The tyranny of the fear of the few: They’re bleeping Jesus II

The tyranny of the fear of the few: They’re bleeping Jesus II

: This is what we have come to:

Saying that Jesus welcomes all people is too “controversial” for network TV.

Network TV executives say (but not on camera, God forbid) that they are scared of those few (bigots) who would complain that it is controversial to welcome all people (including gay people). Two networks rejected a commercial from the United Church of Christ that said only: “Jesus did not turn people away. Neither do we.” Go to Josh Marshall (and scroll around) to see much coverage of the networks’ rationales; the New York Times covered it today, too.

“Our policy is we do not do advocacy ads,” said Alan Wurtzel, who heads NBC’s program standards division. ” ‘Jesus didn’t turn people away, neither do we.’ That message clearly implies that other people do.”

Oh, so will it soon be too “controversial” to say that the Statue of Liberty welcomes all people? Will be be amending Emma Lazarus? If we’re taking huddled masses, are we implying that someone else must be rejecting them? What happens if a few dictators complain? Get out the sandblaster! And while we’re at it, let’s get out the WhiteOut for the Declaration of Independence. “All men are created equal?” We can’t let a church say that! Too controversial.

Is democracy now advocacy?

Is human kindness now advocacy?

But, of course, that’s not the problem. The problem is that the networks fear a few people might complain.

So, once again, we are being governed not by a least common denominator — not by a common denominator at all — but instead by the least of us.

Three people write letters to complain about a whipped-cream gag and the government brings down its biggest broadcast fine in history.

A few people might complain and two networks won’t let a church talk about openness.

That’s where we are in this country: If a few people might complain, that draws the line in the sand that the rest of us are not allowed to cross. We can’t hear or speak or debate in this democracy — on our own public airwaves, I’ll add — because a few might complain.

This has become a culture of complaint, ruled by the tyranny of the fear of the few.

And the fault lies with the few fools who ignore the community as a whole and listen to those few complainers instead.

They have no courage. They have no balls. They have no principles.

Note that the oft-reviled Fox is airing the commercial. The oft-lionized Tiffany network, CBS, is not. The wildly rich NBC is not. And the Disney company, ABC, won’t even consider a commercial from a church.

Let me return my Thanksgiving turkey. I guess we no longer value religious tolerance in this nation. I guess we’re too damned scared of it.

And that scares me.

The only cure to this is to tell those executives at NBC and CBS that they are wrong. We need to tell them that the community as a whole — not the complainers, the few — believe in tolerance, discussion, debate, a marketplace of ideas, freedom to speak; we have nothing to fear from speech or ideas or gay people, either.

Oh, yes, networks have the right and responsibility to determine what goes on the air (albeit our air) that they manage. But we need to tell them that they should be more open about what they put there — or less concerned about protecting us from ideas; we’re a smart people; we’re not too stupid to disagree.

We need to give these cowardly executives cover so they can respond to the few complainers — whether they come from complaint factories or from the FCC — that they are trying to serve the community as a whole, not the few.

Go to this page for CBS. Sadly, I can find no similar page for NBC so call 212 664-4444 and ask for Alan Wurtzel. Tell them you’re not afraid of the few. You’re not afraid of discussion. You’re not afraid of openness. You’re not afraid of democracy. Why should they be?

: UPDATE: The coverage from the Cleveland Plain Dealer (where the UCC is based):

A naked actress jumping into the arms of a famous athlete on “Monday Night Football”? That’s OK.

Two burly bouncers appearing to exclude gays and lesbians from church? Not so fast.

Yeah, thanks for reminding me: Human kindness is controversial but four-hour erections are not? If you’re afraid of controversy, networks, you might want to get rid of commercials for fatty food, too. And pharmaceuticals. And SUVs. And beer. And…..

  • Mike

    Jeff you are losing it over this. This was a business decision. Maybe the network’s problem is with religious advocacy in general or they think the commercial uses too harsh a criticism to other religions. Whatever the reasoning was, it is within their power to use it. Just because you think its OK to air, doesn’t mean the networks should air it. Give us a break, you are not judge and jury about commercial content.

  • Shinobi

    Mike, I think you’re missing the point. It’s not just this one incident. Over the past month or so it has become increasingly evident that many media companies are (pardon the expression) giant pussies. Instead of providing information and different view points they avoid any possible controversy. For another isolated incident read what happend to online vendor T-shirt Hell when they placed an ad in Rolling Stone;
    http://www.tshirthell.com/miscpages/rollingstone.htm

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Mike:
    It is a bad business decision. They turned down revenue and made the audience at large think less of them because they feared a few complainers. They’re the only ones left in the MASS marketking business and they don’t serve the MASS anymore, they serve the FEW. That is bad business.

  • Mike

    I respectfully disagree Jeff. They turned down revenue that they felt would turn off their audience. There’s a difference between complaining to the FCC about content and complaining to the networks about commercials they air. The networks have nothing to fear from the FCC about airing a commercial, but I would imagine they fear people turning the channel because of a some commercial that they are watching that thjey find repugnant. I think you’ll find more people in that category than the FEW you think the networks are serving.
    Television is not a place to market everyone’s ideas either. The UCC may be open to everyone, but many don’t believe in it. Should the networks allow commercials for the KKK just because they will provide revenue?
    If this is such a bad business decision, than I’m sure the networks would hear about it. But, I think you’ll find there will only be a FEW doing that.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Mike: And I respectfully disagree in return (and thanks for the respect!). They fear it would turn off a tiny piece of the audience but one that would be vocal and would cause them headaches. My point is that wem, the reasonable people, need to give these execs cover so they can tell that tiny tyranny of complainers that they are serving their audience and the community as a whole.
    It’s also bad because the networks made a value judgment that will, at the least, piss of the large gay market: They called being open to gay people “controversial.” If the ad had, instead, emphasized black people, would they have called that controversial in this day and age? Of course not. But a few decades ago, they might have. And what would we have thought of that? I hope we would have disrespectfully condemned it.

  • Hipocrite

    Dear Miller,
    Your slogan, “Tastes Great, Less Filling,” has been rejected by this station. Our policy is we do not do advocacy ads. ‘Less Filling.’ That message clearly implies that other beers are more filling.
    – Alan Wurtzel, Head, NBC program standards

  • annette

    this is more than a business decision. it is the logical next step in a politically correct culture that refuses free speech to anything deemed “inappropriate” or “offensive” to any shrieking minority. we go around apologizing all the time. we deny students open discussion in class and on campus. we resemble the puritans in salem in our desire for orthodoxy. does it strike anyone as weird that both the academic and media left and the religious right, blue-blooded or red-blooded, want to limit free speech? the marketplace of ideas has been replaced by mediocre concrete idols. keep at it, jeff.

  • Mike

    It’s also bad because the networks made a value judgment that will, at the least, piss of the large gay market: They called being open to gay people “controversial.”
    I think you might be reaching with that justification. And you’re right, this commercial would motivate a small group of vocal complainers to do their thing, but again, this is a commercial and not content. Those complainers are still going to complain about the networks content and that’s not changing. They aren’t going to stop because the big 3 decided not to run this ad. What makes you think the big 3 are now listening to these people now anyway? This is a business decision in the regard that the networks feel more people would change the channel in disgust and not turning back.
    Again, just because you have money to buy an ad on TV doesn’t mean you have the right to air it.

  • Mike

    And of course, all of you who disagree with the networks decision not to air this ad have the power to voice your displeasure. Simply stop watching those networks. You have the power to turn them off, thus reducing their viewership. It’s what you tell us to do when we’re offended by something, just turn the channel.

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    Jeff
    I have to side with Mike on this. Whether it loses money or makes money, it’s their business decision to make. And like Mike, I have a world of respect for you.
    What I don’t get is that you harp about what’s not allowed (Stern, football commercials, church advertising) which makes you sound like the ultimate free speech advovate, but you repeatedly and loudly chastised Glenn Reynolds about what he posted on his own web site. You wanted Michael Powell to shut up when he expressed his personal disappointment.
    There’s no coherency in your argument. If your defense of your position regarding Instapundit is that he brought up “mud,” then gimme a break. Stern didn’t dish “mud” on his show during the election? Where was your criticism of his mud?
    This boils down to your sensibilities. You have an opinion, you’re going to voice it, and that’s a good thing. But it smacks of real hypocrisy when you harp about no-holds-barred free speech and then critique others for their same use of free speech.
    The network as a business has a right to protect their channel and their brand as best they see fit to do so. You and I may not agree with it and we can make all the calls we want, but it’s their business. Just as Michael Powell doesn’t have a right to post on the home page of your web site in response to your critiques. You’ll make the decision of what makes it to your web site – it’s your channel.
    So what’s the principle here – the right to not be offended or the right to free speech? I suspect that with you it’s free speech, but if so, you might clarify (or back off) your critique of Professor Reynolds’ and Michael Powell’s exercise of free speech.

  • Kat

    Lots of networks won’t use the word Christmas in their advertising–is that not infringing on my right to free speech? A parade can’t have Christmas symbols but it can have pagan and gay ones? Is your right to free speech contingent on your denying my beliefs? Why don’t people who don’t like Christmas just not watch?
    {Christmastime event is no-Christian zone
    Santa, ‘holy homosexuals’ OK for parade, but no floats with direct religious themes
    By Joe Kovacs
    {In the latest skirmish over Christmas in America, a Christian group is not allowed to participate in Denver’s annual Parade of Lights, because church members sought to sing yuletide hymns and proclaim a “Merry Christmas” message on their float.
    However, the event, now in its 30th year, will include homosexual American Indians, Kung Fu artisans, belly dancers and, of course, Santa Claus. }

  • Jerry

    CBS and NBC can’t afford to lose what will become their new core audience. Didn’t their Viacom and NBC/Universal-owned cable/satellite outlets accept these same spots?
    Our media is changing so fast its in runaway. The forces that are “sanitizing” terrestrial broadcast are sending people to other forms of delivery not based on the “free, paid through commercials” model.
    The trouble with this, is the most valuable viewers and listeners are leaving first. People with discretionary income who can be easily influenced to spend it are the most likely to find other delivery media and buy the equipment to import it.
    So who will CBS and NBC be left with? People who don’t want cell phones with more than 15 buttons and who believe terrestrial free television was given to us by god, a god who doesn’t want to be mocked by a commercial that claims gays and minorities are welcome in church.
    I mean, the Southern Baptists didn’t go through that schism for nothin!

  • Steve Talbert

    Unbelievable. I watched the UCC ad they rejected and the Swift Boat ads they played… What is unbelievable is the reason… “that President Bush has an anti-gay amendment up before Congress”.. What?!?! Now it’s too controversial to include ANY reference NO MATTER HOW OBSCURE to things Our Leader doesn’t like??? When the subject needs to be debated about CHANGING THE CONSTITUTION?

  • john

    Once again Brett and Mike you really don’t get it. I don’t think Jeff gets it completely either, but he’s on the right track.
    If you look at the wording of the CBS press release it’s written by someone from planet Non-Sequitur. This to me implies that CBS/NBC want to do two things 1) give the appearance of rejecting the ad to appease anyone who would be offended by it and 2) create a false news story so that anyone who would be likely to have seen the ad would go look for it and see it on the UCC website.
    That way, they get to look like they’re taking a neutral approach to “controversial” issues, but at the same time creating a “furvor” over a “controversial” commercial that is fairly inoffensive. So, UCC gets what it wants, because people see the add, and the networks get what they want because they don’t have to appear to take money from a “fringe” group. The only thing they don’t get out of it is the ad revenue.
    What’s reprehensible about this is that the networks are basically spinning this non-story to eveyone’s advantage.
    I agree with Jeff in that this is another example of the castration of the media in the US.

  • http://opinionpaper.blogspot.com Brett

    John
    I don’t argue that it’s castration of the media. Are the networks being hypocritical? Of course. The point Mike made, and with which I agreed, is that it’s their space and they can do with it what they choose.
    Over the lunch hour, I learned that this is front page news in my city’s newspaper and one of the big talk stations had a Church of Christ pastor on the air. This is getting a lot of buzz, as any controversial ad might, so the ad is doing much better than expected, according to the pastor.
    I’m not sure that it matters whether a network runs the ad or not. If there were only two or three channels for the ad as there once was, it’d be outrageous. But there tons of channels now, and many would run the ad.

  • http://ari.typepad.com Steve Rhodes

    A UCC spokesperson who was on Good Morning America said they did a test earlier this year where the ads were shown in six markets and there were no complaints.
    Media have a long history of rejecting ads which have a progressive point of view while running ads with a conservative view.
    Working Assets has a petition asking NBC and CBS to air the ads.

  • Mike

    Steve you can’t be serious. Rejecting progressive ads and accepting conservative ones? Come on, everyone’s definition of progressive and conservative are different. The way you phrase your assessment makes it seem like there is a conservative bias to the networks, which I surely don’t believe.
    And John I would also agree with your point about the network spin. And it’s pathetic, this should be a non-story, unworthy of coverage. It is the same sort of manner that the networks handled the first Swift Boat advertisement. But again, they have the right of first refusal to not air the ad. The only reason they have to give is that it would be bad for business.

  • rivlax

    I have no problem with either of the main arguments above. What I do have a problem with is Jeff immediately branching out into bigotland with his knee-jerk anti-red state hate speech, blaming this decision on unnamed, uninvolved and probably imaginary bigots. Discuss the issue not the emotion.

  • MWB

    rivlax,
    Jeff’s using every tool in the demagogue’s toolbox these days. It’s both hilarious and sad.
    Anytime you want to debate the real issues, Jeff, let me know.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Rivlax et al:
    I never said “red state.” You did. I make no presumption about where the people the networks are scared of are from — or even whether they really exist. The networks fear people might complain and that is enough to stop them. Of course, they fear that because it has happened in the past. But there’s nothing to say that it will happen in the future. Yet, they are letting that rule their management of the airwaves. And I’m arguing that we need to show them that there are more reasonable people out there than they give us credit for.
    Methinks ye doth project too much.

  • Eileen

    What I find to be ‘interesting’ is the degree to which gay issues predominate and are continuously foisted upon us through MSM programming even though the population is so low, anywhere from 3% to the famous/infamous Kinsey 10%, or 4% of the voting public based on recent election polls.
    As for the fears Jeff expresses here: “I guess we no longer value religious tolerance in this nation. I guess we’re too damned scared of it.”
    Judging by the number of times and ways the religious right are characterized as crazies or terrorists, I’d have to agree. I guess it just depends on the issue, eh?
    Free speech for Who about What?

  • chico

    I realize the Studio 54 velvet ropes and bouncers are a creative dramatization – but of what? Has any gay person ever been refused entry to a church as a worshipper? The issues are the roadblocks to church hierarchy and marriage, but the spot literally speaks to freedom of worship. Seems to be a disingenuous piece of communication. On that basis alone, it’s sort of inflammatory and decidedly off-strategy.

  • john

    Eileen,
    I can’t see why anyone is making this a gay issue (except for the fact that CBS stated that in it press release, and as I said, it’s a non-sequitur). The issue is a network refusing to run advertising based on the network’s supposed policy. The advertising is about a particular religious denomination, and the self-perceived differences between it and other, nameless religious denominations. According to the US 2000 Census, only 13% of the people in America are black. Does that mean because there are so few of them that their issues shouldn’t be “foisted” upon us. According to Karl Rove, there are 4 million “evangelical” Christians (or whatever demographic they were targeting in the election), does that mean the president doesn’t have the right to pander to them with promises of anti-gay legislation (thankfully, he seems to have no plans to deliver on those promises).
    I really don’t see where your argument is leading. Are you saying the size of the demographic is directly proportional to the right they have in the media spotlight? If so, then fundamential “religious right crazies” should have almost no visibility at all.

  • Kat

    Well, it could be that the ad is an outright lie–that it makes the case that all people are not welcome in other churches. I don’t know of any priest or minister who stands at the door and asks people about their sexual orientation? Do you? We are taught to hate the sin but love the sinner. No one has ever been disallowed entry into my church. Today at work I asked people from several other churches if anyone has ever been refused entry–the answer was a unanimous NO!
    This is just another ploy by a bunch of leftists to try paint religious people as bigots. The message is subtle, but it is a lie–it is painting all other churches as Nazis for refusing to buy into the gay agenda. Now, that is smart, but I guess they learned that from the Private Ryan hoax. Look at all the people who actually believed that the networks were afraid to air Ryan and not just using a ploy to get sympathy for the likes of Stern. This has nothing to do with Jesus–the leftists bleeped Jesus a long time ago–this is about calling those that don’t buy into accepting gay marriage, etc. bigots.

  • Eileen

    I’m saying the degree of media attention devoted to gay issues – front page news on several services today re this story, nightly news tonight? – is, in my view, disproportionate to the demographics of the size of the group. And yes it is a gay story. It’s about pushing gay tolerance, and suggesting (as Chico just said), that other churches don’t accept gay worshippers – not clergy, mind you, but worshippers. Maybe the networks who chose Not to buy it decided it wasn’t worth PingO a much larger market of churchgoers from a whole lot of other denominations for the revenue they’d receive.
    Someone else here indicated they felt the story was a non-issue to begin with. I tend to agree. Any network out there has the right to buy whatever commercials they choose to. Period. That a couple don’t wish to – while several others did – doesn’t make it newsworthy in my book.

  • Eileen

    More. The Reason I believe there is an inordinate focus and foisting of the gay agenda (via, e.g., making anything related to gays ‘news’ out of non-news and the like) on the rest of us is because a very high percentage of those who comprise the industry Are gay. Their numbers in Hollywood productions and MSM are disproportionately high in the industry as compared to their numbers in the population as a whole.
    Look, I lived in L.A. for 10 years and had many gay friends there and elsewhere. All of them Were in the industry in one capacity or another. They knew I could care less who they slept with* or loved unless THEY were somehow hurt in the process. Their lifestyle was constantly a focus in our relationships (men like to titillate, or just plain liked talking to me about their sex lives and relationships; women did, too, and also tried to encourage me ‘over’). That same effort at indoctrination is what I see all over the media these days in sit-coms, news reports, commercials, etc.; sometimes subtly, sometimes blatently.
    So today another non-story was ‘born’ and turned into ‘news’.
    Lastly, I think Kat’s remark about the effort to make religious people out to be homophobes and bigots (as well as crazies, etc.) has a lot of merit. (In my opinion, some Are; Most Aren’t!) I guess the idea is to destroy the enemy and push the Agenda through any and all means possible. And I guess if you can both push the Agenda And destroy the enemy in the same ad, it must have brilliant production value.
    *No, I didn’t just wake up under some church pew.

  • http://clik.to/pankrator A.R.Yngve

    Wow. Does this mean I can re-invent myself as a minority and get the big media conglomerates to do my bidding?
    I am henceforth a “Mixed Afro-Caucasian”, and shall rigorously sue and intimidate TV stations, newspapers and magazines at the slightest hint of “prejudice” or “discrimination” against Mixed Afro-Caucasians.
    Anyone says anything bad about Tiger Woods’ golf swing on TV, I get the FCC to close the station down. Tremble, producers, before the awesome might of Imaginary Minority Man!
    But seriously… this is just another sign of America entering the “Late roman Empire” stage. It’s not Al-Qaeda that will bring down the United States, but lawyers replacing common sense and natural law.
    -A.R.Yngve
    http://clik.to/pankrator