Outsourcing Parenting to the FCC

Ars Technica recently posed the question: Did Family Guy cause 179,997 FCC Indecency Complaints? Matt Lasar concludes that indeed it did:

We go over and check out the Parents Television Council‘s website. And sure enough, there’s a plausible instigator—a PTC viewer action alert crusade against a March 8 episode of the animated comedy show the PTC just loves to hate, Fox TV’s Family Guy. . . As is usually the case with these campaigns, PTC gave its readers the chance to “take action now” by filling out a pre-scripted FCC Web complaint with details about the show, enabling a potentially limitless number of champions of decency to file objections with the Commission. And as we’ve noted in the past, it’s easy to pile the gripes on, because the FCC does not require complainers to certify that they’ve actually seen the program in question.

It seems technology doesn’t always promote democracy. In this case, technology is making it easier for one fringe group of people to complain and change the rules for everyone else. Over on the Tech Liberation Front, Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation adds that the PTC has been able to influence the FCC to change the way it counts complaints, leading to double-, triple-,  quadruple-counted complaints that artificially inflate the total number reported in the media.

So, technology can aid democracy, but it can also aid political bullying. Perhaps more interesting, though, is that in this situation, technology also provides an attractive and easy tool for helping, well, raise children. Why bother restricting your children’s television habits, or using parental controls on T.V. sets, when it’s so much easier to instead click a mouse and complain to the government? Perhaps those parents just didn’t know their televisions have on/off switches. Or is this really about a few self-perceived “morally superior” (and technologically illiterate) parents determining how everyone else’s children should be raised?