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Needed: The “P Chip”? By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 19, 2000

THE CANDIDATES AGREED on at least one topic during their third and final Presidential Debate. But neither went far enough.

“I happen to like the idea,” said Texas Gov. George W. Bush, “of having technology for the TV easy for parents to use so you can tune out these programs that you don’t want in your house.”

Vice President Al Gore did not invent the Internet, but he was an early supporter of the “V Chip.” Now required in all new television sets sold in America, this technology allows parents to block reception of certain violent or sexually mature programs they deem inappropriate for their children to see. Gov. Bush’s statement was implicit praise for Gore’s electronic prophylactic in our TVs.

But what if you wish to prevent your children from tuning in to television shows you find bad for reasons other than sex or violence? Clearly we need an easy-to-use technology with additional censorial, protective powers.

America needs the “P Chip.” P in this case stands for Propaganda, any effort to alter the ideas or values of those watching. And for this digital guardian to function, all TVs must include it. And all broadcast or cable programs must be electronically encoded so the chip can decide whether to accept or block them.

Panels of government-approved censors will decide what rating code each program carries. Parents could obtain a dictionary to decipher what this gibberish of government abbreviations means, so they can block out whatever they do not want in their homes. Among the kinds of propaganda programs to be blocked might be the following:

P-P Political Propaganda. By sub-codes, parents (or anyone who favors mental hygiene) could block out programs that include a specific political bias - Liberal, Marxist, Capitalist, Conservative, Moderate, Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Vegetarian, Animal Rights, or whatever. A certain subjectivity in assigning such ratings is inevitable.

Hollywood has often sent movies around the world that included dialogue attacking capitalists and businessmen. But all that the audience noticed in Zimbabwe or Indonesia was that Americans in the movie drove wonderful cars and lived in beautiful homes - that America was the place anybody would want to be. Such movies and TV shows are certainly propaganda, but should they be labeled Marxist or pro-American?

R-P Religious Propaganda. A Roman Catholic mother might not want her young son to attend a Protestant church service. But how does she protect her curious youngster from seeing programs of other religions on television? With the P Chip, she or you could block out shows involving every faith except her own. Some liberals argue that any religious program or mention of God on public airwaves (a kind of government property) violates separation of church and state and should be prohibited; this chip would permit them automatically to exorcise God from their own TVs.

Presumably the panel of censors assigning this rating will need to include theologians of many faiths. What if Orthodox Jewish parents want to shield their children from shows by Reformed Jews? How should the Mormon Tabernacle Choir be classified? Or the Dalai Lama, Buddhism being more of a philosophy than a religion by Western definitions because it does not focus on God? Are shows mentioning “Mother Earth” pagan?

Is Halloween a religious day for Wiccans? (Public schools celebrate Halloween, but because of separation of church and state they do not celebrate Christmas or Chanukkah.) Are shows about humanism or atheism or agnosticism religious? How about “Touched by an Angel?” Or shows about the devil or demons or ghosts, but that never mention God? Or shows involving Leprechauns? Voodoo? Witches? Native American beliefs? Reincarnation? Heaven or Hell? Where does religion end and folklore & myth begin? You can see why a dictionary will be needed to identify all the codes programs must carry.

Can we agree that those old movies with Bing Crosby or Pat O’Brian playing noble priests should be labeled Catholic propaganda? What about shows with characters of many different religions? These are deep and thorny issues, but surely parents have a right to protect their children from proselytizers of faiths not their own. Is this any less of a threat to your child’s immortal soul than pornography or violence?

E-P Ethnic propaganda. Parents who prefer their “own kind” could block out any program featuring drama, comedy, or music by people of different racial, ethnic, or linguistic background. Now your children can be limited to “Spanish Only” programs, or shows starring only black actors and athletes and musicians, or sitcoms reflecting only the lifestyle and values of white suburban America of the 1950s. Some critics may liken such use of the P Chip to Apartheid, racism, and segregation. But we are discussing what you want to permit inside your own home, your castle.

H-P Hate Propaganda. Not to be confused with computer equipment maker Hewlett Packard, this designation would allow you to block out whatever words, images, and symbols you associate with hate. The Anti-Defamation League is now devising a Hate Guide to identify logos, tattoos, and other images of “hate.” They include the Confederate Flag. As you can imagine, citizens will differ as to what is hateful and what merits Hate Crime Law protection. If such laws must exist, this column has argued that crimes based on class - e.g., advocating hatred for the rich - deserve special punishment. By that logic, movies or TV shows in which capitalists and business people are routinely depicted as villains or otherwise dehumanized should be locked out as expressions of hate.

G-P Gender Propaganda. Shows and TV commercials depicting men as stupid or women as hapless are engaged in a kind of gender racism. Parents may want their children to see only shows wherein men and women are shown as equals in stature. A woman may be insulted by the implicit gender favoritism of NFL football, a man by “Oprah.” Or parents might want their children to see only women or only men on TV. The G-P designation might make sexual Apartheid possible, or could allow the censoring out of everything except Feminist or Male Chauvinist shows.

PBS-P Public Broadcasting Service Propaganda is Socialist-Marxist-Environut propaganda, so this separate designation might seem extraneous. But nowadays shows made originally for PBS have crept onto other broadcast and cable channels. This label makes it easy for parents either to restrict their kids to only PBS fare, like “TeleTubbies” that dangerously encourages infants to stare at the sun expecting to see a smiling baby’s face there, or to protect their children from everything from the Public Broadcasters of Socialism.

C-P Commercial Propaganda. Advertising for products and services is just another form of persuasion, a variety of propaganda. Imagine every ad on TV carrying a digital code that allows you automatically to switch them off. What could this do to the All-Ad cable channels? Infomercials? Children’s shows that are concocted to seduce your kids into asking for specific toys or other products? Appearances on chat shows by authors selling their book or actors their latest film? Movies where Coca-Cola paid a “product placement fee” so the star would be glimpsed drinking Coke and not Pepsi? In our capitalist society, the line between commercial and non-commercial, pro and amateur, is often blurred. The rock star can sell 100,000 of his albums by performing free at a highly-publicized charity event.

Pol-P Politician Propaganda. This designation can be used to block out any appearance or ad of any politician, regardless of party or ideology, from your child’s television. Do not be surprised if lawmakers refuse to require the P Chip in future television sets if it includes the power to shut off their appearances. If available, it could have protected your family from much of the current campaign and its blizzard of advertising, including the three recent debates. Labeling rules could include appearances not only by politicians but also by their designated liars, shills, and flacks. A large number of purported journalists might be included for automatic exclusion in these latter categories.

Or parents could stop depending on robots and computer chips to choose what their children see - and take responsibility themselves.

Would you like a P Chip in your television set? Let me know what other categories of programs such a Big Brother-Big Parent chip should be able to recognize and censor.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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