William F. Buckley

But correlations are phenomena that justifiably arrest the attention. To put this in particular terms, you cannot say that the violence seen and read by the two young creatures at Columbine was responsible for their decision one day to kill their classmates. But you are justified in inquiring into correlations. If violence among teen-agers in a decade rises by 25 percent, what else happened during that decade? A rise in the price of oil? The impeachment of a U.S. president? An increase in songs and movies featuring violence?

Those are proper subjects of examination by scholars, and Mr. Pitofsky obviously has personally concluded that the correlation is there and points to the effect of advertising by producers of violence and sex who want the kid's nickel, and perhaps his lifelong addiction to the genre.

It is curious that concerning two matters, our cognoscenti are very much alert to the influence of advertising on young and inquisitive children. Causal relations are here taken for granted. If you advertise cigarettes, more young people will smoke. If you advertise the availability of guns, more young people will buy guns. You then sanction laws, most of them very popular with the liberal elite, that forbid selling a cigarette to a minor, as also a gun. But "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is probably protected, critics of Mr. Gore from the left would be quick to say. You are brushing up against the First Amendment, never mind that Mr. Gore specified that any laws or administrative actions that he would favor at the end of the six-month probationary period would abide strictly by the guarantees of the First Amendment.

So what do you do then? "What happens after six months if they don't comply voluntarily?" a New York Times reporter wanted to know.

Gore: "There are differing opinions within the FTC legal staff as to whether or not the current authority allows them to proceed against false and deceptive advertising in this situation. So that would have to be tested."

What does it all mean?

Ask Jack Valenti, the streetwise Hollywood spokesman whose prowess dates back to when he had to defend Lyndon Johnson. Reported the Times: "Mr. Valenti dismissed the Democrats' proposal as carefully calibrated political posturing. 'Frankly,' he said, 'if I were running for office I'd be trashing the movie industry myself.'"

Does that tell us that if you run for office, under current conventions, you are trashing democracy?


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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