A Familiar Excuse for Censorship

Monday, April 18, 2005

Remember all the brouhaha over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" the Super Bowl before last? Remember how scandalized many ordinary parents were? And recall that certain politicians regarded that anger as "political capital" with which they could purchase their particular solutions to that problem.

How 'bout a "Social Responsibility Law" governing what can and cannot be transmitted over the airwaves? Consider this vignette I gleaned from the Houston Chronicle Sunday morning. I'll provide the link later.

Perched in front of a TV monitor, Alejandra Rodriguez eyeballed every frame of Hold You Down, the latest Jennifer Lopez music video.

Rodriguez, who produces a morning news and entertainment program for a ... TV station, nodded as J.Lo shimmied and pouted on screen. But when the singer/actress hoisted a whiskey glass, Rodriguez hit the pause button.

"This is bad," said Rodriguez, who cut the scene because of a controversial new law that, among other things, prohibits TV stations from broadcasting images of people downing alcohol before 11 p.m.

Pretty hair-raising, isn't it? But wait! There's more! Let's look at a few more interesting aspects of this law, which, by the way, is already on the books! I have added only the numbers to each of these, and a comment to one.
1. The bulk of the statute's provisions ... are designed to protect children....

2. The law specifies times when adult programming can be broadcast.

3. ... [M]any of the law's provisions are so vague and confusing [How do you define "indecent," again?] and the penalties so stiff that the end result could be a more docile media, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

4. "Taken together, these laws have the potential to create an environment in which fear of ... reprisals causes self-censorship," the committee wrote in a protest letter....

5. Under the new statute, images of violent events can be broadcast live only if the material is deemed "indispensable" for understanding what happened. Violent news footage can be shown after 11 p.m.

The "Committee to Protect Journalists" huh? From New York City? (Say that like they do in a Pace Picante Sauce commercial.) Sounds just like a bunch of scare-mongering effete, blue-state liberals! Isn't our government supposed to protect innocent babes from the wardrobe malfunctions of others? And aren't our kids being exposed to too much violence? Thank God this law is already on the books! It's about time!

At least that's what a reader would say if he hailed from the religious right. My regular customers know I was being sarcastic and are wondering what the hell is going on.

What the hell is going on is that I'm making a point, and especially to those whose sentiments have been echoed by the paragraph above the last. Be careful what you wish for: Luckily for you, this law is not on our books. The law I've been talking about has been passed by none other than Hugo Chavez, the communist dictator of Venezuela! For some reason, many social conservatives have little trouble understanding how he might abuse such laws (And if you need help, here's the whole story.), but are like gullible five-year-olds when our own leaders attempt to have the same kind of power over our airwaves.

Maybe we should think twice before letting a power-hungry politician tell us what we can see on television and when. Maybe we should take more responsibility for what our own children are seeing on television. When the body politic becomes a lazy couch potato, it is easier to push around. We need to get up off that couch and exercise the ole "personal responsibility muscle."

Oh. And I didn't mean especially to pick on the religious right. Liberals are guily of the same desire to control the airwaves, but for reasons that appear to be different on the surface. They call their excuse the "Fairness Doctrine" (hat tip: RealClear Politics).
If some liberals had their way, Congress would regulate political talk radio out of existence. Their logic is that scrapping Air America would be no loss if it also meant getting Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Bennett off the air.

To accomplish this, New York Democratic Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey has proposed reviving the Fairness Doctrine to protect "diversity of view," and John Kerry [emphasis mine] recently sent out some signals that he too thought that might be a good idea.
Every time John Kerry opens his mouth, he makes me happier he didn't get elected, and I'm not overly fond of Bush! You guys on the left need to get off your lazy arses and start making sense. That's when people listen to you for guidance -- rather than merely to keep up with whatever shenanigans you're getting ready to pull next.

We are much closer to media censorship than we care to believe. Worse still, the left and the right are Scylla and Charybdis. The right wants to "protect" us from the evil influence of sensuality and the left from the evil influence of ideas other than their own. The first step to making our freedom of speech safer is to regard anyone who wants more government control of anything or anybody (besides a criminal or an enemy combatant) with a very high degree of suspicion.

-- CAV

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