By Jim Allen,Editor, NuVote Reach
President Barack Obama and MPAA CEO, Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Photo Credit: ABC News
Former Democratic US Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, in 2009-10, hit a rough patch – politically speaking and with his health – walked away from the Senate and took the helm of the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA). Now that his former colleague, outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman (I), also of Connecticut, in the wake of the Sandy Hook, CT massacre, is calling for a “national commission on violence” to focus on “violence in the entertainment culture, mental health services and, of course, gun laws,” Dodd may have to shift his focus from Tinsel Town to Newtown.
Dodd these days is pushing for Hollywood and Silicon Valley to join forces to protect Web content, entertainment-related intellectual property rights and to fight piracy – nice work, if you can get it. But a much more critical protectorate role and bigger fight on the national stage may await Dodd – and there is precedent for this ascension, attendant to his position at MPAA.
From the MPAA Website: Former Postmaster General William Hays, a member of President Warren Harding’s Cabinet, led the organization and instituted initiatives to forestall government interference in filmmaking. He oversaw the creation of a system of industry-led self-censorship, known as The Production Code or the Hays Code, a regime requiring the review of all film scripts to ensure the absence of “offensive” material.
Establishment of the Hays Code was a forward-thinking, movie-promoting, survival-focused business decision made after the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio (1915) that commercial motion pictures were not protected by the First Amendment.
In the landmark Burstyn v. Wilson (1952) case, the high court reversed course and ruled in favor of the New York distributor of the controversial-on-religious-grounds 1948 film, The Miracle, holding that a state may not censor a film on the basis of a finding that it is “sacrilegious.” The court thereby struck down almost every governmental justification for censorship and their unanimous opinion gave First Amendment protection to motion pictures.
The MPAA Website continues: In the late 1960s our nation was changing, and so was its cinema. Alongside the progress of the civil rights, women’s rights and labor movements, a new kind of American film was emerging – frank and open. Amid our society’s expanding freedoms, the movie industry’s restrictive regime of self-censorship could not stand. In 1966, former Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, Jack Valenti, was named MPAA President. That same year, sweeping revisions were made to the Hays Code to reflect changing social mores. In 1968, Jack Valenti, who went on to hold the position for 38 years, founded the voluntary film rating system giving creative and artistic freedoms to filmmakers while fulfilling its core purpose of informing parents about the content of films so they can determine what movies are appropriate for their kids. More than forty years later, the system continues to evolve with our society and endures as a shining symbol of American freedom of expression.
With the benefit of more than 35 years of service to the people of Connecticut on Capitol Hill under his belt, perhaps what Dodd’s predecessors did at MPAA for First Amendment guarantees, social evolution and self regulation for their generations, he may help lead us through these exponentially more dire circumstances to appropriate constitutional remedies for this age.
One does not expect the Supreme Court will reverse itself on Second Amendment gun rights, the way it did over a period of about 35 years on First Amendment protections for motion pictures. And America surely doesn’t have the luxury of three decades to fix what ails us now.
With the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment, being such a heavy lift, in evolutionary terms, we need special interest groups to make some forward-thinking, America-promoting, survival-focused, voluntary decisions – and them, right soon.
Dodd speaks the language – heck, he is a lobbyist now.
The Sandy Hook massacre may be the horrific tipping point and catalyst for a grassroots movement that brings along the ruling class and often inflexible special interests – or perhaps America may just plain outgrow them.
It’s nearly 2013 and the nation is changing – has changed – and we need our best and brightest minds to try to help us evolve our expectations of each other and of our Constitutional protections; to aggressively seek common ground and champion our mutual interests so that we may better protect our children and our communities, and survive the very freedoms we hold so dear.
Connecticut surely may need one of its favorite sons to come home to Sandy Hook to assist with the nuts and bolts of this evolution. President Barack Obama could perhaps use Dodd’s counsel on working with Capitol Hill to move forward some relevant agenda.
Dodd will be pulled into this national debate by virtue of his job at MPAA, and its advocacy of First Amendment rights to produce widely available violent material intended for entertainment purposes. It will be interesting to see how he positions himself.
Right now, post-Sandy Hook, we have to have all hands on deck – especially experienced, non-accusatory, moderate hands – to begin a cultural shift toward a national consensus on those key issues pointed up by Lieberman; to skillfully help shake loose those absolutists in urban and rural America; to “promote the general welfare” and do ALL we can to better protect ourselves from an undeniable epidemic of violence in the United States of America.
Note: We are very late on this – curbing the violence, I mean. It’s been out of control among many of America’s young people for some time. Last weekend, I heard a pundit say, ‘you’d expect this kind of thing in New York, but not here.’ Excuse me?!
We are still in a state of national mourning, so I’ll let it go – for now.
By the way, here’s a sampling of children-focused legislation sponsored by Dodd while in the Senate:
S. 4044 (111th): Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2010
S. 4027 (111th): Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act
S. 3968 (111th): Children’s Act of 2010
S. 3895 (111th): Keeping All Students Safe Act
S. 3557 (111th): Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act of 2010
S. 3559 (111th): Mentoring America’s Children Act of 2009
S. 3136 (111th): Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act of 2010
S. 3003 (111th): Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Act of 2010
S. 2860 (111th): Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act
S. 1966 (111th): Global Child Survival Act of 2009
S. Res. 659 (111th): A resolution supporting “Lights on Afterschool”, a national celebration of afterschool programs.
A Sampling of Dodd’s Nay Votes on Gun Control
Authorizing Concealed Firearms Across State Lines
Allowing Loaded Guns in National Parks
Firearm Confiscation Prohibition Amendment
Firearms Manufacturers Protection Bill
Charging Teens as Adults for Crimes Involving a Firearm
A Sampling of Dodd’s Yea Votes on Gun Control
Gun Show Sale Regulation Amendment
Prohibiting the Possession of Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons
Brady Handgun Bill