Commentary

Media X: Bad Box

I was working on an epic Memorial Day buzz, watching all three screens, drinking Fat Tires, stuffing my face with falafel from Whole Foods and downloading rap into my Nano that I ripped off from my kid's iTunes library.

The weekend looked to hit historic levels when Lindsay Lohan had another drug-and-drink-addled car crash. She fled the scene on bony legs, down a dark Beverly Hills street like a chicken chased by the El Pollo Loco Grillmaster.

I love these endless celebrity skank crises. It's like Mel Brooks said: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."

But the fun came to a screeching halt when I mistakenly clicked on a news story about the Federal Communications Commission violence report last week, which once again, claims that TV turns our kids into serial killers and cat rapists. And if the industry doesn't clean up its act, then by God and Jerry Falwell's vengeful ghost, the government that can't shoot straight will do it for them.

And of course, the media bandwagon shifted into fifth gear and brought forth the academics to intone, with great portent, that television is creating a nation of murderous preteens. On cue, the ad industry objected, and brought forth its own equally opaque research, which naturally convinced nobody.

Not to put too fine a point on it, folks, but this whole idea is what bulls do in the field after a full meal. TV causes vile behavior and sexual misconduct? Right--and society, especially young males, were so, you know, restrained before TV was invented.

Without television, life was a golden age where nobody ever hurt anybody and everybody loved flowers, even the boys. I particularly miss the life-affirming Spartans, the gentle Romans, and the forgiving Puritans. And let's not forget the kindness of the U.S. Cavalry in Indian Territory and the humanity of Nazi Germany. And nobody under the age of 30 ever had sex.

Then TV came and screwed it all up. Our poor, innocent youth, done in by that malevolent box--without which they would undoubtedly all gather on a mountaintop, hold hands and sing about carbonated sugar water.

Feh.

We have to stop blaming technology for every thing that goes FUBAR in our society. This is something lawmakers, marketers and media professionals never seem to get. Technology doesn't make the kid set fire to the dog's tail, or boink at an early age.

Learning how to use things responsibly--whether it's a 19th-century backhoe or a 21st-century browser--is part of growing up. The answer to raising good kids in an open-source world is to acknowledge that we need to find new ways to parent, to market and to legislate that are consistent with a digital culture.

Ramming Eisenhower-era ethics or restrictions down the throat of a millennial kid is as likely to work as Lindsay Lohan's latest visit to rehab.

Which, strangely, began yesterday.

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