The FCC and the Decline of America

The other day I ran across a letter in our office from a teacher written to the FCC. The letter was a complaint about the Super Bowl's halftime show and CBS's airing of "indecent" images. In the letter the teacher demanded that the FCC investigate CBS and all their affiliates who aired the Super Bowl halftime show. My understanding is that FCC chairman Michael Powell beat her to the punch. I have read that he was outraged by Ms. Jackson's booby, and was going to launch an investigation himself.

Well, if we could all just take a moment here, I have a question for Mr. Powell and the FCC. Why did it take a nipple ring during the Super Bowl for you to investigate CBS, or any of the other networks? Why did it require hot cheer leaders, a gyrating Justin Timberlake, a bloated Janet Jackson, and her breast all on network TV before you decide to take a look at things? Why do you choose to look at CBS now, but none of the other networks who regularly broadcast to the lowest common denominator, with shows like Fear Factor, The Bachelor, or any of the other worthless programs out there? Maybe be should be asking another question: What purpose does the FCC serve? What good will it do? Why do they get to selectively investigate what is decent and what is just bad TV?

I guess my real problem here is that while the FCC chairman gets a burr up his ass about the Super Bowl the other networks routinely broadcast worthless, equally awful shows. My real issue here is that the FCC is not enough, or even the answer. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge proponent of free speech and the freedom to watch, say, or read whatever you want, whenever you want. But with that freedom, as with all freedom, comes responsibility. Why did CBS allow such a stupid, sexually charged, mindless halftime show after refusing to show a relatively harmless ad from MoveOn.org? Because Janet's booby gets ratings that's why. Because that's what the American public apparently wants. And what the people who spend money want, the people get.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I'm talking about the decline of Western Civilization here. The decline of our civilization. Rome basked in its own wealth, power, glory and decadence just before it crumbled. We are no different. Why spend millions of dollars on crass and pointless TV shows while others go homeless and hungry? Because we can. I think the truth is is that no one, not the FCC, not the government, not Ted Turner, or PBS can save us. Only we can save ourselves. Until we all decide to do what is best for ourselves and our country, instead of what is most fun or cool to watch, will we save ourselves from out certain fate of mediocrity and eventual diminishment as a power. We need a paradigm shift. And since the media and TV networks are the only ones able right now to begin that, I figure we are all pretty much fucked. All they want to do is make money by airing as much crap as they can becuase that's what average Joe American wants, and that's what he'll spend money to see.

So instead of going after CBS for airing indecent material, maybe we should all look at why there are those of us who feel like we should. Is it maybe because some part of us realizes we are sliding ever downward, and these are the last desperate grasps to save ourselves from our own pointlessness? Unless CBS and the other networks start to self-monitor and do the right thing, no FCC investigation, no speeches, no books, and certainly no blog will make any difference. Until we all stand up and say we want to be better than we are, and we are willing to work for it, we might as well embrace our own doom. We can join the Romans as just another amazing story of a world power who screwed itself becuase of its own bad choices and poor values. The Super Bowl is nothing more than a modern day gladiator tournament, and we are the depraved upper and middle class crowds screaming for more blood, willing to spend time and money to see it, while the lower classes, who can afford a $30 used TV grovel for our scraps and long to be like us. How long will it be before we are nothing but a long story in a text book for someone to read about and wonder how it all could have gone so bad so quickly? My students often ask me how the Romans could have been so stupid. I answer that perhaps they didn't know any better. Maybe they didn't have anybody else's story to learn from. That, at least, is an excuse. What's ours?

Maybe the FCC should read a history book or two and investigate that. Maybe then they'll know what they're up against. Maybe they should be looking at what should be on the government's airwaves, instead of what shouldn't. Maybe we all should.

CBS, The Super Bowl, and MoveOn.org

It just occurred to me that it is Super Bowl Sunday. In a few hours I will be watching the game with some friends and acquaintances, enjoying a frothy beverage, and relaxing. While I am fairly ambivalent to the Super Bowl or professional football, I find the social aspects of watching the game enjoyable. And I like to watch the ads.

For the past few days I've had a graphic linking to MoveOn.org's web site, specifically to that portion that seeks to convince CBS to air the winning anti-Bush ad from a contest held by MoveOn. Apparently, CBS refuses to air the ad, even though MoveOn purchased air time during the Super Bowl. MoveOn is pissed and is claiming, among other things, a violation of free speech.

Now I am not privy to the terms of the contract between CBS and MoveOn, and frankly, I don't believe CBS is violating anyone's free speech rights. I do however think CBS sucks for not airing the ad. By refusing to air the ad, which features children performing various manner of manual labor out of necessity due to the mounting national debt, CBS is basically bending over for its right wing owners and buddies. I do find it somewhat perverse that CBS is willing to air ads for sexual stimulants, beer, and various other products, but is unwilling to show an ad that might actually make viewers think. God forbid they show anything that might momentarily disrupt the decline of Western civilization.

I guess what hacks me off is that this is one of the most powerful broadcasting organizations in the world. They air all manner of shows and advertisements, many of which are of questionable value, both as forms of entertainment or art. They also have one of the largest news organizations in the world, whose job it is to report news in an unbiased fashion. If the owners of CBS are unwilling to air an ad for millions of dollars that is critical of the current administration, what other kinds of bias are they trying to slip past the average unsuspecting American? CBS should just air the ad, along with the ads for Viagra, Bud, and Coors. Let the American football viewer decide what they think. Surely they won't turn off the Super Bowl.

Holidays and Saddam Hussein

My wife and I had a friend over for dinner last and he says to us, over his plate of homemade Sky Line Chili (which, by the way, is awesome), "So have you guys heard we caught Saddam?"

I though he was joking, but after a round of 'You must be kiddings,' he convince me and I turned on the dreaded CNN Headline news. They may be the most watched new organization, but I'll tell you, they're also the biggest bunch of mush-brained idiots too. In any case, there he was on television, for all the world to see, getting checked for head lice by some Army medical technician. Sure enough the great bad guy has been caught. And apparently he's free of lice. Now what?

I watched a little longer as the crack CNN reporters got the word on the street from Joe American. "Well, I'm just glad it's over," was the word from one shivering New Yorker. "Hopefully the Iraqi people will finally believe we are there to help," was another concerned opinion. Of course, CNN didn't take long to show a sound bite from the Fuher stating his little take on things, and how the Iraqi people could finally feel safe from Saddam's brutality. Now all they have to worry about is some terrorist or guerilla firing an RPG into their bedroom while they are asleep. That's security.

I guess my point is this. Nothing is over. We still have American soldiers occupying a foreign nation-state. Those soldiers are still in harm's way over...what exactly. By invading Iraq we have completely destabablized the region. Even if Mr. Bush and his goons wanted to pull out, we can't now, because Iraq really would become a hot bed of terrorism. As it is every guy with a cause and a rocket launcher can cross the border and set up shop in the vast deserts of Iraq. We're too busy trying to keep our soldiers from getting killed in ambushes and trying to protect the oil to guard the huge borders of that country. This is a quagmire. This is, as they say, a cluster fuck. And capturing Saddam, though a boon to morale and Mr. Bush's approval rating, isn't going to change that.

Now I realize these things take time, but we need to get a reasonably stable government in place over there, and we need to get the hell out. Capturing Saddam may have helped buy Mr. Bush more time, but just how long does he think the American people are going to tolerate seeing their sons and daughters coming home in body bags with no clear exit strategy in place, and with no clear reason for being there? Many Americans may be gullible and lazy, but there are enough of us out here who are paying attention to notice the sudden shift in sales tactics from "We are looking for WMD's" to "We toppled a ruthless dictator for the good of the Iraqi people and the good of the world." Well, whatever the spin, none of this is worth our young soldiers' lives, and none of this is worth another Vietnam.

So while we are all enjoying our American Christmas of turkey and unbridled consumerism, let's just remember that there are people, American soldiers, dying halfway across the world because some lunatic tried to kill our
President's dad. Yes our troops have won a great victory. And yes, Saddam Hussein was no doubt a ruthles and evil son of a bitch. We won, we got him. Now let's make his capture really mean something and bring our boys home soon.


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