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clear channel's decision to dump howard stern from six of their stations is drawing fierce protest from--of all places--the right.

in a rambling defense of clear channel, which syndicates his program, rush limbaugh blasted the federal government for pressuring the radio titan to clean up its act. having established that "the Clear Channel people are not smut peddlers," limbaugh went on to say:

I think Clear Channel would have eventually arrived at [the decision to cancel Stern's show] whether the government was involved in it or not, simply because of the kind of people they are. But that having been said, there is no question that there is intimidation that's being mounted from the federal government. This is my whole point. The federal government, because of age-old regulations, can tell radio stations and television stations what they can or can't say. Now, they don't seem to care too much about what gets said or done or shown on television, other than, you know Janet Jackson. That was minor.

emphasis in original.

as rush pointed out, the way the incident has been reported is somewhat misleading. people may be under the impression that stern was "fired" by clear channel, which is not the case. clear channel didn't fire anyone. they've got nothing to do with stern or his show, which is owned and syndicated by (give you three guesses) cbs parent company viacom. clear channel merely opted to pick up the feed on six of their affiliates, and now they've merely opted out. that's it. no one was fired, no one was censored, no one's been blacklisted. it's the good, clean, conservative tale of a private corporation freely exercising its best judgment--except now, somehow, it's also a story of federal "intimidation."

regional talker jim quinn, syndicated in a few rustbelt states, took a similar tack before my amazed ears earlier this morning. the federal government was right to pursue viacom for the boober-bowl incident because of the "inappropriateness" of the thing, he said, but way out of line with clear channel. parents couldn't have reasonably expected such content in their super bowl halftime show and therefore could not have made an informed decision to protect their kids, but stern's show, well "if i walk into a porno book store, i don't expect to see time magazine," was how quinn put it. well fine, but what's to stop junior from flipping over to howard's parade of porno when mommy and daddy are out of the room? if parents were always able to monitor everything their kids saw or heard, we wouldn't need an fcc.

from these reactions, one might infer that fcc brownshirts were bashing down clear channel president john hogan's door, but far from it. hogan was called to testify before the fcc along with bigwigs from cbs and viacom in the wake of the janet jackson thing, but that's hardly surprising given clear channel's stature as the closest thing radio has to a major television network. clear channel was subject to a record fine of $755,000 in the matter of one "bubba the love sponge," a flordia shock jock whose all-you-can-eat buffet of graphic sex and drug references had the on-air slaughtering of a live, squealing pig as it's piece de resistance (if any of you passion-bashers are reading this, that's pornographic violence.) bubba, alas, was canned by clear channel, but curiously enough, no conservative talkers have rushed to his aide.

back when cbs made the (correct) decision not to run their campy, made-for-tv hit piece the reagans, it was the libs who were (wrongly) complaining about censorship and the conservative talkers defending the rights of a corporation to act as it saw fit. suddenly the chickens have come home to roost with radio, and now the poor corporations are the victims of intimidation tactics. if this argument sounds familiar to you, it's because it's the exact same one the left was using when the reagans got scrapped: cbs was the victim of intimidation from the nra, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, the ghosts of benito mussolini and richard nixon, and, oh yes, the rightwing extremists on talk radio. it's an argument that stank then, and it stinks now.

granted, in this case it’s the federal government doing the "intimidating," but few conservatives had a problem with the enforcement of decency standards back when it was television's goose being cooked. in neither case has anyone really been "censored," or even "intimidated," a word that carries with it the inescapable connotation of extortion. if the fcc fines clear channel for putting filth on the air, and clear channel decides to stop airing filth, they haven't been intimidated, they've been corrected. this is exactly why we have an fcc. but what really bugs me about this is that quinn led an on-air crusade that must have lasted a week following the super bowl halftime show and he was hardly the exception. limbaugh has been critical of the fcc's lax attitude in the past, and cited the boober-bowl as evidence of america's moral decline:

There have been examples of debauchery, examples of depravity, human debris on parade, celebrated, getting wealthy, as they engage in cheap, no-talent performances that are praised by bored critics who think anything over the line is...I'll never forget, it was either a Grammy award show or an MTV music award show back in the mid-nineties, and the F-word, by the way, the F-word is constantly used now on some of these shows, and, you know, the FCC said well, as long as it wasn't used in a sexual way we're not going to say anything about it

[Hitting rock-bottom before rebounding] has been the history of America. They reach a bottom point and they're just not going to keep going lower but then it will start reversing. The generation that cleans it up will reach adulthood, their thirties or forties and they'll turn on the Super Bowl and the opening act will be Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake in their seventies actually on the stage getting it on and everybody will start talking about, oh, my God, I never thought it would get this bad and who are these old antiques up their on stage?


rush is right. the boober-bowl was evidence of our cultural decline, saying the f-word on national television is depravity, the fcc should have cracked down on the one, and was quite right to crack down on the other. but now the fcc is stepping on everyone's toes because clear channel of its own free will broke its association with one of the biggest purveyors of depravity in america today? now the federal government has no business, as quinn has said and limbaugh has implied, enforcing decency standards? since when? have i dreamt up the last thirty years or have we conservatives not been complaining that the problem with the fcc was that they never bothered to enforce the decency standards they had?

good riddance to howard stern, bubba, and all the rest.

locdog won't miss them



free empty tomb if you die while watching this movie

as the if the media hysterics weren't already at a fever-pitch, we now have our first passion-related fatality...well, second.

CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- A woman died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday while watching the climactic crucifixion scene in "The Passion of the Christ" at a morning showing in Wichita, Kansas, a television station reported.

so now it's not only the bloodiest, most-violent, goriest, "Jesus chainsaw massacre" ever made, it can actually kill you if you go to see it.

i say praise the Lord. i mean, i feel bad for her family, but sister peggy scott, 56, of witchita is no longer confined to seeing Jesus on the movie screen and the gospel is getting that much more free press--which is probably exactly what she would have wanted. she's a modern-day martyr!

"someone actually DIED while watching the passion," the abc news announcer gasped on my radio this morning. his tone was that of a man informing you that he just came from the direction you're heading in, and everyone over there has the plague. hey, who says it was the crucifixion that got her? maybe she just had a look at the gate.

the whole thing reminds me of this ab-fab b horror flick from the fifties, the screaming skull. it's an MST3K classic--one of my all-time favorites. there's this killer bit (literally) in the beginning where the filmmakers wax barnum by promising a free coffin to anyone who dies of fright while watching this movie. those who die of boredom are outta luck, as crow points out. doubt it helped them much, but i'll bet passion sales go through the roof.

the more things go wrong for gibson's movie, the more they go right. that reminds of something too...something i read somewhere:

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

maybe the Holy Ghost was working through mel after all...

locdog didn't get to see the passion last night but he's on for sunday, review to follow on monday time permitting



avert your eyes

tonight i'm going to see mel gibson's the passion of the Christ and tomorrow, time permitting, i'll review it for you. to pass the time in between i've been checking out what the real film critics are saying and have noticed a surprising trend: they're all suddenly horrified by movie violence.

a. o. scott, new york times

"The Passion of the Christ" is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it. Mr. Gibson has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one.

rick groen, the globe and mail

[A]gain and again, Gibson returns to the blood-letting. Again and again, we're exposed to the clinical repetition of a single act, until an alleged act of passion comes to seem boring and passionless. Is that not a definition of pornography?

david ansen, newsweek

From a purely dramatic point of view, the relentless gore is self-defeating. I found myself recoiling from the movie, wanting to keep it at arm's length—much the same feeling I had watching Gaspar Noe's notorious "Irreversible," with its nearly pornographic real-time depiction of a rape. Instead of being moved by Christ's suffering, or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins.

and slate's own david edelstein

You're thinking there must be something to The Passion of the Christ besides watching a man tortured to death, right? Actually, no: This is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie—The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre—that thinks it's an act of faith. For Gibson, Jesus is defined not by his teachings in life—by his message of mercy, social justice, and self-abnegation, some of it rooted in the Jewish Torah, much of it defiantly personal—but by the manner of his execution.

pornography, snuff films, savagery...i have a question for the critics panning this film--and i dare you to find a negative review where violence isn't one of the dominant factors--since when has movie violence become such a concern? and since when was it the secular critics, not the fundamentalist wackos their most beloved films denigrate, doing all the shouting?

take a clockwork orange for instance, stanley kubrick's Jesus movie. here you have the story of a messiah who, instead of dying to save humanity, is crucified for his sins against it, then resurrected to greater levels of barbarism still. this similarity to the life of Christ isn't accidental: it's a carefully crafted photo negative, the opposite way of making the exact same point gibson is making through the conventional approach. a clockwork orange was surrounded by controversy as well, except the roles were basically reversed: conservative Christians were the ones howling about pornography while secular critics pooh-poohed the prudish moral crusaders. the film was banned in britain to the disdain of censorship-martyr film critics after it provoked rape gangs of the sort malcolm macdowell's character lead, yet critics who fear anti-semitic violence are now employing a weaker variant of the british government's rejected clockwork orange argument against gibson's film, weaker because they're only arguing against the potential it has to create harm, where as people actually died on account of kubrick's. in neither case is the filmmaker responsible for viewers who were already crackpots to begin with, but let's have a little consistency from the critics. personally, i've been a staunch defender of kubrick's work because i recognize that, at the end of the day, he's making a point about the sad state of human nature that Christians should be able to agree with. why can't secular critics see the same thing in gibson's film?

the violence in schindler's list and saving private ryan was at times unwatchable, but spielberg was defended--even praised--for confronting audiences with the full weight of these historical events as had never been done before. in ryan you had gritty realism, in schindler's list, you had artsy emotionalism, in both cases spielberg was lauded. yet here we have mel gibson taking arguably the single most important event in history and confronting audiences with its full weight via the same methods, yet he's condemned as being too "savage" on the one hand and too "manipulative" on the other. i've read some critics who said that Jesus' repeated lashings fell subject to the law of diminishing returns well before he reached the cross, and others who argued that their whole point was to emotionally string the viewer along. which is it? the charges of "pornography" that have been applied by those on both sides of the savagery/manipulation debate are flatly outrageous: pornography seeks to titillate, to arouse, whereas gibson's violence is universally proclaimed as repellent--which is exactly what a truthful representation of Jesus' death must be. hasn't it occurred to anyone that this is how crucifixion was really done, and gibson is simply holding his camera up to that reality for all the world to see? actually it has, and those are the critics who blast gibson for presenting the horrible death of Christ "without context," but loved spielberg's nihilistic take on the landing at normandy. if anything, people are less familiar with the events leading up to the d-day invasion than they are with those that brought about good friday. i should point out that i'm a fan of spielberg in general and the two films i've mentioned here in particular precisely because of the methods they used, and it is for that reason i fully expect to appreciate the passion of the Christ.

specific objections to the passion aside, i'm also a bit puzzled by this sudden realization that Christianity is a butchershop religion. the gospels themselves incorporate graphic descriptions of the suffering of Christ, as do many other passages of Scripture both Old Testament and New. the death and resurrection of Jesus is the whole point of the Christian faith, so much so that the apostle paul said "[W]e preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." the crucifixion the very power and wisdom of God? it gets better: "[I]f Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins...If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (emphasis added.) the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Christ are the whole point of Christianity. many critics have complained that this film didn't delve into Christ's teachings (there are about 500 others that do if they're really that interested) but every faith has a charismatic leader with great moral teachings. Christianity is the only faith whose leader died for your sins, and was resurrected from that death so that we could all experience resurrection to eternal life. this is the gospel--so much so that paul says you can take Jesus' teachings in one hand and spit in the other and you've got the same hope in eternity. without the passion of Christ, there is no Christianity, gibson thus concentrates on what is essentially Christian about the Christian faith. if for sociological reasons alone i would think that this would justify the passion in the eyes of secular critics, but their longstanding animosity towards Christianity pretty much rules that possibility out.

locdog looks forward to commenting on the film after he's actually seen it for a change



one strike and...another

when's the last time you heard someone complain that the catholic church was too hard on child molesting priests?

VATICAN CITY (AP)--The Vatican issued a report Monday by non-Catholic sex abuse experts who criticized the policy adopted by U.S. bishops of removing abusive priests from the ministry, saying it was overly harsh and would not protect the young.

Neither the Vatican nor the experts drew final conclusions, but there were areas of agreement. As The Associated Press reported last week, one was in the widespread criticism by the experts of the 2002 U.S. zero-tolerance policy that says an offending priest can be permanently removed from ministry--and possibly from the priesthood--for a single act of abuse.

The experts said a zero-tolerance policy was mistaken and even dangerous. Most agreed that such a policy can actually increase the chances that offenders might strike again because it removes them from supervision and the only jobs they have known for decades.

Zero-tolerance "does not function to prevent these crimes," Dr. Hans-Ludwig Kroeber, head of the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry in Berlin, told the conference. "It is better to domesticate the dragon; if all you do is cut off its head, it will grow another."

excerpted. emphasis added.

and once more i say, may God save us from the experts.

so let me see if i've got this straight. we can't fire child molesting priests because they won't have "supervision," meaning that, at worst, their actions will be ignored. it's better, say the experts, to leave them under the watchful eye of a church that has not only officially ignored pedophile priests for decades, but has worked to enable them by shuffling known child molesters from parish to parish. these are your experts, people. according to them, the best place for a recovering alcoholic is in the bar, under the tender wardship of the bartender.

i'm not a victim or the parent of a victim myself, but i find it hard to believe that this vatican report brings them much comfort. seems to me it portends a return to the status quo. seems to me "one strike and you're out" was just a nice thing to say until the heat was off. seems to me it didn't allow the american bishops any wiggle room, and they went to the vatican and complained, and the vatican found themselves some nice, non-catholic experts, and, well, you know the rest.

is it just me, by the way, or did that "dragon" line chill you to the bone?

the problem with the church's policy on pedophile priests isn't that it's too strict, it's that it's not strict enough. "one strike and you're out" is a good place to start, but it's time to move on to "one strike and you're in." jail, that is. say one of us got caught molesting a child at work. is your boss going to come to you and say "gee bill, you shouldn't go around feeling up kids, but you're a damn fine accountant so..."

the catholic church is not a law enforcement agency and, as far as i know, child molestation is not a constitutionally protected expression of one's faith. when they're ready to get serious about this problem they can implement a policy whereby all child molesters are immediately defrocked, turned over to the authorities, and prosecuted with the full assistance of the church itself. any pedophile priest who's serious about repenting will understand that jail is exactly where he belongs.

locdog hopes america's bishops stick to their guns, but can't believe that they're not in on this