Those fake “studies”

Richard Huff in the Daily News debunks the latest “study” from the so-called Parents Television Council. Most reporters conveniently forget that the PTC and Brent Bozell are advocates with a strong political stance and they treat their “studies” as if they came from think tanks. The PTC’s screed about nasty kids’ cartoons got lots of such coverage. But Huff says:

But in virtually every case, these content surveys fall apart upon a closer look.

To make its point about bad language,the PTC’s latest screed deals with “SpongeBob SquarePants” and is, by coincidence, full of holes.


Simply, the group goofed by citing an episode of the cartoon series called “Sailor Mouth” as a touch-point for bad language.

Here’s the funny thing: The episode is all about the perils of using bad language. It follows along as SpongeBob begins innocently tossing bad words into his sentences. Those words are never heard, ever, and are replaced with more dolphin sounds than you’ll get in a day at Sea World. By the end of the show, SpongeBob and his friend Patrick learn why bad words are, well, bad, and they vow not to use them again.

The PTC, of course, saw fit to use this positive episode as a negative. The group’s media release claimed the dolphin sounds represent the F-bomb and a word for buttocks. Those words do not exist in the episode – and are only created in the minds of adults or young folks exposed to such language in the schoolyard or, dare I say, at home….

Most people would be hard-pressed not to take away something good from this episode of “SpongeBob.”

Not those at the PTC, though. Surprisingly, they didn’t find a way to label Patrick and SpongeBob washing their tongues off to clean out the bad words as a violent sexual act, too….

For the PTC, dropping in some bad words not found in the episode served as press-release enhancers to make the study sound fancy….

And reporters fall for it. Again and again.

  • Good point. I admit to being convinced that the Simpsons was evil and a bad influence, until I actually watched it. I discovered a lot of irreverence about sacred cows, and a loving and supportive family that exhibited much that I approved of. Thanks to my kids.

    The same goes for the ‘War on Christmas’ which my kids have dubbed the GWOX. It seems to be a big threat in the minds of those who raise funds by opposing it – and exists only there.

    There is a lot that is real to protect our kids from, it’s a shame to manufacture threats that don’t exist. Fighting a positive message diverts positive energies that could well be applied to real efforts, for real effects.

  • My wife and I have watched Spongebob Squarepants since its debut several years ago, and are delighted that our 3-year-old daughter now enjoys it as well. I’ve yet to encounter an episode which did *not* have a positive theme as its message — from the importance of honesty to the value of hard work, even the virtue of being a good neighbor (how subversive is that?). Which just goes to show you that once again, the PTC is completely and totally full of [insert dolphin noises here].

  • Hunter McDaniel

    Most think tanks have a “strong political stance”, just as PTC does. And many of the think tanks were started as a counterweight to academic institutions with a “strong political stance”.

    The solution is transparency, just as you say, plus a lot more due diligence investigation of the methodology behind such “studies”, regardless of the source.

  • This is standard operating procedure for moralists. They will come up with any kind of study or report, no matter how flawed it is, and will claim it to be gospel. The PTC is probably the biggest bunch of abusers on this because their leader not only runs the pro-censorship lobbying group, but he also runs the so-called “research organization” that comes up with the studies that gets used by the PTC and the government. Conflict of interest? You bet your ass it is!

    And the most dangerous part about it is not that the media will refuse to question or refute these studies or reports, but that THE GOVERNMENT will treat these things as gospel and will actually USE them to write laws and regulations specifically to placate the moralists. This blatant and fraudulent abuse of government power is one of the key reasons why moralism is threat to any free socity.

    (By the way, I have more on this over at my ongoing series called “Target: Moralism”)

  • Gee, isn’t Richard Huff a “reporter,” Jeff? You tend to treat it as a dirty word.

  • I am as conservative as a Sen Helms staffer and I think SB is great. Conceptually, it’s brilliant. Brent and his bunch do a good job policing the airwaves. But come on fellas. This is as bad as the teacher in LA bemoaning the crimes against nature embedded in the latest Curious George movie. Get over yourselves and let the public decide!

  • kurotenshi

    This reminds me of all those calls received by the FCC regarding the super bowl half time costume malfunction…It seems that about 95% of the calls came from one of these groups, and not from the general public…

  • kurotenshi: if memory serves… that group happens to be the Parents Television Council.

  • kurotenshi

    So it is the same group? Oh well, that figures…hehe.

  • David2
    You make a great point but I think “true believers” of every stripe use this tactic. Bush haters, tree huggers, Bush defenders, strip miners, it’s just so common.

  • mike

    MSM takes CSPI’s bait — hook, line and sinker — every time …

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