Recently, the Writers Guild of America (West) filed their “reply comments” on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed change in enforcement of laws against broadcast decency. In their comments, the Guild launched a vitriolic attack on broadcast decency, the PTC – and the American people.
In a move that would be hilarious if it weren’t pathetic, the Writer’s Guild spent almost the entirely of their comment not on the issue of decency enforcement, but on attacking the Parents Television Council by name. In their comments, the Guild unwittingly revealed a deep-seated hatred and contempt for the beliefs of American people, and for the democratic process.
In its comments, the Writer’s Guild claims that “community standards are inherently unreliable in an age of coordinated e-activism, where organizations with an agenda, such as Parents Television Council, can send out an e-blast resulting in several thousand of its base submitting an electronic complaint…[These actions are] professional mobilizations of a membership already sympathetic to the issue; they are not an authentic measure of audience reaction or an accurate expression of community standards.”
So: when the Sierra Club, the National Association of Teachers, the NAACP, or GLAAD – which most people would agree are “organizations with an agenda” – urge their members to file electronic complaints with the government about the actions of private industry (“professional mobilizations of a membership already sympathetic to the issue”), are those actions also “inherently unreliable” and “not an accurate expression of community standards?” We suspect the Writers Guild of America (a labor union for writers) would say not. But when its average Americans criticizing the vastly powerful, billion-dollar entertainment conglomerates of Hollywood — well, somehow that’s different.
The Guild complains that “community standards” are “vague” and “ripe for abuse” by a “vocal minority,” and that American citizens who exercise their First Amendment right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” by filing indecency complaints with the FCC are exercising a “heckler’s veto” over the entertainment industry’s freedom of speech.
This is hogwash. Community standards are not “vague.” To anyone other than a jaded, sex-obsessed Hollywood writer, they are clear as a bell: don’t use the f- or s-word, or other profanity. Don’t show nudity. Don’t show graphic, gory violence. And, in a universe filled with potential sources for humor, try telling a joke about something other than sex once in a while…at least when millions of children are watching.
And as far as the “vocal minority” with the “heckler’s veto,” Hollywood writers (along with network executives and other entertainment industry employees) need to remember: Hollywood does not own the broadcast airwaves. The airwaves are a public utility, owned by the American people. Apparently, Hollywood’s writers hate the thought that average American citizens actually have a say in how the airwaves they themselves own are used.
The Guild then goes on to claim that the FCC enforcing the law against indecency violates “constitutional equal protection norms,” as quoted in United States v. Windsor (“The Constitution’s guarantee of equality must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot justify disparate treatment of that group”).
By some insane contortion of intellect, the rich, pampered, Beverly Hills-dwelling writers of Hollywood believe themselves to be a “politically unpopular group,” being subject to “disparate treatment” – when all they’re being asked to do is obey rules that have been settled law since 1927.
Rather than simply avoiding nudity, the f-bomb, and non-stop graphic sexual references, the Guild’s preferred solution is “phasing out indecency regulations during primetime.” Translation: “We in Hollywood don’t care how many children we corrupt, how many teenage girls our shows exploit, or how many Americans think we should obey the law. We should be able to do anything we please, any time we please, break any law we please, completely unaccountable to anyone; and you peons at home should have to swallow whatever garbage we pump into your living room, and like it. Because we’re entitled. We’re the Hollywood elite.”
It’s worth noting that the number of Americans who wrote to the FCC demanding indecency enforcement is far greater than the number of members of the Writer’s Guild West. At the beginning of their reply comments, the Guild claims to represent “more than 8,000 professional writers.” But over 102,000 Americans filed comments demanding decency on their airwaves. In other words, the overwhelming majority of people who have expressed an opinion on the issue favor decency by a margin of almost 13 to 1. When a majority expresses its opinion in this fashion, the majority rules. In America, we call that “democracy.” But obviously, Hollywood’s writers hate it.
Indeed, in its comments the Guild openly condemns the fact that “the Commission relies on community input in the indecency complaint process,” whining that the democratic process “can give a vocal minority disproportionate power to target content that they disapprove of.” But who is truly the “vocal minority” here? Isn’t it the tiny number of self-proclaimed “creative artists” and arrogant Hollywood elitists who impose their ultra-violent, sexually exploitative, and profanity-laden “entertainment” on the rest of the country?
The Guild also trots out its favorite saw about indecency enforcement having a “chilling effect.” Once again, we respond: look at the content currently on the broadcast airwaves – ADHD, American Dad, The Following — and ask: by what bizarre definition is such speech being “chilled”? The prospect of a “creative artist” whimpering that his “creativity” is being “chilled” because the FCC won’t let his characters say “mother***er” in front of four-year-olds is more than a little ridiculous – not to say disgusting. The fact that they can claim that their speech is “chilled” while they are simultaneously flooding the airwaves with filth shows that this group should rename itself the Comedian’s Guild.
And if these writers really do feel their creativity is stifled and their speech is “chilled,” the question must be asked: why do they choose to write for broadcast TV, which falls under indecency enforcement, when they could be writing for cable, which does not? Why not write original programs on cable? Oh, that’s right: because writing for broadcast TV pays more. A LOT more.
So the Guild’s argument isn’t really, “you’re chilling our speech.” It’s, “We can’t get as much money for writing filth if it’s shown on cable. We want to be able to write garbage, force it into your home on your airwaves, AND get paid a fortune for it.”
The Guild also attempts to blame the PTC for the “lack of diversity” currently found on TV: “[With] white characters representing the majority of all broadcast characters, many would argue that broadcast television still has a long way to go in reflecting the diversity of its audience,” says the Guild.
The claim that the PTC has anything whatsoever to do with this issue is totally disconnected from reality, as well as being the ultimate in hypocrisy. Neither the PTC nor the FCC’s indecency enforcement has any control, influence, or effect over how many people of color appear on TV shows. You know who does? TV WRITERS! If the Writer’s Guild truly believes that TV “has a long way to go in reflecting the diversity of its audience,” maybe its members should write more shows about people of color.
In its conclusion, the Guild claims that there is “undeniable social value in content some might consider indecent.” Anyone who can tell us what “undeniable social value” Family Guy has (other than as an emetic) deserves some sort of prize in chutzpah. The Guild claims that “using technology and information available today, parents and viewers can make informed decisions about what content they and their families watch”…even though such technology depends on the ratings the networks themselves assign to their own shows. Finally, the Guild makes the outrageous claim that “phasing out indecency regulations in primetime hours on the broadcast networks strikes an appropriate balance between concerns about children’s access to content and free expression.” Obliterating all standards and allowing the networks to show anything they please in front of children is Hollywood’s idea of “striking a balance.”
We’d hate to see what their idea of being favorable to Hollywood is.