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Jewish World Review Sept. 19, 2000/ 18 Elul, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

It's not subliminal: Hypocrisy of moral outrage is obvious --
EIGHT WEEKS before the presidential election, the pivotal issue seems reduced to this: Which candidate can be the more morally outraged and, therefore, the more moral man?

The contest was almost over before it began when Al "Do-Right" Gore selected Joe "Kum-ba-Yah" Lieberman as his running mate. If the Republicans can be accused of flashing the word "RATS" in a television commercial criticizing Gore's prescription-drug plan, the DemocRATS (sorry, it's the keyboard) haven't been exactly coy about invoking God at every possible turn.

Too bad Kum-ba-Yah's surname isn't something like Kogod. One can only whimper at the missed subliminal opportunity for bumper-sticker America: "Put KoGOD in the White House."

Even so, new opportunities abound both for moral outrage and subliminal messaging. The latest outrage is the sudden realization that Hollywood, as well as the recording and video-game industries, has been targeting children in advertising for goods that should be off-limits to children.

The study, released last week by the Federal Trade Commission, found that the movie/recording/video industries aren't abiding by their own rules. The movie industry, for example, routinely markets movies to children that the industry itself has deemed inappropriate for young viewers.

Of course, all half-awake parents in America already knew this and long ago exhausted their lifetime supply of moral outrage. Those same parents also figured out that the burden of protecting their children falls to them and have managed with words to this effect: "No."

But Washington is always slow to realize what everyone else knows, and bureaucRATS (darn keyboard) need an official study before they can draw a conclusion that, were it physically manifest, would be sufficiently large to impose nuclear winter on Capitol Hill.

As the parent of a nearly-grown child, having spent years dodging Hollywood's cultural snipers, I have a moral outrage that has devolved from a brow-singeing inferno to smoldering cynicism. But my cynicism isn't directed so much toward Hollywood, whose tactics and motives are clearly understood, but toward politicians who grasp a well-timed study for quick subliminal-advertising capital rather than for substantive moral meaning.

Surely, no one believes that the release of the FTC report precisely eight weeks before the election was serendipitous. Did Do-Right have a little advance notice, perhaps, in order to issue his tough-guy, three-pronged response?

Although Bush's impromptu reaction was vaguely philosophical (we have to do a better job of protecting children from violence, beginning with more parental education and supervision), Do-Good came out firing both barrels:

"You got six months to do right, Hol'wood, and then ah'm comin' to gitcha." Legislation to control advertising in America?

Uh-huh. Meanwhile, keep those donations coming, and I'm sure we can work something out.

Less subliminal, meanwhile, are the news-media messages about what we ought to think about the candidates. Newspaper content and headlines make the Republican RAT smell like a springtime potpourri. On the same day that everyone reported Al Gore's favorite book (The Bible), poor George Du(h)bya was being forced to deny that his mispronunciations and verbal bungling are owing to dyslexia that somebody somewhere thinks he might suffer.

Note to working families: Never eat at a restaurant named "Mom's," and never vote for a politician who says that "The Bible" is his favorite book. OK, OK: Never vote for a politician who says Jesus Christ is his favorite philosopher.

Maybe the first presidential debate should be a round of Bible Jeopardy, just to see who has the better rigging for moral outrage. No hints from Kum-ba-Yah.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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