Perhaps the biggest story related to Kathy Griffin’s salacious stunt on CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast with Anderson Cooper was the almost deadening silence it engendered from any quarter.
Aside from Newsbusters and the Parents Television Council (thank God for Brent Bozell), and a story in the Baltimore Sun and the New York Daily News, there wasn’t much in the way of criticism (predictably, Perez Hilton took offense at the Parents Television Council for having the audacity to call out Griffin).
Does it matter what Griffin did? To put it more generally, does what we see and hear have any effect on our behavior, particularly the behavior of young people?
Hollywood obviously thinks that what we see and hear matters, otherwise it wouldn’t intentionally ban actors from smoking on television. The movies are no different. There are, of course, a few exceptions. But those exceptions do not go unanswered.
Remember when Julia Roberts smoked incessantly in “My Best Friend’s Wedding”? Hillary Clinton went ballistic. Now anyone is free to disagree with Clinton’s reaction, but no one can maintain that her concern was baseless. She wants to see less smoking on the screen so fewer people will be induced to smoke.
Lately there has been much discussion about the prevalence of violent video games and their impact on disturbed young men. While such commentary gets Hollywood nervous, no one there is prepared to say that extended exposure to these sick games is without effect.
After the killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last year, liberal groups such as the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center called attention to the lyrics of hate-rock bands. The ADL even went so far as to see a direct cause and effect.
“Hate music does sometimes create direct effects,” wrote Lonnie Nasatir. “Incidents of hate crimes being committed by people who had just been at a hate music event have been reported.”
In 2009, investigators at the University of Pittsburgh concluded that young people who listened the most to sexually degrading lyrics were far more likely to have sex at an early age than those who did not. From a 2008 study published in Pediatrics, we know that “Teens who were exposed to high levels of television sexual content were twice as likely to experience a pregnancy in the subsequent three years, compared to those with lower levels of exposure.”
Of course, we are not just talking about kids having sex at an early age: We are talking about the consequences of young people having sex.
The evidence is overwhelming that sex at a young age is tied to poverty, dropping out of school, abortion, out-of-wedlock births, infant mortality, crime, infertility, depression, and disease.
What does this have to do with Kathy Griffin? No one thinks that all by herself Griffin will induce young people to have sex, or to suffer the ineluctable consequences. But she is not all by herself. That’s the problem — Hollywood is hellbent on degrading our culture. To the extent, however, that Griffin seeks to glorify recreational sex acts — she seems intent on being its poster girl — then she must be held accountable for her behavior.
Here are a few facts. In 1950, it is estimated that 7 percent of white American girls were sexually active by age 16. In 1982, the figure jumped to 44 percent; the greatest increase occurred in the 1970s. In 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that among teens aged 15 to 19, 55 percent said they had experienced oral sex. In 2012, the same agency said that 66 percent of females and 65 percent of males between the ages of 15 and 24 had oral sex.
Does it matter? According to the Centers for Disease Control, even though the risk of transmitting HIV through oral sex is much lower than from other forms of sexual behavior, "numerous studies have demonstrated that oral sex can result in the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).”
In other words, people can get chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital human papillomavirus, syphilis, and other STDs by having oral sex. This is important because numerous studies have shown that many young people still think they cannot get an STD this way.
Again, Kathy Griffin is not causing any of this. But she is clearly contributing to an increasingly coarse and debased culture. And that’s not good for anyone, especially boys and girls. If I’m wrong, then bring back the smokers to TV and film and stop all the negative chatter about hate-rock bands.
Dr. William Donohue is the president of and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization. The publisher of the Catholic League journal, Catalyst, Bill is a former Bradley Resident Scholar at the Heritage Foundation and served for two decades on the board of directors of the National Association of Scholars. The author of five books, two on the ACLU, and the winner of several teaching awards and many awards from the Catholic community, Donohue has appeared on thousands of television and radio shows speaking on civil liberties and social issues. Read more reports from Bill Donohue — Click Here Now.
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