The right-wing moralists strike back on the media

As if the post-election fallout, Justice Rehnquist’s health, Bush’s purging of the CIA, and a test and paper due this week wasn’t enough, the right-wing moralists add insult to injury with an all-out crusade against anything deemed “indecent” or “immoral.” I had hoped that their shouting after Jacksongate would have eroded their vocal cords, but no. Never underestimate their tenacity – before you know it, Towelgate comes out, and the moralists again rear their ugly heads. For those who missed it, Towelgate refers to an appropriately desperate pitch for ABC’s Desperate Housewives. The promo featured Terrell Owens (of the Philadelphia Eagles) and a seemingly random, albeit very good looking, blonde (Nicolette Sheridan), in a locker room, making the run for first base as the promo ends. Sheridan, clad in a towel, approaches Owens, asks him to skip the game for her, then drops the towel and leaps into his arms.

That’s all it took to work the crusaders into a rabid frenzy – despite the fact that Towelgate, unlike Jacksongate, had no nudity! None! And their excuse for complaining is “Think of the children!” So basically, what they’re saying is “Boo hoo, little Timmy saw a boobie, now he’s going to grow up to be some cracked out misogynist and end up dead, in jail or in hell, because the wall we built around him was breached, all because you forced upon his innocent mind a two-second glimpse of an unclothed female breast. Oh, the horror!” Give me a break, America!

This is truly ridiculous – Janet Jackson flashes for five seconds, and Viacom (affiliated with CBS) gives the FCC $3.5 million as a consequence. Howard Stern will no longer grace our airwaves, being forced to foray into the restriction-free (and costly) realm of satellite radio, after Clear Channel cut him loose following a tidal wave of FCC fines. Oprah, however, talks about sexual themes regularly, including some with quite graphic descriptions. How much has the FCC fined Oprah as of yet? The answer, my friends, is $0.

American parents, listen up. A five-second glimpse of a breast will not adversely affect little Timmy’s development. You have no excuse to point your fingers at broadcasters and performers and no right to try and impose your values over mine. If you have a problem with so-called “offensive” programming, I suggest investing in a nifty, quite convenient device called a remote control: you can turn the TV on, off, adjust the volume, set a sleep timer for it, and – are you sitting down? – change the channel! Pretty neat, isn’t it? You see something you don’t like, then use that remote and it’ll be gone faster than you can file a lawsuit against ABC for airing it. For the benefit of America, I beg you – at least consider it.

Jay Rooney can be contacted at