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 Let Them Watch Cake: A Reply To Noonas WSJ Article

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PostSubject: Let Them Watch Cake: A Reply To Noonas WSJ Article   18.12.09 23:01

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I certainly don't want to get into Adam Lambert's American Music Awards performance again, but Peggy Noonan's recent column, "The Adam Lambert Problem," goes in an entirely different, non-Lambert-based direction that needs a little more exploration.

Let's put aside the "culture wars" aspect, and the argument that "America" feels that the country is going in the wrong direction because of Adam Lambert. Let's look instead at Noonan's argument about broadcast television versus cable.

For years now, without anyone declaring it or even noticing it, we've had a compromise on television. Do you want, or will you allow into your home, dramas and comedies that, however good or bad, are graphically violent, highly sexualized, or reflective of cultural messages that you believe may be destructive? Fine, get cable. Pay for it. Buy your premium package, it's your money, spend it as you like.

But the big broadcast networks are for everyone. They are free, they are available on every television set in the nation, and we watch them with our children. The whole family's watching. Higher, stricter standards must maintain.

In short, what she's suggesting is that all of broadcast television, even what is broadcast shortly before 11:00 at night — even, presumably, what airs on late-night — has to be children's television or family television. This isn't even the old "family hour" argument. This is the "every hour is the family hour" argument. Never mind that by 2010, more than two-thirds of households will be single people and couples without children at home; to Noonan, what matters about broadcast TV is that "we watch [it] with our children" and "the whole family's watching."

The paywall idea, after the jump.

In fact, according to her argument, broadcast television must contain nothing that is inappropriate for anyone's children — right down to a guarantee that it not be "reflective of cultural messages that you believe may be destructive." (Meeting that requirement would be daunting indeed.)

Wouldn't this create a giant class divide where, whether you have children or not, access to good television designed for adults is a privilege of wealth?

Wouldn't this drive everything good to cable, put it more out of reach for people on limited budgets, and make the public resource of broadcast television, on average, worse? Not because shows have to have sex or violence or adult-oriented themes to be good, but because some shows that have sex or violence or adult-oriented themes are good, and the last thing broadcast television needs from a quality perspective is to ship more of the interesting projects off to cable leaving behind only what's been extensively screened for lack of offense?

It's interesting that Noonan mentions "higher, stricter standards" for broadcast television. Screening for children is stricter, yes, but it isn't a higher standard, really. If The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody meets your standard and 30 Rock doesn't, your standard may be different or "stricter" in some sense, but it's hard to argue it's higher.

My question is this: why doesn't it make just as much sense to say that if you're in the minority of households where there are kids, and you want programming that's screened for them, you get it from a channel like Nickelodeon or Disney? Isn't kids' programming a type like any other, where if that's what you want, there's some broadcast content that's for you, and there's a niche (or twenty) on cable to choose from?

I'm not suggesting a free-for-all on the broadcast networks; not at all. I don't even necessarily disagree that the Lambert performance may have diverged from what parents with kids were expecting, in a way they may have some right to be unhappy about; if you're going to ask parents to do their own screening, it makes some sense to give them an idea of what to expect. (This falls apart a bit if you know the risque history of the AMAs, but I'm giving this position the benefit of the doubt.)

I do think, though, that it's valuable to have a place on free television for good shows, whether they are good shows that are made for kids, or good shows that are not made for kids. The democracy of broadcast television (and here I am using "democracy" very, very loosely) is lovely when it's done well — hook up your antenna and you can watch as much House and Parks & Recreation and Lost as you like. Free television is a lot smarter than it used to be if you look in the right places; it would be a shame to squelch it now.


http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009/12/let_them_watch_cake_the_class.html
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PostSubject: Re: Let Them Watch Cake: A Reply To Noonas WSJ Article   20.12.09 3:51

There is also this commentary about Noonan's blaming the loss of civility on Adam Lambert:

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Irony alert! Peggy Noonan is suddenly concerned about civility
December 19, 2009 9:50 am ET by Eric Boehlert

Poor Peggy Noonan, she's fretting about how our TV and media-based culture has become so course, so vulgar. And yes, she's pretty sure who's to blame: liberals.

"Truly, 2009 was a bad year for public behavior," writes Noonan in her WSJ column as she bemoans the way East Coaster behaved so badly in public this year. "Yes or no: Have we become a more vulgar country? Are we coarser than, say, 50 years ago?" Noonan asks.

And no, the name "Glenn Beck" does not appear anywhere in Noonan's column.

Hypocrite. Because did civility-obsessed Noonan dedicate one column this year to denouncing the name-calling sewer that Fox News has become? Did she ever call out Rush Limbaugh for the incessant hate that anchors his show? Did Noonan ever take issue with AM talker Michael Savage for the way he rallies his listeners around the idea that Obama is "raping America" with Nazi-like policies? Did she demand that Glenn Beck retract his claims that Obama is a racist, communist, fascist, and socialist?

Not that I ever saw she didn't.

In fact, last summer when the GOP mini-mobs were storming public forums, marching around with Swastika signs, brandishing loaded weapons, and hanging politicians in effigy, Noonan played dumb. Noonan whitewashed the unprecedented embrace of violent rhetoric and announced the mini-mob members were simply "concerned" citizens. That the mayhem was just "democracy’s great barbaric yawp."

And yet by year's end, the previously silent Noonan is bemoaning how liberals have acted poorly in public this year. Gimme a break Peggy. If you don't have the courage to take issue with your political pals in the face of their, at times, barbaric behavior, than you have no standing to lecture the left.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/200912190001
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