Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

Emboldened by its success against conservative talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, is launching a new attack against what it calls defamatory radio programming across the country.

Dubbed AM/FM Activism, the effort is encouraging people to report instances of "hate radio" in their communities. "Local radio continues to be a place where defamation and exclusion often thrive unchallenged," said GLAAD regional media director Kevin McClelland.

As examples of the sort of exclusion that needs to be reported, GLAAD said a listener reported hearing members of a band making fun of the Indigo Girls on one station and another listener said a station refused his request to play a dedication of "Killing Me Softly" to his boyfriend.

Living Lawyers Take Offense

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet was forced to pull a highway safety ad after lawyers said they were offended by a joke in it, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The spot featured a joke about a bad accident in front of old man Jenkins' place, one involving several lawyers. Jenkins buried them all, and an arriving sheriff asked the old man if he was sure they were all dead. "'Well,' Jenkins said. 'Some said they weren't. But you know how them lawyers lie.'" The ad then said the Transportation Cabinet "doesn't want old man Jenkins coming around you" and encouraged people to drive more slowly.

The Cabinet said the ad was one of several featuring jokes about other professions, including engineers, which had prompted no complaints. The only other ad that came under fire featured a state road worker injured in an accident who used poor grammar and had a country accent. Some callers said it gave a negative impression of Kentuckians.

Wacist Wabbit Gets Yanked

A June Bugs Bunny marathon on the Cartoon Network intended to feature all of the Wascally Wabbit's cartoons will be 12 shorts shy of a complete package because some of the original material might be offensive to modern tastes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The banned cartoons include one in which Bugs distracts a black rabbit-hunter by rattling a pair of dice, another in which he appears in blackface a la Al Jolson and another in which he calls an ungainly, bucktoothed Eskimo a "big baboon."

The network planned to air the 'toons out of chronological order, late at night and with a disclaimer so as not to expose youngsters to such disturbing content. But its plans were at odds with efforts by Warner Bros., which owns the Bugs repertoire, to keep such early images out of circulation.

How Not to Build Character

Critics say a 75-year-old YMCA program which uses American-Indian themes to foster bonds between parents and children demeans Indian cultures, the Associated Press reported.

Some 250,000 parents and children take part in the Y-Indian Guide Program. They organize into neighborhood tribes to make crafts, tell stories and participate in annual campouts. Some participants sport feather headdresses and face paint and greet each other with "How-How" at meetings.

"They are breeding grounds for racism," American Indian Movement spokesman Vernon Bellecourt said of the YMCA groups. "It dehumanizes the whole culture of living, breathing human beings."

The Florida chapter of AIM said it is considering a lawsuit against the YMCA in that state to halt the use of Indian themes. The Chicago-based YMCA said it will reevaluate the program.

Inflammatory Chalk

Africana studies supporters and residents of the Ujamaa residential house, a predominately African-American dormitory at Cornell University, are decrying as inflammatory and threatening words scribbled in front of their house by student editors of the conservative Cornell Review newspaper, the Cornell Sun reported.

Editors for the newspaper fessed up to writing in chalk "Abandon Africana," "End Segregation; Tear down Ujamaa," and "End Racism; Stop affirmative action" on the sidewalk as a means of expressing their opinions.

Ujamaa resident advisor Milton Macias said the harsh messages were probably prompted by a rally the previous week in support of increased funding and recognition of Africana studies. The university administration said the Review students had a right to do what they did, but that it would stand behind the Ujamaa residents.

Monty to Be Promoted

A task force at San Diego State University has recommended that the school mascot, Monty Montezuma, be toned down to appease the complaints of Latino students who say he is demeaning and racist, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a split vote, the panel voted to have the fire-spewing, spear-carrying cheerleader dress and act more like the real Aztec ruler. It also wants to change his name to Montezuma the university ambassador instead of Monty Montezuma.

But task force member Tom Davies, a professor of Latin-American history, said that if the school wanted to be really historically accurate, the mascot would be carted around on a litter and remain wordless during the football games. And his subjects would not be allowed to look at him, Davies said.

University President Stephen Weber is expected to make a final decision on the mascot within the next few weeks.

Drive-Through Rage Turns Hate Crime

A Muslim group in Detroit wants what is being called an incident of drive-through rage prosecuted as a hate crime because the victim in the incident was Muslim and wearing a hijab, or traditional head-covering, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The offender apparently pulled in front of the victim in a drive-through line at a McDonald's in Bloomfield Township, Mich., and was rebuked by the latter as a result. Angered by the rebuke, the offender then banged on the victim's car and, as she was walking away, yelled at the woman: "Go back where you came from."

"If the victim had looked and sounded like the woman who attacked her, I don't believe the attacker would have reacted in the same way," said M. Kay Siblani, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called for the hate-crime charges.

A chief deputy prosecutor, John O'Brien, said charges of malicious destruction of property were more appropriate. "Yes, it was insulting, but it certainly doesn't satisfy the elements of a charge of ethnic intimidation," O'Brien said of the comment.

Memory-less Yearbooks in Arizona

As many as 800 yearbooks from Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Ariz., will go out this year with black marks where there used to be dedications, comments and remembrances. The school principal has ordered some 40 statements excised from the annual with black magic marker before they are distributed, the Arizona Republic reported.

In addition to editing out initials because gangs sometimes use them and anything that could be construed as sexually suggestive ("I love you Mark." met with the marker), Principal Doug Wilson ordered out all references to God and religion, including a quote that said, "God made me perfect."

Sharon Marine, who has three kids at the school, said she was taken aback by the move. "If they were going to censor the yearbook, they should have done it before it went to publication," she said. "For them to black lots of stuff doesn't make sense at all. ... It's over-control."

From the Central Servers:

Sandy J. in Honolulu writes:

What happened to freedom of speech? Is no one teaching tolerance any more? Next thing you know, we won't be able to wear what we want, or put any bumper stickers on our cars. I live in Hawaii, and there is an undercurrent of Hawaiian rebellion, wanting to secede from the union. However, there is no violence, no significant confrontation. I listen to what they have to say, try to empathize, and tolerate their opinions if I happen to disagree. We should teach more tolerance, and people should be less sensitive. We American's are beginning to sound like a bunch of whiney little kids. Doesn't make me very proud.

Kevin M. says re the Darwin debate:

I'm sorry to say that neither of Ben's points is entirely correct. The first one comes closer, in that the theory of evolution does explain how different breeds survive depending on how well they adapt to their environment to survive and reproduce. However, the theory does NOT make any assertion as to the 'value' of individuals - it does not say that any attribute is or is not valuable. The theory merely states the fact that those traits that enable an individual to survive better will be better propagated through natural means.

His error in this first section leads to a grievous error that, as he points out, was also made by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. The theory of evolution does *NOT* assert that weaker people should be killed to advance the species! It merely states the fact that those less adaptable to their environment, and those that do not reproduce, will not continue in the gene pool. The theory passes no ethical judgement on whether it is morally or ethically right to encourage the stronger of a species or to prop up the 'weaker'. It merely states that those that do survive better and have kids will have their genes live on. Those that don't, won't.

Alicia M. writes:

I grew up in California and was inundated with anti-Confederate sentiment in school, on TV, and in the movies. I came to consider that the confederate flag was evil without much, if any, independent thought. But today, I see an all out assault on the confederate flag by people who would be better served to look at teen pregnancy, crime, corporate shakedowns, and other real problems. I see people that are trying to convince the public that a piece of cloth is at the heart of their problems. I'm not buying it.

The confederate flag isn't the problem.

Joshua T. says:

I just finished reading tongue tied on April 30th. the section about the school that would not keep books about the United States Marine Corps is almost beyond words. The actions of that school seep with stupidity and ignorance. the Marine Corps along with the Navy, Air Force, and Army have been fighting for more the 200 years to keep this country free, so that the people could learn and better themselves and their country. it is such a pity that kids are no longer allowed to learn about such pride and sacrifice from millions of individuals.

South African expat John S. writes:


Three spelling errors in one word of only six letters! Howd'ja do it?

The contraction of Johannesburg is Joburg -- as I'm sure 50,000 peeved Sawth Effricans have told you by now.

There is no apostrophe.
There is no uppercase B.
There is no "e": it is a "u".

Again (say after me): J-O-B-U-R-G. Joburg.

Of course, if you're a REAL Seffrican, you call it "Josies."

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