Preface: The Rise of the Weenies
Everywhere we look, it seems, we see the United States culture being threatened by weenies and the rise of Weenyism. In a nation founded on the principles of self-reliance and individual liberty, built and shaped by stunningly brave men and women who hacked civilization out of an uncertain and perilous wilderness, there is a growing mass of citizens—the cancer imagery is intentional—who are committed to giving the government near total control over every conceivable danger, threat, peril, offense, inconvenience or annoyance, real or imagined, as the role of individual Americans devolves into pointing and saying, “There! Fix that! I don’t like that! Arrest them. Fine him.” Increasingly, the primary motivation for public policy is fear, planted by activists and politicians to panic, terrify and mobilize the weenie base, who are ever eager to trade individual freedom for protection against, well, almost everything.
I know I am hyper-sensitive to the weenification problem right now, having spent three weeks reviewing the history of the American West and its portrayal by Hollywood in preparation for my Smithsonian Associates program last week on how the Hollywood Western shaped American culture. Around the same time that the Sixties exploded, the culture’s unified acceptance of traditional American values began to collapse, just as the primacy of the Western as an entertainment genre declined. Now weenyism is in its ascendency. There are those who claim that the name of a distant football team causes psychological trauma to Native Americans who don’t follow football. Blogger Andrew Sullivan (a candidate for Head Weenie) asserts that the United States should have the “courage” to do nothing about ISIS and allow it to run amuck (the ultimate goal of the Weenies: an Orwellian “Weenies Are Heroes” motto). Feminists insist that women are so vulnerable to male sexual predations on campus that due process, fairness, common sense and much of the respect as equals their predecessors fought for must be surrendered, in a new system that begins with the presumption that all men are potential rapists and all women simpering, helpless victims, even when they say “yes.” College students and other are demanding that books, stories, essays and blog posts contain “trigger warnings” to alert weenies that words and topics in the text might give them the vapours. Needless to say—I hope—this not a healthy development for the United States, or our culture.
The resistance to Weenyism ought not to be a partisan issue. The obligation to help the weak, disadvantaged and powerless become stronger, overcome their handicaps and acquire power is part of the American tradition too. Somewhere, however, this obligation was distorted by the realization that in a system where the government is looking for victims to justify its existence, Weakness Is Power (Orwell again). Weenies—fearful, risk-averse, passive-aggressive citizens who shrink from conflict, confrontation and the messy process of democracy— have realized that they can mobilize power to satisfy their narrow biases and interests, often at the expense of their fellow citizens’ right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now the culture is tilting away from the uniquely American model that encouraged individuals to fight their own battles and succeed or fail on the merits of their causes and their own determination and skill, to one that rewards the perpetually offended, victimized, and passively unsuccessful.
It is unethical to be a weenie, and equally unethical to allow Weenieism to overcome what has been an American cultural strength.
Part I: The Lipreading NFL Fans
Several TV viewers who watched the NFL’s New England Patriots-Green Bay Packers made official complaints to the Federal Communications Commission because they could see Patriots quarterback Tom Brady saying “fuck” repeatedly on the sidelines in frustration over his own play. They couldn’t hear it, mind you: they were just able to read his lips. This was so horrible that they felt that the Federal government needed to investigate and take remedial action.
One complaint was from an Indianapolis parent who wrote that their “6 year old children know how to read lips.” Another was from a Pennsylvania grandparent who complained to the FCC, “My 8 year old grandson was watching the game with me and even commented that he should not have said that.”
The Horror. Law professor Jonathan Turley opined on his blog, “I do not believe that this was a good thing for a NFL QB to be doing.” Well, sure: he should be picking his nose of grabbing his crotch, either, but this isn’t scripted, and its a football game. The whistle has to be blown for Federal retribution for mouthed obscenities to nobody in particular, as these sensitive parents and grandparents happily allow their delicate charges to cheer men in the process of maiming themselves and risking that their children will be changing their fathers’ diapers in the disturbingly near future?
The really frightening thing is that our regulatory morass encourages such attempts at censorship.
Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time. The Supreme Court has established that, to be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test:
An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Obviously, and I mean obviously, a mouthed “fuck” by an athlete meets none of these “prongs.” Anyone who gets off on a sweaty guy in a helmet angrily saying “fuck’ needs to contact a psychiatrist, not the FCC. “Fuck,” used in this way, does not describe sexual conduct. It means the same thing as “Damn!”; “Crap!” or “Tarnation!,” or, in this case, “Get your head in the game, Brady!” The material, as a whole, enhances the drama of sport, which I would say falls into the artistic or literary categories. Not serious, you say? Talk to any football fan, then prepare to duck.
Nor does Brady’s silent outburst breach the FCC’s indecency standard, which is “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
Now, should concerned and offended fans tell Brady to clean up his act on TV, knowing that he is on TV? Should they ask networks not to allow editors and cameraman to linger on sideline tantrums to embarrass the players? Should they explain to their children what such words mean in context? Should they, in short, take proactive steps themselves that do not involve the police state, if they are so concerned about it, and encourage cultural civility, which means making movie stars, pop stars, advertisers, broadcasters, diplomats, Vice Presidents and others pay a price in respect, popularity and income for being crude and boorish in public? Yes. Or, in the alternative, these hyper-sensitive viewers can stop watching programming that they do not trust, and let those seeking their consumer dollars deal with the consequences of rampant crudeness.
They should not, however, seek government intervention to bend others to their wills as those with the complaints sit anonymously on the sidelines, when the actual and threatened harm is minimal, when the costs to taxpayers is high, and when basic common sense and proportion should rule.
For this is the conduct of weenies, and It’s Unethical To Be A Weenie.
Source: Res Ipsa Loquitur