June 8, 2006
L. Brent Bozell Keeps Popping Back Up

I am an unwavering advocate for free speech, even if it's speech I don't agree with, but L. Brent Bozell's constant campaigns sure do make me want to pull my hair out. Now, he's taking credit for the current move to drastically increase indecency fines that's making it's way through Congress.

He has led such efforts as the Parents Television Council, a group who watches for material that offends its members' sensibilities in all broadcast programming. I first became acquainted with Mr. Bozell as a high school wrestling fan in the late 1990s when his group declared war on Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), calling sponsors and pressuring them to pull ads from WWE programming.

Eventually, Bozell began to claim an amazing success, but his "successes" included both advertisers who never had even advertised with WWE and even companies still running ads with the company. He was eventually forced to make a formal apology, after legal proceedings between the PTC and the WWE. Through the efforts of anti-PTC wrestling fan communities online, I became acquainted with the group's tactics. By the way, one of the greatest critiques of Bozell and his background is available in Foley is Good...and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling.

Only later did I realize that Bozell was the bane of many other fan communities as well. On the other hand, his grassroots marketing is amazing, and he's generated quite a fan community of his own. And he's helped create all sorts of unholy alliances among censors on all points of the political spectrum, so that's pretty impressive.

Somehow, he always pops back up as a pundit, quoted in stories about important policy debates, as was the case with Jim Abrams' AP story this week.

But, I guess in a world where the senate is spending our time and money debating how much to fine shows for offending some general idea of what is "public sensibility," it comes as no surprise that Bozell has this much cultural cache. But these censoring moves does nothing but inhibit creativity and make network executives much less likely to try out interesting material, especially if they have a potential $325,000 fine waiting for them instead of $32,500.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about trying to convince my local congressmen to find a way to start fining journalists every time they cite Bozell as a credible source. After all, your children are reading.