In his second inaugural, George W. Bush used the words liberty and freedom 42 times. And, indeed, if America is about anything, she is about freedom. But freedom from what, and for what?
What brings the old question to mind is the decision by Adelphia Communications, the cable operator that has long refused to carry pornography, to offer triple-X rated programming for the first time in a major media market: Southern California.
What is triple-X-rated programming?
Sallie Hofmeister of the Los Angeles Times explains: “Single-X-rated movies feature nudity, long-range or medium-range camera shots, simulated sex and sex between women.” Her depiction of double-X- and triple-X-rated programming is best left to the imagination.
In short, this is the sort of squalid, grungy stuff that, not long ago, would have had the men who produced and distributed it sent to prison for years, after being denounced from the bench as perverts.
Why did Adelphia change its policy? Well, it seems that John Rigas, the 80-year-old founder who, on moral grounds, refused to carry “soft-porn,” is on his way, along with his son, to a minimum-security facility for looting his company. Family values at work. And as Adelphia has filed for Chapter 11 and is on the block, its present managers wanted to make it as attractive a property as possible.
Spokeswoman Erica Stull, in what might well stand as the motto of modern capitalism, gave Adelphia’s reason for reversing its policy: “People want it, so we are going to provide it.” Erica gets it.
Adelphia’s fall from grace would be a matter of little interest were it not for the trend it exposed, which Hofmeister details.
“Adelphia joins a marketplace already teeming with ways to procure hard-core sexual content,” she writes. “The Internet has become a carnal cornucopia, with graphic images, videos and cartoons … EchoStar Communications Corp., the nation’s second-ranked satellite TV provider, has offered triple-X programming for several years on its Dish Network. Satellite leader DirecTV Group Inc., owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., peddles fare that falls just shy of triple-X.”
Fifty percent of all hotel movies purchased are “adult.”
“It’s scary how much money is made on porn,” proclaims Tim Connelly, editor and publisher of Adult Video News, the journal of the porn trade – although Connelly does not seem all that scared.
“I think they made a really smart business decision,” Connelly told another reporter. “So, today Adelphia, tomorrow Wal-Mart.”
Connelly estimates that when strip clubs, magazines, the Internet, television and DVDs are factored in, porn has become a $10 billion industry. “That’s more than Hollywood makes at the box office,” says Connelly. “And it just grows and grows and grows. It’s mainstream now.”
Yes, it is. And if Connelly is right, pornography grossed 30 times as much as “The Passion of the Christ,” and 200 million citizens spend on average $50 a year each to keep the industry booming.
One need not have lived through Legion of Decency days, when its condemnation could kill a movie, to realize that America is still “defining deviancy down,” in the late Sen. Pat Moynihan’s phrase. We are in a worldwide race to the bottom, and America is winning.
Our popular culture – free and diverse, or polluted and poisonous, depending on your views and values – is a consequence of convergent forces. First, a Supreme Court, led by such worthies as William Douglas, brought pornography under the protection of the First Amendment.
At the same time, Christianity, as definer of standards of morality, was being displaced by the new religion that came out of the cultural revolution of the ’60s, secular humanism. This belief system holds that all voluntary sexual acts between consenting adults are moral.
Then, the mighty engine of American capitalism, which, per Stull, is about “People want it, so we are going to provide it,” went to work to meet the new market’s demand. That demand comes from an affluent Weimar America whose children have been taught in their schools, and by their song-singers and films, that sex is good, hang-ups are bad and chastity is stupid.
November’s landslide repudiation of gay marriage is regarded as a triumph by moral-values voters in Red State America. But history will likely record it as a defensive victory of one of the last citadels of traditional Christian morality, which eventually fell.
In “Witness,” Whittaker Chambers writes of how, in a hospital, as he spoke with a priest friend about whether the West might be saved, he was brought up short by the priest’s question: “What make you think the West is worth saving?”
As the West advances from aborting its unborn to assisting the suicide of its sick, from euthanasia of its elderly to mercy-killing its disabled young in Europe, from its Christian roots to its post-Christian decadence, decline and death from a lack of births, the priest’s question is being asked – and not only in the madrassas of the East.