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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Ban Censorship

This morning, CBS Sunday Morning did a feature on the FCC and the pressures on it from various sides concerning alleged indecency on the nation’s airwaves. As per usual in these matters, representatives of the various interest groups were interviewed and their opinions solicited. (Even though I’m sure they’d all be happy to part with an opinion or two without solicitation, too.)

On the one hand—we’ll call it the “right”—was the president of a group of neo-Puritans who watch the filthiest shows they can find on the networks so that they can then write angry letters to the FCC complaining about what they’ve gone out of their way to watch. Week after week. Yes, friends, it’s the Thought Police, fresh from the Republican Convention and feelin’ fine.

Actually, I understand their concerns, but find their tactics to be yet another case in which the symptoms are given all the attention while the illness goes its merry way, unscathed and blame free.

I say this after having been exposed to some of the offenders. One set, a pair of DJs now working on satellite radio in a bid for “artistic” freedom, talked about wanting to deal with adult subjects and being penalized for this allegedly adult approach.

And here’s where I find a major problem. We have, here in the US of A, come to confuse that which is adolescent or childish for that which is mature and adult. I suspect that this comes from our various ratings systems, which classify the most adolescent and pubescent elements of our culture, such as pornography, as being for adult or mature audiences. The truth is that these items show the emotional and aesthetic development of a 13-year-old boy, although I’m not actually suggesting that this should be the intended audience.

Now, over the years and by extension, any performance that is juvenile gets attacked and defended on the grounds that it is “adult.” In fact, even this morning on CBS Sunday Morning, the nation was treated to the vision of Howard Stern who was complaining that the FCC wasn’t allowing him to be sophisticated and experimental. And this is the problem with Howard Stern—he is an overgrown adolescent who fancies himself to be Noel Coward. I’m sorry, Howard. Although I think you have every right to be on the air, it’s not because you are a cosmopolitan, avant garde sophisticate. It’s just that I think that even 13-year-olds have some rights, including those who live inside 50-something-year-old bodies.

True sophistication has something to do with intelligence and urbanity, with discernment and wit. Let us, instead of trying to hide that which is adolescent, endeavor to promote that which is truly sophisticated and, therefore, meant for adults. And as for the Howard Stern’s and the DJs and Janet Jackson and the people who write the angry letters to the FCC, I suggest that they try to do one thing: Try growing up.


Robert G. Margolis said...

"Growing up"--these days that's like or is, for men, anyway, a kind of ascesis or what in the real old days used to be called a "spiritual path"--as not meant by its contemporary advertisers and commodofiers--something human beings had to undertake and pursue in order to "grow up," precisely.

The terminal adolescent self-indulgence you refer to, as acted out for radio millions in revenue, reminds me of the carnivale in "Carnivale", the current HBO series--that is, the combination of sideshow titillations, "freaks" and "oddities", the selling and display of women for sex and almost sex(ual) fantasy, the constant exploitation and pandering to all that's craven, to loneliness, to the desire for relief in distraction, to frustration and hopelessness, to suppressed anger and loathing, and all presented in a manner very much anticipated if not outright 'predicted' by the episode of the "Twilight Zone", starring Herschel Benardi, titled "The Devil's Advocate".

And speaking of the real old days, I'm thinking of proposing to the purveyors of satellite radio the following:

CHESTER PSALMS in: A Radio Vignette Series "Whatever Happened To Nostalgia?", starring a Voice From The Past as the Ghost of Conscience Future: a bleary-eyed look at how what never was used to be.

By "thinking", I mean, of course, if I should ever sufficiently "grow up"...It was a nice idea while it lasted.

Len said...

The obituary for Johnny Carson in last week’s “New Yorker,” the author said something about Johnny having provided a model for what it was to be a “grown-up” for Baby Boomers and others. And this is probably true. For people who are roughly my age (let’s give it a variance of ten years in each direction), growing up had something to do with watching “The Tonight Show” and understanding the Playboy-lifestyle-lite philosophy that it exemplified. (I’m not knocking Johnny here, by the way. He had a great influence on my life, and I’m still in shock that he’s dead.)

Being only 228 years old, the US is still an adolescent country, a fact which is born out by the adolescent way we comport ourselves in the world community. I guess I should only expect an adolescent worldview to inform our culture as a whole. I shouldn’t be surprised when people watch “South Park” or read Nora Roberts or listen to Howard Stern. I guess I’m just na├»ve.

I think we would profit from devising some sort of ritual for turning our boys into men. Of course, girls have menstruation, but we’ve even reduced that to a mere economic choice between tampons and pads. We don’t have any cultural rituals that say to youngsters, “You’re not what you were.” Maybe I shouldn’t expect anything more.