Getting Warmed Up
I’ve had a rant brewing on this for over a year now. Every time I try to write something on it, I get angry. I spew. While cathartic, it rarely makes for good reading. I’m going to try again. And I’m going to try to keep this coherent. Whether I succeed is yet to be determined.
I am provoked by a recent Reuters news piece which can be read from Wired News here. The gist is that lawmakers want to extend the “standards of decency” currently in affect over broadcast media to cable and satellite media (including premium content like HBO). Though, as the primary proponent says “No one wants censorship.” But what can enforced “decency” be but censorship?
To be sure I had a leg to stand on, I checked Merriam-Webster Online for decency/decent. The first non-archaic definition was “conforming to standards of propriety, good taste, or morality”. It doesn’t take a very advanced mind to know that “propriety”, “good taste” and even “morality” are subjective terms. What may be immoral to a Hindu (such as eating beef) may be amoral (or outside the realm of morality) for a Christian. It can be much more personal than that as well. I think almost every one of my jokes is in “good taste”. I suspect, that if you ask my wife, however, she may disagree vehemently.
Personally, I’m not offended that a particular part of Janet Jackson’s body not often seen or photographed was seen at the superbowl. Of course, I’m referring to her ankles. You do remember that it used to be improper and in bad taste if not outright immoral for a woman to expose her ankles, right? If, on the other hand, you were offended by the brief shot that included the wardrobe malfunction, that’s fine with me. The point that I’ve been making is that decency is subjective. Legislating decency, is to me, an immoral act. I therefore demand that it be outlawed.
I’m not a big fan of Howard Stern’s radio/TV persona. The one time I tuned him in, he was having a game show-like contest “Who wants to be a butt-billionaire” in which he asked a series of trivial, but unsuccessfully answered questions to morons I’m surprised could even find their way to his studio. The stated prize being anal sex with some adult actress or another. While Stern’s popularity may not fill me with confidence for future of humanity, it does point out that a great many people choose to consume the product that he produces despite its apparent “indecency”.
Won’t somebody please think of the children?!
The clarion call for advocates of censorship is the protection of our children. It is no accident that the most restrictive internet censorship to stick to date has the words “Child” and “Protection” in it.
This call to arms has bothered me since I understood the nature of the debate. And to me, it comes down to one central question. Who has the responsibility and the authority to raise my child? Is it me? Or is it the state? I argue that it is the parent’s responsibility. I imagine that if you think it is the state’s responsibility, you don’t read my blog. It’s my job to educate my child. To teach him or her my values and morality, but even more than that to develop his or her own values and morality. I don’t think the state capable of it, much less mandated to do so.
If you think naked breasts are immoral, and don’t want your child to know they exist, don’t subscribe to channels that show naked breasts. I do not have a cable connection to my television. I don’t have an antenna. I don’t have a satellite dish. The only way for my TV to display a naked breast is for me to put in a video tape or DVD containing naked breasts — something I need to do far more often, I think. 😉
agree with very little that I’ve heard come from President Bush. On this, though, we seem to agree. Again, quoting the Reuters article, “parents are the first line of defense and can just ‘turn it off.'”. I only disagree with the implication that there are (or should be) more lines of defense.
Won’t somebody please think of the constitution?!
OK, not really the constitution, the bill of rights. As I understand it, there was concern among some of the members of the constitutional convention that by failing to declare certain specific rights, it might be inferred that those rights could become abridged by federal law. Little did they suspect that even specifying them explicitly, they have still become abridged by federal law.
I am not a constitutionalist. I simply find it ironic and disappointing that what appears to me to be fairly straight forward text is so broadly misconstrued, circumvented or ignored.
Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Television did not exist when this declaration was drafted. But please notice that both speech and press are protected. Press would include both books and newspapers, anything created with a printing press. This seems clearly to indicate that the breadth of media was intended.
If congress makes a law that creates an entity that defines decency and limits when “indecent” content can appear on television, how can that not be a flagrant violation of any but the most selective reading of the first amendment?
I encourage congressman Stevens to determine and enforce standards of decency for his own household, but to kindly leave mine out of it.