Pixelate the Morality Police
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Published on Wednesday, January 26, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Pixelate the Morality Police
by Christian Christensen
In an era when broadcasters in the United States have
caved in to self-appointed morality monitors to the
extent that they are actually "pixelating" cartoon
rear-ends, it is worth taking a closer look at the
groups and organizations spearheading these
self-righteous crusades. More often than not, peeling
back just a few layers of these rancid onions will
reveal phenomenal hypocrisies. The Fox News Channel is
the most obvious case in point. While railing for hour
upon endless hour about the need for God and morality
in public life, Fox News "journalists" appear
blissfully unaware of the fact that, across the
Atlantic, editions of "The Sun" newspaper are rolling
off the presses in London. "The Sun" is famous for two
things: xenophobic trash journalism (often revolving
around celebrity drug use and sex), and showing
photographs of topless, silicone-enhanced teenage
girls. The hypocrisy? Both media outlets are owned by
the same man: Rupert Murdoch. You have to admire the
chutzpah of people like Bill O'Reilly who cross
themselves with one hand and take money made (in part)
from soft-porn newspapers with the other.
While Fox News is the leader in on-air morality, the
Parents Television Council (PTC) wins the prize for
off-air godliness. Last month, Mediaweek magazine
revealed that over 99% of indecency complaints (other
than those regarding the Janet Jackson Super Bowl
incident) lodged with the Federal Communications
Commission came from members of the PTC. According to
the PTC website (www.parentstv.org), the organization,
"was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not
constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media." In addition, the PTC claims to be, "a nonpartisan organization" that "produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families."
A quick look at some of the people sitting on the
"Advisory Board" of the PTC, however, reveals a group
of individuals who do not appear to practice what they
- PTC founder and President Brent Bozell III. A
longtime conservative activist, Bozell was the
National Finance Chairman for the 1992 "Buchanan for
President" campaign. When most people think of
"compassion" and "family values," neo-fascist Pat
Buchanan doesn't automatically come to mind.
"Obscenity," on the other hand, might.
- Susan Howard. Howard is well-known for her role as
Donna Krebbs on the 80s hit show, "Dallas." Since the
soap that made her famous was soaked in scantily-clad
women, emotional cruelty, violence, alcoholism, and
martial infidelity, it is amusing to see someone like
Howard take the moral high-ground on "values" in
television. Oh, by the way, Susan Howard is also on
the Board of Directors of the National Rifle
- Coleman Luck. A writer and producer, Luck's
television experience includes work on "Otherworld,"
"The Equalizer," "Fire," "Matrix," and "The Burning
Zone." Most of these programs included a fair amount
of death and violence. It would appear that, for Luck, "obscenity" is acceptable so long as he is the one who is getting the paychecks.
- William Bennett. Opinionated conservative
commentator and author ("The Book of Virtues") who was
chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities
and Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, as
well as President Bush's "drug czar". Following the
publication of "The Book of Virtues," it was
discovered that Bennett was a very popular guest at a
number of Las Vegas casinos. Conveniently, many
conservative commentators then decided that gambling
was not, after all, a vice.
- Bruce Jarchow. An actor who, according to the PTC
website, "has earned a reputation in Tinseltown for
his principled stands on what roles he will and will
not accept." The site indicates that Jarchow has
appeared in mild films such as "Ghost," "Radio Days,"
and "The Doctor, as well as the TV programs
"Seinfeld," "Coach," and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."
For some strange reason, however, the PTC website
fails to mention some of the other, less
family-friendly products the "principled" Jarchow has
appeared in, such as "The Puppet Masters" (R-rated
horror), "Mad Dog and Glory" (R-rated comedy) and "Married...With Children" (crude Fox sitcom packed with blatant sexual banter). Again, moralists like Jarchow are happy to make money from programs while at the same time denying our right to watch them.
- Billy Ray Cyrus. Country singer most famous for his mind-numbing 1992 song, "Achy Breaky Heart." In the spirit of anti-feminism, the PTC website lauds the video for the song in which, "the muscular, pony-tailed Cyrus was mobbed by adoring women." Amazingly for a man devoted to clean, family-oriented material, Cyrus starred in the TV pilot "Mulholland Drive" made by erotic, anti-family values filmmaker David Lynch. And, Cyrus had the lead in the independent film mega-flop, "Radical Jack," the synopsis of which highlights the lunacy of Cyrus being on the board of the PTC: "CIA agent Jack Reynolds (Billy Ray Cyrus) has a score to settle. Five years ago, his family was slaughtered after he tried to break up an illegal arms ring. But now he's discovered the location of the gunrunner who killed his family--and he's going undercover and taking on a whole crooked town in order to get his man!"
- John Carvelli. Conservative activist and Chairman
Emeritus of the 400 Club of the Republican Party of
Orange County, who, in 1987, "took part in a
fact-finding mission in Nicaragua and Honduras with
the National Conservative Foundation during the
Nicaraguan civil war." "Fact-finding" in Nicaragua and
Honduras in 1987 for the National Conservative
Foundation? Enough said.
What makes the people at Fox News and the PTC so
irritating is their faux purity and phony "homespun"
values. Sure, Bill O'Reilly really loves old-fashioned
values. Meanwhile, he has no problem taking an obscene
amount of money from a man who makes millions from
young girls exposing their breasts. Sure, Bill Bennett
is really worried about the moral fabric of America.
Meanwhile, he drops a few hundred thousand in a city
built on organized crime, prostitution and exploiting
the dreams (and the labor) of the working poor. If
members of pious, conservative organizations are
serious about stamping out obscenity, they should
begin by looking in the mirror and asking who has the
moral and ethical authority to stand on a soapbox and
tell fellow citizens what they can and cannot watch.
I'm not sure if people like that even exist, but, if
they do, I'm pretty sure that Billy Ray Cyrus isn't
one of them.
Christian Christensen is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Communication at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Turkey.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.