Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mother Nature's war on Wars

Unfortunately, an East Coast storm that's supposed to turn into a "blockbuster" and something "paralizing" to the area is creating a havoc on the WSPC broadcasat studios.

But Culture Wars will definitely return for a new episode once we're rescued and from all this snow, and definitely on March 4, featuring special guest author Steve Weddle. Steve will be talking about crime writing and the love for the dark side in gritty noir thrillers, crime reporting, and he'll tell us all about flash fiction.

In the meantime, you can also check out some of his writing at

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Culture Wars on tap!

Yesterday's episode of my Culture Wars radio show is available on podcast now, so give it a listen by going to

Our guest was James D. Agresti, author of Rational Conclusions, discussing whether or not one can prove the objective truth of the Bible. Definitely check it out and see if he's right or not.

And you can't miss our discussion of cat cuisine!! Would you try a delicious helping of cat stew?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Teenagers should have sex!

So the headline got your attention. Cool!

What I am actually getting at with this post is a slightly spoilerish comment on the new romantic comedy Valentine's Day. I try to keep from giving anything major away about the film, but the main point of this piece will deal with several characters on the end of the movie. So if you want to know absolutely nothing about the end of the film, don't read any further than this paragraph. Go catch the flick, then come back and read the rest of the post.

So, where were we?

This big, all-star-cast romantic comedy came out over the Valentine's Day weekend and the movie is pretty much what I expected from it, except for a very peculiar turn of events on the end. Or, perhaps not so peculiar given the times we're living in and the growing cultural influence - or growing cultural threat!!! - of some of my favorite people in the know, all the wing-nuts I've been complaining about here in regards to Howard Stern and the meaning of a study on the sex lives of teen boys.

Now as I understand it, the film is not getting positive reviews for the most part. Some reviews I've read, like one on the Ain't It Cool page, were downright vitriolic. The reviewer said it inspired hatred in him and the desire to shoot baby ducks...or something to that effect. And yes, I agree, the film was not great at all. It was mostly predictable and formulaic. Maybe aside from two characters - a traveler on a plane who strikes up a conversation with Julia Roberts, and a little kid who has a crush on someone in his class - you can predict exactly what will happen to every single character. But, come on, this is a romantic comedy called Valentine's Day, released on the Valentine's Day weekend. Who's expecting an Oscar-worthy picture here full of "very important performances?" Nobody! This is the sort of film a lot of guys will be dragged to by girlfriends and wives. Just take it for what it is. But then there is that ending...

OK, again, SPOILERS coming up...

The plot of the film follows a huge cast of characters and their trials and tribulations on Valentine's Day. It basically has two types of characters, the ones who think they're happily in love and looking forward to a great Valentine's Day, and ones who are single, with a bad track record of relationships, and who detest the holiday. Of course, the ones who think their relationships are perfect suddenly face some serious and painful crises, and the cynical ones wind up finding true love. And among all these characters we have two teenage couples. What happens to both these couples on the end is kind of mind-boggling.

One couple is kind of average and awkward, yet in love and planning on losing their virginity together on Valentine's Day during their lunch break. The other couple - pictured above, teen superstars of the moment, Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift - are the buff track star and his hot, but slightly ditzy, dancer girlfriend. Although it's not stated clearly, the track star and the dancer might also be heading for major sex at some point on Valentine's Day. The girl, in fact, drags a giant bear around with her for most of the movie (the gift from the runner), shows it off to everyone, and gushes about what a great guy her boyfriend is and how much they're in love. Watching this, you think there's going to be some major sex action going on between them before V-Day is over. Except there's no sex! Neither of the teenage couples winds up having sex!!

What happens instead, is that the girl from the average couple gets a gentle lecture from the grandfather of a kid she's babysitting about the importance of waiting until they're older, until the time is right, etc. and so forth. A very ABC Family Channel moment. Naturally, the girl takes the speech to heart, tells her boyfriend that they should wait, and they wind up just "making out" instead. Making out, of course, is just kissing without going all the way, mind you. And the guy almost looks relieved that his girlfriend doesn't want to do it after all. As a matter of fact, he appears to behave very much like the majority of the teenage boys in that study the Parents Television Council PR spokesperson never read.

Now, I can kind of see this happening. There's nothing wrong with this.

Except the hot runner/dancer couple don't have sex either! That, on the other hand, makes no sense. In fact, up until the end of the film, I thought that they probably had sex already, and probably had a LOT of sex. There is one scene where they're interviewed for a V-Day fluff news piece by a camera crew and they're so horny they can barely keep their hands off each other. Now despite this scene, I can somehow kind of buy that they maybe haven't yet had sex. Maybe they, too, were planning on it and preparing for V-Day. But for them to suddenly stay all proper and chaste and Parents TV Council, Focus on the Family-approved just makes no sense. I mean, just go back and see the film again and watch those two characters up until their final scene in the movie. Those two are so hot for each other that there's no way they would not screw that night.

As a side note, it's also bizarre that for a movie called Valentine's Day, a movie that's all about love, one that's full of a lot of actors who've made some pretty steamy films in the past and whose fans might expect some pretty steamy stuff from know, in a film called frigging Valentine's Day...there's NO SEX!!!! Nobody has sex in this film! And the Anne Hathaway character's phone sex doesn't count.

But back to the teenagers. How in the hell does this film end up with neither of these couples in bed and having loud, raunchy sex until all hours of the morning? Whatever happened to the evil, immoral Hollywood film makers out to corrupt the values of America, all on the urging of Satan's whisper in their ears?

It's perhaps because that the evil, immoral, libertine Hollywood is not as radical as bunch of Puritanical control freaks like the religious conservative far right claim. It's perhaps because Hollywood is really timid to its core, especially when a band of regressive, demented yahoos who like to threaten boycotts and letter-writing campaigns when every single film or TV program is not a cartoon about baby Jesus or Kirk Cameron kissing his real wife start writing complaints every time "hell" or "damn" is said on TV. Maybe someone got worried about that the film would become too "controversial" if teenagers actually had sex...even off-screen sex.

Could this film not have stayed "moral" if maybe one teenage couple had sex whereas the other one decided to listen to the old folks and wait? Like maybe if the film aspired to be more complex than a Disney Channel family sitcom? Like maybe if reflected a real world where decent people who loved each other could have different viewpoints about sex and lived different lifestyles?

Sex is a perfectly natural part of life and there is nothing wrong with it being dealt with honestly in films. Teenagers wanting to have sex and actually having sex is also normal and natural. Throughout history and up until about a hundred years or so ago, teenagers around 17 or 18 years old (the age of the characters in the film), would have been married and would have had three children already. Teenagers are perfectly capable of understanding the implications of sex and being able to deal with the emotional ramifications of sex. It makes absolutely no biological, evolutionary sense that a human should not be able to mentally and emotionally handle a sexual relationship at the time his or her body reaches its full reproductive capabilities...

Oh, but wait a minute, we mentioned evolution, didn't we? That's also a blasphemous idea that was whispered into the ears of evil men by Satan himself.

Or perhaps this film is not an entire cop-out after all. Credit should be given the movie makers for at least making two of the characters gay!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An assault on reason by unethical frauds

Well, try as I might, it becomes just about impossible to escape the Parents Television Council's unrelenting assaults on mainstream American attitudes and values - not to mention basic reason and logic - all bolstered by non-existent data and a complete incomprehension of social science methodologies. I have written about this on the blog numerous times, but a new editorial - a call to censorious action, as their editorials usually are - by the PTC has just staggered me by the audacity of its unethical, dishonest misrepresentation of a study.

When I wrote about the PTC's mangling of the Kaiser Foundation's study on children's media use, I wrote that I felt that the PTC's laughable conclusions were due perhaps to their sheer ignorance, ineptitude, and blind ideological dogma, rather than willful dishonesty. I no longer say that after reading a piece by PTC member Melissa Henson. Here, she does not merely mangle social science data, but attacks the character of Fordham Professor Paul Levinson. Since I know Dr. Levinson, since I got a chance to read and listen to his defenses of free speech and expression, and know his honesty and integrity, Henson's article is especially offensive to me. But once you get a chance to read the actual study she uses to make her arguments, you realize that you just read the work of a con artist, a fraud, a liar who wilfully distorts clear data for her extremist social agenda.

You can read Henson's piece right here.

Now, not to put myself too high on a self-righteous pedestal or anything, but I do give my readers the references to everything I talk about. Henson does not.

But Henson's piece is an editorial piece on the web page of a group called The Church Report. They are an evangelical organization that characterizes its own social activist positions as "Christian. Conservative. Concise."

The meat of Henson's article - and its many underhanded, unethical distortions - starts right in the title: "TV Trash is Harming Our Children." This is a conclusion Henson reaches after having read a study on the sexual attitudes and behavior of teenage boys, put forth by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The actual study itself can be read right here. You owe it to yourself to check it out. It's not a difficult read at all. Now Henson does tell us that the study has also been quoted in a Seventeen Magazine article. For a moment or two, this does make me wonder about Henson. Might her offenses be just a result of her obtuseness. Maybe she only read the Seventeen article and never bothered to check out the actual study. You can find it quite easily on Google! But, again, reading her sleazy little attack on Dr. Levinson, I hesitate to blame her absurd article on her ignorance alone. This is a profoundly dishonest and unethical editorial she writes. But, back to the meat of the article...

Henson tells us that the study has concluded that children are "harmed" by "trash" on television. She makes an argument for some causality when it comes to the kind of life children are living. She claims that somehow children - mainly boys - are hurting today and this harm has been caused by television. This could not be farther from the truth.

The study is made up of a several quantitative data sets, all compiled from surveys. That means the study lists numbers. Numbers as in statistics gathered by asking the subjects closed-ended questions and multiple choice questions where they could only choose from a given set of possible answers. Based on this research methodology, the study lists lots of percentages. So what do all these numbers tell us? As it so happens, the numbers paint a surprisingly positive picture of boys and their attitudes toward sex, toward girls, and sexual mores.
Now the authors of the study tell us this right in the beginning!! I'm not sure how Melissa Henson could have missed this. There is plenty to be happy about. In fact, I think the numbers of this study paint a portrait of America's young boys that shows a generation that is surprisingly mature, well-balanced, sensitive, and decent. We find out things like the fact that the majority of boys (66%) would rather have a meaningful relationship with a steady girlfriend than just sex, the same percentage would be happy in a relationship without sex(!), and a majority (75%) prefer to date an exclusive girlfriend instead of sleeping around and playing the field. Furthermore, 75% of the boys say they have more respect for girls who are not quick to say "yes" to sex, 56% are "relieved" when their girlfriends tell them they want to wait to have sex, 74% think other teenagers take sex "too lightly," and 75% want to lose their virginity with someone they are in love with. Moreover, there is also quite a bit of empowerment of girls in many of the relationships, with 78% of the boys saying that their girlfriends greatly influence their sexual decisions. Sounds pretty good, right?

I think so, although the study is not all a rosy picture. It does indicate that the knowledge of a lot of boys about safe and effective contraception and birth control techniques is sadly lacking. Furthermore, a lot of the classic double standards are still alive and well in boys, like expecting girls to take care of contraception. But what this data also seems to indicate is that the antidote is rigorous and thorough sex education for kids starting in the middle school years and into high school. Aye, but therein lies the rub, don't it...?
The sort of far right wing social conservatives like the Church Report organization and people like Henson's PTC/MRC/CMI organization have always fought tooth and nail to keep sex education and contraceptives from teenagers!

And what bothers Henson the most out of this entire report? A section of a sentence that tells us that boys "feel way too much pressure from society to have sex." At this part in her editorial, Henson is off and going. Or, perhaps, we should say that she is flying off on auto-pilot, unreeling all the usual PTC talking points about the "trash" and "sleaze" and "garbage" on TV. This is where her editorial turns into a scummy little canard against Paul Levinson, insinuating that he prefers children to watch scenes of "bestiality," "adult/child" sexual contact, and contact between children and prostitutes. But even when it comes to that single statement of "too much pressure from society," Henson's conclusions perfectly demonstrate the usual PTC two-plus-two-equals-five logic. In the section of the study where the "pressure" from "society" phrase comes up, there is not one word about the media, about TV, about advertising, about the internet, or anything of the sort. Instead, in the same paragraph we are told that teen boys sometimes feel pressure to become sexually active from girls and that they might sometimes lie about their sexual experiences in order to stop OTHER KIDS from pressuring them into becoming sexually active. In fact, the study does mention that boys (as they always have since time immemorial, no doubt, and certainly well before advertising and TV) often lie about their sexual prowess, their conquests, and proficiency. In other words, the classic, teen macho "locker room" behavior. And this sort of sexual posturing has always been a part of adolescent and young adult male behavior. Anthropologists will even tell us that it might be a part of a genetically-programmed part of the male psyche with evolutionary advantages. One can find all that stuff in the sorts of book that The Church group people probably don't read much.

Now when it comes to analyzing the data to get some sort of a picture for where TV and all that sleazy, Satanic porn come into play, one should go to the later parts of the study and look at a table under the question "how much does each of the following influence your decisions about sex?" Do we not raise our eyebrows about the ambiguities in that question? Pop quiz folks: how can something like "decisions about sex" be interpreted in all sorts of ways? Moreover, the subjects gave their answers to this part of the survey by filing out a Likert Scale questionnaire. Those are the things that go on a spectrum between "a lot" to "a little." So, in other words, there is no discussion, no question and answer interaction between the researcher and the subject. But even so, the "influence" of porn is still below that of girlfriends, parents, friends, religion, and sex education in school. Below porn is information coming from doctors and TV only shows up on the list below that. Only "online" information about sex has less of an impact on boys than television.

But finally, I would also like to draw a bit of an attention to who exactly Melissa Henson is. Just what makes her so qualified to come to such drastic, apocalyptic conclusions about the study's data. Her bio under the editorial claims that she is a "noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the impact of entertainment media on children and pop culture." Yet her more extensive bio on the PTC web page tells us that she is merely the Director of Communication and Public Education (doesn't public education sound kind of Orwellian?) of the PTC. She's their PR person! She also somehow became a "noted expert" in social science research with only a BA in "Government" from the University of Virginia. In 1997, we are told, she started at the PTC as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television." So she was one of the people watching hours of TV for the PTC, counting every utterance of a "hell" or "damn" on television shows.

In the words of Crystal Madison, the New Jersey chapter president of the PTC, one of our former Culture Wars guests who tried to rally the PTC to put financial pressure on St. Peter's College, the sort of "studies" the PTC conducts are worthless. Or, specifically in Madison's words (check it out right here) "we're not a lab, nor are we scientists."

Waiting for Howard!

I just needed to put one more post - perhaps not the last one - up about the Parents Television Council's new white whale on TV. Here is a link to their latest whining session about Howard Stern on Fox's American Idol.

This piece by the PTC almost reads like a self parody. If Saturday Night Live would ever revive their old Church Lady routine with Dana Carvey, the PTC could give them endless free material. But the best part of this whole farce is that the PTC's Tim Winter seems to be daring Fox to put Stern on the show and see the program disintegrate because of the "anti-family" tone it is sure to take on.

Sure, Tim, I'm sure that American Idol will wither and die of low ratings once they put on the most successful radio personality in history.

Tim, could you please say hello to the Easter Bunny for me, since it's obvious that you're living in a fantasy world. I would also ask you to say hello to Santa as well, but I don't want to keep endorsing that secular symbol of the liberal media's attack on Christmas.

I really, truly hope that Fox would rise to the PTC's little challange and continue soaring in the ratings. It would prove yet again that a demented group of terroristic whackos like the PTC and all their sister organizations like the MRC and the CMI and Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council are nowhere near to representing the values and tastes of the average American.

We'll be back!

WSPC Culture Wars, starring yours truly and Ernabel Demillo, will be back and broadcasting again on February 18!

By then the apocalyptic blizzard that has shut down our broadcast facilities will be history, hopefully not to be replaced with a new batch of snow!

So we'll be back in a week, addressing anything and everything that fuels those culture wars, including...

Pink Ouija boards!

Yes, folks, most of the e-mails I've gotten over the last day have been about the pink Ouija boards, so we promise to talk about those!!

The date's February 18!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Support Howard Stern on American Idol!

If Howard Stern becomes a new judge on American Idol, I would whole-heartedly endorse the show, applaud it, and encourage everyone I know and everyone who reads this blog - especially if you are one of the "Nielsen families" - to watch and support the show. Howard all the way!!

Now why do I write this? I admit that I've never watched an episode of American Idol all the way from beginning to end and I really could care less who wins each season and becomes the next big bubblegum music sensation. American Idol is just not my thing. There's no sex or violence on American Idol, so it doesn't really hold my attention. Maybe if the contestants could get into some fistfights or some good hair-pulling chick fights...perhaps.

But Howard Stern changes things and - most importantly!! - Stern's judgeship is now being opposed by America's own home-grown terror group, the Parents Television Council.

The PTC just started e-mailing their members and it's attempting to round up a protest campaign against Idol, trying to force the show to keep Stern out of the judge's seat. In other words, this group's terror campaign to push broadcasters into censoring themselves is up and going again. Just like their past intimidation campaigns have forced CBS to censor its Grammy broadcast (see posting below), they are attempting to bully and coerce the producers of Idol into caving in to the PTC's repressive, ultra-right-wing social agendas. And make no mistake about it, this is what the PTC's ultimate goal is...

Just why exactly is the PTC mounting its terror campaign against Fox and Idol this time and trying to bar Howard Stern from this show? Because of what Stern has said and done on his show in the past. Behavior on Stern's show is offensive to the PTC, it's behavior which the PTC in all its self-righteous wisdom as America's moral guardians, has defined as "indecent" and "offensive," and behavior which now should disqualify Stern from a show like Idol. Nowhere in its harangue against Fox (read it here), does the PTC even try to make its usual effects argument for why Idol should be censoring itself. Just what kind of an effect will Howard Stern's words have on "America's children and grandchildren" if they hear it on Fox?

Nothing the PTC can prove, of course. As usual!!

No, the anti-Stern hysteria campaign is just more of what the PTC usually tries to cram down America's throat. It's a war of values, and a war of trying to force a retrograde, repressive Victorian value system on 21st century society.

Perhaps if the PTC were were so outraged by people's past bad behavior, they could have campaigned to keep the Tim Tebow anti-choice ad off the Super Bowl as well. The Focus on the Family's own past behavior can easily be found through any quick Google search...or wait a minute, even by going to their web page right now. Some of the most virulent, intolerant homophobic hate-speech one might wish to try and stomach is all over the pages of Focus on the Family and its adjunct organization, the Family Research Council. If Howard Stern qualifies for the PTC's pressure campaigns, so does the Focus on the Family.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beware the pink boards!! They steal souls!!!

This piece on the Reason magazine blog is just too priceless!

Ouija boards are made in pink to be marketed just to girls and, of course, some concerned parents are, well...concerned. And worried, and angry, and feelig all apocalyptic.

I would bet a whole lotta money right now that some of these people are Parents Television Council members. He, he, he...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fordham Prof's retort to PTC terrorists...

Check out this nice piece on CBS's self-censorship and comments from Fordham Professor Paul Levinson and the wing-nuts of the Parents Television Council.

Readers of this blog are already familiar with the fringe lunacy - bolstered by a thorough and spectacular level of ignorance of basic social science and constitutional law - of the Parents Television Council. If not, look at all my comments about this group in the archives on the right and below (especially my comments on their policies of threatening learning institutions).

The PTC and its head, Tim Winter, sent a "thank you" note to CBS for its heavy-handed censorship of the Grammy broadcast. The group seems to be happy that its terroristic campaign of letter writing to the FCC is paying off when broadcasters censor themselves. When TV networks choose to step on artists' rights to free expression out of fear of being punished by the FCC's unconstitutional powers to levy fines for broadcast content, the PTC feels that it has scored a point in the culture wars.

The only war the PTC is waging is on the most basic American, constitutionally-guaranteed, rights to freedom of speech and expression. When CBS takes these censorious measures to avoid the FCC, we see that the PTC's war is a true terror war. They are creating a chilling effect on free expression, creating a cultural atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

As I had written before, all people concerned with freedom of speech and democracy should exercise their own rights to speech, visit the web pages of the PTC and their adjunct groups like the Media Research Center, and let them know that Americans will no longer cave in to the pressure campaigns of cheap, mindless thugs and bullies.