(6) Wed 16 Aug 95 18:26 By: Robin Murray-o'hair To: All Re: Relig. Decency Campaign/Intern

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(6) Wed 16 Aug 95 18:26 By: Robin Murray-o'hair To: All Re: Relig. Decency Campaign/Internat. St: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ @EID:0e53 1f109340 @MSGID: 1:382/1006.0 886D130C @TID: WILDMAIL!/WC v4.11 94-0279 RELIGIOUS "DECENCY" CAMPAIGN GOES INTERNATIONAL by Conrad F. Goeringer The religious right's campaign against violence, sex, and blasphemy in media is taking on an international dimension and targeting countries which by even American standards have had a more open, liberal communications policy. Leading the crusade is Christian film critic Ted Baehr who recently addressed governmental and private bodies in England and Germany. Invited by British Lord Orr-Erwing, Baehr addressed the House of Lords recently and urged tough government action to "clean up the screens" throughout the United Kingdom. Interviews with the BBC and other British media followed. Two Christian organizations have pledged to begin publication of a U.K. version of "Movieguide," a morality watchdog journal Baehr and the Christian Film and Television Commission publish in this country. According to religious news service reports, Baehr's talk before Parliament was received favorably by groups such as the Church of England, the Christian Broadcasting Service, and the notorious National Viewers and Listeners Association. The Christian Film and Television Commission has issued a series of "guidelines" for U.S. television and movie producers, including demands that programs or films not portray religion in a negative light. The Commission has expanded its activities to Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and Holland. V-Chip Not Enough Baehr and the Christian Film and Television Commission have also supported President Clinton's call for a V-Chip which would allow parents to block out entire channels or block specific programs which carry a certain rating of violence content. But Baehr insists that the chip is only "part of the answer" in "protecting" society. The chip is the brainchild of Professor Tim Collings, and was developed in Canada. In order to operate, all programs would have to be rated by either an industry or government board. Certain programs would be broadcast with a special signal which would trigger the chip and block certain shows. According to religious news sources, a system is now being tested in Canada which would rate programs on four categories: language, violence, sex and nudity. The ratings would be based on a scale of 1 to 10; even so, a viewer setting the V-chip at a "2" rating for all categories would exclude most of the relatively tame- and-lame PG-13 films. Some religious activists worry that the chip effectively "shifts the burden" to parents, thus somehow encouraging programmers to produce more violent offerings. A Religious News article on Baehr lamented that "the V-chip won't help Christians exclude New Age or humanist programs" either. In fact, the new device according to Religious News "will probably encourage media executives to broadcast or cablecast more sex and violence unless the number of people excluding this material through their programming of the V-Chip makes it economically impractical to broadcast or cablecast such programs." Baehr insists that the V-Chip needs to be combined with other methods, including "government enforcement of laws against obscene and indecent broadcasts." "Uber Alles" Baehr also has met with evangelical groups in Germany, who reportedly are trying to arrange for him to speak before the German Parliament on decency issues. One theme advanced by religious decency groups is that the public demand for violent, obscene and anti- religious programs is declining. Critics point out, however, that such a statement does not take into account the wide range of film and television programming, and that comparing media on the basis of such criteria is often a complex and daunting task. The violence and sex in "Waterworld," for instance, is within an entirely different context than what is gratuitously shown in "Virtuosity." Civil libertarians suggest that the "reduce the demand" approach by groups such as the Christian Film and Television Commission simply masks a more fundamental desire to enact regulation and censorship of all media, including computer networks. But while Baehr expresses his concern over exposed buttocks and breasts, or a four- letter word, on television, he seems to have less respect for the accuracy of his own media productions. The activism of the Christian Film and Television Commission in South Africa is no coincidence, either. In 1987, Ted Baehr was president of Good News Communications based in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the book "Spiritual Warfare; The Politics of the Christian Right" by Sara Diamond (South End Press, 1989), Baehr and his group were part of a right-wing nexus defending the apartheid regime in South Africa and attacking the ANC (African National Congress) lead by Nelson Mandella and Oliver Tambo. Part of the Christian right campaign was to disrupt a planned meeting between Secretary of State George Shultz and ANC President Tambo. On September 11, 1986, Robertson's "700 Club" program aired a feature titled "Who is the ANC?," which featured film of alleged and unsubstantiated atrocities, including the infamous "necklace," where victims were burned alive with a gasoline-soaked tire. Diamond notes that "Between the violent scenes were clips of ANC President Oliver Tambo and Winnie Mandela advocating all-out war against the South African government." Diamond traces this dubious film footage to "independent" Christian video companies such as My Father's Business, Inc. Featured along with the "atrocity" scenes was an interview with an "expert" on the South African political situation, one Craig Williamson. What was not mentioned was the fact that Williamson was exposed as far back as 1980 as a police infiltrator for the South African security services. The "atrocity" footage then found its way to Good News Communications and Dr. Baehr. Of this footage, Diamond notes that "Viewers see the burning flesh and hear the crowds rage against the victims. Curiously, in none of the video presentations is there an identification of where the violence took place or who the perpetrators were. Instead, the message is conveyed through the propaganda technique of quick back-and-forth juxtaposition of atrocity scenes with clips of ANC leaders speaking." Today, the political and social situation in South Africa has changed dramatically, and Nelson Mandella is president of that country. Numerous Christian groups there are organizing to prevent the adoption of a "secular" constitution. Fears of creating a truly pluralistic society and instituting Western-style civil libertarianism (including freedom of expression) has religionists worried. Many evangelicals also see themselves despite significant gains in the U.S. surrounded by a hostile, corrupting, secular world. "Purity crusades" on behalf of "wholesome" TV and film programs are perceived as a way of combatting irreligiosity and moral breakdown. But for Ted Baehr, the true nature of "violence" and how it should be presented in the world, is very much a case of political bias and expediency. --30-- ----------------------------------------------------------- THEISTWATCH An educational service provided by American Atheists, P O Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195, Telephone (512) 458-1244, FAX: (512) 467-9525, BBS: (512) 302-0223, Fidonet 1:382/1006. For information on American Atheists, e-mail: info@atheist.org. --- WILDMAIL!/WC v4.11 * Origin: American Atheists Online (512) 302-0223 (1:382/1006.0) SEEN-BY: 102/2 835 890 943 279/54 311/81 382/29 88 90 91 92 506 802 1006 SEEN-BY: 396/1 3615/50 @PATH: 382/1006 29 91 92 3615/50 279/54 102/835 943

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