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The U.S. Vs. Jack Bauer

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Senate hearings in support of TV-violence legislation began in Washington today, as the Parents Television Council aired a greatest-hits reel of TV gore to bolster the call of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) for government regulation of violence. The hearings also featured testimony from Peter Liguori, entertainment president of Fox, which produces 24. “To be blunt,” Rockefeller said, “the big media companies have placed a greater emphasis on their corporate short-term profits than on the long-term health and well-being of our children.”

He’s right, in one sense. Big media companies, especially publicly owned ones, care about short-term profits more than pretty much anything else. Long-term profits, for instance. Or the well-being of their employees. Or the approbation of senators. But Rockefeller, like so many advocates of government content regulation, cites health and psychological effects from media on children as if they were proven, objective, uncontroversial fact, which they are not. That’s a far cry from a compelling cause to regulate expression, for which I would hope you would still have to clear a high bar in this country. And I’ll say it again: give the children a rest. I’m a parent of two children, but that doesn’t mean my interests or preferences should dictate what other people, or their kids, should get to see on TV.

I’ll say one more thing again too: this isn’t a liberal-vs.conservative issue, though every time I write about it I get accused of carrying water for one side or the other, depending whether I’m criticizing liberals like Rockefeller or conservatives like President Bush. Liberals may focus on violence and conservatives on sex, but the issue is really about libertarianism vs. authoritarianism.

What’s more, it’s not about “the children” vs. anyone: it’s about freedom of choice for their parents, other adults and the future adults that today’s kids will become.

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