America's War On Sex

Marty Klein

Part 6

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The "indecency problem" Nance was hired (with your tax dollars) to resolve is the currently legal recreation of tens of millions of law-abiding Americans.

She will not not attempt to solicit or provide a balanced view or scientific evaluation of broadcast content and its consequences. She will invite input from sincere censors who attempt to solicit or provide a balanced view or scientific evaluation of broadcast content and its consequences. She will invite input from sincere censors who believe, believe, sincere self-described victims who sincere self-described victims who hurt, hurt, sincere parents who are sincere parents who are concerned. concerned. She doesn't want input from any of the millions of people who now consume the legal products she will help criminalize. This is not a modern democracy at work. She doesn't want input from any of the millions of people who now consume the legal products she will help criminalize. This is not a modern democracy at work.

Attorney Paul Cambria has argued many Supreme Court cases, and is past president of the First Amendment Trial Lawyers a.s.sociation. "What a lot of people don't understand on this indecency thing for broadcast standards is that it has a community standard element in it, just like the obscenity law does. But who is speaking for the community? In al the congressional hearings and everything else they're having, what component demonstrates the pulse of the [mainstream]

adult community as to what . . . they think the standard should be? Shouldn't the community have a voice in that? Where's the survey of the community?"25 There are certain rights even democracies don't put up for popular referendum, such as laws about racial discrimination or murder. Laws limiting what we can see or hear should be among those. Americans live by a body of non-negotiable guarantees; the PTC wants to change the rules, and government seems eager to go along. As Rush Limbaugh, our era's archetypal conservative, said in opposing opposing government efforts to censor Howard Stern: If we are going to sit by and let the federal government get involved in this, if the government is going to 'censor' what they think is right and wrong . . . What happens if a whole bunch of John Kerrys, or Terry McAuliffes start running this country, and decide conservative views are leading to violence? government efforts to censor Howard Stern: If we are going to sit by and let the federal government get involved in this, if the government is going to 'censor' what they think is right and wrong . . . What happens if a whole bunch of John Kerrys, or Terry McAuliffes start running this country, and decide conservative views are leading to violence?

I am in the free speech business. It's one thing for a company to determine if they are going to be party to it. It's another thing for the government to do it.26 Says Jim d.y.k.e, executive director of the advocacy group TV Watch, "What has become clear is this really isn't about protecting kids. This is about changing television. A politically active, savvy group of Americans has figured out a way to make TV in their own image."27 IGNORING/CIRc.u.mVENTING THE MARKETPLACE.

What happens when the morality campaign goes head to head with Desperate Housewives Desperate Housewives? In red states, in religious areas, in every single state that pa.s.sed Battleground: Broadcast "Indecency" 67 Broadcast "Indecency" 67 an antigay marriage law, it's all the same: Desperate Housewives Desperate Housewives is a runaway hit. Ditto is a runaway hit. Ditto Will & Grace, Will & Grace, ditto ditto Monday Night Football Monday Night Football and its half-naked cheer-leaders, ditto v.i.a.g.r.a commercials. and its half-naked cheer-leaders, ditto v.i.a.g.r.a commercials.

Sure, Christian TV and radio sell-but that's not where people go for entertainment. They're ghettoized, as they haven't succeeded in the mainstream; there isn't enough of an audience to drive "the s.e.x stuff " off the air. So crusaders want to truncate the market mechanism and enforce their taste on the entire public.

They use a circular argument-the marketplace should make decisions except where it makes poor decisions. The media's decisions about s.e.xuality are poor because they're bad for people. How do we know? They contradict "moral" values.

Both our current government and anti-indecency groups claim the heritage of conservative ideology. But "[FCC commissioners] Powell, Martin, and the corporate-friendly GOP have green-lighted big media companies to capture near-total market control over cable and broadcast television," says Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press. "Now, the same bunch is upset over the low-cost, high-ratings schlock that media conglomerates pump into the marketplace.

Martin must soon decide if he's a free market Republican or a local-values Republican. When it comes to regulating the media, you can't have it both ways."28 As TV started its third decade, 20 years before the Internet, TV critic Clive Barnes put it this way: "Television is the first truly democratic culture-the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want."29 Needless to say, Needless to say, "what people do want" still involves s.e.xual themes, as it has since the days of Shakespeare and the ancient Greeks. As proof, look at the PTC Web site's listing of "worst TV shows of the week." Month after month, it's a who's who of the most popular shows in America.

How do would-be censors explain this continuing popularity? Do they honestly think people would choose different programs if they had more choice? If so, public radio and TV wouldn't have such a small audience, a fact that free-market Republicans gleefully point out regularly.

Whenever something on TV is punished-for example, Janet Jackson's nipple, the Madonna/Britney kiss-Americans vote immediately. And they always vote the same-they want to see it. First they vote by downloading or recording the video clip. For example, the clips of each of these moments are among the most downloaded in Internet history. history. And "Janet Jackson is stil the most TiVo'd moment we've ever measured," according to a company spokesman, eclipsing-what else?-the Madonna/Britney kiss.30 People then vote again by watching the news about the moment and its aftermath. And "Janet Jackson is stil the most TiVo'd moment we've ever measured," according to a company spokesman, eclipsing-what else?-the Madonna/Britney kiss.30 People then vote again by watching the news about the moment and its aftermath.

TV stations across America replay the stuff over and over because they know people want to see it. So the moral crusaders' claim that broadcast indecency is being thrust on us is simply inaccurate, just like the claim that p.o.r.n is thrust on us.

68.You may recall the fuss over the racy Terrell Owens/Nicollette Sheridan ad promoting Monday Night Football Monday Night Football in November 2004. The in November 2004. The New York Times New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted31 that the spot was replayed around the Internet and dozens of TV shows for several days, among them columnist Frank Rich noted31 that the spot was replayed around the Internet and dozens of TV shows for several days, among them The View, The View, where Ms. where Ms.

Sheridan's bare back had been merrily paraded at the child-friendly hour of 11:00 A.M. As Aaron Brown of CNN wryly observed, "People were so outraged they had to see it 10 times."32 wryly observed, "People were so outraged they had to see it 10 times."32 The recurring Internet downloading and ubiquitous TV rebroadcasting of taboo moments is real real democracy in action, not some spam farm that fakes ma.s.s indignation. When the FCC fines a broadcaster for violating "community standards" and the public actively pursues the very broadcast moment being fined, why isn't this considered straightforward evidence of the "community standard?" Why isn't it given the same weight as ma.s.s-produced e-mails? democracy in action, not some spam farm that fakes ma.s.s indignation. When the FCC fines a broadcaster for violating "community standards" and the public actively pursues the very broadcast moment being fined, why isn't this considered straightforward evidence of the "community standard?" Why isn't it given the same weight as ma.s.s-produced e-mails?

CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING One of the most crucial goals of media crusaders is shielding kids from all s.e.x-related content, advertising, language, jokes, and situations.33 We should recognize that this is a radical enterprise. It's such a comprehensive goal that attempting it (much less succeeding) would have have to create broad collateral damage-which crusaders brush off as a distant, secondary consideration compared with their crucial goal. to create broad collateral damage-which crusaders brush off as a distant, secondary consideration compared with their crucial goal.

What are they trying to accomplish? To raise children who are ignorant about s.e.xuality except in the vaguest sense; that it's an adults-only thing reserved for spiritual y oriented, procreating married couples, and that it can kil you or ruin your life. This would make our kids the least sophisticated, least prepared for s.e.xual adulthood in the Western world.

Given the fundamental importance of s.e.xuality in human life, eliminating it from children's programming and advertising requires constant vigilance. Remember, it's a crusader's job to notice s.e.xual themes and references, so they can be eliminated. And crusaders see s.e.x everywhere because they're obsessed with it.

Especially h.o.m.os.e.xuality. Although their fear of h.o.m.os.e.xuality is absolutely serious, it's so exaggerated and baseless it's hard to take seriously. Has a gay person ever told you he or she is out to "recruit" straights? Has a gay man or woman ever told you that they believe a hot same-gender experience can turn a straight person gay? One more reality: the overwhelming majority of adult-child s.e.x offenders are heteros.e.xual.34 So what are the practical reasons to panic about h.o.m.os.e.xuality?

If we don't want kids to think h.o.m.os.e.xuality is normal, OK, but what's the harm if they do? If our kids become more tolerant of others, that will help them in life. If we really think our children are going to say, "h.o.m.os.e.xuality as a lifelong choice? Sounds interesting, think I'll try it,"

we completely misunderstand them (as well as h.o.m.os.e.xuality). Most kids Battleground: Broadcast "Indecency" 69 Broadcast "Indecency" 69 experiment with their same-s.e.x pals at some point,35 a normal developmental stage that antigay crusaders desperately deny.36 Very, very, very few children become gay adults. America's professional community is virtually unanimous that it isn't a same-s.e.x kiss or j.a.c.k.-.o.f.f. session with a buddy at age 10 that makes Mary or Johnny gay. If it were, 90 percent of American adults would be gay.

If we're really paranoid about our school-age sons having s.e.x with an adult man, we should remember to keep them away from heteros.e.xual heteros.e.xual men. They're the ones involved with almost all of the s.e.xual exploitation between men and boys. These guys are often married, have rarely had a man-man s.e.xual experience, and, in fact, often say they hate gays. men. They're the ones involved with almost all of the s.e.xual exploitation between men and boys. These guys are often married, have rarely had a man-man s.e.xual experience, and, in fact, often say they hate gays.

Looking for s.e.x in every corner, searching for h.o.m.os in the same paranoid, bug-eyed way that their cultural predecessors looked for "Commies" a half-century ago, the crusaders have gone after kids' TV programming, both commercial and noncommercial.

They've gone after Barney and Big Bird for s.e.xual offenses. The only explanation is that these adults are obsessed with s.e.x. They see it where their kids don't-actual y can't, developmental y-and want to protect their kids from something that doesn't exist. That says a lot about their obsession and their fear. and Big Bird for s.e.xual offenses. The only explanation is that these adults are obsessed with s.e.x. They see it where their kids don't-actual y can't, developmental y-and want to protect their kids from something that doesn't exist. That says a lot about their obsession and their fear.

Here's just a partial honor roll of those who have been attacked or killed in the War on s.e.x (and no, we are not not making this up): making this up): SpongeBob SquarePants and Barney the Dinosaur SpongeBob SquarePants and Barney the Dinosaur In 2005, a video was distributed to 61,000 schools across the nation to celebrate National We Are Family Day. Sponsored by FedEx, the video was broadcast several weeks later on Nickelodeon, PBS, and the Disney Channel. In 2005, a video was distributed to 61,000 schools across the nation to celebrate National We Are Family Day. Sponsored by FedEx, the video was broadcast several weeks later on Nickelodeon, PBS, and the Disney Channel.

The American Family a.s.sociation (AFA) criticized it as "h.o.m.os.e.xual indoctrination," saying "h.o.m.os.e.xual activists are using popular children's TV characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Barney the Dinosaur to surrept.i.tiously indoctrinate young children into their lifestyle." AFA researcher, Ed Vitagliano, sees the project as an "open door" to a secondary discussion of h.o.m.os.e.xuality, noting that children and adults are encouraged to sign a "tolerance pledge," which includes s.e.xual orientation, on the sponsors' Web site.37 Buster On her second day on the job in early 2005, new Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings, contacted PBS. Citing "strong and very serious concerns"

about an upcoming episode of Ready to Learn Ready to Learn (RTL) in which Buster the cartoon rabbit visits a family headed by two lesbians, Spellings insisted that PBS (RTL) in which Buster the cartoon rabbit visits a family headed by two lesbians, Spellings insisted that PBS refund RTL money used to make the program if the network distributes it.

70.The challenge came at an interesting time, as PBS was preparing to compete for renewed Ready to Learn funding from the Education Department- money they had previously been awarded yearly. PBS officials decided to cancel the episode.

Postcards from Buster is a series designed for four- to eight-year-olds (particularly those who speak English as a second language) that celebrates the nation's cultural diversity as it teaches language awareness. In the canceled episode, "Sugartime!" Buster visits rural Hinesburg, Vermont, where he meets a family with three kids and two moms during maple sugar season. Same-gender civil unions are legal in Vermont.38 is a series designed for four- to eight-year-olds (particularly those who speak English as a second language) that celebrates the nation's cultural diversity as it teaches language awareness. In the canceled episode, "Sugartime!" Buster visits rural Hinesburg, Vermont, where he meets a family with three kids and two moms during maple sugar season. Same-gender civil unions are legal in Vermont.38 Teletubbies In 1999, Jerry Falwell suggested that Tinky Winky, one of the Teletubby characters, is gay. The February edition of Falwell's publication, the National National Liberty Journal, Liberty Journal, notes that Tinky Winky has the voice of a boy yet carries a purse. "He is purple-the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle-the gay-pride symbol," the story says.39 Falwell, the founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority, contends the "subtle depictions" are intentional, and said, "As a Christian, I feel that role-modeling the gay lifestyle is damag-ing to the moral lives of children."40 * * * notes that Tinky Winky has the voice of a boy yet carries a purse. "He is purple-the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle-the gay-pride symbol," the story says.39 Falwell, the founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority, contends the "subtle depictions" are intentional, and said, "As a Christian, I feel that role-modeling the gay lifestyle is damag-ing to the moral lives of children."40 * * *

Media crusaders and the FCC don't trust American parents at all. They don't believe most parents can make good judgments for their own kids. They say they're speaking on behalf of all caring parents, but of course they aren't.

Presumably, if all parents felt the way the FCC and crusaders are portraying them, the market would have eliminated these shows, these commercials, and the entire Comedy Central network. It's an old story: censors feel equipped to make the "right" decisions when they're certain that others are not. As Clare Booth Luce said, "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home. Unlike charity, it should end there."

They think s.e.xual words and themes are more dangerous for children than sugar, fat, toy ads, and stereotyping (gender, racial, age, etc.). In fact, as Nicholas Jackson says in The Conservative Voice, The Conservative Voice, "The s.e.xualization of our young people is perhaps the greatest threat we face in our nation today."41 "The s.e.xualization of our young people is perhaps the greatest threat we face in our nation today."41 These crusaders continual y say they want to parent free from government interference. They want home schooling, exemptions from inoculating their children, local control of public school curricula, and the right to opt out of s.e.x ed cla.s.s. But at the same time, they want the government to intervene regarding the content of broadcast media so no no parents have independence or control about the media choices parents have independence or control about the media choices made in their own home. made in their own home.

TOOLS THEY WON'T USE-WHY?

Parents already have many tools they can use to completely control what their kids see on TV. But this doesn't satisfy would-be censors. Obviously, the Battleground: Broadcast "Indecency" 71 Broadcast "Indecency" 71 goal of morality groups and pro-censorship government isn't really to protect kids, it's to control what adults adults can see or hear. can see or hear.

Parental tools for controlling their kids' viewing now include: Off b.u.t.ton Off b.u.t.ton Every TV has one. A perfect solution for all parents who don't want their kids to see inappropriate material.

Channel Changer Every TV has one. It not only takes kids away from what parents don't want them to see, it guides them toward what parents want them to see.

Ratings System In the mid 1990s, the broadcasting industry created a voluntary ratings system evaluating violence and s.e.xuality. A monitoring board ensures accurate and consistent ratings. There are seven categories (three more than big-screen movies use) to help parents determine which programs are suitable for their children.

Rating labels appear in the corner of the screen during the first 15 seconds of each program, and are digitally encoded into the program itself.

V-Chip Every TV larger than 13 inches manufactured after 2000 contains this technology, al owing parents to block programs they don't want their children to watch. Using the remote control, parents can program the V-chip to block shows based on their ratings or other criteria-so the blocking works even if even if parents aren parents aren' t home. t home.

Cable Filter All cable TV subscribers can request a "lockbox" from their cable operator, which can be set to prevent the viewing of any channel a parent dislikes. All U.S. cable operators are required to make lockboxes available.

Satellite TV Parental Controls All satellite providers such as DIRECTV allow parents to easily restrict their kids' unsupervised viewing by blocking shows with certain ratings, locking out entire channels, setting limited viewing times, or blocking specific shows or movies.

"No-curse" Products A variety of products can be purchased and instal ed which delete offensive language from programs. General y, when a word that's in their dictionary 72 72 (e.g., "a.s.s," "jesus," "b.o.o.bs") is detected, the sound is momentarily muted.

A subst.i.tute word is then either spoken or flashed on the screen. This al ows viewers to watch a broader range of programs without fear of hearing something unwanted.

By giving parents powerful and sophisticated ways to finely tune the exact TV viewing kids can do in their homes, these tools render blunt, society-wide or community-wide restrictions obsolete. The cable and satellite industries have recently launched a campaign to educate parents about these technologies, but this helpful program has been opposed by a powerful alliance of family advocacy groups and activists with close ties to major evangelical ministries and the Bush administration. "It will be war," says Rick Schatz, the president of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, a Christian ministry, of the coming battle over cable and satellite regulation.

"There will be tremendous gra.s.sroots pressure brought to bear."42 They still don't get that television viewing is a choice, choice, not a not a right. right.

SUMMARY.

Pro-censorship groups like Morality in Media bemoan the "trash" on TV and radio. Observing the gradual changes in the language and situations being broadcast, they demand to know, "How far will it go? Where will it end?"

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The answer is simple: the evolution of radio and TV broadcast of s.e.xual themes and language wil "end" when audiences, through their viewing choices, want it to. Despite the political manipulations of pro-censorship government and civic leaders, American viewers are stil not prepared to end this evolution.

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