked up about raves, this just isn’t as bad as Reason wants it to be.

Color me disappointed.

Update 10/12/11: The Raw Story has a far more sober take on this story, with a more accurate headline, “California lawmaker surprised to find genre of music cannot be outlawed.” They include this interesting detail that Reason inexplicably left out:

In January, Ma introduced legislation to the California legislature, the Anti-Raves Act of 2011, that would have made conducting an event that includes prerecorded music and lasts more than three and one-half hours a misdemeanor offense with a $10,000 penalty. The bill was amended six times, eventually becoming the Concert and Music Festival Safety Act, and signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on October 9.