AS I SEE IT - 4/05/2001
Our favorite self-appointed monitors of public behavior (and truth-challenged
violators of personal freedom) are at it again...
Can you guess who I mean (insert sarcastic snort here)?
On April 2, the PTC published a "Special Report documenting the link between violent entertainment and deadly adolescent behavior". Bozell's PTC claimed to have researched the following supposed "culprits" as supposed causative factors for everything from rape to animal abuse to murder to the Columbine massacre: Scream I, II and III, Reservoir Dogs, Natural Born Killers, Basketball Diaries, Childs Play 3, the Jerry Springer Show, South Park, Beavis and Butthead, Jackass, the Mortal Kombat video game, and the music of Slayer, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Eminem, and Dr. Dre...
Then, of course... what else, but wrestling...
Even with the lawsuit against the PTC by WWF Entertainment, Inc. in two of the incidents, WWF wrestling is, by name, linked to injuries/deaths, recycling the wrestling material from a previous PTC "Report" called
"Wrestling With Death".
You can read the PTC's "report" in full here, or read the wrestling "examples" below:
"St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 21, 2001
A man who watched his stepson fall 18 feet from the roof of their house onto a burning card table to imitate a wrestling stunt is charged with child endangerment. Andrew Bausch, 16, suffered burns to 20% of his body when his clothes caught fire."
In this case, the young man in question was imitating a stunt on a backyard wrestling tape. But in earlier mentions of this incident, the PTC lumped it in with professional wrestling.
The Buffalo News, September 3, 1999
A 24-year-old babysitter caring for seven children showed the children a videotape of a Wrestlemania event to entertain them while he went out to buy cigarettes. While he was out, a 4-year-old either kicked or threw 15-month-old Ramone King off the bed, fracturing his skull. Other children who were present said that the boy appeared to be imitating the video.
The Associated Press, May 11, 1999
Jason Whala was convicted of killing his 19-month-old cousin William Sweet while babysitting. Whala, who was 12 at the time, 'was a fan of professional wrestling and used a move called the jackknife power bomb to slam William to the floor repeatedly.'
This incident was deliberately brought up by the PTC in their corporate terrorism campaigns as "WWF wrestling", even though the move was used by Kevin Nash, who hadn't performed in the WWF since 1996.
Dallas Morning News, July 2, 1999
A 7-year-old Dallas boy killed his 3-year-old brother by performing a 'clothesline,' a move, reported the Dallas Morning News, 'that he had seen his wrestling heroes perform on TV.' The 3-year-old died 'from brain swelling after sustaining a closed-head injury that doctors said reminded them of something from a severe auto accident.'
[London] Daily Mail, September 19, 2000
In south London, an eighteen-year-old mentally ill man beat a fifty-seven-year-old woman to death. Barrister Jane Mishcon, who headed the inquiry, said the WWF's glamorization of violence may have contributed to the brutality of Joseph's attack.
The teenager, who dreamt of becoming a wrestler, jumped up and down on Mrs. Thompson's chest, dragged her round by her hair and hit her with pieces of furniture.
'Miss Mischon said: 'If one considers the particular brutality of the attack, one can see similarities. Some of the extreme actions of the attack did mirror what we know are the choreographed and the not-real actions of the wrestlers. To someone like Daniel, those actions seem very, very real.' "
In this trial, as well as the Lionel Tate case, the "wrestling defense" didn't work.
Even though the PTC has removed a number of pages from its website in an apparent attempt to protect itself against the upcoming WWF Entertainment lawsuit, including the key portion involving the sponsors who were falsely listed as having pulled advertising from WWF programming, they haven't removed everything mentioned in the lawsuit quite yet.
If you go to http://www.parentstv.org/wwf-courttv2.html?WWF, you'll find a section entitled "Wrestling With Death", which has been mentioned in the WWFE lawsuit still very much sitting on the PTC's website and recycled for the press in the above PTC "Special Report".
But that's not all. There are more pages with references to charges in the WWF lawsuit that the PTC "forgot to remove" from their website.
The PTC still has a number of press releases archived on their site that list the sponsors that "pulled their ads from Smackdown". Most notable among these press releases is the one that states that the PTC
"convinced ConAgra to pull their support of the WWF". The press release relating to ConAgra is still listed here.
Further, if you go to http://www.parentstv.org/working/workingforyou.asp#2000, you'll find the following examples of other "sponsors who've pulled their advertising":
"....After Smackdown! began, we identified and contacted the five corporations in the Family Friendly Programming Forum who advertised on the show, letting them know exactly what they were sponsoring. All five pulled their sponsorship from the program, and M&M Mars, a major sponsor of Smackdown!, has just joined them. The PTC also succeeded in convincing the Army, Navy, and Air Force to remove their recruiting ads. Now we're turning to Burger King, AT&T, and the Coast Guard as consistent sponsors."
The above assertion is almost comical, given the fact that this past week's WrestleMania was sponsored by M&M/Mars product Snickers Cruncher. Further, Burger King has advertised on Raw, Smackdown, Heat, and even XFL games, despite claims by the PTC to the contrary. AT&T has been a consistent sponsor of WWF programming and XFL games. The US Army has again advertised on WWF programming, after withdrawing for several months.
If that's not bad enough, the PTC has given favorable press to Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, and a campaign to censor
"pornographic" books like Redbook, Glamour, and Cosmopolitian at supermarkets including the Giant chain.
Before you ask why I'm talking about women's magazines, remember this:
The same magazine counters at supermarkets, Wawas, Seven-Elevens and Wal-Marts (and we know how quickly Wal-Mart jumps on these bandwagons) that carry these magazines often carry the two WWF house magazines, WOW magazine, and other wrestling magazines. If the PTC and the AFA don't want something as tame as Redbook, Glamour, and Cosmopolitian in the newsstands, how long will it be before a cover picture of Trish Stratus or another of the "WWF Divas" become too stimulating for the average consumer to read? Or until a cover picture with a wrestler is "too violent"?
When it happens, such censorship will be undertaken, as always, under the guise of "protecting the children"... just like the PTC's campaign against the WWF was.
However, people spoke up against the actions of the PTC. They e-mailed advertiser after advertiser after advertiser, and told them that they would make the choices as to what sports entertainment they chose to view, and that they didn't want the Parents Television Council effectively making such choices for them by causing economic hardship on the company producing their favorite entertainment.
Now these same groups are proposing to challenge your access to magazines. First, it's magazines like Redbook, Glamour and Cosmopolitan that are referred to as "pornographic". If that kind of challenge to free speech and expression is allowed, one of the next forms of popular culture to be targeted may well be your newsstand wrestling magazines.
It's certainly true that individuals and groups have the right to tell their members what forms of entertainment, whether televised or in print, that they find morally appropriate; whether we like it or not. That right is protected under the Constitution.
But their attempts to violate our rights under the First Amendment to enjoy what we choose...not to mention their undertaking of campaigns that include libel, slander, and defamation against those that produce TV shows, magazines, and other entertainment that those groups don't approve of... none of those are protected under the Constitution and US law.
Given the AFA and PTC's undertaking a new front in the "culture war", it'll be time again to take a break from simple pleasures as thinking about whether or not we like Vince McMahon turning Steve Austin, to again protect our rights...even possibly to read a wrestling magazine.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)