By j. Stewart Cook
Miss West, what do you think of a businessman running for president?
“Well, I like business and I like men, especially men who tend to my business.”
Miss West, you also know that there is a good possibility that a woman may be running the White House for the first time.
“Well, I know a few women that run houses, but they’re not white!”
During a 1937 appearance on NBC’s top-rated Chase & Sanborn Hour, Hollywood icon Mae West starred in a comedy skit based on the Garden of Eden that drew complaints of indecency from offended listeners. Much of the reaction came from Catholic reformers seeking to expand the Legion of Decency’s influence to radio. The sponsor and network apologized, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a letter of reprimand to NBC and its affiliates. This action spurred a backlash among critics, who charged the FCC with censorship. The incident was an important landmark in the prewar debate over government’s role in regulating radio.
Now, in 2016, do we dare say that we find ourselves with two presidential candidates who may be the subject of scrutiny by the Federal Communications Commission? Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have either directly or repeatedly used “words” which may not have passed the litmus test of the FCC! And, what about litigation? Has “The Donald” used a few choice words which may land him in court? So far, words have not been damaging, even though reputations may have been tarnished.
Singer Hawk Nelson once said, “Words can build us up, words can break us down.” How often has this been evident through the election campaign. Just when you think the candidates are on the right track, taking the high road, one of them just can’t hold back and then “wham” another insult!
Could we not, for once, go thorough one day where the candidates only speak about campaign issues, matters of substance and the state of the country. I’m not sure if the electorate can take this much longer. It is to be seen! What I am sure of, however, is when all is said and done a “new USA order” will be in “order.” Not that the country is on verge of collapse or chaos, but there are indicators that not is all well in the “Good ol’ USA.”
Words! From Mae West, to Hawk Nelson, to our presidential candidates, words can have the greatest impact on the well being of a country. Everyone today, via the internet, has an audience. The question is: Are we using that audience for the greater good or for our own gratification? The occultist, William Burroughs, may have captured our way of thinking: “What is shocking to one generation becomes acceptable in the next.”
It would seem that censorship is long gone and that “anything goes” today. But for some, censorship could not have been more beneficial. As Mae West once commented, “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” While true, she also suffered greatly because of it, even going to prison for her right to freedom of speech. Would Donald or Hillary be prepared to go to prison for their right to freedom of speech or would they simply take their chances and say, no, no, listen to me because…”when I’m bad, I’m even better.”
J. Stewart Cook has been involved in Canadian politics since he was a teen. He was actively involved during Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s era during the latter years of the Cold War, serving as an advisor to three different Members of Parliament and Press Secretary to Stewart McInnes, a Federal Cabinet Minister from Nova Scotia. Mr. Cook left active politics in 1988 and entered the Canadian Federal government as a civil servant in the field of Access toInformation and Privacy (ATIP). He retired from the government in 2011 as Director of ATIP for one of the Federal Departments. He currently lives in Ottawa.