Right-wing moralists launch censor war

Mudbug

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America’s freedom of speech is under attack. Mickey Mouse and Private Ryan had better watch out, says Ros Davidson in Los Angeles
*

WHAT do Tom Hanks, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, U2’s Bono, Janet Jackson’s boobs and Mickey Mouse have in common? They’re all targets in an attack on American popular culture, which is accelerating following George Bush’s re-election.

E-mail complaints from angry right-wing viewers are flooding federal regulators this weekend following the unedited broadcast on Remembrance Day of the film Saving Private Ryan.

In fact, one third of the local TV stations affiliated with national network ABC, owned by Disney, refused to air the critically acclaimed second world war blockbuster because it contains swear words. The Oscar-winning film about D-Day, directed by Steven Spielberg, also includes graphic, realistic violence.

The 66 stations, from Boston to Detroit and Honolulu, said they feared sanctions from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for airing “profanity” during prime evening hours. That was despite the fact that ABC had promised to cover any fine by the commission, whose members are appointed by its president.

“ABC crossed the line by airing at least 20 ‘f’ words and 12 ‘s’ words during prime-time viewing hours!,” says the evangelical group American Family Association, which claims it has 2.3 million members and is one of the groups leading the revamped charge against “immorality”. “We believe ABC should have aired their salute to heroes without violating broadcast decency laws,” it said.

Each TV station could face a fine of £18,000 if found to have aired “indecent” material. Under long-standing guide lines, profanity is banned from 6am to 10pm on America’s publicly owned broadcast channels, but not on cable channels.

“It would clearly have been our preference to run the movie,” says Ray Cole, president of Citadel Communications, which owns three of the stations. “We think it is a patriotic, artistic tribute to our fighting forces.”

Senator John McCain, a one-time POW in Vietnam, introduced Saving Private Ryan on Thursday. A maverick Republican and a former presidential candidate, he spent much of Thursday trying to stem the desertions. The film is nowhere near indecent, he says angrily.

Initially, only 20 stations were expected to opt out. The 1998 movie has been shown twice before on ABC, to some complaints from viewers but without TV stations baling.

Previously, regulators have permitted some programmes with swearing to be aired when the language is justified artistically by the context. According to an agreement between Spielberg and the television network ABC, the film could not be edited for artistic reasons.

Thursday’s widespread reaction worries cultural observers because of America’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and because ownership of TV and radio outlets has become dramatically consolidated in recent years.

“It’s self-censorship,” says BJ Bullert, a communications scholar at the University of Washington. “There’s a climate of intimidation, especially in response to the election. It’s a new kind of cold war, and it comes from the top, from George Bush and Karl Rove.”

The national mood is different now, and not just because of the election results. “Moral values” were cited by 22% of Americans as the top issue in the November 2 vote, according to pollsters.

In September, regulators fined CBS £299,000 for the live broadcast in January in which singer Janet Jackson’s breast was bared briefly during half-time at the Super Bowl . Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” prompted accusations of immorality from conservative activists, some viewers, members of Congress and commentators.

Rove, Bush’s top political adviser, says: “I think people are concerned about the coarseness of our culture, about what they see on TV and in movies.”

Former Richard Nixon speechwriter William Safire, a columnist with The New York Times, describes it as the “social political event of the past year”. Conservative Christian groups, including the American Family Association, are also rallying against the new film Kinsey, released this weekend to critical acclaim, and starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.

The ideas in the film, directed by Oscar-winner Bill Condon who also made Gods And Monsters, promote pre-marital sex, which leads to abortion and Aids, claims the group Catholic Exchange.

Kinsey is a gripping and “brutally honest, uncompromising and non-judgemental” look at the controversial university researcher who revolutionised cultural attitudes towards sex in the 1940s and 1950s, said a CNN reviewer.

Robert Knight, of the curiously named Concerned Women for America, told Associated Press recently that Kinsey was akin to the notorious Nazi pseudo- scientist Dr Josef Mengele.

Knight backtracked on the comparison on Friday, but his reaction indicates the seriousness of America’s culture wars.

The American Family Association also calls for a general boycott of Disney, because the company has encouraged gays to visit its theme parks, and of food giant Procter & Gamble for hiring gays.

Two months after the Janet Jackson incident, which also involved singer Justin Timberlake, NBC ran up against the FCC. Rock star Bono, from the band U2, said “f***” during the live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards.

Recalled less often, say critics of the culture wars, is the record fine of £652,000 for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network for the heterosexual reality programme, Married By America. At issue were prime-time scenes in which “party-goers lick whipped cream from strippers’ bodies” and two female strippers spanked a man on all fours wearing only his underwear, said the commission complaint.

The silence over Fox’s fine, from those who tout “moral values”, is hypocritical, says a column by Frank Rich in today’s New York Times. Fox News has become controversial for its right-wing commentary and popularity in “red” or pro-Bush America.

Another indication of the red culture scare is the action of one of the US’s newly elected politicians, Tom Coburn, a senator from Oklahoma, says Rich. As a state-elected politician, he attacked NBC in 1997 for encouraging “irresponsible sexual behaviour” and for taking “network TV to an all-time low with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity”. His anger was prompted by the prime-time airing of another Spielberg film, Schindler’s List, about the Holocaust.

14 November 2004
 

Mudbug

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found this to be an interesting article - dissect as you will. It bothers me that stations were worried about fines for showing a movie on television.

/goes back upstairs for a bit, will return later.
 

Dont Hurt Me

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ABC just going to extremes after allowing Janets Boob to be shown during family hour of superbowl. It was their attempt to look stupid again and get back for the being fined. Face it these clowns that run ABC have not a clue. Maybe thats why i almost never watch the stale network. If i want saving the private ill just throw it in my DVD player and not watch all those crap butt commercials.
 

Lyle

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Dont Hurt Me said:
ABC just going to extremes after allowing Janets Boob to be shown during family hour of superbowl. It was their attempt to look stupid again and get back for the being fined. Face it these clowns that run ABC have not a clue. Maybe thats why i almost never watch the stale network. If i want saving the private ill just throw it in my DVD player and not watch all those crap butt commercials.
For the record, it was CBS (not ABC) that got fined for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction". And while some people do hold the opinion that the ABC affiliates were doing this as some kind of publicity stunt (i.e. to get back at the FCC), I think I've read elsewhere that at least some of those stations tried to get a waiver from the FCC in advance but were unable to do so; so, without that guarantee of immunity, they opted not to show the movie.
 

Chip NoVaMac

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Is this not the second time that ABC (at least) has shown this movie. It makes me worried that we are becoming a nation of the intolerant. At the same point if "Saving Private Ryan" was done 20+ years ago they would have done it without the swear words.

I do remember a date that that she and I walked out of "Scar Face", because I was was embarrassed by the language.

I look at many movies and TV today and wonder if we need the "realism' of the language.
 

Xtremehkr

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wordmunger said:
Here's a very interesting article about how few people it actually takes to initiate an FCC complaint. It turns out the largest fine in FCC history was levied on the basis of three unique letters: over a million dollar fine for three letters!
I wonder if that could be offset by more people writing in support of what they saw? Or whether the rules have been set by the same people who are behind the letter writing campaigns. I think the rules the FCC are following are probably biased towards censorship, too few people seem to protest when free speech has been taken away though.

TVs already have V Chips, properly used, there is no risk of seeing anything you don't want to see. I don't see what the problem is.
 

Dont Hurt Me

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Lyle said:
For the record, it was CBS (not ABC) that got fined for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction". And while some people do hold the opinion that the ABC affiliates were doing this as some kind of publicity stunt (i.e. to get back at the FCC), I think I've read elsewhere that at least some of those stations tried to get a waiver from the FCC in advance but were unable to do so; so, without that guarantee of immunity, they opted not to show the movie.
Thanks for the correction.
 

Backtothemac

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Well, let me put it to you this way.

There are some things that should not be on the public air waves.

My wife and I returned from Church, had dinner, and I was upstairs working on some flyiers for work. I asked my wife to come up. My daughter turned on the TV downstairs, and ABC is one of the channels in her grouping so that she doesn't hear things she should not hear at the age of 6. My wife and I nearly hit the floor when we heard about 3 f bombs going off in a row.

See our offiliate aired the show unedited, and my 6 year old got to hear something that she then turned to me and said dad, what does **** mean?

It isn't moral right wingers imposing our views on others, it is common sense, and values that we want our children to hear. Needless to say, her channels are now limited to HD Discovery, Nick, cartoon network, and a few others.
 

Xtremehkr

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Set your V Chip to the appropriate setting and she will never hear the word ****, at least until she gets to junior high anyway.
 

IJ Reilly

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Second thread on this subject, but that's fine with me...

What I find so interesting about this movement is that any household in the US reached by cable or satellite (which is most of them) is watching dozens if not more channels without any decency restrictions imposed by the FCC, and many of them are pretty raw (HBO, anybody?). Since these broadcasters are out of reach, it seems the new Roundheads are using the power of the federal government to beat up on whomever they can. It's the new political correctness, right wing style.
 

skunk

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Backtothemac said:
See our offiliate aired the show unedited, and my 6 year old got to hear something that she then turned to me and said dad, what does **** mean?
If she's old enough to watch people being blown apart, surely she's old enough for you to explain that?
 

mactastic

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I had an experience with a younger member of our family who heard a word said by some people at the same restaurant we were at. She picked it up and repeated it.

Now, what would the remedy for this be? Obviously I don't want my neice's moral upbringing ruined by a passing stranger. Should we ban all uses of the F-word in public? Is there any practical difference between a child picking up bad language on TV versus from real live human beings?
 

Backtothemac

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IJ Reilly said:
Second thread on this subject, but that's fine with me...

What I find so interesting about this movement is that any household in the US reached by cable or satellite (which is most of them) is watching dozens if not more channels without any decency restrictions imposed by the FCC, and many of them are pretty raw (HBO, anybody?). Since these broadcasters are out of reach, it seems the new Roundheads are using the power of the federal government to beat up on whomever they can. It's the new political correctness, right wing style.
IJ, HBO is a subscription service. ABC is not. ABC is broadcast over the air, and it is government regulated. I personally don't want the f bomb on regular tv for kids to hear.
 

Backtothemac

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skunk said:
If she's old enough to watch people being blown apart, surely she's old enough for you to explain that?
Well, it was a scene when someone wasnt' getting blown up. She doesn't watch stuff like that, so I should not have to explain any of that until I choose to.
 

Backtothemac

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mactastic said:
I had an experience with a younger member of our family who heard a word said by some people at the same restaurant we were at. She picked it up and repeated it.

Now, what would the remedy for this be? Obviously I don't want my neice's moral upbringing ruined by a passing stranger. Should we ban all uses of the F-word in public? Is there any practical difference between a child picking up bad language on TV versus from real live human beings?

Personally, I would have been chest deep in that person, asking them to say they were sorry to my child. And if not, well, I assume there would be an arguement that would follow, after my child had left the room of course ;)
 

IJ Reilly

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Backtothemac said:
IJ, HBO is a subscription service. ABC is not. ABC is broadcast over the air, and it is government regulated. I personally don't want the f bomb on regular tv for kids to hear.
That's exactly what I tried to say, however unclearly. The number of households reached by cable is vast, probably a majority by now, rendering the distinction between "regular" and "subscription" TV rather moot. Most homes have got f-words and much more being beamed into their TV sets every day. You can bet the truth & righteousness squad would go after the cable stations, if they could, but they can't.
 

mactastic

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Backtothemac said:
Personally, I would have been chest deep in that person, asking them to say they were sorry to my child. And if not, well, I assume there would be an arguement that would follow, after my child had left the room of course ;)
So you'd take the risk of escalating the situation to violence to prove to your kid that swearing is wrong?
 

skunk

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It's a normal part of the everyday language - and activity - of most of the world's population. It could have been me at the next table. I might feel I had nothing to apologize for. Where would you take it from there?
 

blackfox

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Damn, I read an excellent editorial a few days ago which discussed a pertinent irony with regards to this topic. Unfortunately, it has been archived and costs $$$ to retrieve.

To (badly) paraphrase the article, it comments on the obvious hypocrisy and irony of the right-wing "moral values" stance.

Ruport Murdoch, the right-wing media giant is happy to chime in with the rest of the GOP in condemning the "moral decline" in our country, yet at the same time, Murdoch's FOX Network (not News) continues to parade out shows which hit new lows in the realm of good taste.

This is indicative of a purposeful two-facedness by the Right. On one hand they decry the lack of morality, yet on the other they actively contribute to it. Republican Politicians are not immune to moral lapses, yet they seem to be coated in Teflon.

This just seems to be further indicative of the real problem. The refusal to take responsibility for one's actions. If the Right really cared about the problem, they would do more than merely spout rhetoric. This also applies to the average citizen, if you don't like it, don't watch it and provide your children with the knowledge to deal with these things intelligently and wisely.

There was another editorial recently which spoke about the lack of character-building in College, which is arguably the most important thing for a young person to learn. In a time where many kids are brought up on TV and Video Games, it seems that the parents have no right to cry foul, as they have often neglected their responsibility to develop their child's character.

This is often more than simply sheltering them from that which may be distasteful, as that is ultimately impossible. Imo, it involves a development and nurture of their critical-thinking skills and an exposure to quality alternatives. To foster a sense of who you are, as a firm mooring from which to relate to the rest of the world. To develop moral standards by which to judge the world around you and yourself. To have the courage that comes from the resultant confidence.

To me the problem is not swear words, or breasts, but the sea of relativism that people are thrown into without a compass or oars. The response to these things smacks of infantalism, which reflects the essential lack of character of many of those complaining. To live merely in opposition to something is not a legitimate social or psychological position. Where is the maturity?

To fix such problems do not require censure or legislation, in fact look at my signature to see that this will actually exarcerbate the problem. All it involves is personal responsibility and effort in building of character.
 

Chip NoVaMac

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Dec 25, 2003
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Northern Virginia
Backtothemac said:
Well, let me put it to you this way.

There are some things that should not be on the public air waves.

My wife and I returned from Church, had dinner, and I was upstairs working on some flyiers for work. I asked my wife to come up. My daughter turned on the TV downstairs, and ABC is one of the channels in her grouping so that she doesn't hear things she should not hear at the age of 6. My wife and I nearly hit the floor when we heard about 3 f bombs going off in a row.

See our offiliate aired the show unedited, and my 6 year old got to hear something that she then turned to me and said dad, what does **** mean?

It isn't moral right wingers imposing our views on others, it is common sense, and values that we want our children to hear. Needless to say, her channels are now limited to HD Discovery, Nick, cartoon network, and a few others.
They are no longer the public airwaves. They belong to the highest bidder....
 

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
8,889
25
Northern Virginia
Backtothemac said:
Well, let me put it to you this way.

There are some things that should not be on the public air waves.

My wife and I returned from Church, had dinner, and I was upstairs working on some flyiers for work. I asked my wife to come up. My daughter turned on the TV downstairs, and ABC is one of the channels in her grouping so that she doesn't hear things she should not hear at the age of 6. My wife and I nearly hit the floor when we heard about 3 f bombs going off in a row.

See our offiliate aired the show unedited, and my 6 year old got to hear something that she then turned to me and said dad, what does **** mean?

It isn't moral right wingers imposing our views on others, it is common sense, and values that we want our children to hear. Needless to say, her channels are now limited to HD Discovery, Nick, cartoon network, and a few others.
One of my most vivid memories as a child was an uncle that nearly broke his neck turning the channels when Elvis's special in Hawaii was being aired one Sunday night..... :)
 

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
8,889
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Northern Virginia
mactastic said:
I had an experience with a younger member of our family who heard a word said by some people at the same restaurant we were at. She picked it up and repeated it.

Now, what would the remedy for this be? Obviously I don't want my neice's moral upbringing ruined by a passing stranger. Should we ban all uses of the F-word in public? Is there any practical difference between a child picking up bad language on TV versus from real live human beings?
Heaven forbid if she should see two people in true love, in an embrace at a restaurant (gay or straight). What would she think if she saw a African-American kissing a "white" person. :eek:
 

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
8,889
25
Northern Virginia
Backtothemac said:
IJ, HBO is a subscription service. ABC is not. ABC is broadcast over the air, and it is government regulated. I personally don't want the f bomb on regular tv for kids to hear.
Only for the political comments. You can't have it both ways.
 

Lyle

macrumors 68000
Jun 11, 2003
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Madison, Alabama
mactastic said:
I had an experience with a younger member of our family who heard a word said by some people at the same restaurant we were at. She picked it up and repeated it.

Now, what would the remedy for this be? Obviously I don't want my neice's moral upbringing ruined by a passing stranger. Should we ban all uses of the F-word in public? Is there any practical difference between a child picking up bad language on TV versus from real live human beings?
I don't think any parent is naive enough to believe that they can prevent their kids from eventually hearing bad language somewhere in public, whether it's from a stranger at a restaurant or some kid at school. And no, there's no practical difference between their picking it up "off the street" versus from a TV show. I think the difference, however, is that parents might at least hope to have some control over what's beamed into their homes during hours when their kids might be watching.

But IMO (and mind you, I'm not a parent) the responsibility for the latter ultimately rests with the parents and not the FCC. So if that means you get a TV with a V-chip (or whatever), do that. If it means that you only let kids watch TV when you're there to monitor what they're watching, do that. If it means (gasp) no TV at all, well, do that.