• Sons of Anarchy’s Lies and Hypocrisy

    by  • September 18, 2013 • Cable Choice, Sex, Violence, Worst Cable Show of the Week • 14 Comments

    Last week, in the wake of an episode of the FX drama Sons of Anarchy which showed a graphic school shooting, the PTC urged support for Cable Choice – and the show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, exploded in rage.

    According to the trade publication Deadline: Hollywood, in reacting to the PTC’s statement that peple shouldn’t have to pay for programs they don’t watch and find offensive, Sutter shrieked about the PTC “monitoring what my children watch” and encouraging “censorship.”

    As is typical for Hollywood, this is a blatant lie. The PTC’s action alert about the Sons of Anarchy episode said or did nothing that could remotely be considered in favor of “censorship.” We merely advocated Cable Choice, saying that if TV viewers don’t find stories about school children being massacred entertaining, they shouldn’t have to pay for it.  

    This demonstrates the thinking in Hollywood. The American people cannot be allowed to decide what to pay for with their own money. Because, see, they might choose not to pay for Sons of Anarchy; and in Hollywood’s eyes, anyone who doesn’t support Kurt Sutter’s ultra-violent and exploitative programming is a fascist guilty of “censorship.”

    Of course, Sutter’s attack didn’t end there. He sneered that the PTC’s members are “just not very intelligent.” Sutter’s deeply “intelligent” response to the PTC was: “I’m a f****** storyteller. They’re just f****** ridiculous…Until somebody kicks in my door and tackles me to the ground and cuts off my f****** hands, I’m going to keep doing what I do. So f*** them.” (Nothing demonstrates superior intelligence like using the f-word four times in as many sentences.) And Sutter’s hysterically over-the-top shrieking about people “kicking in my door” and “cutting off my f****** hands” is ludicrous. Apparently, Sutter is so fascinated by the bikers on the program he writes that he believes the PTC uses the same violent tactics as they do. Or maybe he’s just a drama queen.

    Moreover, Sutter’s response reeks of hypocrisy. Sutter claims that he wanted to “rip the f****** scab off” and force Americans to “have a conversation” about violence, and the need for society to take responsibility for preventing it. This is coming from a man whose program has shown the following:

    Tig accidentally killed the daughter of top crime boss Damon Pope. Pope has Tig’s daughter kidnapped, placed in a pit, and doused with gasoline. Pope deliberately sets the girl on fire. She shrieks in agony and begs her father to help her as she burns to death before her bound father’s eyes. (September 11, 2012)


    Opie’s wife Donna has been murdered. Opie stands over a member of the Mayan gang with his gun.

    Opie: “Tell me you did it,” Opie screams, “tell me you killed my wife!”

    Mayan: “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.“

    Opie sticks his gun in the Mayan’s mouth, but the Mayan continues to insist that his gang had nothing to do with Donna’s murder. Opie refuses to kill the Mayan until he confesses. Tig shoots the Mayan in the side of the face, near his mouth so he can’t talk.  Blood and gore splatters on the ground. Opie shoots the Mayan in the head, killing him.  Opie then takes out his knife and carves an “A” for anarchy into the victim’s torso. Jax mutilates the corpse by shooting it full of more bloody holes. (September 8, 2009)


    A white supremacist gang kidnaps Gemma and gang-rapes her.  She is shown handcuffed to a fence as masked men tug at her legs.  After one rapist finishes with her, another steps in and says, “I want you to pass on a message to your old man. Tell him to stop selling guns to n****** and wet*****. Or we find you and we do this again.” 

    (September 8, 2009)


    The Sons hold the man who raped Oswald’s daughter.                

    Clay: “Here’s the scumbag raped your little girl.”

    Oswald approaches the bound and gagged rapist. He holds up an implement.                

    Oswald: “Cattle guys call this an Elsie-maker. It’s used to cut the balls off of bulls.”            

    The bikers strip the rapist.               

    Clay: “He deserves every second of the pain.”                

    Oswald drops his knife and leaves. Clay picks up the knife and cuts the testicles off the rapist. A graphic close-up shows the bloody, severed testicles on the ground.               

    Clay: “Pick those up and gift-wrap them. Let him bleed out. Bury him in the woods. Mark the grave.” 

    (September 17, 2008)

    Apparently, Sutter sees no contradiction in making heroes of strip joint-owning, drug-dealing, gun-running, murderous, ultra-violent gang members – then claiming his show opposes violence. This is like an anti-war protester machine-gunning a crowd in the name of pacifism. One thing is undeniable: Sutter’s program has done more to increase fascination with violence, and to desensitize viewers to it, than anything the Parents Television Council has ever said or done. 

    One person who wrote to the PTC claimed that our criticism of Sons of Anarchy was “a publicity stunt.” Conveniently ignored is the fact that the entire affair was a publicity stunt — by Kurt Sutter. The school shooting scene was a transparent attempt to gin up controversy and draw attention and viewers to his sick, grotesquely violent biker show. Sutter, his program, and FX all stand to profit by this episode exploiting last December’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

    The bottom line is this: Kurt Sutter aired an episode of his ultra-violent TV show – a show only a tiny minority of Americans watch, but which all are forced to pay for. In it, he exploited the real-life mass murder of children, for his own profit, under the phony guise of making a statement against violence. When the PTC dared to confront his hypocrisy, he sanctimoniously attempted to wrap himself in the First Amendment,  claiming that anyone who criticizes him is a fascist who favors “censorship.”

    The PTC is proud to call Sutter out for his blood-money hypocrisy – and to push for the right of the American people to pay for only the TV shows they watch.



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    14 Responses to Sons of Anarchy’s Lies and Hypocrisy

    1. Tim Thompson
      May 23, 2015 at 3:36 am

      Hi Chris,

      About the idea of cable choice, i have some concerns because you don’t want channels for example FX, AMC etc. There might be some clean family friendly shows on that network. I know that FX does not air a show thats family friendly but if they did would not subscribing to FX with cable choice means you won’t get a show on FX thats clean. That why i have concerns about cable choice is that there are channels you don’t watch but there are some shows you would like that would be clean.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        May 26, 2015 at 6:57 am

        Hi Tim,

        you raise a good point. What about those networks that you typically don’t watch, but which might have that one show you do like? Under ala carte cable choice, if you didn’t pay for the network, you wouldn’t get to see that one show.

        That’s true, you wouldn’t. In reply, I guess I can only say that ala carte isn’t perfect either; but it is much better than the current system, where you’re paying for DOZENS of channels you never watch — and, unless you pay an extra fee, you still can’t watch John Adams on HBO (or whatever).

        Though the way things are going today, this may not be a problem for much longer, either. With services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others, people don’t have to pay for “networks” as such at all — they pay a flat fee, then watch whatever they want, because those services sell SHOWS individually. Essentially, what we have now is ala carte, but by the show, not the network. Although most networks are now starting to offer streaming services themselves and are unwilling to transfer their content to Netflix. The end result may be a world that looks pretty much like the cable one now: dozens of streaming services sold individually, and eventually, which may be “bundled” together, just like the cable channels are now…so the networks can all charge high fees, again for networks or shows people don’t want to watch just to get the ones they do.

        Thanks for your question, Tim.

    2. Kim Claeys
      September 24, 2013 at 3:26 am

      Again, where is the parental responsibility? You keep screaming about how parents shouldn’t have to pay for violent shows, etc. Well, to that I say I don’t watch football, MTV or the 700 Club, yet I pay for it. Here’s the thing; it’s called CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Simple. I have seen many articles where you claim it’s for the children ad nauseum. Everything now is for the children. It isn’t up to your organization or anyone else’s to decide what’s in the best interest of children. It is up to the parents. The take I got from the SOA season premiere’s school shooting is not everything is as it seems. That boy in his innocent schoolboy uniform had a very dark mind. No one would have expected him to want to shoot to kill. He seemed innocent, much like the Tsarnev brothers or Tim McVeigh or the Adam Lanza. You would not have looked at them twice, yet they harbored such evil. A shooting would have been expected if the boy was a Blood or Crip. Mr. sutter was indeed trying to open dialogue over this issue, but there are too many closed minds. Not talking about it does not make it go away.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        September 24, 2013 at 8:03 am

        Our point is: NO ONE SHOULD BE FORCED TO *PAY* FOR SOMETHING they never use, don’t want, or find offensive. You claim we are engaging in “censorship” by saying people shouldn’t be forced to do something they don’t want to. But who is the real “censor” here? The PTC, for standing up for people’s freedom to choose, and pay for only what they use? Or the entertainment industry, for FORCING people who just want CNN, Disney, or the Golf Channel to not only receive FX, but PAY for it as well?

        I have no doubt that, if Kurt Sutter’s fans were somehow FORCED to contribute to a church just to be allowed to watch Sons of Anarchy, they would feel it was a hideous violation of their freedom and rights. Yet somehow, when Sutter and the entertainment industry force other people to pay for something they don’t want, why then, people standing up for their rights somehow equals “censorship.”

        As for Kurt Sutter…if his idea of “opening a dialogue” is to say of anyone who disagrees with him, “you’re a pathetic f****** douchebag and I bet your own kids f****** hate you,” it’s no wonder nobody’s listening.

        • Kim Claeys
          September 27, 2013 at 7:36 am

          You know, I am forced to pay for a church when I pay my cable bill every month. I pay for the 700 club and local churches that offer services, as do the rest of us Sons of Anarchy fans who have cable or satellite. So, your point is moot. I simply don’t watch it. There are other things we as a society pay for in one way or another that I don’t agree with either, such as abortion.

          You miss the entire point in that Sons of Anarchy is not for children. It is too easy to use the mantle of “for the children” in today’s society, while not holding those responsible for what their kids watch to any sort of standard.

          So, let’s say your hypothetical situation comes to fruition and cable services are “ala carte” which I am in total agreement with, Does that mean you will stop trying to make an example of shows like SOA, Family Guy, etc? My guess would be no.

          • Christopher Gildemeister
            September 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm


            In fact, you DON’T “pay for a church” when you pay your cable or satellite subscription fee every month…but the explanation is a little complex, so please bear with me.

            When the basic rules governing cable (and later, satellite) TV were put in place by the Telecommunications Act of 1992, it was established that there would be two ways that channels could be carried by pay-TV providers and sent into people’s homes.

            The more common one is called “retransmission consent.” Roughly speaking, a content provider – Comedy Central, say, or FX or the Disney Channel – asks for some form of payment or reimbursement from the carrier — Comcast, Cablevision, DirecTV, and so forth — for the right to “retransmit” their content to viewers. The carrier in turn charges each customer a fee for each channel. This is how those channels, and the companies who own them, like Disney/ABC, Viacom, and Fox, make money. (The situation’s actually a lot more complex than that, but that’s the basic idea.)

            The other way is called “must-carry.” This was put in place to ensure that smaller, less-popular channels (and ones which are not owned by the big media conglomerates, and so which have less clout) would still be accessible to pay-TV subscribers. Under this method, the cable or satellite company “must carry” the channel – but they can’t charge viewers for it, and the channel doesn’t receive any money from subscription fees. In other words, the “must-carry” channel’s “reward” is that they’re ensured that people can see them, not any kind of financial compensation. Small local broadcast stations that aren’t network affiliates, most religious channels, and a few others (like the Classic Arts network) get carried this way.

            The end result is that you’re getting Trinity, Christian Broadcasting Network, EWTN, and so forth in your basic package…but you’re not actually paying for them. Under ala carte, you wouldn’t save any money or get a “rebate” from those networks, since you’re not paying for them now. If you dislike their content you can block them, of course, but you won’t save any money by doing so.

            Unfortunately, the folks who are really hurt by the above set-up are the networks like INSP, UP, and the Hallmark Channel, who provide decent, family-friendly content…but who aren’t owned by the “big guys” like Disney or Fox, and who still need to make a profit. They can’t go the “must-carry” route, since they’re not non-profits (they need revenue to stay in business); but it’s getting harder for them to exist via the “retransmission” route too…because the “big guys” are using their clout to tell cable companies, “If you want Fox News and FX, you’ll have to carry our FXX and Fox Movies networks, too. If that squeezes out INSP, too bad.”

            This is why it’s so important for viewers who want family shows to support these networks. If your cable or satellite company doesn’t currently carry them, ask them to! And if they do, be sure to watch these channels…and buy the products on the commercials that sponsor their shows!

            Numerous progressive groups – even those who disagree with us about program content – stand with the PTC on the concept of ala carte. All ala carte really does is give everyone control over what comes into their home and what they pay for. Apart from the billion-dollar entertainment conglomerates who profit from the current system, who can object to that?

    3. Joe
      September 21, 2013 at 5:28 am

      Programming like Sons of Anarchy is why the cable and satellite television companies lost me as a customer. I no longer pay for any bundle.

      The bottom line is this– Television is not a necessity. If this is how they package it all, then count me out. There are plenty of outlets for news and information.

      As Anita suggests, we should vote with our money. Stop demanding legislation. Take matters into your own hands, now, independent of government action. Cut the cable altogether.

    4. Genea
      September 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      Cable offers packages called “basic cable”. So you don’t have to pay for channels like FX if you don’t want to. You have a choice. Additionally, if it is included in a package and you don’t want it, use the parent control. I don’t want CNN, but I doubt anyone is going to advocate that the news channels become optional.

      Finally, I find it offensive that my tax dollars are spent to fund education. My husband and I have made a choice not to have children, so why am I paying for someone else’s child. How about we first let all the parents of the world stop expecting special treatment because they made a choice to have kids and then we can talk about what should be a la carte. Personally, I am tired of the tax credits, censorship, and complaining about how the world is supposed to acommodate the “issues” parents have with what their children are exposed to.

      Their your kids. Raise them and leave the rest of us out of it.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        September 23, 2013 at 8:49 am

        In fact, people DO have to pay for FX, if they want anything else in the “expanded basic” tier, like CNN or Disney Channel. That’s what ala carte is all about — people paying for ONLY the channels they want, not being forced to fund ones they don’t. Under such a plan, CNN would be optional too, and you wouldn’t have to pay for that if you didn’t want to. Ala carte really allows everyone much more choice and freedom.

    5. Paul
      September 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      My impression of the Sons Of Anarchy is sad. A sadness watching people destroy themselves by the way they live. Personally the show does what Kurt Sutter says. To me it does not glorify violence as it is a turn off of violent behavior. Who would want to emulate any of those characters or live as they do. Now as for Kurt Sutter- I don’t know him so I don’t know if that was his real thought behind the Series or just a false defense of showing extreme violence for the sake of it. I don’t know if it really turns him on or off. But his response to PTC was childish. A spoiled brat being told no would behave in the same way. Kurt Sutter is totally wrong in his reaction to PTC and the way he reacted, come to think about it, was more like one of his characters in The Sons of Anarchy. So what are we to make of Kurt Sutter-total jerk – complete jerk- liar- somewhat deluded- above reproach( How dare anyone question ME?) using the sophmoric “F” word to express himself just exposes himself for what he probly really is -a hypocrite!

    6. mark
      September 20, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Chris- well thought out response. It is ironic how producers of this type of material do the opposite of what they say they do. Then, in the same breath falsely accuse others.

    7. Anita
      September 20, 2013 at 6:49 am

      When will the hypocrisy stop? America’s best quality is free trade – those that succeed have a product that people regard as good. I don’t understand why the cable industry should be treated differently than a small mom and pop business trying to make a go of it.
      Let the American people speak how they do best – by voting with their money.

    8. The7Sticks
      September 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      I’m curious about what you mean by “entertain”? Say, for example, the TV miniseries “Roots”. Was that program made as an explicit attempt to “entertain” TV viewers and to profit off of the pain and suffering of African slaves during that shameful period of history? The depictions of the brutality that slave owners employed on these slaves were fairly graphic for its time (and to an extent, still is.) I ask this because I’m troubled by your saying this show is profiting off of the pain and suffering of the victims of these school shootings. Now, I haven’t watched the episode myself, so I can’t comment on the depictions of violence you listed, but I think it’s, at most, slanderous to accuse a TV producer of exploiting tragedy for making a story based on real-life events. By that logic, wouldn’t Steven Spielberg have exploited the horrendous criminality of the Holocaust by making Schindler’s List?
      Thank you for your time.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        September 20, 2013 at 9:36 am

        Both “Roots” and “Schindler’s List” were serious treatments of important historical subjects. (When Spielberg made “Schindler’s List,” the Holocaust was 50 years in the past; at the time of “Roots,” slavery had ended 100 years earlier. By contrast, barely a year has passed since Newtown, and the wounds are still raw.) But the school shooting is just one element in an episode that also featured the show’s “heroes” running a brothel and drowning a man in urine. Sutter’s action has to be seen in the broader context of his show. It’s clear that the school shooting, and the subsequent murder of the child’s mother, were just another way to cram more shock and violence into the show, for no more meaningful purpose than to cram in shock and violence.

        Also, of course, neither Spielberg nor the creators of “Roots” sanctimoniously made pompous pronouncements that they were trying to “start a conversation” about race or anti-Semitism. When Sutter organizes a series of “town hall” meetings on the subject of violence, or acknowledges the contribution of his own show to making violence look glamorous and exciting and edgy and cool, AND THEN STOPS SHOWING IT, he’ll deserve to be taken seriously. Until then, he’s just another Hollywood writer churning out culture-destroying garbage, while pretending he’s making a contribution to “art.”

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