- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

There is something almost comical about the spectacle of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman shaking their fists at Hollywood as they stuff their pockets with millions of dollars of Hollywood lucre. Offsetting the hand-wringing and hollow pledges about carnage, culture and saving the children are a couple of big, stagey winks: No matter what Messrs. Gore or Lieberman say, how loudly, or on whose television program, there is nothing they are authorized or prepared to do to stem the toxic flow of sewage from Hollywood that swamps popular culture. This ham-on-hypocrisy has become something of a specialty act for the Democratic duo, now the toast of tinseltown. Hollywood, of course, sees through their smoke and mirrors. The question is, will the rest of the country?

It should be so simple. Although Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman, having seized upon the Federal Trade Commission report on entertainment violence, now denounce explicit violence never sex, mind you in movies, music and video games, what they are more narrowly criticizing with such tremulous fervor is the promotion of "mature" fare to younger teens and even children. This is a heinous business practice, to be sure, a form of corruption not many notches up from the act of pushing drugs on the playground.

Nonetheless, it's hard to argue moral victory when a movie such as "Kids" (NC-17) to take an adolescent drug and porn pic produced by Miramax Films chief Harvey Weinstein is marketed not to the underaged 16-year-old, but to the legal 17-year-old. Either way, society is a little diminished.

Mr. Weinstein, not incidentally, co-chaired last week's $6.5 million fund-raiser in New York, where entertainment stars spoke out on this topic before the vice president and the vice presidential hopeful with a "mature" dash of undeleted expletives and scatological references. Hollywood, of course, can afford to be so bold (and so generous) because this little scenario Al Gore as reformer with tin cup has taken place before.

Last summer, after President Clinton ordered the FTC to study Hollywood violence, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mr. Gore met privately with Hollywood honchos to assure them that he was not behind the federal investigation the same investigation, of course, that he now trumpets with flourishes. Equally as telling was his conduct in 1987 as he prepared to run for president. In the wake of Tipper Gore's campaign against "porn rock," which included Senate hearings attended by then-Sen. Gore, "both Gores sought to ingratiate themselves to [Hollywood music producers] by apologizing for the Senate hearings," Mr. Zelnick writes. Mrs. Gore said the hearings were "a mistake … that sent the wrong message," while Mr. Gore agreed they "were not a good idea." He even called many who had taken his wife's efforts to heart "extreme," such as Wal-Mart, which decided not to sell such rock magazines as Jann Wenner's "Rolling Stone." Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. Mr. Wenner, by the way, was also a chairman of last week's $6.5 million fund-raiser.

Once upon a time, Hollywood was under intense governmental and economic pressure from the rest of America to clean itself up, as much for its salacious living as for its salacious movies. In 1921 alone, legislators in 37 states introduced nearly 100 censorship bills, according to A. Scott Berg's "Goldwyn." Such activity led Louis B. Mayer to confide to director King Vidor, "If this keeps up there won't be any motion picture industry." What followed, as Mr. Berg describes it, was a Hollywood-wide effort to set movie standards, de-fang censorship movements, and clean house a movement, not incidentally, that paved the way for what is known as Hollywood's Golden Age. More than time separates America from that era. It nonetheless offers evidence that popular culture can change. Fine-tuning marketing plans, however, offers no change at all. For the Democrats, that means business fund-raising as usual.

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