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Culture Notes

Culture

Issue: "Is Christian Philanthropy Christian?," Oct. 26, 1996

Conservatives enter TV news fray

As if CNN were not enough to satisfy news junkies, two more all-news cable networks are now in place. MSNBC is an alliance between NBC and Bill Gates's Microsoft corporation, a high-tech attempt to integrate both television and the World Wide Web. The Fox News Channel has a different agenda. Though Fox has become notorious for pushing the envelope of taste, its owner, Rupert Murdoch, is a political conservative. Complaining about the liberal bias of Ted Turner's CNN, Mr. Murdoch promises that his news station will be objective and will fairly represent the conservative point of view. Despite the power plays in television news, new evidence indicates that fewer and fewer Americans are watching. A study released by the Radio and TV News Directors Association showed that in 1980, 45 percent of Americans over 50 watched network news. Today, only 30 percent of these senior citizens bother with the news. Among 35-49 year olds, the numbers dropped from 23 percent to 12 percent. Among 18-34 year olds, the numbers plummeted from 16 percent to 6 percent. Whether this is because people are turning to alternative sources for their news, are surrendering their civic obligation to be informed of public issues, or are turned off by the bias, triviality, and condescension of the TV establishment is not clear. CBS News President Andrew Heyward cited his industry's "Seven Daily Sins": imitation, predictability, artificiality, laziness, oversimplification, hype, and cynicism. But while scoring some valid points, he went on to complain that the news uses too many big words. Expect more "dumbing down" and more sensationalism in an attempt to win big audiences, especially the crucial market of news-impaired 20-year-olds of whom only 6 percent watch the news.

Bestseller watch

The New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction shows that Rush Limbaugh was right: Conservative books are the ones that sell. Former FBI agent Gary Aldrich's expos' of the inner workings of the Clinton administration, Unlimited Access, has been on The New York Times bestseller list for over three months. This is despite White House attempts to censor the book and an obedient media's banishing Mr. Aldrich from the talk shows. Robert Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah, the judge's indictment against pornography and the decadence of the pop culture, has climbed toward the top. Boy Clinton, an irreverent biography of our postmodern president by conservative raconteur R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., is in the top 20, as is David Denby's defense of Western culture, Great Books. Stephen E. Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, on the Lewis and Clark expedition, gives historical fodder for patriotism. Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, with Marco Politi, has now turned his attention in His Holiness to how the pope helped bring down communism. At the very top of the list for some time has been cartoonist Scott Adams's The Dilbert Principle, a lampoon of trendy management techniques, many of which are grounded in New Age pop-psychology. Cultural conservatives may not be winning, but at least they are reading-and getting their message across.

One tough mom

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Pop singer Madonna has made a career of moral rebellion, but the imminent prospect of parenthood has a way of wonderfully concentrating the mind. When she decided she wanted a baby, she enlisted the help of her personal trainer who served as sperm donor, but in an interview with Vogue, Madonna indicates that she wants to raise her daughter to have a moral compass. Though her schtick often involves rather blasphemous uses of religious symbols, Madonna says that she intends to tell her daughter that she believes in God and to introduce her to Catholicism. Though Madonna cultivates the image of kinky sex, she wants none of that for her daughter. She admits that she does not want her children to see her book Sex and promises to be a "tough" mother. It is a measure of hope that moral anarchists tend to change their tune when they have children of their own. The sexually promiscuous, the abusers of drugs, and those who rebelled against their parents seldom want their children to live as they did. This is a proof of the objective reality of the moral law. Madonna doesn't want her daughter to be a Madonna wannabe. Perhaps she could show similar concern for other people's children who constitute her fans.

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