In Search of Values....
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 98 13:11:25 -0800
Subject: In Search of Values....
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From: James Randi --- Wizard <JREFInfo@ssr.com>
I've just noted that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have
downgraded the sin of uttering any one of the "Seven Words You Can't Say on
Radio or TV" to lesser crimes. Rather than a fine of $12,500 for each
event, it's now only $7,000, a saving of $5,500 for each reference to human
body parts or functions that are located below the waist, though there is
one exception to that feature -- which shall remain undiscussed here.
Howard Stern or Neil Rogers might well benefit enough from this ruling to
be able to afford 80% more naughty words, and not notice the penalties at
Such a sweeping and invigorating legal reform might normally escape my
notice, but it gives rise to a question. There was a time when the FCC was
a potent force for fairness and equal opportunity in U.S. communications.
Then it began to lose its reason to exist and is now a panel of ineffective
officials who are more concerned with form than substance, and do much
teeth-tapping and fidgeting when a poo-poo word is brought to their
attention. I ask: if it's such a crime to say "bad" words that may offend
but do nothing else -- except to show the inability of the speaker to find
an expressive vocabulary -- cannot the FCC pundits assign as much importance
and sanctions to the blatant misrepresentations of quackery and
pseudoscience, and the outright swindles that are advertised every hour via
"infomercials" and 30-second commercials on leading shows such as "Jeopardy"
and "Wheel of Fortune"?
We were presented with an electronic pain zapper that Lee Merriweather
endorsed along with minor golfing figures, and the FCC and consumer agencies
in Washington allowed it to be peddled to athritics and others who believed
-- falsely -- that they were being protected by those agencies. Yes, the
product was eventually removed from the market, but not before the sellers
had made tens of millions on it, and couldn't care less. The victims will
never get their money back, of course. Yet the device was an obvious fraud
from the first moment the commercial aired, and nothing was done about it.
Had a swear word been used in extolling it, however, there would have been
hell (oops!) to pay. Now, that's a REAL crime!
Laundry balls/disks, homeopathic pills, memory aids, pest repellers,
rust removers, water softeners, the list of fraudulent devices being sold
via TV, the Internet, radio, and print media, is never-ending. Even Sharper
Image got into the act recently selling a useless "magic" laundry device.
DAK Industries and several other catalog companies have been at it for
years, and GNC shops feature useless products proudly. Tool catalogs and
shops sell fake "pipe locators" to trusting buyers. The 1-900 "psychic"
phone lines have been exposed as cruel frauds, but they're still making more
money than they can count, with the cooperation of the phone companies, who
also reap the rewards of the fakery. The TV evangelists still promise
healing they can't and don't deliver, and no one stops them; they know that
inertia and fear in high places protects them. But don't swear while you're
in the shop, on the phone, or writing out the order, or someone'll get you!
The swindlers will flourish, and the suckers will be the bottom of that
food-chain. And there isn't an agency in the U.S. government that can --
or will -- act quickly or bravely enough to protect the consumers.
And we're more concerned with a White House intern or two that might
have been cosy with Bill Clinton, and the Pope telling Cubans what they want
to hear and what we all knew he would come up with, anyway? Can we get real
at some point in time, folks?
© 1998 Peter Langston