Jack Valenti, 1921-2007

Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti -- confidant to LBJ, father of the MPAA rating system, scourge of the VCR, the man who once said "I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently, because Lyndon Johnson is my president" -- has died at age 85. I disagreed with him constantly, and when we did agree I rarely doubted that he would change positions on a dime if someone convinced him another stance would better protect the studios' profits. Even his most admirable battle, against censorship of violent movies, would have been more noble if the MPAA rating board itself didn't replicate one of the worst habits of the crusaders outside the industry: reserving their fiercest fire for art that actually explores the roots and consequences of violence. (As Henry Jenkins put it the other day, "moral reformers rarely take aim at mundane and banal representations of violence though formulaic violence is pervasive in our culture. Almost always, they go after works that are acclaimed elsewhere as art...precisely because these works manage to get under their skin." You can see a similar process at work when you consider what gets a PG-13, what gets an R, and what gets an NC-17.)

Nonetheless, when outsiders tried to clamp down on Hollywood, Valenti was always there to stick up for free speech. As the FCC issues a dubious report about the dangers of violent TV and every two-bit censor tries to hitch his cause to the Virginia Tech massacre, I'd much rather listen to the man who liked to remind us that "Every parent in America has the total power to control all television programming that is dispatched to their home today." Rest in peace.

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    I will rest easier a little more each night now that another of Lyndon Johnson's cronies has died.

    But, the real celebration begins when Bill Moyers bites the big one.

  • ed||

    Moyers put on a dandy piece of propaganda the other day. Made a believer out of me. I mean, a nonbeliever. Whatever.

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    "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

    - Jack Valenti, 1982

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    Am I crazy, or do I remember hearing that Jack Thompson was disbarred?

    If so, why does Fox News continue to have lower third graphics identifying him as "Attorney Jack Thompson?"

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    Jack Valenti: sleazy, pit-bull lobbyist who helped give us our celeb-crazed society, and helped make a bunch of really shitty people rich, RIP.

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    Any chance of a Matt Taibbi-penned obit?

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    Apropos of the "free speech" remark, it would appear the the VA Tech killings are still having some strange ramifications.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-070425essay,1,696682.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

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    Valenti's goal was to make free speech into high-cost speech.

    R.I.P.

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    If you can't say anything nice, then the obit probably wouldn't make the national news.

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    RIP Jack Valenti's cheeks.

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    fark has a far more appropriate "FARK YOU" to valenti

    http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=2765931

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    What? I said R.I.P., after all. I wasn't a fan, but I forgive him his sins.

  • Taktix®||

    1 down, like fucking 10,000 to go...

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    Valenti managed to die on the same day as another guy who wasn't exactly a great spokesman for the theater of his day:

    John Wilkes Booth.

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    I'll always remember fondly that he was NOT a serial killer. Just a lobbyist, which is not nearly as bad.

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    I heard Valenti speak a few years ago at a computing conference where he defended the MPAA's attacks on kids downloading stuff. Came across as an asshole, but a sleazy one. Can't say I ever associated him with freedom of speech, but I didn't know his earlier history.

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    That's funny, because sometimes I wake up in the middle of night screaming and covered in sweat, at the thought of Lyndon Johnson being president.

    And I wasn't even born until the 70s.

  • Quiet_Desperation||

    >>>Am I crazy, or do I remember hearing
    >>>that Jack Thompson was disbarred?

    Crazy.

    Thompson was actually *deboned* and no longer has a spine, which is what made him such a brave crusader against little clusters of video pixels.

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