Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture

The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture

Frederick S Lane

Date: 2006-08 — Book

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Review of The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture

A broad, meandering look at the history of religious and political attempts to impose "decency" on the American culture. Though there is a brief look at pre-20th century decency crusaders, such as Anthony Comstock and the YMCA, the book's focus is on the 20th century up until the present time.

Topics covered include attempts to censor books, art, and the various broadcast media, through the efforts of the religious right wing, conservative politicians, and industry self-regulation (the FCC, the film industry) in response to pressure from the previous two sources. Also covered are the setbacks that the deregulations of the Reagan years had on those who would regulate the nebulous concept of decency in our country.

Religious and political "hot-button" issues perceived to be matters of decency, such as abortion, gay rights, and stem cell research are also covered. Particular attention is paid to how political conservatives have long given lip service to the religious right wing in order to gain their votes, but have delivered very little action to back up their campaign promises to "clean up" America.

The concluding chapter suggest some strategies to promote the true meaning of decency, which differs significantly from the religious conservative concept of it

The critical issue is not, ultimately, who is sleeping with whom or what body parts might be visible; the central question should always be whether this nation is treating its own citizens with basic human compassion and is a moral participant in the world community. Those are decency wars worth fighting.

I took one star away because I thought that the author devoted too many pages (the prologue and the entire first chapter) to the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl, which could have been more succinctly covered in a few paragraphs. Otherwise, this was a fascinating read.

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