When people think of the public morals of Europe, the word "decadence" comes to mind. Sex, drugs, and the decline and fall of the churches all define the trend. Amsterdam, for example is celebrated as "San Francisco times ten."
But that portrait doesn't fit as well in Eastern Europe. Take Lithuania, a small Catholic country of 3.3 million people that was forced to be a captive nation within the Soviet Union for five decades. At the end of 2009, their parliament, the Seimas, amended a new law passed in July for the protection of minors. It passed 58 to 4, with 25 abstaining.
The law limits a broad range of public information considered harmful to children, including graphic violence, instructions on how to make explosives, presentation of drug use in a positive light, pornography and ridicule or harassment based on race, religion, wealth or sexual orientation. The amendments also make clear that the legal restrictions apply to education, the mass media, advertising and all other types of public information, not to parents in the home.
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are laughing all the way to the bank at the mess Harry Reid is facing. The hottest backstage tidbit of their new campaign chronicle "Game Change" is that Reid praised Barack Obama’s political appeal as a "light-skinned" black man with "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
The prestige these authors have among their media colleagues was more weighty than the Democrats pleading to be spared the headache. (Halperin is now at Time after many years at ABC; Heilemann is at New York magazine.) For his part, President Obama quickly proclaimed "the book is closed," even if the uproar was just beginning. Obama did not comment on the book’s report that Ted Kennedy was furious at Bill Clinton after Clinton sneered that Obama was so inexperienced that "a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."
The authors said "trust us" on the book’s anonymous sources, because we know these campaign sources so thoroughly that we know all their motivations. Which leads to Question #2: If you know these sources so well, why did it take a year or two to unload these scoops?
The first rule of dinner-table conversation is no hot talk about politics or religion. Apparently there’s a rule regarding the discussion of religion during political talk shows, too.
On "Fox News Sunday" on January 3, the panelists had advanced to that light part of the discussion where they focusing on movies and crime novelists. Venerated news man Brit Hume turned to sports, and predicted Tiger Woods would return to success as a golfer. But if he really wanted to recover as a person, Hume suggested, he should consider Christianity. Woods is a Buddhist, he said, but Christianity offered the forgiveness and redemption that could really make Woods a powerful role model for faith and recovery.
Ka-boom. Oh, what a reaction erupted.
Some in the secular elite acted like Hume had set the national house on fire and broken all the fine china. Some TV talk show hosts quite seriously compared Hume’s comments to those of "Islamic extremists" waging a "holy war."
The news that Rush Limbaugh had entered a Hawaii hospital over the New Year’s weekend complaining of chest pains triggered a volcanic internet eruption for the hard left the likes of which we’ve never seen before. If Mt. Vesuvius could vomit in a literal sense, this would be it.
This time these radicals let their guard down and showed their true colors.
The Twitter lines were ablaze as liberals celebrated the news, news that suggested Mr. Limbaugh was at the very least very ill, and quite possibly dying or maybe already dead:
"Rush Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital in Honolulu. Maybe Santa did get my letter."
"Rush was rushed to the Hospital. Just when I thought Christmas was over…"
"Come on God, I don’t ask for much, and I very rarely ask you to smite anyone, but please kill Rush Limbaugh tonight."
Sounding boards like "Democratic Underground" had field days, living down to their reputations for wishing the very worst for conservatives. One very early conversation among their members carried this exchange:
"I hope he croaks. The world would be a better place."
It was a year in which the dominant cultural story was the sad, but eerily almost predictable drug-addled death of Michael Jackson. But there were a few good moments sprinkled in with the outrageous and the tawdry in 2009. My choices for cultural winners and losers this year:
Winner: Farrah Fawcett. Unlike Jackson, she fought and ultimately lost her battle with cancer with extraordinary grace, faith, and dignity.
Winner: "Up." The elite and the people agree that Pixar films are sublimely entertaining. The eight-minute montage near the beginning of this film sweetly chronicling a loving marriage moved millions to tears from coast to coast.
In fact, animated movies continued to earn massive box-office receipts. "Up" drew almost $300 million, "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" came very close to $200 million, and the offbeat "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" grossed more than $120 million.
On December 22, the networks calmly, briefly, and quietly acknowledged the news that the government revised its economic-growth number for the third quarter downward, from 3.5 percent to a less impressive 2.2 percent. As 2009 comes to a close, the media elite are showing enormous patience with the pace of a recovery, without any troublesome talk of whether Barack Obama’s dramatic expansion of government is helping or hurting the economy.
Back in 2004, when unemployment was 5.4 percent instead of the present-day 10 percent, these same networks were comparing George W. Bush to Herbert Hoover. The government announced 250,000 new jobs were created, but the anchormen talked incessantly about how Bush was losing unemployed voters in Ohio. The Business and Media Institute found 77 percent of reports on economic indicators on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC (as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post) were negative that summer.
Inside the studios of talk radio and cable news, the hot talk about a "war on Christmas" has cooled somewhat in 2009. But the controversies over Christmas, which seem as eternal as religion itself, continue on a number of different levels.
There’s the schoolhouse war over politeness to religious minorities – and even more unnecessarily, the altogether non-religious. This is the kind where many parents sit through inane "winter" chorus concerts at both public and private schools where there are more songs about sleds and skis than about herald angels and newborn kings. In some cases, students even salute the holidays of religious minorities (including the recently invented Kwanzaa) while excluding any mention of Christmas.
At my son’s "holiday" middle-school party, students performed skits from "Star Wars" and "West Side Story" and there was even a tribute to Michael Jackson. Not one popular Christmas carol was sung all night. (Their version of a "Silent Night," come to think of it.)
The year 2009 might be classified as the year Barack Obama came down to Earth. The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that 47 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, and 46 percent disapprove. Those are not exactly Messiah numbers.
And that’s the big difference between the public and the press. The media do believe he’s God.
Evan Thomas of Newsweek has a way of summing it all up. On "Hardball" in June, Thomas explained that while Ronald Reagan was just a "parochial" and "provincial" president of the United States, Obama can lead the whole world. "In a way, Obama is standing above the country, above the world. He's sort of God. He's going to bring all different sides together." After the inevitable furor, Thomas said he wasn’t "being literal."
Lest any citizen think the U.S. Congress is absorbed only in the weightiest matters like nationalizing the health care system, the House just passed another piece of legislation – a bill urging that TV commercials be no louder than the shows in which they appear.
The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM) passed Tuesday on a voice vote, “presumably expressed at a comfortable level,” joked a USA Today writer. It now goes to the Senate, which is considering an identical bill.
"I not only dive for the mute button, but I end up having to close my windows so that the blast doesn't affect by neighbors," said Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, the entrenched Silicon Valley Democrat who is the major promoter of CALM. "I live on a cul-de-sac, and so the sound resonates."
Liberal newspaper people are so predictable when it comes to internal party fights. If it’s inside the Republican Party, it’s the conservative Republicans who are wrong. If inside the Democratic Party, it’s the conservative Democrats who are wrong.
The Washington Post recently gave us a case study in this slanted worldview. On December 14, they splashed across the front page an article by reporter Michael Leahy on an obscure California Republican assemblyman named Anthony Adams. The charge: he betrayed his no-new-taxes vow and supported a $12 billion tax increase. The Post analysis: Adams was savaged by the "toxic infighting" of nasty conservatives, who moved (unsuccessfully) to recall him from office.
Some memories that still define the warmest moments of American television are the long-running animated Christmas specials. There’s "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (first aired in 1964), "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) and "Frosty the Snowman" (1969). Many grown-ups remember all of those shows once aired just on CBS.
So somehow it’s still shocking that the soulless, cynical people running CBS today would find a way to trash that memory. An online video has surfaced called "Frosty the Inappropriate Snowman," a mash-up of classic "Frosty" scenes (and clips from the less-than-classic 1992 cartoon "Frosty Returns") along with a collection of audio graffiti – smutty sex lines voiced over by actor Neil Patrick Harris, a star of the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother."
At first, it might seem like other YouTube travesties where strangers crudely degrade Disney cartoons like "Aladdin" with dirty talk. But then sadly, it quickly becomes clear that this one was a corporate advertisement made by CBS itself in a cheap attempt to create a "viral video" sensation promoting its Monday night adult comedies.
Talk about an inconvenient truth. In ever-increasing numbers, Americans are becoming skeptical about the scientific argument that there’s a man-made global-warming crisis that requires immediate and drastic government action. The media’s enablers of the radical environmental left have a response: maybe America just isn’t smart or curious enough to save the planet. In fact, they say our growing denial is making us nationally irrational.
On Monday, National Public Radio’s "Morning Edition" ran a story by science correspondent Richard Harris. He worried out loud about a new Harris Poll showing that 51 percent of the American public believes that the carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere could warm up our planet. That’s down from 71 percent just two years ago. That’s a free-fall.
Harris found an expert from Yale to explain this decline is based on our poor economy. People are too worried about their jobs to care about the fate of the entire globe. In a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, that’s why climate came in dead last of 20 issues of concern.
On Sunday morning, November 22, Nickelodeon's cable channel Teen Nick was running a series of promos during a rerun of its junior-high sitcom "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide." Which of these ads isn't quite like the others?
1. A promo for a themed "Attack of the Little Sisters Thanksgiving Weekend," with reruns of child-friendly shows such as "Full House" and "Drake and Josh."
2. An ad for dolls and talk-show microphones associated with the "i-Carly" show on Nickelodeon.
3. A vulgar, smash-mouth, in-your-face promo savaging anyone who finds fault with the homosexual lifestyle.
Surprisingly, promo number three was sandwiched between the other two ads, taking the children watching Teen Nick from grade-school jokes and toys to adult sex chatter and back again.
That teen drama is called "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Its attack on "intolerance" is clear in the contentious promo. A teen actress declares their new show's theme, staring into the camera: "Accept the truth…or keep living the lie."
Last week, Fox News reported a jaw-dropping story about how our War on Terror has now become a war on ourselves. In September a team of Navy SEALs captured terrorist Ahmed Hashim Abed, a man known to the U.S. military as "Objective Amber," the architect of the vicious and deadly attack on four American contractors in the summer of 2004. These poor men were shot, burned, and then their bodies were desecrated, hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.
But instead of hailing the SEALs as heroes for bringing this vicious murderer to justice, three of them have been brought up on charges.
When Abed was captured, he was brought to Camp Baharia, a U.S. base two miles outside Fallujah. According to one attorney, Abed was turned over to the Iraqis by mistake and was later returned to U.S. custody. There are differing reports that he was punched in the gut and given a bloody lip.
The SEALs were faced with two options. One, choose an administrative hearing, facing no possibility of jail time or dishonorable discharge, but having their reputations forever tarnished. Two, choose a court-martial which could exonerate them completely or, if convicted, land them behind bars and end their military careers.
If there is an entertainment trend ripe for satire, it is the begging-for-attention smut routines at nationally televised music awards shows. How low can these "artists" go? Sadly, there is always another frontier. "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert was the latest offender at the November 22 American Music Awards on ABC, with a routine complete with S&M bondage slaves, deep male-on-male kissing, and simulated fellatio on stage.
All in front of millions upon millions of impressionable youngsters. It was another in-your-face Janet Jackson moment.
There’s only one thing that makes this funny. It’s the idea that somehow none of this was planned, that it was just a spontaneous eruption. ABC was embarrassed enough by Lambert to cancel a planned performance on "Good Morning America." If they expected cheers for that, they’re sadly mistaken. ABC clearly wanted to avoid making its news division question the entertainment division’s horrendous decision-making.
Here’s a dirty little secret about The New York Times. It likes to leak things. Important things. Things that change the course of the public conversation. From the Pentagon Papers to the ruined terrorist-surveillance programs of the Bush era, the Times has routinely found that secrecy is a danger and sunlight is a disinfectant.
Until now. A troublesome hacker recently released e-mails going to and from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain, e-mails that exposed how the "scientific experts" cited so often by the media on global warming display are guilty of crude political talk, attempts at censoring opponents, and twisting scientific data to support their policy agenda.
It is amazing how a phrase can emerge seemingly out of nowhere to become the statement du jour – used, overused, and ultimately abused. Last year there was "low hanging fruit" everywhere. Today everyone’s being "thrown under the bus."
Sometimes, it’s just one word.
"As a writer, you’re always reaching for a more potent way to call somebody a jerk," Dan Harmon, the creator of the new NBC sitcom "Community" told The New York Times. In a surprisingly controversial front-page story on November 14, Times reporter Edward Wyatt tried to identify the zeitgeist by one hot "potent" word for jerk: "douche."
In total, the word has surfaced at least 76 times already this year on 26 prime-time network series, according to research by the Parents Television Council, which compiled the statistics at the request of The New York Times. That is up from 30 uses on 15 shows in all of 2007 and just six instances on four programs in 2005.
Picking up the Sunday paper on November 15 could make a reader a little airsick – even while standing in the driveway. The Washington Post "news analysis" on the front page carried the headline "9/11 trial could become a parable of right and wrong: Before worldwide audience, both prosecution, defense seek control of narrative."
Does The Washington Post really think that the death and destruction of 9/11 "could" be right, or "could" be wrong?
Liberals cannot stand it when the national media won’t simply declare contentious debates over and their viewpoint settled truth. Take, for example, the allegedly inevitable impending destruction of global warming. It is the left’s position that the media should conclude one side is right and the other wrong. Conservatives should be ignored when they object. But that’s a debate over the future. It’s grotesque for an American newspaper to publish a "news analysis" that stares 9/11 in the face and said it "could" be a matter of right and wrong.
It’s a sad state of affairs. There is absolutely no barrier of sexual behavior that TV network executives aren’t willing to cross in a desperate gambit for ratings. There also seems be to no sleazy line that a squeaky-clean teenage TV star or pop star won’t cross to "break out" into grown-up stardom.
Both of these maxims were proven again by the CW show "Gossip Girl" with a group-sex plot. Its November 9 episode depicted three friends completing a list that was supposedly printed in their college newspaper: "The 15 Things Every College Student Must Do Before Graduating." Number 11 was "Have a Threesome." And so they did.
One of the "liberated" college women in this three’s-a-crowd spectacle was actress Hilary Duff, who earned millions as a teenager as the star of "Lizzie McGuire" on the Disney Channel and in Disney movies. Millions of impressionable children idolized her. They still do – except that she’s a different kind of role model now.
Horror spread quickly across America as the story unfolded: an Army psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30. But as more information emerged, clearly pointing to an act of terrorism, many in the "news" media simply chose not to report news.
By late afternoon, it emerged that the shooter’s name was Major Nidal Malik Hasan. But that night, CBS and NBC completely avoided mentioning that the shooter was a Muslim. ABC’s Charles Gibson suggested he was a "Muslim convert," which wasn’t right, but at least he wasn’t playing hide-and-seek with the facts. ABC reporter Martha Raddatz spoke for the media in choosing this tidbit: "As for the suspect, Nidal Hasan, as one officer's wife told me, ‘I wish his name was Smith.’"
The coverage grew more factual the next morning, with all the networks noting Hasan was Muslim, and that he shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) as he opened fire. ABC’s Diane Sawyer, though, repeated Raddatz: "We heard Martha Raddatz say last night that the wife of a soldier said ‘I wish his name had been Smith,’ so no one would have a reflexive question about that."
In the earliest days of television, shows were often supported entirely by one sponsor. There was the "Texaco Star Theater" with Milton Berle. Remember "General Electric Theater" with Ronald Reagan? The corporate patron was held responsible for the content within the program. More to the point, the corporate patron wanted the association with the show it was sponsoring.
Perhaps the best branding of them all was, and is Hallmark, with its Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. When that movie airs you just know it’s a quality movie, because that’s all Hallmark will produce.
On today’s TV shows, it’s all changed. Today's sponsors run in large packs and appear to make no attempt to monitor shows and have no expectation of being held accountable for the "art" they’ve enabled. In fact, they insist they not be held accountable for that which they sponsor. They are the unsponsors.
The New York Times editorial page is a perfect weather vane for the way the liberal media's hot air is blowing. In an October 26 editorial called "Torching the Big Tent," they lamented: "The feeble pulse of moderation in the Republican Party is in danger of flat-lining in the Nov. 3 Congressional election in upstate New York."
The feeble "moderate" the Times was backing for Congress was Dede Scozzafava - pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-union power, pro-tax hike. The Times found these positions to be proof of "refreshing tinges of centrism." The Times lectured the conservative movement to embrace this candidacy, since "creative ideas and candidates, not right-wing zeal, are the obvious way to get back in the game of democracy."
Any New Yorker foolish enough to follow the political advice of The New York Times deserves what he gets.
What if the Times portrayed this battle for the 23rd District of New York the opposite way? What if the surging campaign of conservative Doug Hoffman was portrayed as "Revenge of the Irate Moderates?" Liberals would rub their eyes in utter disbelief. But just three years ago, the Times editorial page was using those exact words to describe the hard-left forces behind Ned Lamont, who upset moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary, only to lose to him in the general election.
Violence – especially grotesque, gory or bloody violence – has become a staple of network television during sweeps periods. But there’s a new kind of violence surging -- violence against women. A new study by the Parents Television Council called "Women in Peril" reveals that between 2004 and 2009, CBS, NBC, and Fox (but not ABC) all green-lighted a significant increase in the incidents – and degree – of violence against women.
On average, during the five-year span there was a two percent increase in overall violence during the prime time viewing hours. But during the same time period there was a 120 percent increase in the number of times the audience would be exposed to a violent scene with a female victim.
CBS, the "CSI" network, led with 118 violent storylines on women, but NBC had the largest increase, at 192 percent. The forms of violence depicted included rape, stabbing, dismemberment, electrocution, poisoning, shooting, beating, and torture. Death was regularly a result of the violence.
Congressman King's insistence for an apology yesterday is exactly what we have been calling on the media to do since they first misrepresented the fictitious, racist quotes attributed to Rush Limbaugh. Rep. King set the record straight, exposing the outright fabrications and distortions attributed to Limbaugh. [see our "Tell the Truth" Web page detailing the media's smears of Limbaugh]
He was absolutely correct to hold the NFL accountable for caving to pressure from the left-wing extremists out to destroy a conservative leader - as well as the media who were complicit in these attempts.
The Congressman aptly noted that if the parsing of words was the real reason the NFL forbade Rush from placing a bid for the Rams, then they must hold all NFL owners to the same level of scrutiny. For starters, Miami Dolphins owners Fergie and J-Lo should be among the first disqualified given the disturbing, violent and pornographic lyrics they publicly perform on a regular basis.
We offer our thanks and commendation to Rep. King for having the backbone to say enough is enough and call out the NFL for their cowardly hypocrisy. We need more Congressmen like him to herald the truth for those who refuse to acknowledge it."
The Left is ecstatic about the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, which claimed a surge in public support for the so-called "public option," wrapped in the (insincere) rhetoric of "choice" and "competition." The poll asks if the government should "create a new health insurance plan to compete with private insurance plans," and 57 percent agree. Happy days are here again for liberals.
Liberals in the media found even better news to declare: a new low for the Republican Party, since only 20 percent of those surveyed "usually" think of themselves as Republicans. (Another 19 percent "lean more" toward the Republicans, but that number is being ignored because 20 percent sounds better.) MSNBC’s David Shuster openly hoped: "Have centrists been frightened away from the Republican Party by the right-wing birthers, Tenthers, and town hall screamers?"
The "Balloon Boy" hoax spellbound the entire country on October 15. Everyone empathized with the situation of the supposedly floating child or the supposedly distraught parents. But the real problem was different. It was the increasingly sickening blur between reality and "reality" TV.
Skepticism about the boy in the balloon should have begun – and coverage should have ended – the second journalists learned that the family had made two appearances on the ABC "reality" show called "Wife Swap," where families switch mothers to dramatic effect. But maybe it was hard to imagine that someone would be so desperate for attention that they would squander thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars getting everyone from the county sheriff to the Federal Aviation Administration involved in a lie.
In the desperate search for the cliched fifteen minutes of fame, many Americans have gravitated to trying out for "reality" shows, often with the goal of parlaying an appearance into a broader television career – acting, hosting, perhaps losing dramatically on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
Rush Limbaugh was convicted of racism in a kangaroo court of "objective" media and dropped as a potential owner of the St. Louis Rams football franchise. His accusers claimed he once said slavery "had its merits" and that the assassin of Martin Luther King deserved a "Medal of Honor." The story circulated on the Internet and was eventually picked up by the major media, including both CNN and MSNBC.
But no one bothered fact-checking. In fact, his accusers and those media that repeated the accusations never stopped to ponder there was no need to fact-check this, so obvious were the fabrications.
Start with this reality: One could clearly dismiss these quotes as fabrications based on the simple fact that Rush would never have uttered them, since he doesn’t believe them. Period.
Add to it this second piece of common sense: Were Rush guilty of uttering this garbage back in 1998, would we really be discussing it for the first time in October of 2009? Common sense tells us that if he made these comments on his show, his advertisers would dump him so quickly he’d be out of a job by sundown.
The programming gurus at MTV are basing their profit-making strategy on the viewer demographic of 12 to 34 – as if there’s no difference in maturity level between 12 and 34. MTV’s brand of sensationalistic "reality TV" was easily demonstrated on the night of October 5, when they aired a prime-time marathon (from 7 pm Eastern to 1 am) of their hour-long documentary series called "True Life." Just the episode titles were jaw-dropping.
1. "I’m Out."
2. "I’m Polyamorous."
3. "I’m Bisexual."
4. "I’m Changing My Sex." (This ran twice in a row.)
Like everyone else on the morning of October 9, the major media’s first reaction to Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize was shock and disbelief. NBC’s Matt Lauer spoke for the pack when he said he didn’t want to be "rude," but how did Obama earn it? Washington Post columnist (and former reporter) Ruth Marcus was blunt: "This is ridiculous -- embarrassing, even." She said the award is supposed to be for "doing, not being."
That is true, but for the swelling group of Americans who are not enamored of Obama, that could easily be turned around on the media: why would you, of all people, question the inflated judgment of the five Norwegian prize pickers? They are merely doing the same thing you’ve been doing for five years: praising Obama far beyond his actual job experience or accomplishments, and building a powerful myth of a global savior in an effort to put the international socialist Left in power, eclipsing America once and for all.
In the wake of the arrest of director/rapist Roman Polanski comes the sex-with-subordinates scandal of David Letterman. The timing was a blessing for Letterman, since his aggressive excuse-makers now could quickly assert that the female employees he exploited were all adults and all gave their consent.
Letterman’s habit of engaging in sex with women who are his employees only emerged because of an ugly extortion threat from a longtime CBS News producer who lived with one of Letterman’s conquests. That’s doubly embarrassing for CBS, which has character problems coming and going. Letterman added to the embarrassment by revealing the extortion and his behavior in a jokey manner on his show. CBS had enough distaste for the explanation to have it pulled off YouTube and try to keep people from seeing it. (Wouldn’t it be nice if CBS had similar standards for its other programming, like, oh, most everything on MTV?)
In a second attempt at an apology, Letterman was more sincere. But in the morality-challenged entertainment community, Letterman knew he could surround himself with friends who found nothing to condemn, or even question.