The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, February 14, 2004
 

Now CBS kow-tows to the Indians...


First the Reagan mini-series; then Janet Jackson's right breast; and now some performance at the Grammys that the massed ranks of Indian grievance-meisters have determined is insulting to their High Indigenousnesses [1].

Even the National Indian Gaming Association have taken time out from throwing fish to the trained seals they keep in public office to join the war-dance.

The spokesman for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences more or less tells the Indians to get over themselves:
Ron Roecker, senior director of communications for the academy, said nobody had contacted the organization about the uproar.

"We regret if anyone was offended," Roecker said.


It has all the sincerity of an airport announcer relaying a flight cancellation.

Meanwhile, CBS, enjoying their private Hutton, limbo-dance:
We are very sorry if anyone was offended,"

Regret is a flip-off; sorry is a cringe. And the Indians scent blood (why should the GOP have all the best CBS grovels...): one
Frank J. King III, owner and publisher of The Native Voice
is quoted as saying
It's a beginning...

Damned straight! Already, noses finely attuned to the aroma of casino wampum have the sweet smell of shakedown in their nostrils:
...American Indian groups are issuing an ultimatum to the Grammy organizers: Apologize publicly or face a discrimination lawsuit.

Why the or? Mr Shakedown himself, the barely Reverend Jesse Jackson, would surely be happy to recommend an expert shyster or two.

Not that such suits might actually be successful: but a bruised CBS senior management may prefer to self-censor than take on a crusade for freedom of speech.

As if a reminder were needed that, if Fox plied the tongue around Monsanto's hind quarters (my piece earlier today), it was CBS's 60 Minutes that provided the most spectacular example of the genre [2].

The Salem-style frenzy unleashed by the nation's legislators, in a fine bipartisan spirit, over the Jackson tit [3] eases the way for other groups - like the Indians - to pile on.

The overarching theme is that broadcasters must be careful. Bush was pleased to remind everyone that he was a war president. He sets the tone: in time of war, there is censorship. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all; media must be responsible, mindful of their duties to the community.

There is that little thing called the First Amendment. But, frankly, with a responsible judiciary, that didn't cause much trouble in the 1950s, or under Woodrow Wilson's police state.

Not that there will be anything resembling a police state: just because legislators choose to inhabit Cloud Cuckoo Land is no excuse for the rest of us to join them. There will be aberrations - like the Des Moines Affair - but no tanks in the streets. Mustn't be, for the thing to work.

The whole speech-chilling business involves the idolising of the avoidance of causing disturbance or giving cause for alarm. The gravamen of the Jackson floorshow was not the indecency (if any) but the embarrassment its unexpected appearance caused to parents up and down the land with their offspring [4].

No Tales of the Unexpected please, we're American, seems to be the motto [5]. One may offend, but only within the boundary established by custom and practice: 1950s Western movies with redskins and squaw-men, OK; innovative dance routines, no way.

...and then tell the media that the boundary has moved. Keep 'em jumping Jim Crow.

Advice to the broadcasters? Junk the schedule, and make it back-to-back Sesame Street every day on every channel. Seriously - who could possibly object to that?

  1. Though let's let Kennewick Man be the judge of that!

  2. The Columbia Journalism Review's 1996 Brown and Williamson/Jeffrey Wigand piece Lessons of the Sixty Minutes Cave-In is well worth a read.

  3. The House Bill discussed is HR 3717; the hearing page will have a transcript - in a couple of months. There are some opening statements up already.

  4. Even pin-up of the blog Dana Priest comes down in favour of embarrassment avoidance, rather than freedom of speech, in an online chat:
    Just issue subpoenas to the network execs on down to see who was in the loop and then fine the pants (or shirts) off of them as a disincentive for such behavior in the future. That's speaking as a frustrated parent, not an intel reporter, but I'm glad you asked.
  5. Tony Blair feels much the same way.


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