TV, Drugs & Civil Liberties - Ministers of Truth

TV, Drugs & Civil Liberties - Ministers of Truth
Posted by FoM on January 18, 2000 at 11:41:31 PT
J.D. Tuccille From Notebook: Convicted of Running 
Source: Civil Liberty
In a much-watched case before the Supreme Court, the nine geriatrics in black dresses decided that it's perfectly fine for cops to arrest folks for doing nothing more than running away. The case involved William Wardlow, a Chicago man who, in 1995, saw the police coming from one direction and high-tailed it in the other. The police thought it was might suspicious that a young black man wouldn't want to share their company, so they took off in pursuit. 
Wardlow, when caught, turned out to be in illegal possession of a .38 revolver. The court didn't really say that running in and of itself is a good enough reason to get busted  they applied a "totality of the circumstances" test that boils down to whatever the cops decide. The totality of the decision suggests that we'd all better learn to enjoy the company of the police. Crypto-Rebel: John Young, a 63-year-old architect and seemingly improbably martyr in the battle for encryption, may become just that. Young maintains the popular Cryptome Web site, which has been a great source of information on cryptography, privacy, and government malfeasance. Now, it also contains a copy of the PGP encryption program, available for worldwide download in seeming violation of federal law. Young isn't the first person to challenge the export-control laws, but he's certainly among the more prominent. Keep an eye on his site  and be ready to offer assistance if it's needed. Discuss This Column:, let's suppose that yours truly teamed up with some buddies from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and paid the TV networks to insert story lines favoring drug legalization into Touched By An Angel and Friends. Maybe Chandler would peddle a few party favors to the crew before being brutalized by the pleasure police from the DEA. Just how long would be the line of senators waiting for a chance to denounce the TV execs and me as threats to the republic? Or how about if I pooled funds with the National Rifle Association to tease a few gun-friendly plot lines out of the networks for Ally McBeal (somebody give that broad a sandwich) and Will & Grace. Grace and the boys might chase off a gang of gay bashers with a few illegally packed  but color-coordinated  pistols, and decide that New York's gun control laws should take a hike. That ripping sound you'd hear would be the echo of the FCC tearing the licenses from the grasp of the broadcast giants  and me enjoying the hospitality of the BATF. But drug czar Barry McCaffrey doesn't understand why people are ticked off to hear that the federal government carrot-and-sticked the TV networks into inserting anti-drug messages into television shows. White House press secretary Jim Lockhart says it's OK because "there is a real benefit to getting the message out." And the chief non-inhaler himself, Bill Clinton, calls the arrangement "a good thing." So I guess it's time for me to phone the folks at NORML and the NRA, right? The controversy grows out of a detailed article published last week in the online magazine Salon about the unholy relationship between the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the broadcast networks. As government-licensed entities, the TV networks face some fairly strict controls on their content and the need to keep the federal government happy. One of those requirements is that the networks air "public service announcements" featuring some nanny-state admonishment or other as to how the public should behave (this is your brain on drugs, being bashed around by a precocious little punk-rock girl in a t-shirt). These PSAs take up potentially lucrative advertising spots, so the feds worked a deal whereby PSA obligations would be forgiven in return for the insertion of government-approved messages about drugs and alcohol into the scripts of television shows. The feds insist that they never wrote or checked off on shows before they were filmed, they "only" approved them for PSA credit after the fact. ABC executives differ though. The president of the Disney-owned network told reporters that her company pulled out of the deal because the drug thought police were insisting on prior approval of scripts. Whores network execs may be, but even whores have standards. The solons of media sanctity have expressed outrage at the behind-the-scenes nature of the networks' deal with the devil (undersecretary of). The Washington Post even suggested that such an arrangement would have been fine, as long as it was open and no yucky money changed hands. But tooth-gnashing and wailing over secrecy is a bit misplaced. As Free! disclosed in its analysis of the mess, the drug cops' propaganda effort was announced with some fanfare in 1998, but pretty much ignored at the time. Salon just rudely dragged the whole matter back into the light  with important detail  at the proper moment to focus attention on the networks' service as Orwellian Ministries of Truth. The real scandal is the ease with which the feds were able to arrange such a deal, whether secret or above-board. Above, I called TV execs "whores," and that's probably too strong a word. After all, First Amendment aside, television is a licensed business, using airwaves that the government claims as its property, and licenses are dispensed only at the pleasure of the FCC. Broadcast industry senior executives could all be subscribers to High Times, but they'll push the anti-drug messages the feds tell them to push if they want to stay in the never-ending race for Nielsen ratings and advertising dollars. As a matter of fact, one of the TV shows mentioned in the Salon report as attitude-adjusted for the proper stance on the drug problem is Drew Carey. Carey (the real fellow, not the eponymous TV character) is a self-described libertarian who pals around with Reason magazine editors and might be expected to be less-than-thrilled by the political correcting of his scripts. But such are the rigors of working in a medium "owned" by the government. The root of the problem in the anti-drug propaganda scandal isn't that the feds and TV execs got into bed together to push a political message, it's that the feds had the leverage to extract the concessions they want. As pointed out by Tibor Machan in a commentary for the Ludwig von Mises Foundation: "[W]e have here once again a way government intrudes upon the free society via the process of making something public that never should have been made so.  Why should government own the airwaves? There is no justification for this in a free society." No justification, unless the government wants to control the use of the medium. Regular beat reporters seemed to understand the implications: If the feds could extract promises of the "right" position on drugs, what about other matters of policy? That's why they hounded the president on Friday to know "if the administration is considering using a similar method to deliver other sorts of messages (anti-gun violence or sexual abstinence, for example)." Such questions would be almost inconceivable in the context of newspapers, magazines, movies, and the Internet. Whatever criticisms might be leveled at the print media and even Hollywood, they aren't under any legal obligation to publish the government's official line. For every major studio movie or news magazine that might slip in an "official" message, there will be a Fight Club or a popular Web site to break out of lock step. There's no way for the government to prescribe "proper" attitudes in media that don't require official permission to operate. Maybe that explains a spate of recent lawsuits against such targets as bad-boy filmmaker Oliver Stone and "underground" book publisher Paladin Press. They can't be officially disciplined for unauthorized attitudes on sex and violence, but a courtroom pimp-slapping might just do the job ... But that's a separate concern, though a serious one. For now, I'd like to know if the networks would like to challenge government "ownership" of the airwaves and take me up on the business offer I mentioned earlier. I'm sure I could raise the money, and I'll bet that a dope-smoking, pistol-packing, fed-thrashing Ally McBeal would be a hell of a lot more fun to watch than some schoolmarmy lecture on the evils of sneaking a beer. So you think Im full of it, eh? Then go to the source: Posted: January 17, 2000Click the link for more information. Articles From Cannabis News:Television's Risky Relationship - 1/18/2000 Head Praises U.S. Drug Policy - 1/17/200, Spelling Out Its Differences With ONDCP - 1/17/2000 Magazine Articles:White House Defends TV Drug-Ad Deal - 1/15/2000 Script Doctors - 1/13/2000 Money, How the White House Secretly Hooked TV-1/13/2000 
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 18, 2000 at 14:53:20 PT
Your Welcome!
Your welcome, kaptinemo! Thanks for all your great comments. I don't have much free time to post but I really like reading everyones opinions. Money that's all this is about. I have become very cynical as far as our government goes and what bothers me so much is I feel I am a moral person and they make us all feel like we are immoral and that bugs me. I live by the golden rule and so do many and it's time for this war on our choices of ways to live our lives ends! Want to see Here it is!
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on January 18, 2000 at 12:10:29 PT
Money talks, justice walks
Many thanks, FoM, for bringing up yet another point of view which desperately needs to be heard.I've been waiting for something more than the seeming lame and wimpy responses the major media reporters have produced in regards to the (what I call) Barry-ola scandal. JD Tuccilie's article brings the rather esoteric matter into sharper focus for all of us. And, of course, we here would probably never have known of this article but for your tireless efforst. Thanks again.But what amazes me about this article is that similar complaints had ben raised by other groups in society, in earlier times, and these statements had largely been ignored. Anyone having even a smidgen of liberatarian impulses can say that this script twisting is nothing new. It happens all the time. As Tuccile had pointed out, you probably will never see a scene where gun ownership is seen in a positive light. As to why, well, you have to ask writers and producers what their particular animosity towards such ideas originated from.The only difference between the above mentioned biases and the present ONDCP scandal is that it was the Federal government that laid the groundwork - and twisted the arms unfairly by using it's power to control the airwaves as a cudgel to be held over the networks. And the networks meekly, cravenly complied. 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 18, 2000 at 11:48:04 PT
Harris-Excite Poll! Today Only!
Harris-Excite Poll! Today Only!Newshawk: spiritShould the government use incentives to "encourage" anti-drug messages on popular network TV shows?
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