Re: Let Me Get This Straight . . .

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From: Brian Clapper (
Date: Tue May 15 2001 - 07:37:35 PDT

On 14 May, 2001, at 20:17 (-0400)
Jay Thomas <> wrote:

> I think folks are over reacting here, to wha tI said. Is it really that
> sacriligious to suggest, only G rated movie ads during childrens shows?

Maybe not "sacreligious," but certainly offensive. Off the top of my head,
I have two issues with this approach.

1. Let the market decide. If enough people are offended by the ads on a
   given show, they'll complain or they'll stop watching the show.
   Eventually, the broadcasters will get the message, and the situation
   will change. You're an obedient Republican fellow; this notion of market
   economics should be a familiar one to you. Why not let it work in this
   arena, as well?

2. The "one size fits all" mentality. What is one person's "G" rating is
   another person's "PG" rating. The line between any two contiguous
   ratings categories is somewhat grey, so I can't in good conscience
   blindly believe the rating anyway. If the guy in charge of deciding
   what's okay is too uptight, I'll be annoyed. If he's too relaxed, you'll
   be offended. There's no way any ratings system can work for every
   situation. Suppose we put a ratings system in place, just as you
   suggest, but Jeff Bone gets to decide what's offensive and what's not.
   Will you accept that ratings system, or be offended that someone who
   doesn't have your views is controlling the ratings?

   The bottom line is, I don't want your idea of approprirateness to affect
   my choice of viewing, because I don't know you, I don't trust you, and
   I'm pretty certain your idea of what's appropriate is much less flexible
   than I would be comfortable with. Make your own choices, and if you need
   help, rely on your friends, church groups, whatever, to help you. Use
   technology: Buy a TiVo, set up a web site where you and your like-minded
   brethren can share your reviews and ratings of various shows, etc. But
   stop there, and don't try to force your view of appropriateness or
   offensiveness into my living me. Leave me to make my own unfettered

> Are you in favor of the ban on cigarette/liquor advertising on TV (I'm
> not)

Not particularly.

> How about the federal govmt giving subsidies to TV shows whose
> script they approve for anti-drug content

Nope. Completely against it.

> > - Do you *really* believe that one set of standards or ratings will fit
> > every situation?
> No, but it's a good start. They've already adopted voluntary ratings for
> TV shows (although I hardly ever see them anymore)

Sorry, I disagree. It's a terrible start.

Those ratings are every bit as useful as movie ratings--which is to say,
not very. By 1984, the line between a PG and an R rating had blurred so
much that the MPAA had to introduce a new, intermediate PG-13 rating. As I
said before, at the boundaries between the ratings, one's vision starts to
get blurry.

The ratings merely give people the illusion of safety, but there are plenty
of examples of surprises. For instance, Harvard professor Kimberly M.
Thompson recently published a study in JAMA that shows the variance in
violence in G-rated films. Here's an interesting quote from her FAQ on the
study (

        * Every one of the 74 animated G-rated feature films reviewed
          contained at least one act of violence. There is great variation
          in the amount of violence in these films ranging from 6 seconds
          to 24 minutes, with an average of 9.5 minutes of violent scenes.
          Parents need to be aware that violence is common in G-rated
          animated films, and should consider watching these films with
          their children and taking advantage of opportunities to talk to
          their kids about violence.

        * A "G" rating does not automatically signify a level of violence
          acceptable to all children. The current rating system may provide
          a false sense of security about violent content in animated
          films. Parents should not overlook these videos as a source of
          exposure to violence for children.

        * Most of the violence in these films shows characters fighting
          with each other and using violence as a means for resolving

        * Characters use a wide range of weapons in their violent acts like
          shotguns and swords as well as common household items like

        * The study does not suggest that children should be prohibited
          from watching these animated films. The study concludes that
          G-rated animated films contain material that may be disturbing to
          young viewers or could be dangerous if imitated. Parents need to
          judge for themselves the appropriateness of the material and
          should not rely on the current rating system.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with her position on the effects of this
violence on children. In fact, I hadn't even heard of the study prior to a
quick Google search five minutes ago. But her study does support the notion
that a "G" rating is not all that helpful for those parents who are looking
to limit their young children's exposure to simulated, on-screen violence.
It's not much of a logical leap to conclude that a rating isn't necessarily
helpful in judging a film's compliance with *any* particular standard,
whether the standard refers to violence, sex, drug use, or even (gasp!)
forcible taxation.

The last sentence in the last bullet, above, bears repeating: "Parents need
to judge for themselves the appropriateness of the material and should not
rely on the current rating system."

> > - Whose standards would you have the government use to set these limits you
> > advocate? Yours? The standards associated with "traditional American
> > values?" (For extra credit, define "traditional American values.")
> Sure. If I get to set them, sure.

What if *I* get to set them? Or, again, what if we install Jeff Bone as the
ratings czar?

> I'm pretty sure, what I'm proposing
> wouldn't shock or offend, as a matter of fact, what I stated above
> wouldn't even be noticied. People watching "Buffy" would still see ads
> for "Scream". And I can't define it - just like "art" - I know it when I
> see it ;-)

Sorry, man, but so far, you've given me ample reason to believe that your
notion of art (or obscenity) is far more restrictive than I'm comfortable
with. You want to set up a ratings system? Fine. You have a web site. Go
for it. I wholeheartedly support your right to do so -- as long as *your*
ratings do not automatically affect content coming into *my* house.

> Yes, I will regulate what I & my kids see. All I'm talking about is
> community standards. Lets say, no unedited "Debbie Does Dallas" on
> channel 4 at 3 p.m.? Oh, right, we've already got that. If JB or anyone
> else wants to see that movie at that time, there's cable, pay per view,
> etc, and I can lock those out. And do.

Whose community standards would you apply? Those of Derry, NH? Those of New
Orleans, Louisiana? How do you adjust for differing community standards? Or
do you simply use the least common denominator (e.g., a "G" rating means
content suitable for 5-year-old future students of Bob Jones University)?
To quote from an article on the American Library Association's web site

        The Supreme Court has held that "obscene" speech enjoys no First
        Amendment protection. Under the Court's precedents, whether
        material is deemed obscene depends largely on "contemporary
        community standards" of prurience and patent offensiveness. Thus, a
        book may be obscene in Indiana but protected in New York. This
        principle presents obvious problems for the Internet, a medium that
        allows speakers to make content available worldwide. Must a
        librarian who posts a card catalog on the World Wide Web make sure
        no entry runs afoul of the most conservative community standards in
        the country?

I know, I know, you moral conservative types think the ALA is in league
with the forces of evil. (e.g., "American Library Association opens door to
sex crimes",

But this is not a simple question--though I infer, from your messages, that
you believe you have a simple, pat, one-size-fits-all solution. That's what
concerns me most about people who espouse the beliefs you seem to have:
this notion that everything can be crammed into one, neat little labeled
box, and that *your* neat labeled box is the *right* box.

> > You want to control how you introduce the world to your daughters. Fine.
> > That's your right and your obligation as a parent. I doubt most sane people
> > would argue that it's good to thrust the entire world at a child all at
> > once.
> Exactly my point.

Not quite. Your point also seems to be that it's the government's job to
filter out the "bad stuff" (using your rigid definition of "bad stuff"), so
you will have an easier job of shielding your children from the parts of
the world you don't like or don't think they're ready to see. And you're
more than happy -- in fact, you seem to be insisting -- that your filters
should apply to me, and to everyone else, because if they don't apply to
everyone, some of this "bad stuff" might leak through to your house and
your children.

I fundamentally (pun intended, I suppose) disagree with you. It's 100% your
job, your decision, and your responsibility. Don't fob it off on me, and
don't go appropriating my tax dollars to fund your notion of moral

Why not let the market decide? Or perhaps it already has, but you don't
agree with its conclusions, so you're willing to drop the pretense that
you're in favor of individual liberty, to resort to more totalitarian
solution to this intractable problem.

In a previous message, you stated, "Democrats are the victim party ...".
But on this issue, you're sounding an awful lot like a whining victim on
this issue, asking for Uncle Sam to come protect your children from all the
Bad Stuff out there.

In a subsequent message, you wrote, "If necessary I would fight and die for
my country and our way of life." But this American "way of life" you're so
ready to die for includes preserving the individual liberties of everyone,
even those whose opinions and speech you find so distasteful. Or are you
referring to some other way of life?


Brian Clapper,
A candidate is a person who gets money from the rich and votes from the
poor to protect them from each other.

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