The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture / Edition 1

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Janet Jackson’s infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Superbowl precipitated a nationwide controversy. To judge by the hysterical reaction, one would think that nothing so shocking had ever been seen on television. Yet, remarkably, during the conservative 1950s, similar breast-baring accidents on television (by Faye Emerson and Jayne Mansfield) raised barely a stir. Is America on the verge of another puritanical era? Is this new Puritanism the result of something more than just concerns for public decency?
First Amendment and emerging technology specialist Frederick S. Lane examines America’s changing attitudes toward decency and the politics of decency in this timely book. He takes a strong and unequivocal position that it is inappropriate and dangerous for the government to try to regulate morality. He accuses religious conservatives of starting "decency wars" for motives no more noble than profit and political gain. As Lane astutely points out, such controversies generate a flood of books, speeches, and syndicated radio and television programs. More importantly, they fill the coffers of conservative politicians and "non-profits."
Lane first sets the stage for the current controversy by reviewing the history of the decency debate from the invention of the camera as the catalyst for public decency concerns, through the mixing of morality and politics by the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, to the recent activist stance by the Federal Communications Commission against perceived indecency.
He spells out strategies for combating the rising influence of the Religious Right’s puritanical ploys by emphasizing that decency standards are a private and personal responsibility, not a matter of law enforcement. He asserts that we must continuously educate the public regarding the ruinous effects of government censorship, watered-down textbooks, and homophobia. Moreover, he stresses the supreme importance of supporting existing and new organizations to counteract the propaganda from groups like the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family.
Detailing the degree to which Fundamentalist religion has pervaded current politics, entertainment, and society at large, this compelling book is essential reading for understanding one of the most fiercely debated social issues of our nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a highly entertaining and also an important book. It tells the story of attempts to make America comply with ‘ decency ’ - as defined by genuine religious conservatives and by assorted puritans, busybodies, and political hypocrites. The hero is freedom of speech. The struggle goes on, and Frederick Lane has given us an indispensable guide to it."
Anthony Lewis, former New York Times columnist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591024279
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick S. Lane (Burlington, VT) is the author of Obscene Profits and The Naked Employee, among other books dealing with the media, society, and law. He has appeared on ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes, NPR’s Marketplace, the BBC, and many other television and radio programs as an expert on legal and First Amendment issues.

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Table of Contents

Prologue : slaves to the rhythm : the NFL, CBS, and MTV reap as they sow 17
Ch. 1 A nip in the air : the chilling effects of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show 31
Ch. 2 From Henry VIII to the FCC : tracing the origins of American efforts to legislate decency 53
Ch. 3 Religious boycotts and corporate self-censorship : private efforts to cleanse American culture 75
Ch. 4 "A soldier in God's army" : Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and the rise of evangelical politics 97
Ch. 5 Losing the decency wars, one living room at a time : a decade of deregulation, cable, phones, and computers 119
Ch. 6 The post-Reagan hangover : a four-year rearguard action against cultural indecency 145
Ch. 7 The oral majority : on talk radio, the issue of decency gets personal 169
Ch. 8 Now is the year of our dissed content : why the FCC reenlisted in the war on indecency 193
Ch. 9 Ask not for whom the wedding bells toll : a love that now dares speak its name 219
Ch. 10 At play in the laboratories of the Lord : sacrificing scientific truth on the altar of ideology 243
Conclusion : a thousand points of enlightenment : strategies to restore the true meaning of decency in American society 269
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2007

    Will all of this be on the quiz?

    This is a thorough, well-researched book on obscenity in American radio/tv/internet and how the government and various special interest groups have tried to regulate it. If the author has a bias one way or the other, it's difficult to detect. It is quite a 'dry' read, which made me feel at times that I was reading it for some college class instead of my own enjoyment. You'll have to decide for yourself how much government regulation is enough. I don't really want to see donkey porn on network tv, but I don't want to watch Dora the Explorer all day either. Do you want a politician in Washington or some southern preacher deciding what you can and can't watch? Read and learn.

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