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Pixelate the Morality Police
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 preach:

  • 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 Association.
  • 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 bahcesehircc@yahoo.com.

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