Garbage In...

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Before the new television season started last fall, writers and producers pressured network censors to again lower standards as to what could be aired over American television. Said one newspaper account at the time: “[Network] executives say that writers are submitting scripts for shows that include every crude word imaginable … If the experience of the last year or two is any indication, there will be many heated discussions about them and, probably, some new leeways granted.” And indeed there were. The process that some have described as “defining deviancy down” continued.

A decade ago movie critic Michael Medved wrote Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values , an exposé that details the undermining of Western society through amoral standards of behavior promoted by the movie, television and music industries. Although his book is 10 years old, the statistics and anecdotal evidence he cites are still shocking. The problem he cited then has grown worse, with the media’s standards at a far lower level than they were in 1992.

Mr. Medved’s table of contents reveals the poisoning of the soul of the Western world. He addresses the entertainment media’s frontal attack on religion and the family. He demonstrates the media’s glorification of ugliness through the urge to offend and their infatuation with foul language and violence as well as their addiction to bashing America and discrediting genuine heroes.

Meanwhile, media-industry decision-makers take no responsibility for any of this. The princes of dark culture who decide what we will watch and hear maintain that scenes of violence and sex simply reflect the unpleasant realities around us.

If you are not yet hardened to the filth offered by the entertainment industry, you would be shocked to read some of the examples Mr. Medved uses to show the enormity of the problem. The vulgarities he excerpts from songs popular at the time are so lewd, so obscene, that we cannot print them. In his book he warns parents: “If you are unfamiliar with the messages in today’s music, prepare to be appalled” (p. 97).

His warning is even more appropriate today. Steve Allen, who died recently, wrote in Vulgarians at the Gate: Trash TV and Raunch Radio : “The most shockingly vulgar recordings reap multimillions in profit, and the same is true of sleazy radio, television, and films. There are indeed monsters in our midst, and they are us” (2001, p. 30).

Media marketers exploit our weaknesses, Mr. Allen wrote. “… The primary offenders, those who create the objectionable material in the first place,must stop blaming the audience, as if they themselves are somehow morally opposed to what they are forced to market” (pp. 31-32).

The Hollywood establishment chooses to ignore public attitudes that decry their raunch and filth. Though the movie and television industries don’t like to admit it, network-television-viewer numbers have dropped dramatically. Ironically, much of that drop can be attributed to viewers switching to cable and satellite TV, where, in addition to more wholesome fare, they can find shows where virtually anything goes.

The illustrations in Mr. Medved’s and Mr. Allen’s books graphically support the facts of Hollywood’s preoccupation with money over morals. Both are well worth reading. You need to educate yourself about the mental diet that movie, television and music producers feed you and your children.

We already reap the tragic consequences of the misguided mediawhich include millions of teen pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases along with frightening epidemics of drug use, murder and other premature death. Eventually, if we do not turn from our destructive behavior, we will self-destruct. GN

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