Friday, July 13, 2012

A Response

I got the following comment the other day – last Tuesday – that raised my blood pressure. I’m pretty much responding to his “dare” at the end; it’s the old “you guys are so liberal that you won’t dare/don’t have the guts to print my letter/run my comment” which inevitably gets people to run the comments. But I’m going to issue two warnings before I get to the meat of this thing. First: daring me to run something or accept a comment; if it’s a good comment or if it raises my blood pressure I will certainly accept the comment and might even run it in a post so I can rebut what you’re saying but don’t count on it. Second: This is most likely the last Anonymous comment that will ever be run as a post in this Blog; be a man (or a woman) and take responsibility for what you’re writing. If you’re on Blogger this will at least give me a chance me see where you’re coming from. In this sort of situation anonymity is usually the refuge of the coward.

I found this comment to be rather bizarre because the post it was written in response to is this one on a PTC attempt to get the FCC to fine FOX for airing an episode of Family Guy, which also included a response to PTC attacks on several outlets who defended Family Guy and Seth McFarlane. The biggest thing to remember here is that this article was written over three years ago! With that in mind, here’s the comment:
If the PTC's description of the episode of "Family Guy" is accurate, I understand completely why it should be censored. You might find that kind of stuff funny, but let me ask you something. Would you want your kids watching something like that? Would you watch it with your mother in the room? There are those of us who don't want to see that kind of thing at any time of day. Since you are so concerned about things being "fair," I'll be interested to see if my comment makes it onto your website. It works both ways.

Well Anonymous, that’s the fairness aspect taken care of. This has not only been accepted as a comment but it has been given a place in the main blog. Now let’s turn to the meat of the comment.

You state that “If the PTC's description of the episode of "Family Guy" is accurate, I understand completely why it should be censored.” Well that’s the big thing, and the reason why I wrote the piece in the first place. The PTC had, and still has I suppose (I gave up on regularly reading their site a long time ago), a tendency to exaggeration, hyperbole and rabble rousing rhetoric in their posts, particularly when attempting to get their supposed 1.3 million members to send complaints to the FCC – complaints which the PTC provides for them in the form of pre-written forms. (By the way I say their supposed 1.3 million members because there is some controversy about that. In 2009 former PTC Vice President for Development Patrick W. Salazar claimed that based on people who contribute to annual fundraising appeals is closer to 12,000, and that t the 1.3 million figure is a count of everyone who has every signed a petition for them or ever given the organization money.) Reports of people who actually watched the episode and who weren’t invested in trying to generate complaints for the FCC, including the other person to comment on this post stated that the episode may have been gross but the things that the PTC was outraged about were either implied rather than shown or weren’t at all what the organization claimed.

You make the statement that: “You might find that kind of stuff funny, but let me ask you something. Would you want your kids watching something like that? Would you watch it with your mother in the room?” If you had read my post without your reading comprehension skills being affected by your apparent agenda you would have read where I said that, “I am not a fan of The Family Guy. I don't watch the show and frankly some of the things that are described by both mainstream critics and bloggers were enough to persuade me that this show isn't for me.” Whether I would watch the show with my mother “in the room” is therefore a moot point, although I should note that she has a rather high tolerance for “rude and crude” humour, a by-product of living with my younger brother during his rude and crude period. She has had no trouble with the nudity and swearing in Boardwalk Empire for instance.

You asked, “Would you want your kids watching something like that?” There are two ways I can answer that as I’ve never had children of my own. I am nearly 56 years old so in theory I could reasonably have children anywhere between the ages of 1 and 40 so my facetious answer would be that the one year-old couldn’t but that the 40 year-old could watch whatever he damned well he wanted. To put things more on the grounds that you are obviously trying to lead me into, I have a 9 year-old nephew who sometimes comes over for a few hours when his dad and step-mom have things they have to do, usually involving work. And no, I wouldn’t want him to watch any episode of Family Guy, and more to the point I wouldn’t let him watch any episodes of Family Guy. On the other hand I don’t want the fact that I have a 9 year-old nephew who I don’t want exposed to Family Guy to prevent other adults or even teenagers from watching Family Guy if they want. And the truth which you, and the PTC and just about every advocacy group that is pushing for tighter restrictions on TV shows either doesn’t realize, doesn’t accept or wilfully chooses to ignore is that the mechanisms are readily available for you to avoid what you don’t want your children to see or what you don’t want yourself exposed to. The most important of these mechanisms is to take some responsibility about what you kids see by watching TV with them and not plopping them down in front of the TV and leaving them there.

You said, “There are those of us who don't want to see that kind of thing at any time of day,” and my answer to that is that you don’t have to. No TV that I’ve ever seen has not been equipped with an On/Off switch or some form of device to change channels. Modern TVs come equipped with the V-Chip that works with on-screen ratings to prevent shows that are too explicit in some way that you define from being seen on your TV. My cable box – and presumably other company’s cable and satellite boxes – includes a feature where I can block specific TV shows and I believe entire channels that I don’t want to see or I don’t want my nephew to see (not that I too much to worry about there; when he comes to visit all he wants to do is watch cartoons from my Looney Toons Golden Collection DVD sets; he won’t even let me watch a hockey game in piece). You have the freedom to turn the TV off, to change the channel to find something that you enjoy. The networks aren’t going to stop you from setting content standards for your own household using the V-Chip, and the cable company isn’t going to knock down your door if you use their blocking software to keep every episode of Family Guy from being seen on your TV. No one is holding a gun to your head or to my head to make us watch a show that you object to or that I just don’t want to see.

The point of all this, and the point of everything I’ve written about the PTC in the past is in defense of freedom of choice. It is your choice not to watch Family Guy; in fact I make the same choice although probably not for the same reasons as you do. But should you be able to say to people who do watch Family Guy that, because you object to the show’s content they can’t watch it? Should I be able to say that in order to protect my 9 year-old nephew all TV shows – or even all TV shows running up to a certain hour – should be suitable for my nephew to watch? That’s what the PTC wants. They want to restrict everybody’s freedom to choose what they want to watch and restrict the available shows to what they think is suitable for children or families to watch. They want to threaten advertisers who sponsor shows they object to with boycotts, and to accuse critics and writers who don’t agree with their positions of at best being out of touch with “the American public” and at worst benefiting from their support of those shows. The people who are trying to force you to watch what they want you watch are groups like the PTC.


Roger Owen Green said...

I don't much like Family Guy (I'm a little older than you), I sure don't want my 8 y.o. daughter watching it. And I wouldn't want her to watch The Wire; Breaking Bad; The Sopranos; or the evening news when they're talking about Syria or Jerry Sandusky.

I think the writer singled out Family Guy because it's a cartoon, and cartoons are "supposed" to be funny and family friendly. (You know, like Fritz the Cat.)

Sly Stone said it best: "Different strokes for different folks."

Mike Doran said...

I visit the PTC site once a week or so, in direct defiance of my acid reflux, but I usually don't stay very long.
Mostly I end up being bucked over to the Media Research Center's site, where L. Brent Bozell's column awaits to churn my colon even more.

But anyway, back to the PTC: still the dirtiest site on the web, with Great Big Warnings about how you Will Be Offended if you dare to look at the clip they've imbedded for you.

The PTC's main argument has always been that when Offensive Material is shown, all viewers are paying for it. This takes several forms:
-Buying the sponsor's products on a broadcast network show.
- Subscribing to a cable service, thereby supporting all channels, whether you watch them or not.
- Even the so-called Premium Channels are being at least partially kept in business by the regular stuff, so you the ordinary viewer are paying for that too, so there.
(They call this last crusade of theirs Cable Choice.)

The PTC atrguments bear a remarkable resemblance to those mounted by the farRight against the healthcare bill here. It goes "We don't wanna pay for what we don't want, and nobody's gonna make us!"

Try explaining that all they have to do, if they don't want it, is simply not have it - think they'll listen? (... and break the habit of a lifetime?)

A little later today I'll be going over to Roger Ebert's blog, wher this healthcare debate has been raging hot and heavy for some while.
Okay if I mention this flap of yours, and its connection (tenuous though it may be) to that one?
At least I might get you some new readers ...

Toby O'B said...

Huzzah, Brent! Well said, indeed, but then you've always presented very articulate arguments against the PTC complaints over the years. Not that it will make a damn bit of difference to Anonymous. There'll be no persuading those of its ilk to change their minds.

Brent McKee said...

To Mike: Go ahead.

I think I might run up a few sentences (me? a few sentences??) on the PTC's reaction to the Supreme Court decision. Somehow they've turned the overturn of the fines into a victory for (their) truth, (their idea of) justice, and (their vision of) the American way. They can turn a loss into a win which is at least a bit self-deluding. But then the PTC has always been about deluding themselves, as in their belief that they can act as "nanny" to the entire country, children and adults alike.

Brent McKee said...

Oh, and don't get me started on the US healthcare system. I applaud Obama for getting something done, but the result is a horse designed by a committee. Canadians have a real horse. Not necessarily a great horse but a horse nonetheless.

Todd Mason said...

We down here have RomneyCare. And Romney really never has cared. As the Greens have a decent-enough candidate this time out for US Pres, I know how I'm likely to vote.