It’s one thing for people to complain about those uptight traditional-values folks when they’re criticizing a piece of entertainment they haven’t seen yet. But it’s mildly amusing to see the libertarians criticizing traditionalists while utterly refusing to see the piece of entertainment under discussion, and then saying the other side is "out of touch."W. Kenneth Ferree of the Progress & Freedom Foundation takes off on their blog after our associates at the Parents Television Council for objecting to Adam Lambert’s S&M/oral sex/guy-kissing routine on Sunday night’s ABC broadcast of the American Music Awards. Ferree royally declares that he will not lower himself to watch the performance, but that Adam Lambert is about as relevant to today’s kids as James Joyce.
Because it's guaranteed to produce a wry chuckle, I occasionally check the PTC (Parent's Television Council) website to see what shows have recently most offended their delicate sensitivities. Apparently, the latest outrage has to do with some sexually suggestive song and dance routines broadcast on the ABC Television Network as part of the American Music Awards. Elvis' swinging hips, anyone? In any event, the PTC website screams: "PTC Slams ABC for Tasteless 'American Music Awards' Broadcast." Now I didn't see the broadcast and I have no interest in opining on whether the show was, or was not, actionably indecent as a legal matter within the framework that has been constructed by the FCC over the past several decades. Frankly, the whole broadcast indecency regime is undiluted nonsense as far as I'm concerned and it should have been struck down as unconstitutional years ago. The larger point that I want to touch upon is just how out of touch with reality PTC and its cohorts are. On this issue I do have some expertise, as I spend quite a bit of time working with teenagers at our local high school. I can assure the gentle reader that today's teenagers are exposed to considerably more graphic content than those of my generation were and - surprise of surprises - it's not by way of the family television set. Indeed, to complain about content on television today is about as relevant to youth culture as complaining about obscenity in books. Why doesn't PTC go back to complaining about Ulysses and Candid, or Leaves of Grass and the Canterbury Tales for that matter? I'm sure there is much worse in Lady Chatterley's Lover than anything broadcast on the ABC Television Network. Putting aside the constitutional questions, wouldn't it seem rather silly and pointless today to ban these books purportedly to protect mores of our youth?
It's fine to believe that the FCC should have no regulatory power over the content of broadcast television. But it's just silly to assert that today's hottest music stars are about as relevant to youth as James Joyce, Chaucer, and D.H. Lawrence. It's also silly to enter a debate over being "out of touch" about prurient TV by refusing to see it.