(11/17/2003) Activism works best when only extremes are considered. To engage supporters, the activist often resorts to painting a 'worst-case' picture, making the situation seem as dire and immediate as possible. This 'urgent' notice from the American Family Association does just that by conveniently omitting the context and rational examination of this true news story.
SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT
FCC APPROVES USE OF THE "F" WORD ON TV AND RADIO! IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED NOW!
The Federal Communications Commission has approved the use of the "F" word for use on any TV show or radio program, ANYTIME DAY OR NIGHT!
The FCC said the word can be used whenever desired except in sexual situations!
That means that real soon you will be watching a sit-com on TV, or news, or any drama or movie-ANY PROGRAM-and it's ok! Hollywood is rejoicing!
Soon, when you are driving your kids to school you will be listening to a song which makes extensive use of the word.
Shock jocks such as Howard Stern are now free to use any language, no matter how vile and repugnant, on their radio shows. And use it they will.
No longer will movies shown on TV have to be edited because of language.
WE MUST ACT NOW TO STOP THIS!
Send your letter to your Congressman, Senators and members of the FCC. Let them know that you want this stopped-NOW!
Please send you letter now. And please forward this letter to your email list asking them to get involved.
If it isn't stopped now, in a few months verbal pornography will rule the airways!
Please act today. Help us get 1,000,000 email letters to members of Congress, Senators and FCC Commissioners.
Thanks for getting involved!
Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman American Family Association
If you do not wish to receive further e-mail communications from us, to: click to unsubscribe.
END CHAIN LETTER TEXT
In January, 2003, during a live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards on NBC, Irish rock star Bono (of the band U2) took to the podium, uttering "this is really f---ing brilliant!" His four-letter foul-up was broadcast to millions of viewers, prompting about 200 complaints to be filed with the Federal Communications Commission that stations that aired the expletive uncensored violated FCC obscenity restrictions.
In October, 2003, the FCC responded to the complaints saying that, since the rocker's comment was "fleeting and isolated" and did not "describe or depict sexual and excretory organs and activities," his use of the "F-word" was not "patently offensive:"
"the performer used the word 'fucking' as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activity or organs is not within the scope of the Commission's prohibition of indecent program content."
The message above originated with the American Family Association, a well-known conservative action group with a checkered history when it comes to censorship issues. As with most activist causes, their best path toward success is paved by warning of worst-case scenarios. That's exactly what they forward above.
Contrary to the AFA's assertions, the FCC's ruling on the Golden Globe complaint does not mean that "the word can be used whenever desired except in sexual situations!" Rather, the ruling addresses specific complaints in a single context.
While decency on television seems to be on a steep decline, the FCC's obscenity rules are but a small part of the picture. Other factors, including state and regional laws, network and station standards and, of course, the court of public opinion. In fact, listener and advertiser loyalty alone can do more to sway a station than any threat of FCC sanction.
The AFA is dedicated to preserving family values in entertainment and have built their organization on attacking the likes of Howard Stern and Jerry Springer. In fact, many other conservative groups have criticized the AFA for pursuing a 'censorship agenda.'
Like many advocacy groups, the AFA pads their membership rolls by sending sensational action alerts like the one above and encouraging you to share them. If you received the note above directly from the AFA (using your name in the greeting) and aren't sure why, odds are you've signed one of their e-petitions in the past or someone else has sent you a notice through the AFA web site.
While their causes are often noble, their execution frequently leaves a lot to be desired. Break this chain.