AIDS education, or condom promotion?

Posted: Feb 14, 2003 12:00 AM
In 2000, many media critics had a fit when they learned that TV entertainment executives had negotiated with the federal government to place anti-drug messages directly into their programs to avoid having to air free public-service announcements that would cut into their profits. Now, Viacom, the parent company of CBS, UPN, Nickelodeon, MTV, VH-1 and Showtime, is at it again. This time, however, it's for a noble cause, the "public interest," not ad savings. Viacom has joined with the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation for a "public education initiative." Viacom is touting that its programs on various networks would "incorporate HIV/AIDS themes" into their sitcoms and dramas. If a red flag just went up, it's for good reason. What Viacom and Kaiser call "public education" is what most anyone else would call propaganda. And when that indoctrination includes ideas like getting condoms to children without parental consent while learning to drop outdated, intolerant (i.e., Judeo-Christian) ideas about homosexuality, it's beyond "progressive." It's radical. To give you an example of CBS's "public education" in action, take the Feb. 2 episode of the Ted Danson sitcom "Becker." Danson's title character, a doctor, sees a 15-year-old boy named Brad, who comes in complaining of painful urination. (He told his mother only that he had a sore throat.) When Brad admits being sexually active, Becker replies, "Fine, I guess, as long as you're wearing condoms." The boy is screened for sexually transmitted diseases, and says he doesn't need condoms to prevent AIDS and could get that "cocktail thing" if he contracts the disease anyway. Becker has the liberals' appropriate political answer: "Congratulations, you just reached a level of stupidity only found in Republicans and lower primates." Becker punishes the boy by withholding his test data until he's nearly in tears over the thought that he has AIDS. It all ends happily with the boy -- now publicly educated -- accepting a bag of condoms. On UPN's "Half and Half" on Feb. 3, Mona demands to know if Spencer used "protection." He says no. "You had sex without a condom? That is possibly the stupidest thing you've ever done." When her friend Dee Dee says she doesn't keep a stash of condoms, Mona shows more contempt: "Are you like Sister From Another Century or something?" In another scene, a gay man lectures: "I can't believe you're out there waving that thing around without the safety on. It's so 1981." Ain't it grand to be in enlightened 2003? Is this true health education, or just condom promotion? In July 2001, a study for the National Institutes of Health found that while use of condoms was about 85 percent effective at preventing transmission of HIV, that's a failure rate of 15 percent. Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is the cause of more than 90 percent of all cases of cervical cancer, which kills more American women each year than AIDS. The NIH analysis found no evidence that condoms prevent HPV transmissions. Other serious venereal diseases -- including chlamydia, syphilis and genital herpes -- also showed no reduction with condom use. These diseases also increase the risk of contracting HIV. So what Viacom and Kaiser are promoting is not "safer sex." It's promoting a sexually "liberated" viewpoint that at best is controversial and is not established science. Not every one of the CBS and UPN shows contained health education. Some lashed out against "intolerance" of homosexuality. The Jan. 24 episode of "Presidio Med" on CBS tells the story of 15-year-old Curtis, who says he's gay. His father is accepting, but his mother thinks he's just confused. Despite a pediatrician assuring him that being gay is OK and things will get easier, a janitor later finds Curtis hung himself, another casualty of "intolerance." On UPN's "Enterprise," the Feb. 5 episode went intergalactic with the agenda. No one here had AIDS at all, but a Vulcan obtained a social disease through a mind-meld. The mind-melders -- the metaphorical stand-in for homosexuals -- are "part of the telepathic minority. One of the reasons they left (that evil planet) Vulcan was to escape prejudice. Their behavior is considered unnatural. They're seen as a threat." One doctor complains "there's more intolerance today than there was a thousand years ago." If the Knights of Columbus came to Viacom proposing a joint project to promote the joys of virginity or a patriotic pro-America message in a time of war, you know the reaction. The Hollywood crowd would wail in protest over this propagandistic abuse of artistic products. But that's not the case when the message fits Hollywood like a glove -- or a condom.