Today's NYT offers one of those tasty page-one trend stories everybody reads -- this one noting that more television shows now use the word "douche" than ever before.
It may be true, and probably is.
But seeing TV reporter Edward Wyatt and the NYT base its front-page reporting on numbers the paper actually requested from the Parents Television Council -- a notoriously conservative TV watchdog group that has brought 99 percent of all indecency complaints before the FCC (we learned that from an excellent 2004 NYT story) -- makes us a little sick.
The PTC has been around since 1995, founded by conservative commentator L. Brent Bozell, and is responsible for complaints to the FCC about the Janet Jackson nipple slip and cursing on "NYPD Blue."
Okay, we'll admit it -- we have a horse in this race. We think the indecency obsession that governs television, and the NYT itself, is outmoded and anachronistic in the 21st century. Isn't it time for television and newspapers to realize they're not shielding anyone from anything?
For example, we know that when David Carr referred the other day in the NYT to a Twitter page with an "unprintable" word in its title, he was talking about "ShitMyDadSays." Is that really unprintable? No. It's unprintable only by the standards of a newspaper clinging to old rules and ancient ways.
But seeing Wyatt and the NYT team up with the PTC to do a story about "douche" as a new curse word reflected a new low in the NYT reporting approach. The PTC is an activist group with a cause -- one that got mentioned in Wyatt's story after the jump. He described them as "conservative interest group that monitors (and opposes) profanity on television."
Wyatt's story reports that the NYT asked the PTC to compile the numbers for its "douche" census.
Is that really a reliable way to compile statistics? The PTC has a stated, singular bias, and its interests are served by Wyatt's story in promoting its cause. Shouldn't the NYT do its own monitoring and reporting on these trends? Well, obviously it wouldn't be worth it. And, well, that's what the PTC does, right? They like to listen for bad words on TV!
Beyond that, Wyatt's story is merely ridiculous. He's essentially trying to prove that the increased use of words like "douche" show the effort that TV writers will make to avoid words that will get the network fined -- usually as a result of PTC efforts.
Wyatt admits that the word "douche" doesn't really merit attention alongside George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television," which he cites:
And "while the word “douche” is neither obscene nor profane — although this usage is certainly offensive to many people — it seems to represent the latest of broadcast television’s continuing efforts to expand the boundaries of taste, in part to stem the tide of defections by its audience to largely unregulated cable television.
Offensive to whom? Wyatt doesn't say. Presumably he means to his friends at the PTC!
Wyatt goes on to quote the creator of the new hit comedy "Community," Dan Harmon, describing "douche" as "a thing that sounds like a thing you can't say."
Funny line. Unfortunately, it's just the kind of thing that will now incite the PTC, with its NYT page-one clipping in hand, to approach the FCC in search of a new ban.