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Hello, FCC? Some Attention Over Here, Please?

by Steve Young

The Real Outrage On Super Bowl Sunday

I'm just talking hypothetically here, but what if someone we trusted -- someone who swore he was looking out for you -- gave out information that was wrong? Not misinformation about politics; that's just fun and gun. Entertainment. No, this would be someone supposedly presenting critical information, and presenting it with such conviction that you'd think it couldn't be anything but fact. Would you be upset? What if that information led you to make a decision that damaged your relationship with your children?

Now, remember, I'm talking theoretically. I certainly don't need to be branded an evil radical set upon the world by a left-wing nutcase website, say, like those malignant bastards Moyers and Cronkite.

For this hypothetical example, let's call our news infotainer, Schmill O'Schmeilly. And let's say Schmill passed out this damaging information. Wouldn't you want the FCC to shut him down before he hurt anyone else? I'm not saying O'Schmeilly should be taken off the air or be boycotted. No one in their right mind boycotts someone they disagree with -- right?

But imagine that the question of parental notification in the case of a minor's abortion came up on Schmill's show...which it did. And pretend that a caller was confident that his teenage daughter would tell mom and dad that she was pregnant. Why? Because they were good parents.

How would O'Schmeilly respond? Would he say that the daughter of good parents would NOT tell them that she was pregnant? Would he suggest that she'd be afraid of letting her good parents down? Yes, Schmill would say that. And he did, last week.

As John Stewart might say..."Wha-a-a-a?"

Does O'Schmeilly think a good parent is one who teaches their kids that you must be perfect to satisfy mom and dad? That you can only come to them when you've done well?

That's crazy. In fact, you can verify that in "Perfectionism: Theory, Research, and Treatment" (American Psychological Association, 2002), psychologist D. E. Hamacheck defines "neurotic perfectionism" as "a tendency to strive for excessively high standards and is motivated by fears of failure and concern about disappointing others."

Why wouldn't a good parent encourage kids to be honest? Doesn't a good parent remind their kids that, "You always know that you can come to me with your problems?" Another footnote: In his critically-acclaimed, "The Optimistic Child," Dr. Martin Seligman, Head of Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and former President of the American Psychology Association writes, "We want (our children) to be eager to learn and be willing to confront challenges. We want them to be resilient in the face of the setbacks and failures."

This is not to say that because you raise them well that they will always feel comfortable to come to you during frightful or humiliating moments. Nor does it mean that you can't offer your own suggestions for good, positive behavior. But for a child to come to a parent with a shameful or even seemingly sinister revelation, it takes a mom or dad's willingness, sometimes (all the time?) through gritted teeth, to be non-judgmental. Without that trust-based relationship and environment, no child would step forward to discuss or confess.

Clinical psychologist Howard Dansky, writes that "the authoritative parenting pattern builds mutual respect and mutual trust, a key result of which is that parents and children naturally communicate about their feelings, concerns, and problems. In this relationship context, it is much more likely that a pregnant daughter will expect her parents to be part of the solution, to support more than judge, and to regard error as human. A child of good parents never expects rejection, never expects that parental judgment will supersede parental support." Hmm. Good parents? Daughter likely to expect parents to be part of the solution? Doesn't Dansky understand what "looking out for you" means?

Here's another hypothetical. For the purpose of this one we'll call our talk host, Armstrong Williams (oops, sorry -- cat's out of the bag). The Bush administration paid Armstrong, another "strong core value" pundit, $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind law to black families on his nationally syndicated television show and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show.

Does anyone find it somewhat tacky to use payoffs to sell education reform? Good lesson for the kiddies from Armstrong and the White House, eh?

It seem that to be a successful member of the Lords of Loud club, you must be 100 percent sure of everything, and when they play political or culture-war games, snuffing out dissident debate with a belittling remark or hang-up, that's okay, because they're playing to their fan base and they love it. But when it comes to more life-threatening issues where bloviating self-righteous opinions and misinformation can actually harm, even the fan base should be protected.

The news analyzers of talk explain that, different from news reporters, they can say anything they want because they are only giving their opinion. And when they say things like, "that's just fact," that means, I guess, that it is only their opinion of what is and isn't a fact. But there comes a time when the opiners should be held accountable for what they perpetuate on their listeners, especially when they infer that they're looking out for you. So, are they looking out for you or is it only their opinion and they may, in fact, not be looking out for you at all?

There's got to be some sort of rules that guide broadcast opining; Opine Monitors. Oh, that there be a federal commission to police communication. They could call it the Federal Communications Commission. Perhaps one day. And perhaps on that one day there'll be a man name of Michael Powell who, instead of investigating four-letter slips, lesbian-dating radio segments and garb malfunctions, would take a listen to the opiners spreading harmful misinformation who are seemingly off the FCC's radar. Perhaps if we said we heard them mention a naked breast while telling our kids that "condoms are only ten-percent effective" (another trusted conservative host's "looking out for you and your kids" quote).

This is not about freaks of the broadcast fairway, like Michael Savage. This concerns those who have built a following based on trust. Trust that the host is concerned about the well-being of his fans.

In a country where our leader feels that admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness, and payoffs to sell the righteousness of their "values" is deemed appropriate, it's so important to let our kids know that mistakes are not only a normal part of life, but that they actually can be positive tools to become a better person...and parent. Don't let a stranger, no matter how they say they have your best interest at heart, look out for you or your kids.

Isn't that how the bad guys get your kids in their car?

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Albion Monitor January 7, 2005 (

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