Adelphia Family Censors
Berkeley Free Speech
FACE OF CENSORSHIP IN BERKELEY
by Dr. Susan Block
As some of you know, I am a public access producer on BTV in Berkeley. I am not from Berkeley. My show is on BTV by the good grace and appropriate address of my dear friend and producer, performance artist Frank Moore. I hail from that Sodom & Gomorrah down South, Los Angeles. We have very different styles: Where Berkeley is brown, LA is blonde; where Berkeley is taupe, LA is turquoise. But Berkeley and LA share great municipal traditions of liberality. Both places, for very different reasons, share a tremendous reverence for Freedom of Speech, Berkeley for deep philosophical principles forged in university seminars, and LA because, well, the more you can say, the more you can sell, and while we're at it, let's do lunch.
In both places, public access, the People's Broadcast Medium, has been a great test of Freedom of Speech, and in both cases, I'm chagrined and proud to say, the controversy has swirled around none other than yours truly. I've been on the air in Berkeley for about two years, without censorship--so far. But I'd been on several public access stations down in La La Land, virtually censorship-free since 1992. Then about two years ago, a company called Adelphia bought three of the biggest cable systems in the LA area, virtually taking over LA cable TV. Adelphia was founded and operated by John J. Rigas, a little old small-town billionaire known for his strong Family Values. In fact, Adelphia was run by the Rigas Family, and Family Values was at the top of their list of things to spread as they swallowed up cable systems across the country, like pigs. And not cute little piggies, but gross greedy overstuffed hogs.
They came, they bought, they censored. Not violence, just sex. In a totally dictatorial decision, John Rigas and all his little Adelphia apparatchiks in seven broadcast regions across the US took dozens of sexually oriented programs off the air. This was also utterly illegal, but we were later to find out that the Rigas Family was doing a lot of illegal things. In fact, after about a year and a half of censorship and corporate thievery at the highest levels, even the Bush administration had had enough, and the Rigas Boys were busted and handcuffed for stealing money from their stockholders. Like I said at the time: Beware of those who are holier than thou for often they are fleecers of their own flock (and stocks!).
Now the Rigases are the poster boys for Bush's "crackdown" on corporate crime, and my show is back--uncensored!--on Adelphia systems. But now I have a new censor. A very different kind of censor, a censor-in-sheep's-clothing. Imitation sheep, of course. This is Berkeley we're talking about. While John J. Rigas is from the religious right, this censor is from the politically correct left.
Berkeley City Councilwoman Betty Olds is on the warpath to censor my show on BTV in Berkeley. Berkeley! Home of Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement. Obviously, the Rigas Family and the Berkeley City Council are very different organizations. Censors come in many colors, from the Right, and the Left. But one thing they all have in common is that they try to HIDE THE TRUTH from YOU. Whether it's flesh or finances or government activities, censors don't want YOU to see it. It's a slippery slope. Censoring images leads to censoring words, which leads to censoring ideas and then actions, including crimes.
When truth is censored, liars run the show. They think they know what's best for you. Father Knows Best. That was John J. Rigas. Now, Berkeley has "Betty Knows Best." Betty Olds is trying to pass an ordinance that would push so-called sexually explicit programming like my show and Frank's show to the no-viewers-land of after midnight.
The ACLU says this is absolutely unconstitutional, and is threatening to sue the City of Berkeley if they pass the ordinance. Betty Olds says that doesn't matter. BTV director Brian Scott says he's only gotten two complaints since the shows have been on. Betty Olds says that's enough.
they bring a camera close to a women's crotch and try to insert a disabled
man's penis into a vagina - if you don't call that bad taste, I don't
know what is."
Betty Olds says quite a bit more than that, actually. This woman says some amazing things. Referring to my show, she stated on the record to a reporter from the Berkeley Daily Planet, "When they bring a camera close to a women's crotch and try to insert a disabled man's penis into a vagina - if you don't call that bad taste, I don't know what is."
Whoa. First of all, the scene she's describing does not exist on any of my public access shows. Second, why a disabled man's penis? If the penis were attached to an able-bodied person, would it then be in good taste? Is this Berkeley Councilwoman saying that disabled people having sex is in bad taste? Is this Berkeley Councilwoman putting her foot squarely into her mouth? Berkeley, the city of equal rights for all? And she calls herself a civil servant, a politician? THIS is why we should all be wary of censorship. Because irrational bigotry and fear is behind most censorship.
Also, is the person disabled, or is the penis disabled? That's not clear, so we're not exactly sure WHAT Betty Olds finds in bad taste: handicapped sex or a limp dick.
But let's go back to the first point: This so-called scene from my show, a close-up of someone trying to insert a disabled man's penis into a vagina DOES NOT EXIST on my public access show. Not that I see anything wrong with it. I don't find insertion of the penis, disabled or not, into a vagina, disabled or not, to be in bad taste. Well, it all depends on how it's done. But then, that's just my opinion. See, this is why fair censorship of art or media is impossible. People have different tastes.
But the fact is that this scene, good taste or baad, is not on my show! In fact, I am willing to bet Betty Olds that this scene does not exist.
C'mon Betty, let's bet!. I bet you can't find that scene you say is on my public access show and show it to me. If you show it to me, I will donate $500 to help save the endangered species of your choice. And if you can't find it, then you should donate $500 to help save the bonobos, my favorite endangered species. If you believe in what you're saying, Betty Olds, then you should accept my challenge. If not, then you should just apologize to me right now, and admit that this whole censorship imperative, bad taste or good, is just too complex for you--or anyone--to enforce properly.
do your own BTV show to counteract
See, the truth is that Betty Olds imagined that scene. Not that I'm surprised at that. My show often inspires people to fantasize all kinds of scenes that are not actually on the program. People are always imagining that I'm naked when I'm not, or that people on my show are having intercourse when they're having outercourse. And I'm pretty sure that's what happened with Betty Olds. It seems, though Councilwoman Olds is trying to toss out Berkeley's entire history as a center for Freedom of Speech, she has NOT stopped dropping acid.
I wouldn't hold that against you, Betty (we all have our favorite old turn-ons from the '60s), if you admit it. If you apologize to me and agree to stop harassing my show, Frank's show and the other shows, then I'll forgive you. But if you insist on saying that this scene is on my show, and that it is in "bad taste" and worthy of censorship, then you're in for a fight, Sister Betty.
Councilwoman Olds: REPENT of your sins of censorship, or suffer the fate of John J. Rigas, turned into a helpless handcuffed little piggie by the power of the Block Curse and his own hubris and stupidity. Or just do your own BTV show to counteract the stuff you don't like on our shows. "Betty Knows Best" would be the perfect title.
One thing I do appreciate about Berkeley is that they did not censor first and ask questions later, like the Rigas Boys. They're discussing the issues, dancing back and forth between basic freedom and New Age fascism, doing the Berkeley Free Speech Tango. Still, if they pass this ordinance, they're denying their own citizens their First Amendment rights. Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement, deserves better.
Berkeley City Council moves to censor BTV.
For "Rigas in Cuffs" click here. The Block Curse brings down The Rigas Family Censors
The Wall Street Journal features Dr. Suzy, having won her censorship battle with the handcuffed Rigas Boys. To read Sally Beatty's WSJ article, click here.
Pulitzer Prize--Winning Commentator Jimmy Breslin writes about Dr. Suzy's victory over the Rigas Family Censors. To read Breslin's nationally syndicated column, "Aroused by th Thrill Of Arrested Censorship," click here.
New Times LA gives Dr. Suzy "The Last Laugh" on Rigas Censors-in-Thief at Adelphia. To read Michael Gougis' "Last Laugh," click here. Ha ha, hee heee, we're on laughing gas! This Rigas-in-Cuffs drama is giving Block Stock quite a bounce...
Counterpunch, "America's Best Political Newsletter," publishes some of Dr. Suzy's writings on Adelphia and other subjects. For "Block Curse Strikes Again: Adelphia Going Down (Rigas Boys Caught Masturbating their Figures)," click here. For "Rigas in Cuffs," click here.
Related Links on drsusanblock.com