December 13, 2005

Stupidity Affects Us All

Posted by Amanda Toering
Wednesday July 06th 2005, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Right Watch

CNN’s “Wolf Blitzer Reports” aired a piece yesterday about broadcast indecency and, specifically, the engorged content descriptors now shown at the beginning of most broadcast segments.

During the report, a spokesperson for the Family Research Council states explicitly what the FRC and Parents Television Council regularly imply implicitly: We Americans are so fragile and impressionable that the government ought to protect us from naughty words, racy images, and the like.

JOHN KING (HOST): Have you noticed something different recently while watching cable TV? No, not that Wolf actually took a few days off. That ratings box, in the upper corner of your screen, has gotten bigger. The cable industry says it’s an effort to give parents more control over what their kids watch, but it’s part of a broader campaign to keep the government from having remote control. CNN’s Mary Snow reports.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with Janet Jackson’s bare breast during the 2004 Super Bowl network broadcast. A curse during a televised awards show by rocker Bono heated things up, and complaints grew about indecency and sex on network TV.

That was on the networks, but a year and a half later on cable, you’ll now see this [graphic]. And this [graphic] on cable.

The cable industry has tuned in to the complaints about indecency, and spent $250 million to educate parents on how to control what their kids watch on TV.

Part of the effort: An enlarged ratings system on screen, similar to the one used in movies.

Have parents noticed? Some industry observers say, not so much. But politicians did.

A lot of lawmakers were threatening to hit cable — cable networks with the same type of indecency restrictions that broadcasters face. A lot of that talk has died down.

SNOW: While the talk may have died down, it hasn’t died.

CHARMAINE YOEST, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Putting a warning label on something is not a license for them to just dump raw sewage into our culture.

SNOW: The clash over culture has put the media industry overall on guard.

JIM DYKE, TV WATCH: When they talk about “smut” and “pornography” and “sewage” on television, they’re actually talking about some of America’s most popular shows. [Full disclosure: SpeakSpeak is a member of the TV Watch coalition.]

SNOW: Shows like “The Simpsons,” that a group called TV Watch says may not be for every kid, but certainly shouldn’t be banned.

The group is a coalition recently formed of media companies like Viacom and NBC, along with conservative and liberal groups. Their message — parents, not the government, should control the remote. They say complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about indecency don’t represent the majority views of Americans.

DYKE: The FCC is almost being controlled by a heckler’s veto at this point.

SNOW: Others say, though, that the government needs to be more involved in TV regulation, and they compare it to monitoring the environment.

YOEST: It’s something that affects all of us, and so we need the government to be involved in policing what the television industry is doing.


Well, if that’s the argument….

As a public service, I’ve come up with a list of other things that “affect us all” and therefore need government policing.

1) Cell phone talkers in public restrooms: One of the greatest discourtesies of our time is the use of cell phones in public restrooms. Violating your own privacy is one thing, but violating the privacy of innocent bystanders is just plain rude. If I wanted to share my bathroom habits with your friends — strangers, that is — I’d pee on the street.

It’s possible that this is a regional malady. No nationwide survey of the problem exists, at least as far as I’m aware. But, while the problem may currently exist in isolated pockets and may not, strictly speaking, “affect all of us,” it is certain to creep across the nation as the worst offenders travel for summer vacations and holiday weekends.

The federal government should act now to stop the spread of public restroom cell phone use before it’s a universally accepted practice. If it is unfeasible for the government to hire an attendant for every public restroom in America, they should at least install cell phone jammers (currently outlawed in the States) in public pee places.

2) Nineteen-year-old girls with tattoos on their lower backs: This is a classic example of the perpetrator holding hostage the sensibilities of the perpetrated. Lower back tattoos affect all of us, albeit in various ways. Yet their owners remain unaffected — they can’t even see them! How fair is that?!

Because of the inherently one-sided nature of the problem — the burden lies solely with the viewer, which is no doubt part of the viewee’s intent — government intervention and censure is not only warranted, it is imperative.

3) Solitary shoes on the side of the road: How do they get there, and why are there so many? I argue that every person of driving age has pondered the preponderance of lost shoes on Interstate highways. The wonderment instigated by the lost shoe certainly distracts the curious driver, therefore endangering all of us other drivers. This affects us all!

No serious investigation into the causes of the lost shoe has ever been conducted. The government should study the issue and examine strategies for preventing future shoe loss.

Until adequate prevention methods are found, an acceptable stop-gap measure would be the formation of a division within the Department of Transportation whose mission would be to collect solitary shoulder shoes in a timely fashion — before they can endanger the lives of US citizens. While increased taxes may be necessary to fund the National Shoe Collection and Reclamation program (NaSCAR), the effort would create thousands of jobs nationwide.

As a bonus, mismatched pairs of reclaimed shoes could be donated to federally funded faith-based charities. Since the only aspect of their clients’ lives about which they actually give a damn is their religious beliefs, the prospect of clients being oddly shod should not be a deterrent.

Also on Traffic Jam.

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5 Comments so far

Newspapers are also commonplace and affect us all, but no one is proposing indecency regulations for newspapers (yet).

Comment by Eric Jaffa 07.06.05 @ 12:32 pm

I watch alot of tv and I grew up in a very conservative family, but I do not see anything that bad on tv.
This is the only reason that I cannot call myself a republican. Everytime they get some control I feel as though I am being babysat. This is a free country. People quit complaining and take control of your own lives and leave mine alone. I regulate what comes into my house, and I like tv that challenges me. Please leave my tv alone I do not want to go back to leave it to beaver and happy days.

Comment by James Reubens 07.06.05 @ 1:24 pm

As a Canadian I have, at various times, seen bare breasts, unclad buttocks (male and female), flaccid penises, and on at least two occassions uncovered female pubic triangles on broadcast television. I have also routinely heard most of the words that were several decades banned from American media including S–t and F–k (censored because as Americans you are too sensitive to read them ;-) ) on broadcast TV - indeed there is something almost cathartic about hearing the actress who played Anne of Green Gables saying those words - but so far as I know the CRTC (the Canadian equivalent of the FCC) and the various broadcasters have not been inundated or even inconvenienced by protests. Indeed the biggest protest recently was an attempt by a group “in defense of the family” to boycott advertisers on a series called My Fabulous Gay Wedding. It failed. I guess my point is this: are the citizens of the “last great superpower” so child-like that they need to be protected from words and images that much of the rest of the industrialised world accepts as routine? I don’t believe that Americans are as easily corrupted as groups like the PTC and the FRC would have Americans believe.

Comment by Brent McKee 07.07.05 @ 11:07 am

Hey, good point about the tattoos . . .

Comment by Charmaine Yoest 07.12.05 @ 9:10 am


I’m sorry for sort of calling you “stupid.” It wasn’t actually directed at you.

By the way, if you’re following along at home, Charmaine has posted a bit of a rebuttal on her own site.

Comment by Amanda Toering 07.13.05 @ 9:12 am

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