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March 04, 2005

I'm Still Irritated « GWOM »

Okay, absent Sen. Stevens' remark, I wouldn't be starting some crusade to clean up cable TV. And I'm not really trying to start one now.*

But I would like to point out, that except for a minor quibble about the current law, no one, not one person has come up with a single explanation of why keeping cursing and nudity on Cable TV should be considered one of the great freedoms of the United States' experiment in democracy. Not even the venerable Lileks himself.

Okay, if a majority of people want to leave Cable TV alone (and I'm sure it is a majority, currently), no problem: I'm not going to try to argue a minority opinion has more right to determine the issue.

But everyone is acting like extending broadcast standards to Cable TV would violate the US Constitution or something. That the very suggestion of such a thing is beyond the pale. That Sen. Stevens idea reveals him as an out-of-touch prude, or maybe even an idiot.

I'm a little tired of that.

Any person who attempts tp put forward the argument that Obscenity/Profanity on Cable is a Cornerstone of Liberty should address the following facts:
-There are numerous places in the United States that one cannot get broadcast TV without cable.
-There are literally millions of households in which cable TV is not paid for by the resident, but comes automatically with the rent or housing association dues.
-Broadcast standards were established because of underage viewers; there are literally millions of underage viewers watching cable TV now.
-Holding cable TV to broadcast TV standards does not mean the imposition of standards where none now exist. It would only mean tightening cable TV standards by an increment of some scope.

It's perfectly fine if your only answer is: "Because that's the way it is, and I like it to stay that way." But if so, please get off your high horse: you aren't any Defender of American Freedom or anything, you are just trying to make us more like Canada and Europe. Thanks heaps.

*I'm really not. I've existed for the last 10 years just fine. I just can't stop my knee-jerk reaction to the (probably inadvertant) hypocrisy in knee-jerk reactions to someone advocating "Standards" or "Morals". I guess it's a character flaw on my part.

Posted by Nathan at 03:20 PM | Comments (11)

Of *course* we're defenders of American freedom, just as you are a defender of morality. It's not that you hate freedom or we hate morality, it's just that we fall on different sides when the two collide, which is what this debate is all about, really. Freedom vs. decency. Any time ideals clash, both sides are on a high horse. If we sound self-righteous to you, rest assured that the feeling is mutual because both sides believe they are right and since it's not a tangible issue with measurable results, neither can prove it.

I could address your points. In fact, I've spent the last half hour or so researching and writing about it. But honestly, as long as our point of view is ipso-facto hypocritical, you won't be convinced and further discussion on the matter is pretty futile.

Posted by: R. Alex at March 4, 2005 06:35 PM

I'm not trying to be obtuse or argumentative, but my point is, if you are "for freedom", how do you live with standards on broadcast TV? How do you live with the current standards that we have for Cable TV? ...because I'll bet that XXX porn and snuff films are not allowed.
How do you stand for copyright laws, then? Because "freedom" would mean that I should be able to copy anything I want, anytime I want.

I'm for freedom, too. Maybe a different emphasis, perhaps, but I'm for freedom. I'm for the freedom of a child to be a child without the parents having to follow along being ready to cover eyes and ears at a moment notice, in case someone wants to use their freedom to turn HBO on at the doctor's office, in the Best Buy, etc...

Or maybe it's more accurate to say I don't care that much, I can live with the way things are, but I'm just getting irritated with the way Sen. Stevens was vilified for bringing up what he thought might be a good idea, and how moderate Republicans and Libertarians seized on the chance to sneer at Christians as being prude Puritans.

Look through my archives, and you won't see me advocating even once for tougher standards on cable TV.

But I already made 3 cases for stricter regulation of cable:
1) at least hundreds of thousands of homes get Cable TV automatically with their apartment, so they don't choose to get cable
2) ignoring how they actually got cable, (obviously, many by choice) still, millions of children watch Cable during prime time, just like broadcast TV
3) many homes cannot receive broadcast television, so "public" airwaves are not. Some people have no choice but to get cable to have the same opportunities for news, warnings, and entertainment.

Sure, "hypocritical" was a little overwrought...
...since no one says more than "because that's the way it is" when I ask for the logical thought process, I guess I thought I'd try provocation.

So, "hypocritical" is withdrawn. Still, explain why standards on broadcast TV standards are okay, but Cable TV standards are a horrible infringement on basic freedoms.

Posted by: Nathan at March 4, 2005 07:25 PM

Can't respond until tomorrow, but before I do I want to make sure which we are discussion: Why is the distinction okay constitutionally or why is it okay policy-wise?

Posted by: R. Alex at March 4, 2005 07:46 PM

No, not "okay", because it's been that way.
No, if Sen. Stevens is wrong, then it must be this way, and the evidence that it must be this way should be found in policy and the US Constitution.

If the Constitution and Policy do not demand that broadcast TV has standards and Cable TV has different but looser standards, then it is just arbitrary.

...which is what I think is the case. But if it is arbitrary (i.e., merely "okay" from a US Constitution and policy viewpoint, but not required), then there is no reason to condemn Sen. Stevens as so many people have.

I guess this is part of the battle over the future of the Republican moderates feel uncomfortable with social conservatives, and so any issue will be fair game for trying to occupy the high ground...and that's one of the reasons I won't stand for it.

Look, I see nothing wrong with Cable TV and broadcast TV having different standards. But unlike pretty much everyone else in the blogosphere, I don't see it as an assault on freedom to change the standards for Cable TV. Maybe a bad idea, sure. Maybe unnecessary, yeah. Maybe even impossible under the current laws, fine. But an attempt to impose religion on the masses? No. An attempt to curtail essential freedoms? Not even close.
But the arguments I've seen used against Sen. Stevens proposal have all been predicated on his idea being a reduction of freedom. I don't see it that way at all, and to even formulate that argument, you have to ignore the number of households who get cable without choosing to pay for it, the number of kids who are exposed to cable just as much as broadcast TV regardless of the choice of the parent, and the number of people who cannot get broadcast TV stations without having cable TV as the method of access.

"Arbitrary" is fine. But if so, just say, "I don't like Sen. Stevens' proposal, and I don't think he can get the votes or the support of enough people in the US". There's no reason to turn this into a Freedom vs Oppression debate, as the social moderates and libertarians seem to be wanting to do.
That's the part that makes me irritated.

Posted by: Nathan at March 4, 2005 08:31 PM
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Posted by: Zhang Liping at March 4, 2005 08:36 PM

I can't imagine where you've been looking, Nathan; it seems quite clear to me.

Profanity, obscenity, and luridly sexual entertainment, while there are currently moderate consensuses (and there were once stronger ones) about their offensiveness, cannot be proved to be harmful in and of themselves. There are millions of people who partake of these things, very few of whom sustain objectively demonstrable damage or go on to commit crimes. Therefore, the contention that these kinds of entertainment harm the body politic is unsupported by the evidence.

Political freedom under limited government imbeds as a principle that the State may act to curtail the individual's freedom only insofar as the practices to be banned or limited produce demonstrable harm -- not merely offense -- that can only be averted by legislative action. Inasmuch as no case that harm flows from the availability of salacious entertainment can be sustained by the evidence, there is no sound argument that the State should act.

More, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States bars Congress from censoring private expression, unless one wants to take the extreme position that only vocal speech and inked paper are covered by "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press." So not only can no case be made that Washington should act; there's an absolute prohibition against it.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at March 5, 2005 03:21 AM

You still don't get my point, I think. I specifically said that, "Because that's the way it is/has always been" isn't a sufficient answer. As fancy as your words are, that's about all you said.

See, if Sen. Stevens' proposal is so offensive to freedom, then all of you should be up in arms about the standards broadcast TV is held to. It should be as offensive to you as taxation without representation was to our forefathers.

No, every single argument, including yours, says simply that the standards are arbitrary. As such, Sen. Stevens proposal may lack majority support, but there is nothing inherently wrong with his proposal.

It seems as if the liberally biased MSM still has excessive influence: the default assumption is still that Republicans are prudish fundamentalists trying to impose a theocracy. And so he floats a proposal, and instead of just saying: "Nah, I like things the way they are," all the moderate Republicans have to turn this into a paranoid, "The Religious Conservatives want to take away Boobies and the Sopranos!!!!!! Cable TV is the last bastion of freedom and to impose standards would mean we are all slaves! We must resist this tyranny to the last man!!!"
No. That's stupid.

1) There are standards on Cable TV already. So strengthening them slightly is no big deal. Not what anyone wants, perhaps, but not an attack on freedom.
2) Cable TV is ubiquitous enough and enough people get it (or are exposed to it) without choosing to purchase it, that the 'self-election' argument is ridiculous. Any argument that Broadcast TV standards are okay or even advisable applies to Cable TV.

If you put those two together, then everyone who complained about Sen. Stevens should now be fighting for the right to watch porn on Saturday morning broadcst TV; after all, it's a freedom of speech and freedom of press issue, just like you said, Francis.
Right along with it, all of you should be willing to die to erase what standards there are on Cable TV. See, it's principle, and not just arbitrary, then it doesn't matter if you personally don't want to watch snuff films and XXX 24 hours every day, because this isn't about your personal preferences, it's about freedom.

I expect to see you take up your arms any minute now against the Theocrats. Because it's about freedom.

The reason I blame this on liberal MSM is that if Sen. Leiberman had said the same thing, it would have been pretty much ignored. But because a GOP Senator mentions increasing standards, Outrage Must Be Drummed Up By Any Means Possible!

Just like when Sen. Santorum made quite reasonable remarks about the implications of homosexual marriage being a right, everyone got to Express Their Outrage at the Moralizing Republicans Trying to Throw Homosexuals Into Concentration Camps!

...but when a liberal later said pretty much the same thing, it was pretty much ignored, because it the MSM couldn't position it as a Religious Conservative assault on freedom.

The thing that makes me angry in all this is not that people opposed Sen. Stevens, but that they felt they (you?) had to seize the "moral" high ground by citing freedom and the US Constitution and "people pay for cable, so can't complain about the low standards", and "If you don't like it, turn it off".

You know, I expect Political Correctness techniques of "The debate was over years ago, so all we need to do is bludgeon any oppostion into submission" from liberals. I never thought I'd see it used by conservatives. I'm a little disgusted, to be frank.

Look, Sen. Stevens wasn't going to get this even written into a bill, much less passed. But if he did, it would not be a betrayal of 1st Amendment rights. Or else broadcast TV standards already have been a greater betrayal for the last 50 years.

I'm not arguing the issue as much as I'm reacting to the reaction, as I've said many times.

If everyone had said, "This is stupid, and I don't support it," I wouldn't be so irritated. But everyone had to couch it in terms of, "This is why I hate Religious Conservatives", "This is an assault on our Freedom", "This is why I can never consider myself a Conservative".

There is more outrage over Sen. Stevens than there was against applying McCain-Feingold to political blogs. Where's the logic in that?

Posted by: Nathan at March 5, 2005 07:51 AM


I suppose I'm not who you're arguing with. I've never used to word oppression, never targeted the GOP (it's my party, after all) or religious Republicans (I can be described as such), and I'm not part of the liberal media. But as long as I'm burdened with carrying the flag with such people, there is no way I can even remotely make headway in this discussion.

Posted by: R. Alex at March 5, 2005 10:50 AM

But what the heck. I'm clearly a glutton for punishment.

To address your original points:
1) 95% of the parents that cannot get cable can get satellite. If they get satellite, they have the option of Locks & Limits, which allow them to "turn off" channels with questionable content. In most urban areas, you can get local channels through one satellite provider or the other. A large number of cable companies (including Time-Warner, the biggest) have similar features with their services.
2) If they get a television with the V-chip (all TVs 13" or more produced since 2000), they can block shows with a "rating" higher than they want their children to watch. This is regardless of how the cable is coming into their house.
3) You're correct, they are. This is where I was curious whether or not you were asking about the constitutionality of the distinction or whether or not making a distinction is a good idea comes in. If the question is one of Constitutionality, the difference is that the airwaves are "owned" by the public in the sense that frequencies and whatnot are run by the government. In the case of cable and satellite, the wires and satellite are owned by the vender and the customer, making cable and satellite more similar to a movie theater (also privately owned) than broadcast television. As far as to whether or not regulation of cable would be a good thing or a bad thing, because we accept censorship in one area does not mean that we must accept censorship in every area lest we be hypocrites. Part of the reason I haven't been up-and-arms about the FCC's crackdown on indecency in entertainment was precisely because alternatives exist. It was a compromise. Jeff Jarvis has been saying from the get-go that they wouldn't stop at broadcast television. I more or less scoffed, but it's becoming apparent that I've been fooled by those (from the right) that told me one would not necessitate the other. To add insult to injury, they're telling me that since I accept one I must agree with the other. The further along we get into this argument, the more I'm rethinking my previous acquiescence to regulating broadcast television.
4) Content on cable is not, to my knowledge, regulated by the federal government (or the FCC) right now. It's self-regulated. Cable networks avoid things that are too risque because advertisers want them to. This is why you rarely hear cursewords on most (non-premier) stations (to the point of bleeping them out), but SouthPark (a cartoon, no less) dropped the S-bomb over 100 times in a single show (ironically to make a case against needless cursing in entertainment).

And your additional two points in the comment section:
1) See above.
2) Children also watch R-rated movies that their parents rent. For the most part, parents have the tools necessary to block the most objectionable content if they choose. Some parents do not choose to do this. Some parents say they don't want their kids watching smut but don't take even simple measures (V-chip, Locks & Limits) to do so. I'm all in favor of giving parents as many tools as possible to filter what their kids watch. If you want to force the cable companies to offer a "family friendly" package or some other corporate regulation like that, then let's talk about that. More options are a good thing. Helping parents wade through the cultural wasteland of television is also a good thing. But at some point the choice has to lie with the consumer and not the government. In order to keep things away from the kids of the parents that don't care or want their children watching such things, we would have to go so far as to ban risque material from everywhere except Gentlemen's clubs.
3) See above.

Posted by: R. Alex at March 5, 2005 11:39 AM

Nathan, consult the dictionary on the difference between "tradition" and "principle." And perhaps, the next time you think to tell me that I haven't understood you, you might want to think twice.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at March 6, 2005 02:53 PM

Francis, you gave me the exact explanation I had already considered and rejected. What else am I supposed to think?

Posted by: Nathan at March 6, 2005 03:47 PM
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