The return of McCarthyism?

All of Frank Rich’s columns are great, but his piece today on ABC-TV affiliate stations refusing to air Saving Private Ryan lest they be fined by the FCC is super–exceptionally great.

As American soldiers were dying in Falluja, some Americans back home spent Veteran’s Day mocking the very ideal our armed forces are fighting for ¬≠ freedom. Ludicrous as it sounds, 66 ABC affiliates revolted against their own network and refused to broadcast “Saving Private Ryan.” The reason: fear. Not fear of terrorism or fear of low ratings but fear that their own government would punish them for exercising freedom of speech.

If the Federal Communications Commission could slap NBC after Bono used an expletive to celebrate winning a Golden Globe, then not even Steven Spielberg’s celebration of World War II heroism could be immune from censorship. The American Family Association, which mobilized the mob against “Ryan,” was in full blaster-fax and e-mail rage. Its scrupulous investigation had found that the movie’s soldiers not only invoked the Bono word 21 times but also, perhaps even more indecently, re-enacted “graphic violence” in the battle scenes. How dare those servicemen impose their filthy mouths and spilled innards on decent American families! In our new politically correct American culture, war is always heck.

Of course, it’s one more manifestation of the eerie phenomenon of creeping Puritanism that is changing America right in front of my eyes. It’s rather breathtaking to see just how quickly we’re being transformed. Bush has his mandate and he owes it to one group above all, and America knows it. And we’re scared. And fear results in silence and paralysis.

For anyone who doubts that we are entering a new era, let’s flash back just a few years. “Saving Private Ryan,” with its “CSI”-style disembowelments and expletives undeleted, was nationally broadcast by ABC on Veteran’s Day in both 2001 and 2002 without incident, and despite the protests of family-values groups. What has changed between then and now? A government with the zeal to control both information and culture has received what it calls a mandate.

Media owners who once might have thought that complaints by the American Family Association about a movie like “Saving Private Ryan” would go nowhere are keenly aware that the administration wants to reward its base. Merely the threat that the F.C.C. might punish a TV station or a network is all that’s needed to push them onto the slippery slope of self-censorship before anyone in Washington even bothers to act. This is McCarthyism, “moral values” style.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to read this article. Rich’s descriptions of the “alternate realitites” in which our leaders exist is so scary and so shrewd it blew me away. I’d love to quote every syllable, but it’s just too long. “Read the whole thing” — really.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

A brave new ‘old world’!

November 19, 2004 @ 3:37 am | Comment

You see McCarthyism everywhere. Couldn’t you be a little more balanced for once? Your credibility is at stake.

November 19, 2004 @ 9:36 am | Comment

J.J., this is not a balanced public news network. It’s a blog. It’s as “balanced” as Instapundit or Atrios or Gweilo Diaries. It reflects my opinion, not objectivity or balance, though I try to be as balanced and as fair as possible. If you don’t like it, please go elsewhere.

And back up your claim that I see McCarthyism everywhere — why do you say this? Links, please.

November 19, 2004 @ 10:01 am | Comment

Richard

You have this tallent for seeing persecution at every turn. Granted its usually there, but you still see it before the rest of us. Are you a member of the ACLU?

What I find perverse wasn’t that they wouldn’t show it, but that they weren’t allowed to edit it for language and content. You could easily edit a film like this to get it down to FCC standards for language and you could put up warnings and do some edits for the violence, but they weren’t even allowed to do this.

November 20, 2004 @ 4:18 am | Comment

Richard

You have this tallent for seeing persecution at every turn. Granted its usually there, but you still see it before the rest of us. Are you a member of the ACLU?

What I find perverse wasn’t that they wouldn’t show it, but that they weren’t allowed to edit it for language and content. You could easily edit a film like this to get it down to FCC standards for language and you could put up warnings and do some edits for the violence, but they weren’t even allowed to do this.

November 20, 2004 @ 4:19 am | Comment

Ask DAN RATHER about free speech. It cost him his job…..

Starting to feel like 1930’s Germany around here. What was that link to Canada immigration again?????

November 23, 2004 @ 6:19 pm | Comment

There is a permanent shadow government that never changes and its machinations are very confusing. Carter, Clinton, and Kerry all belong to the same secret organizations their Republican counterparts belong to, so it does seem that the political arena is just a farce perpetrated on the ignorant masses. Although it is a joke on The Simpsons that little Lisa Simpson sees through the system, this is no joke, and I have never read any author who presents a total picture. Such people are murdered/suicided and life goes on as usual. My story is not significant in the grand scheme, but I want you to know that I have beating my head against a brick wall for twenty years. The Internet has helped immensely in my quest, but this story will never be told. I have a 600 page book of my life experiences in the U.S. I used to be afraid that I would be killed before it was published. Now I know that I will be. I have no one on my side. My bourgeois mother is so thoroughly brainwashed that she constantly berates me for not being a university professor and raking in the cash. I have nothing left to tell any student. We have, at best, 35 years left before all the ecosystems break down. I don’t know why we couldn’t have told the public to stop reproducing or else. I don’t why we couldn’t have planned a future. For about five years I have been saying that all the beaches are dead. For ten years I have been saying that all the rivers and lakes are dead. Since I was 15 in 1973, I have been writing about the dying earth and over-population. Why I have done this is beyond my comprehension. That I was channeling messages is my best explanation. I have no idea who I am. Seriously. Why would I elicit such outrage from the American government? I studied for a Ph.D. because I thought universities were interested in the best ratiocination by the best of minds. No. Universities are cesspools. Everything is a lie. The most outrageous theories on the Internet do not even begin to address the truth. Most Americans are too dumb and brainwashed to know that their government has far surpassed the propaganda set forth by the Nazis.

May 30, 2005 @ 12:11 am | Comment

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