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The Human Sacrifice Channel

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Headlined to None 10/8/09


Everybody's a dreamer, everybody's a star, and everybody's in show biz, it doesn't matter who you are, as Ray Davies once so eloquently crooned...

And when it comes to television, everybody's apparently a programming expert as well -- from Wall Street titans to Supreme Court Justices"

It was bad enough when the giant investment firm Goldman Sachs began putting forward programming ideas for the network it jointly owns with the bankrupt media company CanWest -- Canada's largest.

"Why the f*ck is Goldman even considered to provide 'programming ideas and support?'" to the biggest media company in Canada, you may ask -- as Tyler Durden recently did on the Zerohedge.com site.

Durden also wondered, "If Goldman can act with impunity to determine what the channel line up and who can and who can't be on TV, does this not raise a huge ethical problem straight out of modern version of '1984'? Although CNBC anchors can rest assured that if the Comcast deal does work out and they all end up jobless, there will be a willing home for them to spin their propaganda"" Moreover, "just where else does Goldman Sachs provide 'programming idea' advice?"

If the idea of Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson deciding what Canadians can watch on TV isn't absurd enough, consider the channel idea proffered recently by US Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. -- the "Human Sacrifice Channel?"

The notion emerged during opening arguments in the most important free speech case before the Supremes this term. As Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times, "The case concerns the constitutionality of a 1999 federal law" banning depictions of animal cruelty" Most of the justices thought the law was written too broadly and thus ran afoul of the First Amendment."

In defending the law, deputy solicitor general Neal K. Katyal warned about putting forth an "endless stream of fanciful hypotheticals" -- reminding the justices that the law was actually prompted in response to so-called "crush" sexual fetish videos, which show women in high heels stepping on small animals. Although it does exempt materials with "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value," the Supremes worried--as they should-- about allowing prosecutors and juries to decide the question of any given work's "serious value".

Then Alito described his proposed -- and perhaps fanciful and hypothetical -- "Human Sacrifice Channel." "I mean, people here would probably love to see it," he said. "Live, pay per view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel."

"To the apparent surprise of some of the justices," as Liptak wrote, deputy solicitor general Katyal said the First Amendment would not permit a law banning such a channel unless it could be shown that the depictions made the sacrifices more likely.

Can't wait!

Coming soon -- live, pay per view -- the Human Sacrifice Channel.



Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor writes the 'Media Is A Plural' blog, accessible at www.roryoconnor.org.
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