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The New Political Correctness: 7 More Things You Can't Say on TV
October 25, 2002
By 
Maureen Farrell

Thirty years ago, George Carlin introduced his "7 words you can't say on T.V." Edging social commentary (and dirty words) further into the mainstream, he picked up where Lenny Bruce left off. Months later, TV's Maude pushed the envelope even further by tackling abortion in prime time. This was in the 70s, mind you, before liberals became an endangered species, and so, while some words were taboo, certain agendas were not.

But even as restrictions on speech, attitudes and art loosened, other shackles were put in place. Speech was only free if it followed dominant ideology: a woman who opposed abortion or found fault with feminism was a traitor to her gender; men were oppressors; motherhood, oppressive and on and on it went. It was "you're either with us or against us," courtesy of the left and it was every bit as stifling and shrill as people say it was.

Today, however, a new political correctness has taken hold. While in the past, no one dared openly ponder the wisdom of fatherless families or carting newborns to day care, today's taboos pile higher than the national debt. Ironically, neo-conservatives continue to rail against political correctness as if it were solely the province of liberals, while peddling warm and fuzzy falsehoods of their own. Why do they hate us? "Because we're free!" What is the driving force behind America's foreign policy? "Spreading democracy throughout the world!"

Like the former PC doctrine, this new political correctness twists truth to fit an agenda. War profiteering masquerades as "national security," media complicity is cloaked as wartime patriotism, and ethical concerns are filed under "blaming America first." Chris Matthews muses that people on the left must hate their parents, ignoring how, under Bush and Cheney, "Dad" has morphed into Tony Soprano.

The thuggish, incestuous relationship between government and the media, or the "military-industrial-media-entertainment network," as James Der Derian described it, insures that the perimeters of debate continue to narrow. Dysfunction festers alongside secrets we can't know and others we can't discuss. In short, the right's political correctness is more soul-crunching than the left's, and quite frankly, something has to be done. So, in the tradition of George Carlin's list, here are 7 sentiments you won't hear on TV:

'MADE-FOR-TV' QUOTE: "Of course, there's a liberal bias in the news. All of the networks tilt left." - Bernard Goldberg quoting former CBS boss Andrew Heyward

POLITICALLY INCORRECT COUNTERPOINT #1: "The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. . . . We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes." - former New York Times editor John Swinton

Don't like what's being said? Deem the source "liberal" or "anti-America" and information is immediately discredited. Take into account John Swinton's candor, however, and you see why the world's Rupert Murdochs have a vested interest in having the common folk hum along with Hannity.

'MADE FOR TV' QUOTE: "If you want to fight evil, if you want to join the war on terror, love somebody. Do some good. It's the gathering momentum of thousands of acts of kindness and generosity which will show the world the compassionate face of America. . . " - President Bush

COUNTERPOINT #2: "Could the Nazi holocaust have happened without anyone knowing about it? The American holocaust has. . . . a few million people have died in the American holocaust and many more millions have been condemned to lives of misery and torture as a result of US interventions." - Former U.S. State Department official William Blum.

So much of our history is hidden; it's hard to know what's true. Despite government assurances of American benevolence, the Association for Responsible Dissent estimated that by 1987, CIA covert operations were responsible for 6 million deaths. But you'd not hear that on the Sunday morning shows. Steve Kangas catalogued Blum's findings in a timeline before suspiciously "committing suicide." Considering ways blowback is a constant foreign policy nightmare, we have to wonder: Are we sentencing our kids to futures of daily color-coded terror alerts?

'MADE-FOR-TV' QUOTE: "If we are an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation but strong, they'll welcome us." - Candidate George Bush, during the 2000 debates

COUNTERPOINT #3: "This war [in Iraq], should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination." - Jay Bookman

Which TV pundits, besides Pat Buchanan, have addressed the Wolfowitz Doctrine in depth? Who's fully examined ways our new national strategy is at odds with America's 'humble' values? By mid-October, Bush promised to head up a "vast coalition" against Iraq, but so far, America's U.N resolution draft has been rejected by Russia and France and Australians have staunchly criticized their government's alliance with the U.S. And who can forget recent events in Germany? "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us." No kidding. What happened, George?

'MADE-FOR-TV' QUOTE: "Our enemy is the terrorists themselves, and the regimes that shelter and sustain them." - G.W. Bush

COUNTERPOINT #4: "The good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratic regimes friendly to the United States," - Dick Cheney, at the CATO Institute, 1998.

Cheney also said, "You've got to go where the oil is." We believe him.

'MADE-FOR-TV' QUOTE: "For eight years, under the tutelage of a president hungry for a Nobel Prize, the American position had been that when attacked, Israel should exercise "restraint" and not contribute to the "cycle of violence." Everyone knew that this was no cycle; it was elementary self-defense in the face of an openly declared campaign of Palestinian terror. But truth could not be allowed to stand in the way of "peace." - Charles Krauthammer

COUNTERPOINT #5: "The [West's] all-purpose slander of "anti- Semitism" is now used with ever-increasing promiscuity against anyone - people who condemn the wickedness of Palestinian suicide bombings every bit as much as they do the cruelty of Israel's repeated killing of children - in an attempt to shut them up." - Robert Fisk.

Anyone who's switched from American news to the BBC has gotten a glimpse of what Fisk is referring to. The question is: Does America give Israel billions for defense or to push Palestinians off their land? The truth can never be that simple, of course, but given that Dick Armey and Trent Lott have openly called for Palestinians to move elsewhere and Donald Rumsfeld has chimed in about the "so-called occupied territories," America's role as an honest broker is in tatters. President Bush's mandate for ousting Arafat and the Christian Right's oh-so-holy interest in expelling the Palestinians have contributed to an atmosphere that very may well bring about the Armageddon Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed ache for.

'MADE-FOR-TV' QUOTE: "Look, we understand the enemy - they've made themselves clear: they want to murder us," he said. "We don't sit around and get all gooey and wonder if these people have been misunderstood in their childhood. If they're going to try to kill us, that's bad." - FOX News' Roger Ailes

COUNTERPOINT #6: "Americans are the best entertained and the least informed people in the world." - Neil Postman

Got FOX?

'MADE-FOR -TV' QUOTE': "[W]e should peacefully commit ourselves to seeking a society that values life - from its very beginnings to its natural end. Unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected in law." - President Bush

COUNTERPOINT #7: "On a tour of a hospital in the southern town of Basra, a doctor told us that before the war [in Iraq], the first question asked at birth in their hospital was: "Is it a boy or girl?" After the war and the use of depleted uranium shells, the question became: "Is it normal or not?" - U.S Congressman David E. Bonior

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Helen Caldicott chronicled the health hazards associated with depleted uranium munitions and took this administration to task. "Do George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld understand the medical consequences of the 1991 war and the likely health effects of the next one they are now planning?" she asked. "If they do not, their ignorance is breathtaking; even more incredible though - and alas, much more likely - is that they do understand, but do not care."

This kind of myopic, immoral vision is not new. "The nationalist," wrote George Orwell, "not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

Thanks to the new political correctness, this trend is likely to continue.

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