Guest Commentary: Time to Differentiate Harmful From Harmless

Jun 4, 2007  •  Post A Comment

I am not thrilled by the politically controlled Federal Communications Commission and the rules that it has either implemented or wishes to have available to implement. I support the notion instilled in me as a child, which I have modified a bit here: “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names, nakedness and pictures can never harm me.”
As a part of my generation’s discomfort and shame connected to our bodies, I would like to allow most if not all body parts to be shown on television, with the understanding that most of the population will not become catatonic if they view a woman’s breast or a man’s penis. I know that this is certainly an unproven theory, but what the hell.
Broadcast television should have certain specific restrictions regarding the depiction of sexual acts that can be articulated by people who are smarter and more able to define them than I am.
Although it is a difficult restriction to implement, violence depicted by the broadcast media could be reduced, not by an MPAA type of review system, but by broadcasters paying a little more attention to the issue. I still find it difficult to understand why violence depicted that is connected to a real war is OK but “fooling around” violence depicted on television is not.
I have asked my friends who are critical of sexual and violent content one question about violence that as a rule ends the debate. “Two men are having an argument. One man kicks the other in the shins-is that OK? Or he kicks him in the thigh-is that OK? To make my point, what about kicking someone in the groin?”
Cable network content should have no restrictions. If you don’t want to have your children see the stuff, or the content is not to your liking, do not let it into your house!
All media should have as few rules as possible, and potential rules should be crafted by a secular majority-not by a vocal religious minority.
All language is acceptable. No exceptions.
Burt Marcus, my friend and former associate at Columbia Pictures, where he served as general counsel, called my attention to the movie “Inherit the Wind.” In the film Spencer Tracy played Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow), a lawyer defending a teacher who had taught the theory of evolution in high school.
What follows is my personal version of a line or two from a soliloquy Drummond delivers:
“I don’t swear for the hell of it. I learned both proper language and vulgarities in the streets of New York. I have lusted to view and touch woman’s bodies as often as I can. The denial of pictures and words did not assist me in developing a healthy attitude about my own sexuality. I can only imagine what effect the Janet Jackson issue has had on our kids, not in the brief glimpse of her breast, but rather the evil attributed to the incident.”
If a kid did have a reasonably healthy attitude about the female body, what effect would this incident have had? Don Imus was assassinated for consistently offending someone or other while informing and entertaining many. Allowing the few to determine what the many will see or hear is a travesty. How many have been harmed by listening to or seeing George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words, Imus’ racial rant or Janet Jackson’s breast?
The feds want to move inexorably into a position of becoming the instrument of preventing the 21st-century media from presenting the modern version of “evolution.” They and theirs “want to know best” as to what everyone in our society sees or hears.”
It is 10,000 BC. A father is guarding the entrance to a cave. He is asked why he is not allowing his children to go into the cave. He replies, “Someone has painted images of naked men and women on the walls of the cave and I don’t want my children to see it.”
We have come a long way, haven’t we? Ain’t progress grand?
Norman Horowitz is a former president of Columbia Pictures Television, a former president of Polygram Television and a former president of MGM/UA Telecommunications Co. He is currently still a father and grandfather.


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