Liberals of the world unite

Posted: Feb 11, 2005 12:00 AM

It's going to be strange saying this, but I'm going to say it nonetheless: Liberals of the world, unite!

 I was preparing for a recent interview on a national newscast the other night when the reporter asked me off-air if it was correct to label the Parents Television Council, which I founded and head, a "conservative" group. Next, he asked: With which religious movement was the PTC affiliated? When I answered No and None, he seemed genuinely perplexed.

 It is a cause for mounting frustration that on a regular basis the PTC is labeled, primarily by the national press, a "conservative" organization. Frustrating, but understandable. My personal ideological perspective on things political is no secret, and it is to be expected that the connection would be made. More to the point, however, is the conventional wisdom of those covering these things. A national venture dedicated to restoring a sense of decency to an entertainment industry that seems hell-bent on polluting the popular culture with sleaze must be "conservative," right?

 Liberals of the world, unite!

 If only conservatives care about the programming sewage flooding the airwaves, then are we to believe self-identified liberals ? support it? Is Senator Joe Liebermann not to be considered a liberal because of his outspokenness on this issue? Dr. C. DeLores Tucker, a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee and leader in the black civil rights movement, has been more active than anyone fighting the dreadful gangsta-rap "music" genre that is ruining an entire generation of young black males. Does this make her a conservative? And just how will we label Sen. Hillary Clinton when she -- mark my words, conservatives -- adopts the cause of cultural decency as a cornerstone of her upcoming presidential campaign? A right-wing nut? (That would prove the existence of a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, come to think of it.)

 Liberals of the world, unite!

 And why is it that we think all conservatives naturally care about the degradation of the popular culture anyway? Flip through the recent issues of any number of conservative publications and show me how many articles were devoted to addressing the problem, never mind a solution. Scroll down your list of major conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C. (around the country, too), and tell me how many have this issue as a top three -- heck, I'll take a top 10 -- concern. What of our elected leaders? Beyond a couple in the Senate and a half-dozen in the House, there is nary a "conservative" out there willing to risk an ounce of political capital decrying, beyond a throwaway line or two in a speech here and there, the sorry state of affairs in the popular culture. What of the "libertarian" streak of this broad movement? It could not care less. Only among self-described social conservative groups is there passion on this issue, yet even here it's by no means unanimous.

 The decency issue is neither conservative nor liberal because it isn't ideological. When I founded the PTC, I publicly embraced that position, inviting anyone, of any ideological persuasion or party affiliation to join in common cause. One of the first to sign up was the late Steve Allen, a longtime activist on the very left side of the spectrum and a man with whom I had no common ground politically. But when we agreed to set aside political differences and focus our energies on that which we could agree -- the need to promote a decent society -- suddenly, all things were possible. It was a wonderful three-year partnership. I still miss him today.

 Which is not to say we didn't both pay a price for our friendship. Steve confessed that he had become estranged from many colleagues in Hollywood for his audacity in associating with a Neanderthal like me. I, in turn, was excommunicated from certain circles when I publicly refused to disassociate myself from the agnostic Steve Allen. But those were the exceptions. More consequential was the response to this clarion call for unity: Over one million Americans -- conservatives, liberals, moderates -- have joined the PTC.

 But not enough high-profile liberals are speaking out. I have heard privately from many -- "A" list actors, directors, producers; members of Congress; public policy leaders; and yes, even the liberal news media -- endorsing a return to cultural decency in our land, yet a timidity controls them, and they find it most difficult to endorse, publicly, this call. This should not be the case. Come on in -- the water's just fine.

 Liberals of the world, unite! Champion this issue like you championed civil rights, and you'll change the world.

 And conservatives, when they do, you better stand up and applaud. Or I'll excommunicate you.