Cartoons Are the Tip of the Iceberg

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An appeal by a group of Protestants to close the 2x2 cartoon channel for purportedly promoting violence and hatred was well-timed.

The appeal, which the Consultative Council of the Heads of Protestant Churches in Russia sent to the Prosecutor General's Office on Wednesday, came less than a week after 2x2 had to pull two shows over a warning from the government media watchdog that the shows promoted "a cult of violence and brutality."

If prosecutors heed the Protestants' appeal, the media watchdog might end up issuing a second warning -- which by law would allow authorities to revoke 2x2's broadcast license.

The appeal accuses 2x2 of promoting "cruelty, violence, homosexual propaganda, religious hatred and intolerance" with cartoons like "South Park" and "Beavis and Butthead."

The Protestants, however, should remember that while violence and religious hatred are criminal offenses in this country, homosexuality is not. Furthermore, they should beware of the Pandora's box that would be opened if authorities started to legislate morality.

It is curious that the privately owned 2x2 -- which runs disclaimers that its programs are for adults only -- is under fire and not the state-controlled national television channels. Prime-time programming on these channels includes not just adult-oriented movies but shows anchored by transvestites and "journalistic investigations" that have included a look into the "sexual revolution" posed by pregnant 6-year-old girls.

If there is anything offensive about television, however, it is not the sex and violence but the sheer lack of journalistic integrity and freedom. These days the national channels rarely delve beyond the Kremlin line in their news reports, preferring instead to offer lavish and praise-filled coverage of President Vladimir Putin's meetings with his ministers and international leaders. Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev are not confronted with tough questions, and their statements are never challenged. The political opposition -- the obvious voice of dissent -- has been rudely shut out of the conversation.

As a result, the news reports have increasingly resembled Soviet-era propaganda, especially during election campaigns and international disputes, such as Kosovo and U.S. plans to build a missile-defense shield.

But at the end of the day, Russia is a secular democracy, where everybody has the freedom of choice to watch whatever he or she wants on television. If the program is offensive, change the channel. If you still cannot find anything worth watching, turn the television off.