The Moral Monopoly

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Michael
Powell, FCC Chairman, has requested no action be taken against the
ABC stations that aired every one of the 20-something u2018F' words
and 12-something u2018S' words during Saving
Private
Ryan
,
in prime time last month suspiciously near the anniversary of Pearl
Harbor. In a rare display of Inside-The-Beltway clarity, Powell
bases his conclusion on the simple fact that the profanity was part
of an accurate representation of the events depicted, and thus made
them acceptable.

Then there is Don Wildmon, Chairman, American Family Association
who wrote recently:

"If
Powell can get only two other Commissioners to agree with him,
then the networks and local broadcasters will be free to show
anything. Everything they show, no matter how indecent, could
be classified as being an accurate representation.

"We
realize it is important for families, especially our children,
to recognize the sacrifices made by our loved ones during wartime.
However, airing excessively profane language during prime-time
television hours is not necessary to convey that sacrifice. .
. . The movie could have easily have been edited for TV, but ABC
refused. Powell is now defending ABC’s move, making it possible
to open Pandora’s box on program content."

Can't
we all just get along? Or at least agree on the simplicity of operating
the common "On/Off" switch?

Exercising
free choice – and the headier acceptance of individual responsibility
– has suffered exponential growth in difficulty in recent years
so as to rival "solving for X," splitting infinitives
and parallel parking.

As
we say in broadcasting, if you don't like what you're seeing (or
hearing), turn it off. Such a simple solution to a personal problem.
So why is this simple operation so difficult for a growing and vocal
number of people to master? Even if the O/O switch has too steep
a learning curve, there's always The Clapper, which provides the
same desired results. Of course, if the debate was just over that
simple switch flip, a robust discussion would surely follow — possibly
with enlightening results. As French moralist Joseph Joubert once
penned: “The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory,
but progress.”

Unfortunately,
too many potential solutions to too many perceived problems follow
my "Ditch to Ditch" analogy: Due to ignorance, doctrine,
indoctrination or worse, a balanced solution (like the switch flip)
is impossible to attain. Even a Pyrrhic victory is acceptable to
the Indoctrinated Doctrinaire and the only possible conclusion winds
up in the Absolute ditch on the left of right side of the Road to
Reason. To put this mindset more succinctly: “I'd rather fight than
flip."

Millions
of people have no interest in reading magazine like Cosmopolitan,
Time or even Proctology Today. No protests are launched
or boycotts threatened against stores that display their covers.
But Playboy, Penthouse and other revealing magazines
get some folks' boxers in bunch big time. (What is it about the
unfettered female form that some find so upsetting?) Never mind
– there must be a Constitutional protection for getting offended
that trumps the First Amendment. But rather than make the personal
decision to exercise an elementary choice ("Off" over
"On") and take appropriate action, they demand Government
march in and make crimes and punishments for the non-believers.
But don't infidels have the same freedom to exercise their choice?
If doing so jeopardizes their APQ (Afterlife Potential Quotient),
isn't that uniquely their problem?

According
to his bio, Mr. Wildmon
is an ordained Methodist minister who founded The American Family
Association in 1977. No doubt he is a devoted and sincere "man
of the cloth." It would be only logical to conclude his 2,368,373
followers and fellow believers are equally sincere in their belief.
Proselytizing is an integral part of the AFA game plan and so be
it. Whether going door-to-door, radio broadcasts or TV shows, I
suspect we can all respect their belief in the Biblical exhortation
to go forth and preach the Word – (2 Timothy 4:2).
But is it Christian duty to bring along an FCC bouncer to exorcise
"adult" programming lurking in my Tivo while clubbing
me with Scripture?

If
Mr. Wildmon and his AFA acolytes can successfully bring pressure
on the FCC to ban their version of offensive programs, what if ARF
(Agnostics for Ribald Features) demanded Michael Powell and his
band of regulating rogues ban Mr. Wildmon's "American Family
Radio" programs? In today's shallow moral waters, chances are
pretty good one could scrape up a couple million degenerates to
form People for the Prurient Way and engage in tactics similar to
AFA. After all, their programs are being carried over the same public
air waves Howard Stern uses and he has been be fined mightily for
government-defined "obscenity" by a government agency
recently "very concerned about the increasing coarseness"
in today's radio/TV program content. Could not the argument be made
that committing Christianity on the public airwaves, overseen and
approved by a Federal agency, is the same "Christian advocacy"
– an egregious a violation of the Establishment Clause – as the
manger scene down at city hall? Probably not – or the brighter lights
at the ACLU surely would have thought of it by now.

But
just for the sake of argument in the Joseph Joubert vein, can't
Mr. Wildmon & Co. go to their church while others exercise their
freedom and individual responsibility to sit with or without their
children and watch "The Saving of Private Ryan" or "Debbie
Does Private Ryan" without worrying that the new AFA-inspired
Morality Division of the FCC Police will come crashing through the
door and seize the remote? After all, if God is watching us with
severe disapproval for our choices, isn't He the one to administer
punishment? Since we are all free moral agents, “made in God's image”
(Gen. 1:27), why does Mr. Wildmon and his legions encourage government
force against the rest of us – through government regulation
no less – to bend to AFA's interpretation of His Will and be
forcibly denied entertainment that contains naughty words? After
all, God could have made us all robots, right? Then voluntary obedience
to his Word wouldn’t be a factor. Everyone would belong to the AFA,
unsavory movie dialogue wouldn’t be an issue and we'd all be experts
at Pac Man. Or are we to accept that the FCC has morphed into an
agency of theocracy?

December
27, 2004

Brian
Wilson [send him mail] is
a talk show host, author and speaker. He’s heard on better talk
radio stations across the country through his Vacation Relief Service
and most recently vented his libertarian views on KSFO/San Francisco.

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