Small-Screen Terrorism

|

The Wash Times interviews Rebecca Hagelin, author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That's Gone Stark Raving Mad, the latest in an endless stream of scare-the-parents books:

When parents understand that basic morality and traditional American values are being attacked by our culture, you can see how there are similarities in what we know as terrorism….

The Roman Empire did not fall from an enemy attack, it fell from within. So while we are rightly trying to protect our country and our lives from foreign aggressors and madmen, we also need to be building up and protecting our children's character development….

We like to say, "Oh, these kids today." … But I would submit that the real problem isn't "these kids today," the real problem is these adults today.

Adults are the ones creating the oversexualized culture. Adults are the ones creating the television programming. … Adults are the ones who have created the rampant pornography available through the Internet. Adults are the ones who created MTV. Adults are the ones who created the "if it feels good, do it" sex education that pervades our schools….

Whole thing here.

Actually, it's not at all clear who's complaining about "these kids today." By most indications, the kids are doing pretty damn well, especially if you're talking about declines in sex and drugs (and we know that's what Hagelin is talking about mostly).

In an ironic, though not at all surprising, way, Hagelin–who works at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation–sounds a lot like left-wing critics of pop culture. Both focus on the crassness and the vulgarity of TV, video games, etc. and pay far less attention to how their kids actually interact with it.

NEXT: Andrea Dworkin, RIP

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. where is this feel good do it sex education again? in america?

  2. Another big element of the downfall of Rome were those damnable Christians undermining authority. Maybe we should get rid of ours… you know, for the kids…

  3. From the perspective of not seeking a government solution, her basic premise is OK. It’s a good idea that parents should manage what their kids are exposed to.

    On the other hand, I do think she’s the type of mother who will still consider her kids to be children at 21. I also think she overestimates the effects that media has.

  4. Reason writers, you’re going to have to drop the “sex and pregnancy and violence and murder and drug use are all down” argument now, because they all started ticking up slightly 3-4 years ago.

  5. Joe,

    Doesn’t that oddly coincide with the election of a moral president, a moral congress, and an endless stream of “crackdowns” on television,videogame and movie content?

  6. There’s that “Fall of Rome” thing again.

    For some reason the religious right likes to tell themselves, contrary to all things historical, that the Roman Empire fell because of moral decline. I don’t know where this belief comes from. Most likely it’s an attempt to shape history to fit one’s biases withut actually knowing said history.

    For the record, the Roman Empire was full of polytheistic heathens during the hieght of its power and only fell once the Christians got in the way.

    Would someone either correct me, or explain where this idea comes from?

  7. I’m in the middle of rewatching I Claudius, so I chuckle when I hear the Rome analogy.
    As opposed to Third Reich Germany, which purged all moral lapses…
    In addition to (and extension of) Lord Duppy’s question, I have yet to understand exactly what “religious principles” this country was founded on. Representitive democracy, rule of law, and the concept of “united states” have no backing in european religion. Most churches supported kings, divine right, and a rigidstratification of classes by birth.

    As for Rome, I guess an invading horde of barbarians weakening your outposts and controlling you main routes of trade somehow constitutes as “moral decay.”

  8. THESE COMPLAINERS ARE ALL FUCKED UP!

  9. Our law doesn’t come from christianized roman law (via Constantinople) like in continental Europe. It descends from pagan German tribal law – the Anglo-Saxons and the rest ? who settled in England after the Romans left. So, yeah, the people who say our law has some sort of biblical basis are making stuff up.

  10. I always thought that Rome fell mainly as a result of how expensive it was to maintain such a huge empire. Taxes had to be raised, and freedom limited to pay for it. Not only were they paying for military conquest, but they were also becoming a more cumbersome welfare state.

  11. Brian,

    That’s never stopped them before.

  12. Those people who’ve made observations about the incorrect Roman analogy are right on the mark.

    Roman was weakend because of the rise of moralism. It fell because a freaking huge number of Germans invaded — Goths, Franks, Vandals, Burgundians, Angles, Saxons, etc. Not to mention Huns.

    Then of course all of the Generals making themselves Emperor didn’t help either.

    When the US is experiencing a coup every few years and our borders are overrun with entire cities worth of people setting up their own nations in our border — then we can make comparisons to the Fall of Rome.

  13. David,

    Why else would Joe bring it up?

    I don’t know about those other stats, but the FBI’s preliminary report on the 2004 murder rate shows a drastic decline over the first six months of the year. They haven’t released the full year’s UCR yet, but the unofficial numbers from adding up the big cities indicate the trend lasted all year. When the final numbers come out it will probably be the lowest rate in decades. Let the Reason sloganeering continue!

  14. When will the parties switch from being right/left to being intrusive/non-intrusive?

    It seems to me the nannies on the left and the nannies on the right have a lot more in common with each other than the general membership of either the democratic or republican parties have internally.

  15. “The Roman Empire did not fall from an enemy attack, it fell from within. ”

    The Roman Empire fell because enemies attacked and overran it.

    And why is that a bad thing? Empires suck.

  16. phocion,

    The reversal of the 90s decline in murder and violent crime date back to 2002/2002. The last Reasonoid to make this argument (I think is was Tim) provided a handy chart in a post about two weeks back.

    My guess, it’s the economy stupid.

  17. “When will the parties switch from being right/left to being intrusive/non-intrusive?”

    They have. LP = non-intrusive; All others = intrusive.

  18. The moral decay of Rome reached it’s peak under Nero, and thereafter public morals rose, until by the time of Hadrian, etc, it was a completely different scene. The pagans led the christians in the return to morals in any case.

    I’ll float my own “why Rome fell theory” (basically what dave potts said): Rome lived by plunder, and then taxation. Eventually the upkeep of the empire exceeded the returns from taxation, and what countries were left to plunder were too strong, or too far away.

  19. I don’t know a lot about Roman history, but I think if we want to draw ominous parallels, we should be looking not so much at the fall of the Roman Empire, and more at the transition of the Roman Republic into an empire.

    I have heard that, toward the end of the Empire, taxes were so onerous that owners of farms would abandon their property rather than work it and pay the taxes (agri deserti). Of course, deserting your land was illegal too, because Rome needed the produce and the taxes.

  20. About the declines in sex and drugs I mentioned. I linked to a book review I wrote a couple of years ago in the Wash Post which notes that kids today are generally faring better than their predecessors from awhile back. Hence, the Monitoring the Future study, which annually documents drug use by, among others, high school seniors found that 37.2 percent of seniors in 1979 and 1980 had used an “illicit” drug in the past 30 days (a marker for casual use). In 2004, the figure was 23.4 percent (up from a low point of 14.4 percent in 1992 but down from a recent high of 26.2 percent in 1997).

    When it comes to sex, I wasn’t able to find updated figures on the Web right away, but between 1991 and 2001, the percentage of high school seniors who reported having had sex by graduation went from 54 to 46 percent. I’ve yet to see any numbers that suggest a dramatic change in that figure or trend.

  21. where’s gaius marius when you need him? i would like to hear his opinion on the cause of the fall of the roman empire.

    that and i wish to be called mr. mo.

  22. “When it comes to sex, I wasn’t able to find updated figures on the Web right away”

    Why am I imagining Nick deducting a subscription to http://www.tightwetteens.com from his taxes as a research expense?

  23. Nick,

    I found the article I was thinking of – a Jacob Sullum piece from March 18 that includes a couple links, one of which was to a CDC chart. Unfortunately, the link no longer works, but I recall it showing the dramatic decrease you mention occurring during the 1990s, then a small uptick in each of the first two years of the current decade.

    I’ve seen other charts showing this pattern in areas of drug-related deaths and crime, as well as a levelling off of the decrease in teen pregnancy. It will probably be a few years before we can say with any confidence if this is just noise, a short term event, or the beginning of a longer trend.

  24. Adults are the ones creating the oversexualized culture. Adults are the ones creating the television programming. … Adults are the ones who have created the rampant pornography available through the Internet. Adults are the ones who created MTV. Adults are the ones who created the “if it feels good, do it” sex education that pervades our schools. …

    It’s mothers who drive their daughters to the mall and plunk down money to dress their 10-year-olds like Paris Hilton. … We have to step back as adults and see how we are failing this generation of children.

    I’m still not clear as to what the tangible results of this are. Kids looking like Paris Hilton, while I wouldn’t allow it for mine, is not objectively bad in and of itself. And I would also like to observe one of these great “if it feels good, do it” sex-ed classes. Hell, my grade school sex-ed classes in the 90’s were cheesy clips of guys with bell-bottoms and afros, warning young boys about the dangers of pitching a tent in public. Mostly, they were scare videos about STD’s, etc. If any of these classes did indeed harbor any sort of a message of “if it feels good, do it”, then it was surely lost on all us kids (who were too busy laughing at the kid with the afro get a boner in front of his friends).

    This is a clear case of over-exaggeration for effect. I’m sure that what Ms. Hagelin is referring to is the practice of giving out free condoms. However, “if it feels good, do it” is a far cry from “you’re a kid, you shouldn’t have sex, but sometimes, there’s nothing we can do about it, so here’s a way to stay protected”. Or perhaps she’s referring to that one episode of the Simpsons where Bart gets touted as an inspiration by a motivational speaker, and the entire town adopts his attitude of “if it feels good, do it”. But then, the Simpsons aren’t real life.

    Mothers, in particular, should be like mother bears rising up to protect their cubs. And, instead, many moms are shrugging their shoulders as they’re renting R-rated movies that attack the sensibilities of their 13-year-olds.

    Well, perhaps those parents know their kids better than Ms. Hagelin does, and they know that this particular movie is not offensive to their sensibilities. Then again, perhaps they are bad parents, but the distinction must be made, and it isn’t within that interview. There is no objective standard for parenting—even though folks like Ms. Hagelin attempt to make some bucks selling a scare book that promises objective answers.

    I wrote “Home Invasion” to be a wake-up call for parents. I wrote it to provide help — real help — for parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, anyone who’s sick of this oversexualized barrage on our children, and who wants to fight back.

    Or, you can save yourself the $20 for her stupid book, and I’ll give you the same advice for free: do your fucking job, be a parent. Pay attention. Don’t be afraid to smack your kids around. If you go out in public with your screaming demon-spawn, then do everyone else a favor and get a soundproof cage to wheel them around in.

    That’s free of charge, folks.

    The answers to these problems do not lie in government. They rest very simply in the hands of the moms and dads.

    Finally, some fucking sense!

    I’d written a column [at WorldNetDaily.com] for several years … and I examine social issues through the eyes of a mother.

    So, she’s one of those crackpots over at WND, eh? No further explanation is necessary. They should have said that at the beginning of the interview! I wonder if she gets together for milk and cookies with Ann Coulter…

  25. I’ve seen other charts showing this pattern in areas of drug-related deaths and crime, as well as a levelling off of the decrease in teen pregnancy. It will probably be a few years before we can say with any confidence if this is just noise, a short term event, or the beginning of a longer trend.

    Regardless of what the last 3 years worth of data show, can it really be attributed to what kids see on the idiot box? Perhaps I’m just crazy, but I don’t remember tv programming in the 90’s being vanilla.

  26. Is it really that hard for parents to shelter their children from aspects of popular culture that the parents dislike? My TV has an off button, and I think that most models come with this feature. I also don’t get any periodicals or other reading material that I do not want (except the Penny Saver). And last time I looked, I am not required to hang around with people who do not share my tastes or moral views.

  27. I too am sick of the sociocons invoking the Roman Empire everytime something racier than “Touched By An Angel” comes on the boob tube. The Empire fell for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that all empire do, sooner or later. Anyone who thinks the Empire went down for any one or two reasons is a moron. I’m sure even Edward Gibbon would agree.
    Aside from all that, it’s telling that the sociocons (who also tend to be neocons) would *bemoan* the falling of an empire…

  28. The ‘Rome fell because of moral decay’ is actually Gibbon’s hypothesis, and he was arguing that in order to draw a parallel to what he perceived as the moral decay within the British Empire at the time.

    It’s a far more complex story than that, but the ‘moral decay’ explanation is very easy to defend, because Roman historians themselves were making that argument throughout the entire history of both the Republic and the Empire. Livy is chock full of ‘Lo, we have fallen so far from the moral strength of our ancestors’ bullshit.

    From a Roman historian specializing in the historiography of the late Imperial and the early Medieval period (that would be me): Rome fell for a whole lot of reasons. Moral decay was not really among them. But moral decay worked as a great scapegoat for the early medieval historians, because their particular historiographical method demanded that all explanations account for an omnipotent God. If a nation fell, it *had* to be because God had abandoned that nation. And God only abandoned the immoral.

  29. “Regardless of what the last 3 years worth of data show, can it really be attributed to what kids see on the idiot box?”

    I don’t believe it does. If this indeed a trend, I’d attribute it mainly to the economy. I’m just taking issue with the happy happy data the writers like to throw into this discussion.

    If the trends are indeed looking worse, building your case around those trends could come back to bite you in the ass.

  30. isuldur, that was a really excellent post.

  31. I’m still not clear as to what the tangible results of this are. Kids looking like Paris Hilton, while I wouldn’t allow it for mine, is not objectively bad in and of itself.

    Oh REALLY? Have you SEEN P.H. lately? That smug, self-satisfied, Bush-like smirk she habitually wears is a walking invitation to a bitch-slap. If my 14 y.o. girl ever handed me a look like that, I’d be shirking my parental duty if I didn’t wipe it off for her.

  32. I said, “I’m still not clear as to what the tangible results of this are. Kids looking like Paris Hilton, while I wouldn’t allow it for mine, is not objectively bad in and of itself.”

    clarityiniowa retorts, “Oh REALLY? Have you SEEN P.H. lately? That smug, self-satisfied, Bush-like smirk she habitually wears is a walking invitation to a bitch-slap. If my 14 y.o. girl ever handed me a look like that, I’d be shirking my parental duty if I didn’t wipe it off for her.”

    I don’t understand—you’re notsomuch disagreeing with me as you are reinforcing my point. Yes, there should be a special bitch-slap room reserved in hell for that smug little cunt. And, as I noted, I’d never let any of my children dress like that, unless it was Hallow’een. But, I was referring to the place in the article where Hagelin was whining about Paris Hilton’s clothes; I simply noted that her garb was not universally, absolutely, unequivocally evil. Some parents may approve—and, while they will reap what they sow, it’s not my place to tell them that there is “one right way” to raise their little heathen bastards.

  33. I’ll add my appreciation for isildur’s posts.

    When studying Roman history in college, not a lecture went by where I didn’t say to myself “wow. That sounds exactly like something happening now”, especially during the Roman Republic. Even now I can imagine a Reason writer jotting down a polemic along the lines of “Who do these Gracchus brothers think they are?”.

    I’d also like to point out that, once again, those damned Parthians are being a real nuisance.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.