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Monday, November 22, 2004

Pandering To Hypocrisy

There seems to be something of a scold mentality emerging about those of us who question the sincerity of those who are up in arms about the libertine ways of the liberal elite. I had perceived this as saying that the Red States are just as "immoral" as the Blue States. But some, like Bob Sommerby, see it as a case of liberals claiming moral superiority. To the extent that honesty is more moral than hypocrisy, then I suppose he may be right.

We could argue this all day, but the crux of this is Sommerby's assertion that Democrats would win if we used Bill Clinton's formula and respected the views of these citizens with whom we disagree. Well, yes. As a general rule we should always be respectful of others. But, that does not necessarily mean that those who disagree with us are sincere or that we will win by being respectful of them.

The problem is that the evidence suggests that those who are sincerely shocked by what they saw on MNF are not representative of the vast majority of the so-called Real American voter. How can we explain, for instance, how those NFL fans who complained about the "Desperate Housewives" skit on MNF were shocked by the brazen sexuality of it but have never before raised hell about the tittilating beer commercials that have been shown on that same broadcast for years? And, we can pretend that the sexy show the skit was was advertising isn't hugely popular in the states that voted en masse for George Bush, but that doesn't change the fact that it is:

Many Who Voted for 'Values' Still Like Their Television Sin

The results of the presidential election are still being parsed for what they say about the electorate's supposed closer embrace of traditional cultural values, but for the network television executives charged with finding programs that speak to tastes across the nation, one lesson is clear.

The supposed cultural divide is more like a cultural mind meld.

In interviews, representatives of the four big broadcast networks as well as Hollywood production studios said the nightly television ratings bore little relation to the message apparently sent by a significant percentage of voters.

The choices of viewers, whether in Los Angeles or Salt Lake City, New York or Birmingham, Ala., are remarkably similar. And that means the election will have little impact on which shows they decide to put on television, these executives say.


"Desperate Housewives" on ABC is the big new hit of the television season, ranked second over all in the country, behind only "C.S.I." on CBS. This satire of suburbia and modern relationships features, among other morally challenged characters, a married woman in her 30's having an affair with a high-school-age gardener, and has prompted several advertisers, including Lowe's, to pull their advertisements.

In the greater Atlanta market, reaching more than two million households, "Desperate Housewives" is the top-rated show. Nearly 58 percent of the voters in those counties voted for President Bush.

And in the Salt Lake City market, which takes in the whole state of Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming, "Desperate Housewives" is fourth, after two editions of "C.S.I." and NBC's "E.R."; Mr. Bush rolled up 72.6 percent of the vote there.

This doesn't mean, of course, that those fans who complained about the MNF sketch watch "Desperate Housewives." (It's that the blatantly sexy beer commercials and close-up crotch shots and cleavage of the cheerleaders on MNF for years have not provoked a similar outcry from fans that speaks to their hypocrisy.) But these ratings do suggest that contrary to the emerging myth about Bush voter outrage at libertine Blue State immorality, somebody isn't being entirely truthful about their attitudes toward popular culture. After all, according to E&P the
"top three states for readership of Playboy magazine are Iowa, Wyoming, North Dakota ... and they all top heathen New York by 2-1 margins." Of course, they read it for the same reasons. The articles on stereo equipment.

Sommerby complains about Jeff Greenfield saying that the NFL fans who complained were the same ones who lied to their wives and went to strip clubs. A correspondent wrote in:

And to make sure the shocked fathers and mothers associate the descent of sexual morality with liberal Democrats, you tell me that Jeff Greenfield thinks that we fathers who complain about TV trash are hypocrites who "lie to their wives and drive to a topless bar". He's been watching The Sopranos too much; most of us family men don't do that. Chances are, those who do that would agree with Jeff that everyone complaining about Hollywood and TV immorality is a lying hypocrite.

By the way, I'm a long-time Democrat living in the Philadelphia suburbs, and I was shocked by that sexual introduction to a football game. And we wonder why more middle class Catholic and Evangelical voters keep shifting from Democratic to Republican.

I'm not going to defend Greenfield's comment because I have no way of knowing who is going to strip clubs and neither does this guy. It's possible that married football fans are not primary among those who frequent these places. There are an awful lot of them, however, all through the country, many in the heartland. Somebody's going to them.

But, what is relevant in his comment isn't family men going to strip clubs, anyway. It's family men who obviously watch the Sopranos complaining about the so-called immorality coming from Hollywood and implying that the Democratic party is responsible for it.

Does that guy in the Philly suburbs use the V-Chip? I don't know. But I do know that Democrat Bill Clinton championed them and pushed through legislation that mandated them but only 7% or so of family men who have them use them. Evidently, he watches the NFL with all those sexy beer commercials and big pom pom waving babes. Does he shoo his kids away from the TV when they come on? Maybe. Does he keep his kids from watching "The Sopranos?" I certainly hope so. But hewatches it, that's clear. (He sure seems to know about the Bada-Bing.) So, it's a complicated situation, isn't it? Lots and lots of things for parents to be concerned with. I understand that. But, considering what we can surmise about his viewing habits, you'll have to excuse me if I'm not entirely moved by his Claude Raines act.

Yes, we may be in different tribes. But vast numbers of people from both tribes are watching the same "trash" on television and getting divorced and having children out of wedlock and all the other horrible outgrowths of a society that is evidently in horrible decline. The difference is that one of the tribes seems to like to consume this crap and then pretend not only that they don't, but that the other tribe is forcing it on them.

Perhaps pandering to this is the way to win votes. Our politicians have certainly made an effort to do it now for years. But as I have discussed elsewhere, it doesn't seem to be working. But sure, we can keep pretending that that swathe of red America is really offended by the popular culture that we blues evidently represent, even though most Americans are the same consumerist purple from sea to shining sea.

It just seems to me that if you incorrectly diagnose the problem, you probably won't prescribe the right cure. But, hey, words are cheap. Phony moralists have proved that from time immemorial. Except for the non-stop character assasination, Monica's big mouth and impeachment, being respectful of conservative values (and Ross Perot)worked like a charm for Bill Clinton.

So, by all means let's pander till we can't stand up. We'll all pretend to be duly chastised by our libertine ways and pay obeisance to those good heartland values that neither they nor we actually live by. Whatever. But, don't expect me to actually believe that George W. Bush's majority represents those things any more than we depraved liberals do. Politicians and preachers lie. Neilson ratings and product sales don't.