Robert George: We Should Treat the Entertainment Industry the Way We Treat Polluters

 

The constitutional scholar and director of the Madison Program at Princeton, Robert P. George, just posted a particularly provocative comment on Facebook. As you’ll see, Robby’s comment raises, and very definitely takes sides in, one of the permanent disputes in conservatism:  liberty versus morality, or freedom from coercion versus the freedom to live in a decent society.  To quote him:

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. The suits in the entertainment industry massively enrich themselves by marketing Lady Gaga to eleven year old girls, and we’re supposed show that we’re worldly, urbane, sophisticated people who haven’t the slightest concern about conduct like this. Then we’re shocked–shocked!–by drug use, provocative dressing, foul language, lewd conduct, meanness, and sexual promiscuity by tweens and young teens. Please count me among the simple, backward, unsophsticated hicks and rubes who think we should hold the entertainment business accountable the way we hold the tobacco industry and environmental polluters accountable.

Since “the way we hold the tobacco industry and environmental polluters accountable” is by way of laws, regulations, and fines–that is, by way of government coercion–Robby is calling here, if I’m reading him correctly, for expanding the government’s power over the music industry, television, and Hollywood.

Rob Long?  Good people of the Ricochetti?  What think?

There are 65 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @Arahant

    Environmental pollution, indeed!

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @Guruforhire

    Cursing credits?

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @TeamAmerica

    Wouldn’t parents putting their foot down help? And isn’t it time conservatives took a page from the left and started boycotting corporations that profit off of this or whose ads keep biased media going?

    • #3
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    @MelFoil

    Rather than being forced to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to women, maybe government should provide free and effective parental control systems for television and the internet. You don’t have to use it, but if you want to, it’s free.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @TeamAmerica

    Mel Foil

    AFAIK, there already are such options for parental control of tv and internet

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @Arahant

    Mel,

    TANSTAAFL!

    • #6
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    @MelFoil
    TeamAmerica: Mel Foil

    AFAIK, there already are such options for parental control of tv and internet

    Not all of them are effective, especially with tech-savvy kids.

    • #7
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    @GarrettPetersen

    I strongly disagree.  How quickly would a government agency formed to police the entertainment industry for lewdness turn to policing it for political incorrectness?  Very quickly.

    • #8
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    @BrentB67

    Fun topic, but I don’t think it trumps the 1st Amendment.

    Why are parents letting 11 year olds tune into Lady Gaga and then buying the products her sponsors are hawking?

    The entertainment industry persists because we keep buying what they are selling.

    • #9
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    @MelFoil
    Garrett Petersen: I strongly disagree.  How quickly would a government agency formed to police the entertainment industry for lewdness turn to policing it for political incorrectness?  Very quickly.

    Then, turn off the filter. If you can’t turn it off, then it’s no good. I agree.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @drlorentz
    Peter Robinson

    Since “the way we hold the tobacco industry and environmental polluters accountable” is by way of laws, regulations, and fines–that is, by way of government coercion–Robby is calling here, if I’m reading him correctly, for expanding the government’s power over the music industry, television, and Hollywood.

    It sure sounds like it to me. Surely, a person who once wrote speeches for President Reagan does not agree with this sentiment. Please say it ain’t so, Mr Robinson.

    • #11
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    @flownover

    You’re gonna need trial lawyers, lots of them. 

    Dangle that out in front of them , with an additional lagniappe for the Attorney Generals state by state, and pretty soon — boom !

    This could work.

    • #12
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    @VanceRichards

    Our society should fight back against this filth. Our government should not.

    • #13
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    @kgrant67

    I think of Charles Murray’s Losing Ground argument here.   The government will get on board with regulating smut just as soon as it is starting to get better on its own through market forces because the public is fed up with it.  Then the smut will get worse.

    • #14
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    @DianeEllis

    Why were movies, music, and television so much more wholesome in the 1950’s?  Surely no one would credit government intervention or regulation.  There was less filth in pop culture because people wouldn’t stand for it.  Now people crave it.  And there ain’t nothing a government —especially a govt constrained by the bounds of our Constitution—can do to reverse the cultural decay.

    However, one thing government really ought to do is end the special tax breaks and subsidies of the entertainment industry. 

    • #15
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    @MelFoil

    To the extent that the internet has become the public square, and can’t be ignored by the average citizen who wants to stay politically informed, the internet should maybe provide some of the protections that the public square provides. Segregate the strip clubs from the civic center mall for example. You should be able to avoid the filth if you’re at least trying to avoid it.

    • #16
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    @Mendel

    According to his bio, Prof. George is one of Americas most “influential conservative Christian thinker[s].”

    Here’s a conservative Christian idea: how about parents start taking their responsibilities seriously enough to instill their children with some common sense?

    With all respect to the esteemed professor, the line of reasoning that says “since we already have bad policy with X (i.e. environmental regulation), it’s okay to adopt bad policy Y (censorship of entertainment)” is straight out of junior high school.

    • #17
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    @KCMulville

    But if you didn’t promote sex, or the stupidity of religion, or the sublime wisdom of teenagers … what … would … writers … write about?

    • #18
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    @RichardFinlay

    This would only work in a society which pretty much uniformly agreed with these values, where it would be pretty much unnecessary.  In this society, it would drive the offensive material underground, increasing its profitability and therefore its profusion.  And by adding a frisson of forbiddenness, probably increase its appeal.

    • #19
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    @katievs

    Peter, I read him differently.  I don’t read him as calling for laws and government intervention.  I read him as calling for moral opprobrium.  

    • #20
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    @tabularasa

    Professor George’s assessment of the problematic state of the culture is objectively true.

    There are lines that should not be crossed.   As a society, we should be able to punish those who produce child porn, and the worst kind of pornography.The problem, of course, is where to draw lines.

    In her memoir, the great English mystery novelist P. D. James, described a panel she was part of where one of the subjects was pornography.  Some of her writing colleagues spoke in favor of no censorship of any kind.  James made it clear that any civilized society must set some lines: 

    “[B]ut I made the point that there were certainly some matters—the depiction on video of the sexual exploitation of young children, for example—which no civilized country ought to tolerate.   There are two easy options for any society: total prohibition as in a totalitarian state, or total license.  Both avoid the ardours of decision.  Both have the attraction of certainty.  The difficult option is to decide where the line should be drawn and this, surely, is the responsibility of any civilized and democratic country.

    I believe George goes too far, but there is a line.

    • #21
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    @MelFoil

    If we live long enough, we’ll probably all be living under sharia law, and it won’t matter. Maybe there’s an acceptable middle-ground.

    • #22
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    @katievs

    One thing to keep in mind: the alternatives aren’t federal regulation and no regulation.

    The TV industry can regulate itself, for instance.  Also, we can both shrink he federal government and strengthen the role of “intermediary institutions”, like states, towns, and churches.

    One reason TV used to be so much less awash in filth is that the Catholic Church wielded a huge moral influence.

    Further, there’s a difference between restricting and outlawing.  

    We believe in “ordered liberty,” not libertinism, right?

    • #23
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    @TravisMcKee

    I’ll start taking concerned parents seriously when they finally get around to programing the V-chips that have been in their televisions for the last fifteen years.

    • #24
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    @CoolHand

    It would surely be just deserts if the fools in Hollywood were to die upon a cross of their own manufacture.

    However, no matter how sweet and juicy a piece of justice that would be, I simply cannot countenance the idea that govt should regulate entertainment of any sort.

    If you find environmental law and entertainment law to be out of sync, I suggest that we harmonize to the LESS onerous standard and reap the economic boon that would result.

    Fight the culture war if you must, but do it in the manner of guerrillas the world over.  Hide in the weeds, take their high value targets first, and do it on the cheap (with private money).

    Collusion with govt is what got us here in the first place.

    • #25
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    @CoolHand
    katievs: We believe in “ordered liberty,” not libertinism, right?

    We?  You got a mouse in your pocket there?

    I believe in liberty.

    If you want to regulate what your kids watch, THEN DO THAT.  You don’t need any more power or assistance than you already wield over your kids.

    Regulate your family as you see fit.

    Leave the rest of us alone.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Member
    @tabularasa
    katievs: 

    Further, there’s a difference between restricting and outlawing.  

    We believe in “ordered liberty,” not libertinism, right? · 6 minutes ago

    Put me in the “ordered liberty” column.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CoolHand
    Mel Foil:the internet should maybe provide some of the protections that the public square provides. Segregate the strip clubs from the civic center mall for example. You should be able to avoid the filth if you’re at least trying to avoid it.

    Sir,

          If you cannot use the internet without “stumbling” upon pornography of some sort, I suggest that you find a younger person to teach you how to do it properly, because right now you are doing it wrong.

    I use the internet for several hours every day, and I do not see smut of any sort unless I actively seek it out.

    It’s idiotic to demand new “controls” on something because you can’t figure out how to use the controls that already exist.

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MelFoil
    CoolHand

    katievs: We believe in “ordered liberty,” not libertinism, right?

    We?  You got a mouse in your pocket there?

    I believe in liberty.

    If you want to regulate what your kids watch, THEN DO THAT.  You don’t need any more power or assistance than you already wield over your kids.

    Regulate your family as you see fit.

    Leave the rest of us alone.

    The day that virtue becomes counter-cultural in America, then even you might be horrified at the result.

    • #29
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    @NathanLeberknight

    New to Ricochet (hooray!), and I would say here that if conservatives and traditionalists alike want to combat the Kultursmog, the way do it is through our own entertainment: Literature, films, music, and other works that are truer, more beautiful, and more compelling than anything produced by the guttersnipes of popular entertainment.

    This sort of transformation happens slowly, but it’ll happen surely if we’re persistent. It worked for the Alinskyites. Why can’t it work for us?

    We need our own Gramscian “long march through the institutions,” not a panicked response that cries out to government. Rob Long writes intelligent comedy for TBS; Andrew Klavan crafts thrilling tales for many a reader. And that’s just the beginning! Who knows how much road there’s left to travel?

    • #30

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