CENSORS TARGET WRESTLING; FANS FIGHT BACK!
by: John Woods
Those self-appointed arbiters of "public morality" are at it again. Only this time it's not just rock and rap lyrics or sexy Hollywood movies that's got their panties in a bundle. They've added a new target to the list of forces they claim threatens the very fabric of American life:
For the uninitiated, professional wrestling is entertainment and sport and drama and laughs all wrapped up in one. The millions who watch WWF or WCW or drive to see a match or shell out for a pay-per-view match, claim pound-for-pound it's one of the best bangs for your entertainment buck around. It's raucous, but hey, no one ever said it was Sunday School!
Lest wrestling fans think some no-humor squares working to put the skids to pro wrestling should have less effect than a gnat, think again! A group called the Parents Television Council (PTC), led by one Brent Bozell III, anti-rap music crusader C. Delores Tucker and, of all people, Steve Allen, has in recent months bluffed a number of major corporations into pulling their advertising from TV's WWF Smackdown, in response to rote denunciations of WWF by PTC at these companies' stockholders' meetings.
Of course, columnist (and former Pat Buchanan campaign manager) Brent Bozell denies his PTC advocates censorship. Yet, Bozell warns of "possible government intervention if TV doesn't shape up." The question begs: how might this "government intervention" be accomplished short of scrapping the First Amendment?
As for the PTC's C. Delores Tucker I got to see this bird in action up close when I testified before the Pennsylvania State Senate's Judiciary Committee against an insidious bit of legislation which would have instituted harsh new record labeling laws (mandating stiff prison sentences for it's violators). C. Delores was of course testifying FOR said bill, having come to fame campaigning against the music of Marilyn Manson and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Tucker called for greater government involvement in the censoring of music and (like Bozell) dismisses the First Amendment as a "bothersome" legality she'd just as soon scrap.
It's instructive to know Tucker was fired in 1977 as Pennsylvania Secretary of State by then-Governor Dick Schapp for "running a private, profitable business at state expense." And despite her civil rights activist pose, Nat Hentoff (an immanently fair columnist) has questioned C. Delores' possible anti-Semitism based on various public statements assailing the motivations of recording execs ("those people," C. Delores?)
Third in this Unholy Trinity is (sadly) Steve Allen. Steve was what was 'hip' on late '50's and early '60s TV, inviting such guests as Jack Kerouac and Lenny Bruce to his late night show. Today, Steve signs ads in VARIETY calling for Hollywood to "clean itself up" and speaks against WWF at stockholders' meetings of companies that advertise on WWF Smackdown. All alongside the likes of Buchananite Brent Bozell and dubious Delores Tucker. That's some company you're keeping there these days, Steve-o- Rino!
The good news is wrestling fans are fighting back! Web sites, individuals and groups tracking and fighting the efforts of the PTC continue to proliferate on the web, from Wrestling Fans Against Censorship to to hard-hitting columnist Bob Magee (whose investigations have uncovered a connection between the PTC's Brent Bozell and the extreme right-wing, South Korean-tied Unification Church or "Moonies").
In recent weeks, wrestling fan-activists launched a letter-writing campaign to register their feelings regarding a number of companies' advertising on the PTC web site. The result: advertisers one-by-one began pulling their sponsorship from the PTC site (down from 90 to 17 at last count), who now couldn't publically distance themselves fast enough from the pro-censorship PTC. In fact, the site's Marketplace operator most recently announced the PTC Marketplace closed "until such time as the controversy blows over...which we anticipate will be some months." Wishful thinking, guys. We can play the boycott game too, Bozell!
Since it's early days lampooning the likes of Tipper Gore in the pages of THE ROC, Rock Out Censorship has utilized satire to savage enemies of free speech. In a current WWF storyline, Steven Richards has become a "cult-like leader of the Right to Censor squad,"here to tame the unrulely WWF. High comedy- drama to those in-the-know, sending up You-Know-Who! Fans have taken to putting anti-PTC sentiments on placards they take to televised matches, with sports columnist Bob Magee offering sage advice that "Anyone can use 4-letter words but good all-purpose satire and ridicule are two of the best weapons against the kind of cult-like mind-set the PTC exhibits (plus they're more likely to get on camera)."
Lastly, with Tipper Gore's hubby picking super-censor Joe Lieberman (initiated the TV v-chip law and sits on the PTC Board) as his VP candidate, Pat Robertson's former baby-faced theocrat Ralph Reed now heading George W. "Schrub" Bush's campaign, and even the ostensibly "people's" candidate Ralph Nader's reported contempt for "the social effects of popular culture" (well- known buzz words of those intimating government censorship), it's clear popular culture (let alone 'transgressive' music and art) would be targeted under any of these candidates, if left unchecked. It's important people register to vote so we can let the candidates all know we're watching and are not amused.
The WWF has registered approximately 20,000 people at arena events in just the first two weeks of it's "Smackdown Your Vote!" campaign. Rock Out Censorship likewise will be registering voters at our tables at various concerts and festivals now through the elections.
Those looking to get involved can e-mail me at email@example.com or writing P.O. Box 147, Jewett, Ohio 43986.
As The (other) Rock might say, it's time to "Lay the Smacketh down on the censors!"