Time Magazine: Opposing TV Profanity Is ‘Misguided’ and Living In a ‘Fairytale World’

Posted on Mon 01/16/2012 by


By Tim Graham ~

Across its listing of blogs, Time magazine is managing to achieve complete liberal harmony. While the Time Healthland blog was encouraging the broadcast of breast-feeding to pre-schoolers on “Sesame Street,” the Time Ideas blog was insisting “Our Concern Over ‘Indecency’ Is Misguided.” Don’t miss the quote-marks around “indecency.” Erika Christakis and her husband Nicholas Christakis have the typical liberal anti-violence, pro-nudity pose, that America is suffering from “our tawdry national love affair with violence and our prudish suspicion of unclothed human bodies. Can’t we just get over this, already?”

The last time we checked, there wasn’t a lot of nudity in Time magazine, so the “prudish suspicion” even extends to national magazines. (Newsweek under tabloidish Tina Brown has a tendency toward both a little nudity and a scattering of F-bombs.) Any attempt by social conservatives to hold the line on broadcast indecency is “quaint,” living in a fairy tale world:

A number of justices long for a fairytale world where “government can insist on a certain modicum of decency,” as Justice Antonin Scalia archly observed. Chief Justice John Roberts, a father of young kids, plaintively noted that “all we are asking for is a few channels” where kids won’t be exposed to profanity and sexual acts. Justice Elena Kagan opined that “it seems to be a good thing to have a safe haven” during prime time.

A safe haven on television? How quaint. Leaving aside the availability of profanity and sex to anyone with cable or a laptop, the Supreme Court justices — and most Americans — are kidding themselves if they think keeping F-bombs off TV will keep children safe. It’s like taking your car to be detailed when the brake pads are worn out: it deflects attention from what really matters.

What really matters to Team Christakis is the violence, with the usual research that “the rapid-fire pace of even the most apparently benign cartoons has well-documented damaging effects on early brain development that can set up children for a lifetime of academic, social, and behavioral problems.”

They link to a video of Mr. Christakis, and the only cartoon he presents is the credits from “The Powerpuff Girls Movie,” with a monkey breaking glass. He seemed more bothered by the quick pacing than anything else in the content, contrasting it with Mister Rogers, a program which defined when government insisted on a certain modicum of decency for children.

The Time bloggers define a problem, and then refuse to define a solution. Trying to regulate TV is “pretending” to make prime time clean when our kids are apparently too bratty to consider turning off the TV:

So why can’t we do more to tackle this problem? First, there are many occasions — and television habits are just one of them — where adult and child interests simply do not intersect. Any parent knows that it’s not merely difficult but also meltdown-inducing to put a child’s interests first and turn off the TV. It’s impossible to keep up with all the pernicious influences on our children and, frankly, depressing to realize that many aspects of our child-rearing are sub-par. We salve our guilt by pretending to make prime time clean.

It’s simplistic to assume that keeping actual profanity and nudity off television is keeping it “clean.” That’s trying to set a boundary somewhere, anywhere.  Oddly, the Time bloggers conclude by proposing no solutions at all, just heckling that people trying to establish a boundary have their heads in the sand, while the people who are fine with no limits on indecency are the realists:

Since none of us wants to live in an Orwellian dystopia, the solution to our problem is not censoring so called obscenity. It may not even be restricting media violence, at least through legislative channels. (Supply and demand is another matter, of course.) The solution, rather, is to get our heads out of the sand.

We can’t fix a problem until we appreciate its gravity. We need to face what we already know and, even better, offer constructive alternatives to the brain-scrambling and soul-crushing reality that many children experience for hours on end every day.

Tim Graham contributes at NewsBusters. He is Director of  Media Analysis at the Media Research Center and is the author of the book “Pattern Of Deception: The Media’s Role In The Clinton Presidency”.

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