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TV's Virtuous Assault

The Sun-Times published a column on Saturday asking "Does Too Much TV Lead To Decaying Moral Values?" Gosh, we certainly hope so. Especially if that means leading us to a society more tolerant, less hateful, more compassionate, and less repressed than what the author favors. Let's take a look.

Does too much TV lead to decaying moral values? Heavy TV viewers more permissive about sex, abortion and homosexuality: survey


Couch potatoes, beware: Someday, you might be saying "the TV made me do it."

A new special report by the Culture and Media Institute indicates that watching too much television could be hazardous to your moral health.

The report, "The Media Assault on American Values," reveals that media messages appear to be undermining the pillars of America's cultural edifice: strength of character, sexual morality and respect for God. The report is based on findings of a major scientific survey commissioned by the institute, a division of the Media Research Center.

COMMENT: We can all see where this is going. It's the gays' fault.

The National Cultural Values Survey reveals a striking correlation between greater exposure to television and permissive moral views.

Striking because because such a correlation has no basis in actual scientific methodology.

Heavy television viewers (four hours or more per evening) are less committed to character virtues such as honesty and charity, and more permissive about sex, abortion and homosexuality. Light television viewers (one hour or less per evening) are more likely to attend religious services.

The more you watch television, the less honest you are? I suppose if you spend all your time watching Fox News and televangelists . . .

The survey wasn't designed to identify causal relationships between media and behavior, but it did collect information about television viewing habits.

So everything we've said up to now is bogus.

The results are compelling.

Let's look at the foundation of good character: personal responsibility. According to the survey, the more a person watches television, the less likely he will be to accept responsibility for his own life and for his obligations to the people around him.

Except when it comes to taking responsibility for the remote.

Personal responsibility begins with providing for your own needs, but the news media and movie directors consistently preach that people should look to government, not rely on themselves. Heavy television viewers are much likelier than light viewers to expect government to provide retirement (64 percent to 43 percent) and health care (63 percent to 43 percent).

This was published in a major metropolitan newspaper?

Another aspect of personal responsibility is taking care of your neighbor's needs. The media's voyeuristic, celebrity-driven entertainment and "news" programming promotes narcissism, not charity. Not surprisingly, light viewers are more likely than heavy viewers to contribute time or treasure to every kind of cause. Heavy viewers are more than twice as likely not to give at all (24 percent to 11 percent), and not to volunteer (56 percent to 27 percent).

Well, that's understandable. It's hard to volunteer when you can't get off the couch. On the other hand, who is going to buy all the products advertised on TV and keep this economy going? That's helping your neighbor.

The pattern persists with sexual morality. Is sex outside of marriage, the way Hollywood incessantly depicts it, always wrong? Thirty-nine percent of light viewers say so. Only 26 percent of heavy viewers agree.

Wait a minute. Twenty-six percent of heavy TV viewers think sex outside of marrage is always wrong? They must have thought the question was about sex outside.

Fifty-five percent of light viewers say homosexuality is wrong, but only 43 percent of heavy viewers.

So 45 percent of light viewers are okay with homosexuality? Who are you going to blame that on then, if not TV?

The media's continual portrayal of clergy and believers as moral reprobates, and outrages like showing God in bed with a woman (both Fox's Family Guy and Comedy Central's Sarah Silverman Program), appear to be eroding the nation's devotion to religion. Thirty-two percent of heavy viewers say they live by God's values above their own, significantly less than the 43 percent of light viewers.

Family Guy is eroding the nation's devotion to religion? I mean, I knew the show was good, but I didn't know it was that good.

Overall, 74 percent of Americans say our moral values are weaker than they were 20 years ago, and 48 percent say values are much weaker.

Well, there's been a Republican in the White House for 12 of the last 20 years.

That's another way of saying they see eroding character, lower sexual standards, and diminished respect for God - precisely the values the media undermine.

In consequence, overwhelming majorities hold the media responsible for contributing to moral decline.

I thought overwhelming majorities were participating in the decline.

Ten Americans believe Hollywood is harming the nation's moral condition for every one who thinks Hollywood is helping.

It's all those war movies.

The numbers: 73 percent to 7 percent. For the news media, the ratio is 5-1: 54 percent harming the nation's moral standards, and just 11 percent helping.

The bottom line: Most Americans believe the nation's morality is slipping. These people name the media as the second greatest factor in the moral decline, exceeded only by the family.

So the family is most responsible for moral decline.

This report, "The Media Assault on American Values," is available at www.cultureandmediainstitute.org.

It will soon appear in a peer-reviewed journal. Or excerpted in the Sun-Times.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor of the Culture and Media Institute.

He works for the people who put out the report!


Posted on June 18, 2007

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