I'm through with football! Good-bye, pigskin and nachos. No more Bud Lites for this gal. And the Super Bowl? Fuhgeddaboudit! Oh yeah, and by the way, I'm through with CBS.
OK, so I'm not really such a big football fan to begin with, and missing the Super Bowl - even if one of the teams is called the Patriots - wouldn't be a great loss for me or the National Football League. But I am a consumer and, like millions of others, I do watch the most-seen sporting event of the year for the pricey and often priceless commercials that tend to become one of the most talked about post-game topics, especially if the game itself is a bore.
Perhaps I'm being a bit overly dramatic in order to illustrate a point. While this manipulative tactic was somewhat effective throughout my youth, I'm not sure I can rely on this old scheme to see me through my current angst. Because beneath my jesting lies a politically charged issue.
CBS, proud broadcaster of the Super Bowl, recently rejected bids to air advertisements from two advocacy groups: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' spot suggesting that eating meat causes impotence and Moveon.org's ad attacking President George W. Bush's handling of the economy. CBS executives claim they do not run "issue" oriented ads, unless, of course the issue appeals to them-such as the politically motivated White House ads linking drugs and terrorism or Philip Morris' oxymoronic anti-smoking campaign.
Moveon.org's 30-second ad, which won a contest on the group's Web site, depicts various children in a montage of adult jobs, such as working on an assembly line or mopping up a hallway, and concludes with an ominous pronouncement: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1-trillion deficit?"
It's not a trick question, folks, but rather a significant one in need of some serious consideration. We can understand why CBS executives might not want its male viewers to worry about their virility as they vegetate in front of the screen. But what's wrong with having viewers concern themselves with the country's fiscal irresponsibility at the same time marketers are paying big bucks to entice them to increase their personal deficits with new autos, fast food and prescription medications?
Moveon.org received more than 1,500 contest submissions, some of which were posted on its Web site. It also received the attention of the Republican National Committee, which expressed outrage about two entries comparing President Bush to Adolph Hitler. Earlier this month the group apologized for allowing the Hitler ads to sneak through before they were purged. Then Moveon accused the RNC of being "deliberately and maliciously misleading" in suggesting that the ads were anything other than independently produced spots.
That's when all the brouhaha started, as those irrepressible and zany newscasters at Fox News started "reporting" that Moveon.org was planning to run an ad comparing Bush to the Fuhrer. In my humble opinion, that wasn't very fair or balanced reporting at all since it wasn't true and, well, it just became one big ugly mess with lots of folks slinging choice zingers back and forth.
For the record, I don't think an ad comparing Bush to Hitler is at all in good taste or even appropriate. Apparently neither did those who decided the winner in Moveon.org's contest.
Let's face it. Comparisons to Hitler are invariably going to evoke an extremely emotional response. But comparisons to Nazism are certainly not new when it comes to politics. I guess it just depends on who is doing the comparing.
Rush Limbaugh, the latest poster boy for "family values," coined that endearing expression, "femi-Nazis." And right-wing talk radio isn't exactly known for its sensitivity or political correctness - just ask "Hitlery Clinton," as she is sometimes referred to by conservative pundits.
And then there's that little ditty that ran on the New York Post opinion page on Jan. 5, referring to Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean as "Herr Howie," calling his supporters "the Internet Gestapo" and "Hitler's brownshirts." Not very nice and certainly not in the spirit of the "compassionate conservatism" promised by the Bush administration.
I would be lying if I didn't admit to increased anxiety myself about speaking my mind during these McCarthyesque times. Maybe I will end up on some list or, worse yet, I could find myself in court, sued like poor Al Franken, whose book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," landed him in court and on The New York Times' best-seller list for weeks, yielding him a ton of cash and increased notoriety. OK, maybe that's not the best example, but I think it illustrates my point.
And while we can allow the media to pick and choose the messages available to the public, the very thing that we claim to be fighting for in our war on terror is the very thing that is compromised when dissenting voices are silenced. If this blatant censorship occurred in one of those underdeveloped nations we are currently or soon will be liberating, we would be outraged. But yet, under the guise of defending democracy somewhere else, somehow we turn our heads.
President George W. Bush once quipped, "There ought to be limits to freedom." Yes, freedom can be limiting, depending upon who's running the show. And Monday, when office water-cooler chats are dominated by those memorable Super Bowl ads, I won't be joining in the discussion. After all, I'm done with football for now and have set my sights on greener pastures. Go, Knicks.
Jill Rachel Jacobs is a writer and humorist living in New York City.
Jill Rachel Jacobs Copyright, 2004