The Peach

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Don't Touch That!

It should not have surprised anyone to learn that abortion rates under the "culture of life" Bush administration have actually risen. In his review of available studies, born-again Christian researcher Glen Harold Stassen found that women have become more likely to choose abortion in the past four years, due to such factors as increasing poverty, lack of an employed spouse and lack of healthcare. Now we can add another factor: the lies and scare tactics that are apparently being employed in the administration's beloved "abstinence only" sex education programs.

The Washington Post reports that a congressional analysis of federally funded abstinence-only programs found that many such programs have made false or misleading assertions in their teaching materials. Among the statements circulating in the right's just-say-no curriculum were that abortions lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States are HIV-positive, and, amazingly, that touching a person's genitals can result in pregnancy (Yikes! Does that work if you only touch your own genitals?). The Peach is surprised not to see the resurrection of the old parental threat "You're gonna poke someone's eye out with that."

With that kind of intentional disinformation going on, it would be surprising not to see a sharp rise in teen pregnancy, and probably, given that many will choose abortion, a contribution to increasing abortion rates. And thanks to the Bush Administration, when these kids insist "I have no idea how this happened," they are probably telling the truth.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Baron's Brain: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Closet Case -- Brought to You by CBS

Even as it bans the tasteful United Church of Christ ad for criticizing groups that exclude gay people, CBS is inexplicably promoting the 40th anniversary broadcast of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, a heartwarming Christmas animation that . . . well, for the Brain's money, criticizes groups that exclude gay people! When you think about it, what is Rudolph, pray tell, if not an admonition to embrace social outcasts who are clearly coded, with all kinds of early 60's stereotypical attributes, as gay?

There's the lisping, effeminate, elaborately-coiffed Herbie, who wants to be a dentist. There's the narrator, Sam the Snowman, voiced by gay folk singer Burl Ives, and evincing a Martha Stewart-esque fascination with holiday decorating. There's plaid-shirted beefcake icon Yukon Cornelius (no Mrs. Cornelius in sight).

And what's with that Island of Misfit Toys? Charlie-in-the-Box would be better named Charlie-in-the-Closet. He's an animatronic Charles Nelson Reilly, for God's sake. The cowboy on the ostrich is clearly machismo-challenged. And we never quite learn what is "wrong" with the sweet little doll. The Brain's theory: under that dress, she's a guy!

The point is that the overt, explicit message of the show (not unlike the UCC ad) is precisely to criticize those who would exclude the misfits, and to applaud acceptance and tolerance.

If that message is good enough for five year-olds, it ought to be good enough for the rest of society and even for (gasp!) the White House. CBS has really reduced itself to total, ideological incoherence in celebrating Rudolph and banning the UCC ad.

Ad Welcoming Gays is Unwelcome to Networks

In what seems intended as a witty, yet serious message of inclusiveness to gay Christians, the United Church of Christ recently developed its first television advertising campaign. The ad depicts a church whose doors are barred by a velvet-rope barricade, manned by beefy security guards, in the manner of an exclusive club. The bouncers admit some people, but turn away others who appear to be gay or part of a same-sex couple. The tag line: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

Relinquishing all claim to being even "so-called liberal" media, both NBC and CBS have refused to air the ad, saying it is "too controversial. " The UCC's own press release quotes CBS's letter rejecting the ad. The media giant's reasoning is a model of conservative doublespeak:
Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.
Josh Marshall points out in today's TPM that we have come to a sad pass when an entire political campaign season can be fueled by millions of dollars of patently false ads, creating all manner of phony, over-hyped controversies. Yet a mild and responsible ad such as this one, speaking to a matter of important national debate is deemed unacceptable for the public airwaves.

Marshall suggests that the ads may be unacceptable precisely because they speak to a controversy, or perhaps merely because they speak about homosexuals. The Peach finds an even more alarming message in CBS's language. Essentially, they are saying that they find the ad unacceptable because it advocates the acceptance of gays in church and society, and the White House doesn't approve of that sort of thing.
How is this kind of right-aligned self-censorship any different from the government simply telling our media what they can and can't say? The result is the same, and The Peach finds it very sobering indeed.