Protesting the Protesters

Okay, this has just become too much. Time to rant.

The right-wing censorship crusade, the Parents Television Council, is spearheading a protest against the unmitigated evil of the now-infamous Paris Hilton Carl’s Jr. ad. No shock there — these wingnuts protest everything. And given the fact that the “outrage” over the ad has made headlines everywhere, it’s probably not news to most people reading here.

But in the PTC’s zeal, they conned an intelligent, well-meaning relative of mine into sending out one of their rally-to-protest emails. Which ended up in my mailbox.

I wish I could say I was calmly civil in my response. After all, I’ve had friends and family members inadvertently send ostensibly harmless messages that — unbeknownst to them — are actually coming from organizations that make the Ku Klux Klan look like a backyard barbecue gathering, and I haven’t felt obliged to make a big deal out of it. The PTC isn’t even in the same league as these hate groups, though; so why am I driven to act on this particular message?

As those who know me will attest, once folks start messing with my First Amendment, I go a little apeshit.

Is this protest in and of itself a direct attack on that Amendment? Well, to listen to the original message (which I will not reprint here), not at all — they’re just encouraging folks to express their outrage (using their official, handy-dandy form) to the president of Carl’s Jr. But peppered throughout the email message are links to their website — which (surprise, surprise) features a big ol’ button saying “File a Complaint with the FCC!” Hmm... anyone else see a plan here?

Oh, and a quick note to anyone who actually does join the official protest — congratulations! You’ve just submitted all of your personal contact information to every right-wing crusade out there! Did you happen to notice that every field on their form is “required,” and buried in the fine print at the bottom is an unchecked box (ah, the glories of “opt-out” marketing) that says basically, “By the way, if you don’t want us to share your contact info with our wingnut buddies, check here.” Hope you enjoy all the spam and junk mail from the local militia groups!

The Parents Television Council is one of the most vile, extreme right-wing organizations I've had the displeasure of encountering, at the forefront of almost all censorship efforts since its founding by Puritan religious extremists in 1995. Almost single-handedly responsible for the wave of lowest-common-denominator “dumbing down” of television programming across the past year, and spearheading the effort to extend government censorship to cable and satellite television (including pay channels like Showtime and HBO). Literally 99.9 percent of the so-called “rash” of indecency complaints to the FCC last year came directly from this one organization.

In other words, a small group of agenda-driven activists is determining for the rest of the country what is appropriate and not appropriate. It’s not enough that parents have the ability to block channels, either specifically or through the use of V-chips. No, these wingnuts want to ensure that any content they deem offensive is completely unavailable to those of us who might just happen to want to exercise our own parental judgment.

I was fully expecting Carl’s Jr. to send out a typically corporate response to the protests; after all, companies usually bend over backwards to avoid offending any of their potential customers. But the CEO of Carl’s Jr. had an altogether different response for the PTC: “Get a life.” Bravo! A sentiment which can’t possibly be echoed enough, and one I’m finally glad to hear a corporate CEO express. Enough kowtowing to the extremist minority.

I hadn’t seen the actual ad before I received the email — I neither cared about the origin of all the publicity nor found Paris Hilton particularly appealing — but you can bet your ass I have now. Both the over-the-air and “extended” versions.

This is what they’re getting their panties in a bunch about? Give me a break! This is no more raunchy than any beer commercial that’s aired across the past decade. Sure, you can lament the decline of western civilization that represents — knock yourself out. But to imply that somehow this particular ad was worth fighting over is just idiotic. And the email’s assertion that the ad was placed in otherwise family-friendly programming is patently laughable. I’m sorry, but getting outraged over appearances on Desperate Housewives, The O.C. and The Apprentice? Just who the hell do these people think are watching these shows, toddlers? (Note that they don’t bother to mention that they’re actively campaigning against both Housewives and O.C. based on their content anyway, and while they don’t appear to regularly rate reality television shows, they did award Apprentice their “Worst TV Show of the Week” back in December.)

And the stupidity of their censorship crusade is being borne out by the numbers. The ad only aired a few times. But since the protest? News programs are airing it nonstop. Internet viewings are astonishingly greater than the number of people who ever watched it on television. And business is booming. Thanks to the PTC, this ad campaign has been an unprecedented success for Carl’s Jr. Hell, they couldn’t have asked for better publicity thatn a right-wing protest! Is it any wonder they’ll be rolling it out to their East Coast affiliate Hardee’s in the near future?

In general, if the PTC says protest something, I don’t care what the content is; I’ll gladly join the opposing side. And this instance is no exception.

Unfortunately, Carl’s Jr. is only around out West, and I don’t live near any Hardee’s locations. But I would encourage everyone who does have one nearby to go out and eat there. Hell, next time I have a California video shoot (or I’m just visiting my brother), I’m pulling a Super Size Me and eating at Carl’s Jr. exclusively: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And in the meantime, I’ll do what I would ask all of you to do as well: Go watch the video. Run up the viewing numbers. Show these self-righteous bastards what happens when they try to treat the Constitution like toilet paper.


At 2:37 PM, Tom Bridge said...

KKK = racist organization charged with violent intimidation of minority, including cross burning, lynching people, and severe beatings

PTC = group involved with complaining about stuff they think is bad.


Don't sully yourself like this Bill.

At 3:20 PM, Bill Coughlan said...

Umm... I never compared the PTC to the KKK. They're scum, yes, but I never said (or implied) that they were killers.

I said that in the past, family members have forwarded links -- usually "feel-good, Jesus is the center of all existence, pass it on" links -- which were in reality sponsored by some of the most virulently hateful groups out there. Yes, groups that made the KKK look tame in comparison.

And in (many, but not all, of) those cases, I was able to write it off as a simple misunderstanding, not worth getting into a tiff with family over. After all, what to me seems a simple check of the cute little flash movie's parent site is more than many not-so-'net-savvy folks would think to do.

This was an explicit effort of the PTC, not an apparently inoffensive message whose origin would be unknown if one didn't take the time to look at the originating sponsor. So no, I wasn't about to sit back and let the request to join the censorship bandwagon go unanswered.

However, in looking back at the wording of the post, I can see how it might seems as if I were lumping this message in with those others, when in fact I was attempting to draw a contrast -- those organizations may be much worse than this, but this one necessitated my action because of the nature of the message itself. I'll add a sentence to that effect.


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