By Dillon Fishman
Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
April 5's front-page Arizona Daily Wildcat story featured a busty woman smiling and flashing large, scantily-covered breasts for Playboy magazine photographers, who were on campus seeking new "talent" at the UA. That tawdry cover story was ironically juxtaposed with the previous day's full coverage of the pope's death.
This clash demonstrates the detestable position in which Americans have placed the media. Let's face it: The media feed us stories and illustrations of junk on demand. Sadly, this just reflects our society's degenerating moral values and the popular view that anything goes.
Of course, the UA holds no monopoly on moral decadence. Americans are collectively getting fatter, dumber and more permissive.
It's time that we take a stand against the propagation of such trash.
But to get the attention of UA students, the Wildcat resorted to the same topic that newspapers and tabloids often use to grab our attention - sex.
Unfortunately, sex seems to capture the attention and pocketbooks of many college students more than important news does. Few students even seemed to notice or mention the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow on April 5. One seldom hears UA students discussing current social issues such as the Minuteman Project with the same zeal and enthusiasm that they emote when describing Angelina Jolie's appearance in her latest movie.
The ongoing fight for the hearts and minds of America's youth looks bleak. The verdict is in: "Mind over matter" is no longer the matter. Generation "X" has given way to Generation "XXX."
Pop musician Jack Johnson, whose social commentary is surprisingly trenchant, sings about our media's unconditional willingness to feed us graphic violence and sex. We can't blame the media for giving us what we request with our dollars and our attention. After all, the media merely satiates our cravings.
Yes, sex sells. The porn industry rakes in an estimated $10 billion to $14 billion annually in the United States. The $4 billion that Americans spend on video pornography alone is more than the annual revenue of the NFL, the NBA or Major League Baseball. In contrast, the Broadway theater industry's $600 million annual revenue is chump change.
Pornography's success exposes the underlying problem: Our ailing social standards. Over time, we've become tolerant to the point that nothing surprises, shocks or offends us anymore. We hear the evanescent clamor of a few muffled voices at "Nipplegate" - when Janet Jackson flashes a breast during the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, American consumers vote with their wallets, and they overwhelmingly elect porn over poetry, nudity over novels, smut over scholarship.
It comes as no surprise, either, that as Americans spend increasing quantities of time in front of mind-numbing media, as a society, we're getting dumber. For anecdotal proof of this, just read the letters section of the Wildcat. The letters, from both college students and alumni, frequently contain little more than disquieting poppycock. Some readers will demonstrate this when writing to respond to this column. I thank them in advance for shamelessly manifesting their ignorance to prove my point.
Worse than our general social complacency are the trends these debased
standards create. By purchasing media devoid of academic or social merit - such as pornography, movies and games showing senseless killing - we contribute to the vitality and prevalence of the things they depict. That is, supporting these things contributes to rape, spousal abuse and murder.
Similarly, children play video games that portray increasingly gory, senseless carnage and casual sex. The games train them to kill. Then, the same parents who feed this garbage to their children wonder why school shootings occur, such as the recent tragedy in Minnesota and the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.
If we pump our money and time into filthy movies, magazines and television, the machine will continue to crank them out. Consequently, children's heads will be filled with explicit images of sex and violence. In turn, our society will suffer more shootings, rape and killings.
In other words, because of our permissiveness, what Jack Johnson sings is true: "We've all got the blood on our hands."
Change will begin only if we demand more from ourselves, from our media and from our society. We speak with our money.
We can start by rejecting pornography and flicks that peddle needless violence. Better yet, let's go on a killing spree of our own - beginning with our televisions and video games.
Dillon Fishman is a third-year law student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.