Immoral programming makes station owners a target

Published 2:14 pm Friday, October 3, 2008

This ain’t a typical Neill column, and I use the word ain’t there, so that if this upsets you, then you may say with complete certainty, “This guy’s an idiot!”

October starts my 23rd year as a weekly syndicated columnist. I began with 66 papers in Mississippi, smaller dailies and weeklies, then expanded into nearby states, then was signed nationally by a syndicate, then re-acquired some of my Southern papers when the syndicate went bust several years later. My goal as a storyteller is simply that my reader feel better post-Neill. There are plenty of other folks who write the gripes, the criticisms, the nasty stuff, or try to write smarter than normal people, which they usually ain’t. Not your Uncle Bob — usually.

But I just picked up a news item that intrigued me and wanted to comment. If you quit now, it won’t hurt my feelings atall.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

This article said that a top Muslim cleric, who is chief of Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judiciary Council, the kingdom’s highest tribunal, declared that it was permissible to actually hunt down and kill the owners of satellite TV stations which show immoral-content programs. At once, many other Arab leaders denounced this edict, although one noted that, “Our religion prevents Muslims from watching films that provide seduction, obscenity, and vulgarity.”

Well, duhhh! I’m not a Muslim, but my religion supposedly warns us Christians against that same type trash — which is what we have offered to us as supposedly “family entertainment” during nightly primetime TV programming.

Betsy and I decided years ago that we could do without Direct or Dish, and what television we do watch is from the rabbit-ears two-station choice here in the rural Delta. Most of our choices on our idiot box (does anyone remember the term “boob-tube” in the days before our language changed? Back when “gay” meant happy and carefree?) are DVD or VHS (yes, we still have one) movies, and some of them are the kind that the Arab cleric has a good case against, as well. Yet most of that seems to be “in your face” stuff thrown in simply for the shock value, and ruins the movie, usually. I recall once taking the church youth group to see the movie “E.T.” and being horrified within the first five minutes at an obscenity.

If the people who made the movie knew someone might terminate them for throwing in vulgarity, would they have left it out? If so…nah, we can’t do that!

Yet I dare anyone to watch a week of primetime TV with a notepad and pen, jotting down the obscenities, sexual innuendoes, sexual actualities — even from children! — and other objectionable content (try this standard: trash you would not discuss in Sunday School class), and then take a cold, hard look at what we subject our families to. Helloooo. Does anyone remember Sodom and Gomorrah? How many pillars of salt would be in our dens after a night of TV, these modern times?

Some of our longest-running shows, and some of our biggest hit movies, are simply trash — no other way to put it. Yet sponsors still advertise on those shows, paying the big bucks for it. And why are they willing to pay the big bucks? Because you watch those shows in numbers that indicate that they will reach enough people to justify their investment. “But there’s nothing else on!” you say?

Then cut it off. Get a book, plug in a good music CD. Watch a decent movie, if you can find one. “Well, we need to get the news,” you may say. Polls show not only that increasing numbers of Americans are turning to the Internet for their news, but they show that more than half of the population doesn’t even trust the “mainstream media” anyway, preferring used car salesmen to newscasters.

But back to the original subject: using a death sentence open season for those who pollute the airways with “seduction, obscenity, and vulgarity.” I’m not sure we ought to go so far as the top Saudi cleric-judge allows, but it makes for an interesting proposition. What if the people who make and air those type shows and films knew that someone would come a-lookin’ for them afterward? Would they still produce all this objectionable material then? What if we Christians objected to this trash as much as those backward Muslims do? Would it clean up our airways?