Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

More censorship attempts

I missed it yesterday, but Salon compiled a list of the incidents that generated the 34 complaints of obscenity that the FCC dismissed. (Anyone want to tell the people who keep phoning in these complaints that the FCC wasn't really established to be the censorship arm of the federal government?) There are few things about the list that are extremely telling, not the least of which is an attempt to turn an extremely gentle joke on "The Simpsons" about the "WWJD" trend into an obscenity complaint. Laws banning even gentle fun-poking at Christianity violate the 1st Amendment from two angles, but I guess a good section of the country missed class the day that was discussed. Another telling thing is that the words "dick", "penis" or "vagina" are considered utter filth no matter how they are used. But the thing that really got to me is that most of the shows that were complained about air really, really close to "safe harbor", a concept that the AFA and other "family" organizations understand really well, if they are still hazy on 1st Amendment protections.

Safe harbor is the hours between 10PM and 6AM when the FCC doesn't really regulate what you say over the airwaves. The reasoning behind setting aside those hours is this: If they made an absolute law that there are things you can't say on television or the radio, they would be in violation of the 1st Amendment. Outright bans really don't hold up well under court scrutiny. However, there is broad support for the idea that the government can regulate what's accessible to minors, an idea that is abused to its hilt by the right wing in this country. (For instance, I find massive censorship in libraries of high schools to be an appalling practice.) Safe harbor are the hours that children are supposedly in bed, so if you can stay up until midnight, you can hear "fuck" on the radio all you want.

I think that any idiot can see that safe harbor is one of those concepts that should be treated in terms of degrees, and not as an absolute black and white thing. Some of the complaints on this list are nothing more than showing a man and woman in bed together or saying the word "sex" at 9:30PM. If there's any time that small children can be sent to bed instead of sit around watching TV with their parents, it's 9:30PM. Clearly, there's a bunch of people hiding behind the idea of protecting the children when what they mean is that they want to be protected and, more importantly, able to tell other adults what they can see.

I remember when I was in the community theater group in Alpine (yes, I'm a nerd, but there was nothing better to do) and there was an endless push-pull in the group about whether or not we could do plays with sexual themes or "dirty" words. Example of a dirty word: One play I was helping on costume in had the word "clitoris" in it, and one of the women in the theater group left the room when she came to rehearsals and heard it. This had nothing to do with children. It was well-understood that the Big Bend Players only did one children's show a year at Christmas, and that's all the theater your average elementary school kid wants to see anyway. The nice thing about living in West Texas is that people didn't (and probably still don't) take pains to hide how they really feel about certain issues. And this is one of those issues. The basic reasoning that was presented to us time and time again was that it was unseemly to say these things in mixed company.

44 Comments:

Blogger delagar said...

Re: "Laws banning even gentle fun-poking at Christianity violate the 1st Amendment from two angles, but I guess a good section of the country missed class the day that was discussed"

I've got two suspicions, of varying degrees of parania

(1) Lots of the folks who are objecting to satire mocking Christians seem to be Christians who have been homeschooled and have no idea that the 1st Amendment is meant to protect the speech even of people Christians disagree with, because that's not how their homeschooling books taught it to them.

(2) The Revisionist Historians of the Levitian Christian movement really would like the 1st Amendment not to protect the speech of people Levitican Christians disagree with, and are working as busily as they can to reshape the world in that direction.

Complaints such as the above, by people who don't seem to have been homeschooled, lean me toward option 2.

Which makes me pretty nervous, yep.

1/29/2005

 
Blogger Trish said...

Aren't community theatre groups the silliest things you've ever run across? They can be more political than Town Hall meetings. I've been in several that included extended family members in the casts, crew, and administration that chomped down on "questionable" plays. Plus, they cast themselves in the best roles. Those little cultural microcosms are fun to watch.

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Blogger zuzu said...

These are people who mouth words about personal responsibility, but want the government to protect their children, because they are somehow incapable of regulating the hours that their children spend in front of the television.

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Blogger Amanda said...

It was particularly a nightmare in Alpine, where there's a large community of more liberal-minded, artistic types that move out there to escape the big city. There were constant clashes between the people who wanted to theater group to bring a little culture to the town and those who thought that everything that we did had to pass the wholesome Christian sniff test.

For god's sake, there were people that threatened to walk out if we dared perform "The Fantasticks", due to the sexual innuendo. We took out the song "Rape", but there were still complaints.

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