The great indecency hoax: We are not a nation of prudes

The great indecency hoax: We are not a nation of prudes

: In his upcoming Sunday column, Frank Rich makes the argument I’ve been making for months and I’m damned glad to have company with influence: He says that Americans are not, in fact, storming the FCC demanding a crackdown on indecency; that’s all just a hoax perpetrated by a few well-organized religous nutjobs and a few political cynics at the FCC. Rich is also generous enough to point to my little FCC scoop.

Ever since 22 percent of the country’s voters said on Nov. 2 that they cared most about “moral values,” opportunistic ayatollahs on the right have been working overtime to inflate this nonmandate into a landslide by ginning up cultural controversies that might induce censorship by a compliant F.C.C. and, failing that, self-censorship by TV networks. Seizing on a single overhyped poll result, they exaggerate their clout, hoping to grab power over the culture.

The mainstream press, itself in love with the “moral values” story line and traumatized by the visual exaggerations of the red-blue map, is too cowed to challenge the likes of the American Family Association. So are politicians of both parties.

But Rich puts forth lots of facts and ratings showing that, in fact, we love Desperate Housewives in blue states and red; we are not prudes; we are being misrepresented by the prim ayatollahs and exploitive bureaucrats and lazy reporters and pundits. He ends here:

Those who cherish the First Amendment can only hope that the Traditional Values Coalition,, OneMillionDads .com and all the rest send every e-mail they can to the F.C.C. demanding punitive action against the stations that broadcast “Desperate Housewives.” A “moral values” crusade that stands between a TV show this popular and its audience will quickly learn the limits of its power in a country where entertainment is god.

I don’t always agree with Rich but you know that I love this column. I’m delighted that Frank Rich in The New York Times and Tom Shales in the Washington Post and Jonathan Alter in Newsweek are using their powerful platforms to question, not to just spread, the too-quickly swallowed conventional wisdom that we are a ntion of prudes. We are not. So here’s hoping that Rich is right and whether it is putting the chill on Saving Private Ryan and driving Howard Stern to satellite or gasping over a harmless if dumb network promotion or whatever comes next, the nannies will go too far and we will finally stand up as one and tell them to put a sock in it.