Off the air


Off the air

: On Aaron Brown’s show tonight, they had to pair me up with somebody from the Heritage Foundation who — oddly for a conservative! — wants more government regulation, interference, and bureacracy … when it comes to regulating her definition of morality, that is. She wants more FCC regulation. I say the FCC has no business regulating our speech; it’s just plain unconstitutional.

Aaron did a good job balancing, but I also told him that it was a bogus assumption, which he read earlier in the segment, to say that America was “outraged” at the Desperate Housewives promo. That’s what they said when Married by America got fined $1.2 million based on the work of three prigs who wrote letters and 20 who Xeroxed them. Outraged? No. It’s time that we challenge these assumptions, made and spread in media. To say that and to show the Housewives promo 25 times tonight is sensationalism, I said.

Aaron tried to agree with the woman that the culture is too coarse. To his surprise, I said, no, it’s our culture and we all have values and we all have taste and I won’t insult the American public by generalizing that we’re all coarse.

Two soundbites:

: I go to church every Sunday and I listen to Howard Stern every day and that is not incompatible.

: When the lady went on about what offends her, I said that the homophobia on the 700 Club offends me, but I don’t suggest it should be taken off the air or fined by the government. I change the channel. Pick up the remote, I said.

When I got out, I had email on my Treo from some church lady named Sherry using her work email at (tsk, tsk) with this charming bit of evangelism:

You have no morals and I feel you are pathetic.

Mighty Christian of you, Sherry. And here’s another one:

I submit to you that you lack moral values and you church attendance proves nothing.

Mighty grammatical of you, Josh.

But I also got some nice emails from Canadians. And Jeremy Brown did me the favor of capturing the picture above. Caption away. But be nice….

: UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says:

I saw the commercial for the first time in that broadcast, and I have to say that it was an absolute disgrace, and that it should not have been allowed to air. It didn’t show nearly enough of Nicolette Sheridan to justify all the hoopla, and that’s a tragedy because, despite her perhaps overdone plastic surgery, she’s still hot.

He says much more. As he would tell you, go read the whole thing.

  • quoi

    So, I take it that you’ve forwarded the Lilly lady’s email to Lilly’s PR department to see if that is an official corporate statement? I’m sure there’s an unemployed blue stater out there who would love to have her job.

  • The 700 soundbyte was the best.

  • AndyB

    Keep on fightin, Jeff, keep on fightin!!

  • J

    Do you have children, Jeff? If you don’t, that explains to me why you don’t understand how impossible it is for working parents to monitor (and change the channel) of everything their children are positioned to hear before they are of an age to understand and handle it. If you do have children, then I am puzzled about how little you seem to understand the issue here. This is not about constricting freedom of speech. It is about using wisdom to determine when (what times of day) certain forms of speech are aired so that they don’t fall upon ears too young to assimilate them. Do you really not understand that children mimic what they see and hear before they understand what they’re seeing and hearing? Do you really not understand how critically important it is to protect children from things they are too young to understand? (In case you are tempted to criticize the email address I am using to send you this email, as you did the woman named Sherry, I own the company and it is 11:15 pm and I can write whatever I want to write using any email address that belongs to me. THAT is my freedom of speech.) I was so sorry to hear that you really did not understand the issue here.

  • I thought your appearance tonight was excellent. It hink that the viewpoint that you took on the show is the basis for train of thought that the majority of consumers of entertainment and popular culture take when they turn on the television. I think that it’s a fairly subtle point to make, and one that isn’t backed by any particular overwrought watchdog group, but that doesn’t make it any less viable or essential in a debate of the kind that you participated in tonight. I found myself cheering along with you, appreciating your practical approach to what often becomes an overly ideological debate.
    Also, I’m not a Canadian, so now you have some words of support from someone stateside, as well.

  • AdamB

    J: Nobody is forcing your children to watch TV. If you fear that something inappropriate may be shown to them, either turn the TV off or only allow them to watch safe, family oriented channels. There are plenty of measures available to control what your children watch, even when you are not around to monitor them. Use your TV’s V-Chip, (all TVs over 13″ are required to have them) to only allow program ratings you find suitable for your children’s maturity level.
    There is no reason to control what the rest of the nation sees and hears when there are very simple, fast, and easy ways to combat the problem on your own.

  • Sonia von Gutfeld

    I thought your commentary tonight was right on.
    Additionally, parents who find themselves helpless against the negative influence they believe television has on their children should reexamine the way they’re raising their kids, not shift responsibility toward government regulation of the media. I acknowledge that I don’t have experience rearing children, but I can look at the example of my own parents, who did an excellent job of answering my questions when I was young about topics I was perhaps too young for. Today’s fast-paced and, for now, more violent world makes that an even more difficult task, but a society open to expression rather than controlled by censorship is beneficial to the next generation and well worth this extra effort.

  • Caption:
    Momentarily taken aback by the young lady’s assertion that Jeff was indeed wearin no pants, Mr. Jarvis is seen retaliating with a spiffy comment on her ugly shoes…

  • Ron

    You go to church every Sunday and listen to Howard Stern every day. Guess that tells us what your true beliefs are.

  • Jeff, you want to sell your message you’re going to have to market it better. Free speech side: old bearded white guy, not Santa Claus. Smut is everywhere side: hot blonde we want to see naked. The other guys know its not just about the message.

  • too many steves

    Slightly OT:
    Having recently started a new job at a new, European based, company I was required to go through a new hire orientation session. At one point a company lawyer spoke to us.
    His presentation covered the usual CYA corporate stuff about business ethics and such but there was also a section on sexual harrassment. After giving some examples of what would constitute creating a “hostile work environment” (i.e.; putting up a Victoria’s Secret calendar or screen saver in your office/cube) he mentioned that on a trip to the company’s European headquarters he was surprised to see many instances of the offensive things banned in the USA displayed in offices and cubicles.
    Apparently Europeans have a different definiton of “hostile work environment” than we do.
    We ARE a nation of prigs and puritans – at least in public, and in the opinion of our public officials.

  • Great job. I too liked the 700 club sound byte. She made a comment near the end about the hopes and dreams of our children (or something like that). I was wondering what any of that had to do with television. Anyone catch that?
    Oh and great point about the media turning the housewives thing into an outrage. I watched MNF but completely missed the promo. I had to ask my fiance what happened. When was the first time I saw it? Two nights later on ESPN News.

  • Tom

    The thing here is, that “buzz” is not necessarily misinterpreted, but purely called out as a ton of Americans being “offended.” If that many Americans are so offended by it, then why are sites like mine, that had a lot of detail on this showing, receiving search results and traffic many times over what they normally do? Is it only people in “blue states” visiting? Absolutely not. Is it people interested in seeing the video for themselves? Absolutely. Offended on the whole? I don’t think so.
    Jeff (E)’s comment was great – I saw this on SportsCenter on Tuesday / Wednesday a bunch of times. It’s fascinating to see that even though ABC said it had second thoughts now, and the NFL was upset that it aired, ESPN (also owned by Disney) chose to run it over and over again. So now “Desperate Housewives” gets promo’d on another Disney property. But hey, those corporate entities think it’s horrible. I call shenanigans on them all – it’s purely kowtowing to pressure by those who scream.
    If people were so upset about what their kids were subjected to, then they should probably take a look at the fact that they’re watching what amounts to probably the most physically violent sport not on pay per view. From a league where some of the players have been busted on a variety of crimes. Want to complain about things? Complain about that, too. People scream when it’s convenient.

  • Yo

    too many steves:
    We MIGHT be a nation of “prigs and prudes” as you say, but we are most certainty a nation of lawyers and “deep pockets”.

  • Francois

    Does the person from the Heritage Foundation have a name? Did you learn it? You refer to her only as “the woman”…not very polite.
    I don’t think it was ethical of you to publish Sherry’s name and e-mail domain. That was a private communication, and she likely had an expectation of privacy that her name and workplace wouldn’t be given to the public. Granted, it is only her first name, and it is a large company, but still…
    Your critique of Josh is a non sequitur.

  • Kin

    I think it comes down to an issue of appropriateness (is that a word?). If Nicolette Sheridan wants to get down to the buff on TV, I actually don’t have a problem with that. As long as it’s done at a time when people are expecting it. While you and a certain percentage of the population may not agree with our desire to keep our children from seeing certain things, it is our perogative. That’s why they put ratings on movies these days. We want to know what’s going to be in there. Much like the chap and the 700 club. He knows there is going to be a certain type of discourse that he finds offensive so he doesn’t watch it.
    When watching a football game you expect to see, well, football. The raciest thing on the menu is an occasional shot of the cheerleaders, most of which are rather well covered. You don’t expect to see a woman dropping her towel and talking a player into a quickie in the locker room.
    It’s just a question of time and place.

  • chowder

    I was just checking out new blogs from the list on Technorati Top 100, clicked on yours Jeff, and I realized it was you I witnessed on Aaron Browns Newsnight combating another righteous, cold and basically narrow-minded Heritage Head.
    These people would like nothing more than to turn back time a few hundred years, when children were not tempted by vile filthy displays of interracial transgender gutter porn, which gets worse with each click of the TV dial.
    My partners brother and sister-in-law have not had a TV in their home for years, and their daughters, age 13 and 6, have survived childhood, I can report. They are both quite artistic and tops in their classes.
    It seemed to me, this lady is bitter, and the Heritage Foundation shoved her out with this issue to rattle about. She almost fit the part, but I was not convinced, something tells me she has no kids. Just another ThinkTankTalkingHead.
    If she really does have children, boy, my sympathy is with those sheltered souls.
    In any case, I really loved some of your lines, and kudos for not laughing out loud at her.
    I will be back to your blog.
    For sure. Thats it. Proceed.

  • The Daily Show had an interesting take on the MNF tizzy. J, if you put your kids in front of the TV for MNF you also exposed them to beer commercials with half-naked wrestling women.
    Well done – now, not only are they going to be godless perverts – because as you know, the naked female form is frightening and terrible, and that’s what you should teach your children whenever they see it – but they are also going to be hopeless drunks.
    Shame on you for not monitoring more closely.

  • Maybe I’m just talking out of my ass because I haven’t seen any credible evidence to support this, but …
    I have a sense that advertisers have determined that these so-called Christians don’t consume at as high a rate as everyone else. If they did, there would certainly be more programming on television that caters to their taste so that advertisers could move more units.
    And, if these Christians, as MSM and BushCo are now trying to convince us, are now such a large force in the marketplace, why isn’t Joan of Arcadia the #1 program on television? What happend to Touched by an Angel? Why isn’t 700 on ABC every night from 8-10 p.m. ? Why hasn’t NBC launched Little House on the Prairie: The Golden Years?

  • Michael

    “You don’t expect to see a woman dropping her towel and talking a player into a quickie in the locker room.”
    I wonder if the outrage would be the same she did it to a white player.

  • growler

    I emailed the folowing to Glenn Reynolds, though he probably won’t see it.
    the REAL reason people are upset by that Desperate Housewives ad…
    The viewer sees only bare back. Nothing filthy about that. If the football player had been, say, Brett Favre or Kurt Warner no one would even have cared. But people got their undies in a bunch because they were distressed to see a sexed-up hot blonde jumping into the arms of a black man. Especially when that man is Tyrell Owens.

  • Kin

    Sorry…I’m not sure I noticed color involved here. Just goes to show which side of the fence is color-blind and which one sees everything as a matter or race.

  • Francois:
    I did not have her name when I wrote the item and never saw the spelling; I was in-studio and did not see the lower thirds.,
    As for email: What do you expect when you email a blogger? Fair game.

  • MWB

    Let’s push media to do better, shall we? Yeah, publishing Sherry’s email identity might’ve been fair game–she wasn’t very charitable to you. But it was also a missed opportunity on your part to show some class, no?
    The whole tone of this “groundswell” you’re encouraging is disheartening. Lots of ad hominem, straw men, and false premises. I think there’s a real, respectable, arguable point of view in there somewhere, but it’s hard to see behind the sneer.
    This could be an interesting and productive discussion, and you’re in a position to lead the way. But so far, you’ve chosen the demagogue route. That strikes me as a disservice to all concerned.
    So, pushing you: do better.

  • You know, there might be a point in objecting here, because we do tune in to football not wanting sex, but football. There is a chance that some would be offended.
    However, another blogger (forget who) made an excellent point. Why not complain to the NFL directly? If the audience of football really doesn’t want to see that stuff, they should encourage self-regulation, not government regulation.

  • C Bennett

    I have to agree with MWB — people who don’t agree with you are automatically prigs and prudes. You expose their lack of charity by employing your own. The moral superiority, not to mention intellectual, oozes from this post.
    This post turns the debate into a spitting match. Your tone has gone from constructive to, I’m afraid to say, ‘holier than thou’: you spotted hypocrisy in the lady from Lilly (1 point — post it on the web) and a typo on the second person (another point — cha-ching!! you’re ahead! — post it on the web).
    What has been an issue in every culture — the trade-offs between internal constraints and external structure — and is worthy of thoughtful discussion and has aspects upon which reasonable people have disagreed is being turned into a Stern-like opportunity for mockery, railing and name-calling. You should consider censoring yourself a little, sometimes.
    But not often.

  • daudder

    The point you made about there being NO outrage is absolutly key. This is Janet’s boob version 2, and it isn’t evena s titilating (sorry). While the story fits the “moral values” meem going through the emdia, Monday Night Football is hardly the haven for “family programming” that the moralists make it out to be. It is a haven (as it should be) for beer ads, movie promos, erection disfunction ads etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…
    …they are even complaining about imaginary “gay fish” in the movie “Shark Tales”…me thinks they protest too much, and have jumnped their own shark!

  • C. Bennett:
    The issue goes beyond the trade-offs between internal constraints and external structure. It is also, if not primarily, a question of the nature of the external constraints: should it be the heavy hand of government censorship and regulation, or some other mechanism?
    As for posts that are entries in a spitting match, I think there is a time and a place for them. If Jeff chooses to use one to defend the first amendment, that’s his call. I think he would have been correct not to mention Sherry’s e-mail address without permission, though.

  • Joe Peden

    I saw the commercial only because it was “news”, thus reshown and sensationalized. To me, it was just another boring/irritating commercial: poorly done, with a trite message of supposed titillation, because this is what the ad agencies think speaks to the public, and this is apparently what the public will at least tolerate. What a waste of time and life!

  • Dann

    You should update your blog picture with the CNN screencap or something else — it better represents your spark and personality! The current one is too bleak.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: Jeff Jarvis
    RE: A Paul Harvey Moment
    Glenn doesn’t tell the rest of the story. There was some follow-on traffic.
    Here’s the rest of my opinion on this matter.
    Life Imitates Rocky & Bullwinkle (sort of).

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: daudder
    RE: Say What??!?!
    “It [Monday Night Football] is a haven (as it should be) for beer ads, movie promos, erection disfunction ads etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…” — daudder
    These movie promos….anything like out-takes or trailers from the football locker room scene in Debbie Does Dallas?
    Glad I killed my television years ago. Based on your comment, things are getting worse by the minute.
    [Television is educational. Anytime someone turns one on, I go read a good book.]

  • y’know, football is one incredibly violent sport. i love it, but i could understand someone who didn’t want their kid raised thinking that inflicting that kind of physical act on other people is ok. should we ban football b/c it offends some? i mean, america could continue for longer w/o football than w/o sex. (i always feel like it comes as a shock to some people that this sex thing has been going on for quite some time now, and shows few signs of abating…)
    one great argument for jeff’s position is practicality, as well as individual autonomy. if you don’t want your kid to see violence/simulated partial nudity/pictures of hellish war on the evening news, try being a parent, instead of letting the tv do it (there’s a reason its not called the “parenting box”). the people who want it can watch it.
    also, may i point out that the nfl cheerleaders for football are wearing just as little?
    and really, if you send hate-mail to a blogger, you should stop and think what the message would look like on their blog.

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: matty
    RE: Just As Little?
    “also, may i point out that the nfl cheerleaders for football are wearing just as little?” — matty
    I can see them now, jumping naked into the arms of the guys on the bench. The problem will be getting the camera angle ‘just right’ to conceal nakedness.
    RE: Think Ahead
    “…if you send hate-mail to a blogger, you should stop and think what the message would look like on their blog.” — matty
    I did. I thought about it quiet a bit before I sent it. And, oddly enough, that still small voice said, “Send….” So I did.
    I’ve sent similar e-mail to Glenn in the past. I guess this one touched a sensitive spot. Good to see he still has such.
    And it’s hardly “hate” to reproach someone for something when you see them doing something terribly wrong. Or are you saying that you’d let a friend get behind the wheel of a car when you know that they are drunk?
    P.S. Was that last question “hateful” of me?

  • OH MY GEEYAHD!!! Truth is in fact weirder than fiction. If I was casting a black comedy on TV news and needed an over-the-top stereotype right-wing, self righteous, corn fed, beeyatch, I could not have found one better than that obnoxious blonde; and she was for real!?!?!?!
    Kudos to you Jeff! Don’t stop resisting the thought

  • yo chuckles.
    lemme clarify, my man. those cheerleaders may not jump into to’s arms, but they do bounce up and down and up and down quite fetchingly, while the camera zooms in to eye-popping levels. as it has been doing for years, much to my delight. and the sexual situations on the beer commercials are just as sexual as that cheesy intro. and have been for years.
    re: the hatin’. i think i wasn’t too clear. when sending ANY e-mail to a blogger, you should assume it may end up on their sight, and specifically request that it not, if you’d rather it didn’t. and if i were sending something that could make me look silly, i’d probably double check it. if i were the self-conscious type.
    and i like “just as little”. tickles the tongue, if you will.
    um, as for your drunk driving comment, can i ask what you’re talking about? in all seriousness, i have no idea. and also, was your e-mail posted here somewhere? i thought it was sherry from lilly and josh from who-knows-where?

  • Re. Your Picture
    Jeff, would you eat something?

  • A few notes for both sides
    1. Broadcast is doomed. Technical advances that are being rolled out on the Internet front (IPv6) make multicasting a practical alternative. When you can escape FCC regulation by just changing your signal encoding, you can bet that people will transition over
    2. Paying for content via advertising is doomed, at least in its current form. Tivo’s just the beginning and people will zap what they don’t want. I don’t want to see desperate housewives, the program or the promos as I thought the program sick from the start. It hasn’t disappointed from what I can tell.
    3. Pissing off your customers is doomed. Eventually we just go away as the broadcast networks are discovering to their stockholders’ regret. Ambushing customers with commercials like this reduces revenue.
    4. Very few people actually take the time to write these complaint notes. My father has been in this country for 33 years. For 32 he’s been deeply unhappy about TV (he had to pick up the language in that first year). He’s never written a letter to the FCC. A lot of people unhappy about TV don’t write letters to the FCC. They just go through life pissed off about it all. The reason why so few letters are needed to actually set off the FCC is that the FCC knows that a few complaints are the small tip of a mostly submerged iceberg.
    In 15 years broadcast content regulation will be on the trailing edge of FCC responsibilities and people will have well developed, simple, robust tools to censor out the mexican snuff films or whatever else you don’t want multicast into your house. Can we all resolve not to kill each other over this until the technological wizards sort this all out?

  • While the tech wizards will, in a reasonably short time frame, solve most of this, there is a basic “moral” problem on sex — more so than on violence.
    In violence, most TV violence is always “bad”, unless it’s necessary in use by good guys against bad guys. Not very confusing.
    Quite different than sex. For married couples, sex is good. For unmarried people, society is mixed on whether sex is good. For children, sex is bad. This is inevitably confusing, and leads to too much sexual activity among young people, and the mistakes of such actions.
    There is a fairly strong belief that many religious folk have that promiscuos sex is generally bad — immoral. There is a LOT of anectdotal evidence that promiscuity among poor people leads to more poverty. (Do you believe this? If not, do you have any evidence for your counter-belief?)
    Raising taxes to pay for the “poor”, when the poor are being “immoral”, seems a clear case off imposing one set of morals (permissive), and in particular forcing responsible Christians to pay for immoral non-Christians. I sincerely think this is grossly unfair, and hypocritical.
    When you take the strong “Libertarian” pro-dirty words in speech, in public viewing, in support of ending (immoral) “victimless crimes” — this has to be matched with a shift in financial responsibility to those who choose be immoral. I don’t think you honestly support freedom to act “immorally”, while forcing the moral folks to pay for the bad consequences of the immoral actions.
    I think you dishonestly support an “immoral” imposition of costs.
    Which, by the way, is why I’ve changed away from an L-Libertarian; the culture needs to accept paying the consequential costs of individual immoral behavior BEFORE getting the freedom to act immorally.
    Leftists always want to just raise taxes (on the rich!). Like Kerry.

  • Louis

    Since when are morals reinforced through complaining? I am a father of three sons under 6. One started kindergarten last month and has already come home with a couple of words that he hasn’t heard before (he even implied that his younger brother was gay). Did I complain to the school? The school district? Superintendant Chalmers? No, I took my son on my knee like my father did and explained to him in words he could understand what he had been exposed too. He’s my son and I love him and I want what’s best for him in the world. He’s going to learn about the presence of individuals on this planet who engage in lifestyles unlike those of our nuclear family. And I will be there to talk about it with him. Isn’t that what a parent is supposed to do? Running around like chicken-little is not my way, it’s the Republican way.
    And Jeff, I go to church regularly (I’m LDS) and listen to Stern from time to time too. If that means I’m going to hell then I’ll see you there.

  • Jon

    With the election over and the Scott Peterson trial completed, the American media apparently has little else to report but the supposed scandal over the raunchy Terrell Owens Monday Night Football pre-game skit.
    For conservatives like the Heritage Foundation’s Rebecca Hagelin, ABC and the NFL joined to open yet another front in the war against the traditional values and decency of the American family. For those on the left, the Disney-owned ABC network’s cross-promotion of its Desperate Housewives during MNF brought back the Mandingo and other stereotypes of yore. For the media, this once again was an opportunity to discuss the overblown electoral importance of “values voters” and “moral issues.”
    For my part, I believe this mole hill-turned-mountain reflects something much more important, and in the long term, more interesting. That is, the belly-aching on the right highlights once again the tenuousness of the alliance between “social” conservatives and “economic” conservatives. The traditional religious Right sees a culture at risk; the laissez faire free marketeers want media markets, concentration and ownership unfettered by the heavy hand of the government. Unfortunately for them, they can’t have it both ways…
    For more, see:
    “Markets, Morality and Monday Night Football”