I subscribe to the conservative — fair enough, I think — Christian American Family Association’s (AFA) Action Alert e-mail list. Don’t ask me why. If you subscribe to Harper’s but still watch the No Spin Zone once in a while; or, conversely, you’re a Liberatarian who bought and read every word of the Clinton-era national healthcare proposal, you’ll understand. It’s like slowing down at the scene of a bad accident: you won’t like what you’ll see, but you look anyway. The latest four or five Action Alerts have been pointed directly at the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) revisting policy on language in broadcast television and whether or not any language at all qualifies the broadcast as obscene — as in against the public decency, opposed to the common good, bad, bad, bad. Since everything from “bitch” to “asshole” is fair game on prime time television these days, the AFA’s big concern is letting the “f-word” out the gates and onto your regularly scheduled programming. Indeed I don’t know that “bitch” and “asshole” ever gave them such qualms as the “f-word”: they seem particularly perturbed by the “f-word”. I’m not sure I understand exactly why, as I can quote many passages from the Bible where believers are called upon to get out there and procreate — following some fairly strict guidelines, of course, but it still involves “f-ing”. Yet the AFA is quite chipped up that the FCC will “abandon the family to Hollywood’s vulgarity”.
Never mind that they’ve got the wrong coast — the major broadcast networks being universally based out of New York City — the AFA is bound and determined to keep the “f-word” off the airwaves. And actually, I fully support their campaign. That’s not to say I give a damn whether or not the “f-word” rings loud and long from the great glowing boxes in America’s living rooms. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me one way or the other. Indeed, during almost every episode of NBC’s ER this season, I’ve heard the “f-word” quite frequently. (Granted, it wasn’t coming from the television set; and as near as I can tell most often issued forth from my mouth.) Still, I support the AFA’s motivation and ambition to fight what they see as a wrong in public policy. Go to it: we need more people willing to stand up and take peaceful action along the lines of their beliefs. But apparently this sort of action costs a lot of money.
Indeed, right after a phone call and e-mail to the FCC, the next best thing you can do to keep the “f-word” mum is send the AFA cash. “If you can give $25 or $50 today, please do. If you can give $100 or $500, do that.” And, silly me, I thought this was about morality, about the moral consequences of letting down the public guard on matters that may seem trivial to me but matter much to others. But if any one of you sends $500 to the AFA to keep the “f-word” out of television programming, you’re the most immoral son of a bitch I know. I can think of about 14 dozen better places — left, right and center moderate — for you to send your $25, 50, 100 or 500 than the AFA’s campaign against the FCC and the notion that they might look the other way if the “f-word” pops up now and again on broadcast television. Straight away asking for 500 bucks to wage war against the “f-word” debauches the entire concept of campaigning for moral integrity; it’s the antithesis of moral integrity; worse by so many thousand meters than the “f-word” ever aspired to be. And the AFA Action Alerts play up as a grassroots e-mail campaign, a commitment deep and valued in the heart of the common, Internet-connected man. Seems to me the common man has to be wondering about that kind of grassroots action, what with, apparently, the cost of landscaping and topiary installation tacked onto the basics of lawn care.
Think about it, if you will. What’s worse? Keeping your kids out from in front of prime time television — which really isn’t a bad idea on several levels? Suffering yourself through the “f-word” a few times a week from your sofa redoubt? Or contributing to the war chest of a political lobbying organization — with a quite possibly veiled agenda — masquerading as the last bastion of American decency? The AFA is the candy story with the numbers game running in the back room; and, after all, $500 is a lot of money for a stick of licorice, isn’t it?