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.