May 2, 2002


Evidence of moral chaos on 'Oprah' (ANDREA NEAL, May 01, 2002, Star News)
Here's what I learned by watching Oprah Winfrey on Monday: If you see two young women making out in a bar, don't assume they're gay. Chances are, they're just two sexually empowered adults who eschew labels and have learned there are multiple sources of physical pleasure. They don't care what other people think about them, so you (meaning: me) shouldn't worry about it either.

I'm not worried; I'm terrified.

The April 29 "Oprah Winfrey Show" scared the living daylights out of me, not just because of what the young women were saying, but because of the affirmation they seemed to get from the older adults I thought were on stage to knock some sense into them. [...]

Philosophy Professor Christina Hoff Sommers posed the question a few years ago: "Are we living in a moral stone age?" after observing her own students dismiss the notion of moral absolutes. "Conceptually and culturally," she wrote, "today's young people live in a moral haze . . . Ask one of them if there are such things as right and wrong and suddenly you are confronted with a confused, tongue-tied, nervous and insecure individual. The same person who works weekends for Meals on Wheels, who volunteers for a suicide prevention hotline or a domestic violence shelter might tell you, 'Well, there really is no such thing as right or wrong. It's kind of like whatever works best for the individual. Each person has to work it out for himself.' "

That, in my book, is the definition of moral chaos. But I guess we're too embarrassed to talk about it, even on Oprah.

We'd argue that the very point of shows like Oprah, Rosie, etc. is to legitimize the amorality/immorality of the guests and thereby of the viewers. By presenting a wide array of freaks and geeks and letting them tell their stories to a national audience on the almighty television, these shows necessarily cast a cloak of normalcy over even the most repellent behaviors. And if even these most outrageous actions are sanctioned by Oprah, then how much more acceptable must be my own less flagrant departure from traditional morality. After all, how bad can adultery, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, bondage, etc. be if Oprah or Rosie or whoever is having a sensitive and caring discussion with folks who engage in these behaviors? Thus, in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's felicitous phrase, do we define deviancy downwards. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2002 8:10 AM
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