AS I SEE IT - 4/07/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome to Dave Republic and Wrestling.com, which begin running AS I SEE IT this week.
While I'm a college graduate, and have worked in education and counseling for 20 years; there may be things I don't understand. So perhaps readers can help me with these sets of equations:
1) Parents Television Council plus censorship versus WWF = bad
2) WWF plus censorship versus Lions Gate Films plus Beyond The Mat =good
3) WWF plus Christie Whitman versus "hardcore wrestling" = good.
First, we have equation number one: Parents Television Council plus censorship versus WWF = bad
Last year, the Parents Television Council, a self appointed group of moral guardians, undertook the task of "sanitizing for our protection" what we saw on Thursday nights by attempting to remove the World Wrestling Federation's "Smackdown" from our viewing screens through attempts to target advertisers of WWF programming.
The organization is not the "pro-family organization" portrayed by Steve Allen in newspaper advertisements. In reality, it is little more than a right-wing front group run by a man named L. Brent Bozell III (whose father wrote speeches for Joseph McCarthy, the United States Senator responsible for creating a generation of political cowardice and fear during the 1950s) and who himself worked for the Unification Church, better known to all as the "Moonies" religious cult.
In these attacks, the Parents Television Council drew big time blood, getting the US Armed Forces, Coca-Cola, and other notable advertisers to pull their advertising from SMACKDOWN and RAW. During a Monday Night RAW in late November, Jim Ross even made reference to the Parents Television Council on air.
Even scarier, the PTC cooperates with large scale corporate support through a "Marketplace" program that funnels a percentage of e-commerce orders from "affiliates" of this Marketplace Program, such companies as: 1-800-flowers, Avon, Burpee, Dell, ESPN-the Store, FTD, Hickory Farms,Intel.com/Anypoint, JC Penney, K-TEL, Landsend, LL Bean, Office Max, Omaha Steaks, and Toys'R Us.
A number of major wrestling websites, along with Wrestling Fans Against Censorship, a coalition of 204 websites and wrestling companies led by PWBTS, STRICTLY ECW, and Piledriver Press online with Memphis Power Pro Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling, and Combat Zone Wrestling within the business) mobilized thousands of e-mails, phone calls and letters to the PTC, as well as to participating PTC Marketplace companies threatening to boycott those companies until they disassociated themselves from the PTC's work.
This e-mail campaign drew interesting responses from many, including the PTC shutting off their e-mail accounts for days at a time; and through some employees of PTC Marketplace attempting to deny their company's participation, until the facts of the matter were proven to them.
The worst of the PTC threat may be over for the moment, but the organization still is working to smear the WWF with a distorted right-wing agenda for television viewing, where anything short of "Little House on the Prairie" and "Touched by An Angel" is considered to be objectionable programming on the PTC's red-yellow-green light scale of suitability.
Those interested in seeing what the Parents Television Council is all about can check them out online at http://parentstv.org.
Those interested in seeing what Wrestling Fans Against Censorship and learning more about what the PTC was (and is) about is about can check us at http://pwbts.com/censor.html.
One would have thought the World Wrestling Federation would have learned from this episode and supported the "freedom of expression for fans" Jim Ross likes to mention so much on TV. But they didn't.... not one bit...as you'll see in the next segment.
Thus, we have "equation" number two: WWF plus censorship versus Lions Gate Films and Beyond The Mat = good
Vince McMahon engaged in exactly the same behavior that he condemned only months before.
As reported here and all over the Internet, Vince McMahon pulled pre-paid advertising of Beyond The Mat from his show purchased by Lions Gate Films, a division of Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, leading up to the film's March 17th release. The first commercial, scheduled to air on USA on Monday, February 28th, was abruptly pulled by the WWF that day.
The timing was not coincidental...Barry Blaustein, Ron Howard's Imagine Studios and Lions Gate Entertainment refused to sell Beyond The Mat to the World Wrestling Federation, despite frequent offers over a three year period from Vince McMahon.
Vince McMahon then strongarmed UPN and USA Networks to pull such advertising from network programs, including Pacific Blue and La Femme Nikita. McMahon is also using the widely-reported negotiations with CBS and TNN regarding the relocation of World Wrestling Federation programming as leverage against USA Networks and UPN in these demands to pull this pre-paid advertising.
Mark Urman, co-president of Lions' Gate Films, added "Without notice or explanation, the WWF has dealt a serious blow to our campaign for Beyond The Mat. Vince McMahon, head of the WWF, has personally put this obstacle in our path. Mr. McMahon has decided that he doesn't like our film so now he wants to prevent wrestling fans nationwide, who have so far embraced the film, from finding out about it."
McMahon appears prominently in BEYOND THE MAT, and is featured in Lions Gate's TV spots. Lions Gate offered to modify the commercial to eliminate the shots of McMahon but were told the WWF wouldn't accept any advertisements of any sort for the film.
As I said in a previous AS I SEE IT column:
"Tom Ortenberg said 'Vince McMahon spent three years trying to buy the movie, and when he couldn't get it, he got angry... We have signed contracts with the WWF, and they are not living up to the agreement. We are now exploring our legal options to counteract this outrageous act.' In response, Jim Byrne, WWF Senior Vice President of Marketing said: 'We do not permit third-party wrestling product to be advertised in the body of our shows. It creates confusion.' "
The fact of the matter is that the situation with the WWF and Lions Gate Films didn't have a damned thing to do with "confusion". Instead, it was a matter of Vince McMahon wanting control...wanting ownership. The vaunted "freedom of expression" that the WWF so freely espouses seems only to apply when it suits their bottom line and ideological convenience.
Finally, let's look at "equation" number three: WWF plus Christie Whitman versus "hardcore wrestling" = good
"Extreme wrestling is a profoundly disturbing trend which has no other objective but to cause serious injury to an opponent in an effort to annihilate them," said Vince McMahon. "We share the Governor's concern that young people could be exposed to such a horrible spectacle as extreme wrestling."
Let me get this straight.
The same World Wrestling Federation that has a hardcore title... The same World Wrestling Federation that has a working agreement with ECW, a company which has marketed itself as "extreme wrestling"...to the point that it is filing a cease and desist order against another wrestling company,XPW, that dares to use the word "extreme" as part of its title...
The same World Wrestling Federation that has allowed Mick Foley to be hit in the head with unprotected chair shots 10 times... to go off of a high steel cage in one of the most frightening bumps ever seen...
The same World Wrestling Federation that has used on more than one occasion KING OF THE DEATH MATCH FOOTAGE TO PROMOTE ITS OWN PPVS...
The same World Wrestling Federation whose programming is advertised on a commercial on Philadelphia's WGTW-48 with these words: "You might miss a chair shot...or a table spot...or a hot chick"...
The same World Wrestling Federation that this past week featured a Wrestlemania with color on at least four workers... a barbed wire board... a piece of glass in the eye of a worker...dozens of chair shots... tables shattered... four ladders used for hitting people in various ways as well as a psychotic spot off of the tallest one (perhaps 10-15 foot tall)... and tons of foreign objects ranging from cookie sheets to glass bottles...
VINCE MCMAHON AND THE WWF HAVE THE CONSUMMATE GALL TO CRITICIZE HARDCORE WRESTLING?
Three words apply here: "Pot, kettle, black".
Even more comically, McMahon is using children as an reason to support the steps the State of New Jersey is considering to attempt to re-regulate wrestling. The very same children that the Parents Television Council has criticized him as corrupting the morals of are now being used BY McMahon to support Christie Whitman's re-regulation proposals.
While any concern Vince McMahon has for children is welcome, there's an old expression that seems ever more true here: "A prostitute is always welcome to repent. But I'd be damned if I had her singing lead in the choir her first night in".
Vince McMahon is damned sure working the proverbial red light district this time.
Obviously, the theme of this column has obviously not been "equations"or any kind of mathematics; but instead has been about censorship, the means by which it is undertaken, and the selective application of concern regarding censorship by the World Wrestling Federation.
The WWF's hypocrisy regarding this situation has even been pointed out in the legitimate press this week. Philadelphia Daily News wrestling columnist Michael Tearson wrote the following piece this Tuesday:
"...New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman with Assembly Minority leader and Bayonne Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr. has introduced a bill that would regulate so-called "extreme" wrestling, banning fans under 17 from attending the shows.
It also calls for State Athletic Board regulation and the ability for municipalities to deny permits for such events. Both Whitman and Doria cite using razors to draw blood and chairs and kitchen utensils used as weaponry as barbaric and disturbing.
Vince McMahon issued a press release on behalf of the WWF supporting the legislation. In part it said, 'One of the sole purposes of 'extreme wrestling' and one of the main ways of determining a winner is to draw blood and to cause bodily injury resulting in maiming one's opponent.'
Later on Smackdown, Mick Foley reintroduced his barbed wire wrapped bat as a weapon he would use against Triple H in the WrestleMania main event.
Conflicting signals, Vince?
And nobody uses chairs in the WWF, right?"
Actually, Michael, one small correction. The first call for lobbying NJ state legislators was in THIS column. I'm more than happy that Combat Zone Wrestling is using it. I encouraged them to do so.
To remind you and readers of what I said...and to remind readers of what we need to do to prevent such legislation, here's the excerpt from that AS I SEE IT column:
"Readers, whether New Jersey residents, or potential tourists to the Jersey Shore can look up the names, addresses, and phone numbers of NJ State Assemblypersons and Senators at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/html/members.htm
When you do so, DO NOT respond with some of the language that we all see from wrestling fans on countless messages boards and newsgroups on a regular basis.
If you do that, you will insure that those within the New Jersey State Legislature will find it even easier to dismiss wrestling fans with being no more than the stereotypes we've been seen as by the general public for decades.
Instead, those of you reading that are New Jersey residents, call or write your legislator in a THOUGHTFUL manner. Indicate what you do for a living, or that you go to school. Remind them that you're a taxpayer and that you vote (you DO vote, don't you?) and that a election for the State Senate and Assembly are coming up in the not too distant future.
Let them know that you'll remember how they vote on any legislation involving the restrictions being proposed on professional wrestling.
If you're from outside the State of New Jersey, remind NJ State legislators that you spend tourist dollars in New Jersey; and that the shore season is coming up within two months...and lots of potential tourist revenue to be made or lost.
Remind them that if they try to take away a form of entertainment you like...that Delaware and Virginia have beaches too, and that you can take your dollars there this summer.
Remind them that instead of Atlantic City... Delaware Park has slots and horse racing you can go to and spend your money at this summer.
Fight these proposed restrictions in a CONSTRUCTIVE manner, not with namecalling. Threaten them with your vote and your pocketbook.
That's the way to make an impact on how politicians vote."
Please take the time to follow up on that suggestion, folks.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)