So, did you dump all your Adelphia stock like I told you to? No? Didn’t take me seriously 10 months ago when I said SELL, huh? Thought I was just some distraught public access pornographer, and that Adelphia, overseen by those fine upstanding censors John J. Rigas and Sons, was as sound an investment as woolens in winter. Well, think again.
Adelphia Communications Corp. stock has been plummeting into the muck ever since the end of March when the Rigas Boys were forced to admit that the Securities and Exchange Commission had opened a formal investigation into their accounting practices. It seems that Adelphia, now America’s sixth-largest cable television operator, failed to report that it had guaranteed as much as $2.7 billion in private debts incurred by the family of its founder, John Rigas. Now it’s stock is down 64% since March 26, 2002 when, since June of 2001, it was already down by more than 50%.
Why am I not surprised? Because the biggest censors often turn out to be the biggest financial frauds. Censorship is one kind of cover-up. Deceptive Accounting is another. Censors don’t want viewers to see what they deem naughty sex practices. Financial tricksters don’t want investors to see their own naughty bookkeeping practices. Hey, it’s all about covering up figures.
Take Charles Keating, founder of such energetic censorship groups as Citizens for Decent Literature and Citizens for Decency through Law before he turned into the Citizen-Poster Boy for the American Savings & Loan Disaster when his Lincoln S&L went belly-up. Then there were the Hunt Brothers, the oil-rich, John Bircher Billionaires from Texas who went from being one of the wealthiest, most right-wing (virtually pro-Nazi), Born-Again Christian families in America to declaring bankruptcy to being convicted of conspiring to corner the silver market. Now we have the Rigas Boys, moralizing TV Censors who don’t want you to see boobs or their balance sheets. Now that’s obscene.
Beware of Those Who are Holier than Thou, for Often They are Fleecers of their Own Flocks.
Since Adelphia Communications is not as famous as Lincoln Savings & Loan, a little explanation may be in order here: Adelphia is a family-operated, publicly-traded company based in the tiny little backwater town of Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Until it found itself smack in the middle of a leviathan accounting scandal, Adelphia was busy swallowing up cable TV companies all over America, including three in LA, one in the lovely liberal community of West LA (formerly called Century Cable), where The Dr. Susan Block Show had been airing without censorship for almost 10 years.
“Family-operated” sounds so warm and cozy, but cold and calculating might be more apt adjectives for the family that operates Adelphia. This would be the Rigas Family, headed up by John J. Rigas who, until his beloved Adelphia became the Enron of Cable TV, was determined to impose his own slightly-left-of-Jerry-Falwell form of Family Values on as much of America as he could buy, striking even in the heart of liberal LA. A man who refused to let you see what he didn’t want you to see (in my show’s case, a few naked people), when what he really didn’t want you to see was his sons’ hands stuck in the Adelphia stockholders’ cookie jar.
For John J. Rigas is just one man, and it takes more than one man to create a dark, chilling shroud of censorship on a cable TV company that has always prided itself on serving one of the brightest, most open, most liberal communities in the country. There are a few other men who have helped John Rigas to censor West LA, plus as much of America as he could buy, perhaps illegally, through loans to a closely held partnership that wasn’t included on Adelphia’s balance sheet. And when I say men, I mean MEN. Not many women are in power positions in the Adelphia organization. At least three of these men are related to John J. Rigas, being his sons: Michael J. Rigas, Vice President of Operations, Timothy J. Rigas, Vice President & CFO, and James P. Rigas, Vice President for Strategic Planning. This is the Adelphia Dynasty who treated their publicly held company, and even their subscribers, like their own little kingdom in more ways that one. John’s Three Sons. No daughters, unless he keeps them home in the kitchen or convent, or wherever he keeps his wife, who also is curiously absent from the Rigas family operations.
The Greek word “Adelphia” means brothers, not sisters. That is, Adelphia is run by a quartet of Good Ol’ Boys, and when I say “old,” I mean old-fashioned, their aim being to take America back to the 1950’s when Father knew Best, Mother took Valium and kids considered suicide if their family life didn’t quite match that of Ozzie & Harriet, or maybe back to Victorian times when parents put children’s genitals in torture chambers so they wouldn’t masturbate. Yessir, keep the women in the kitchen, and let the men go out to work and steal money from their stockholders, and let no one see a naked vulva or God forbid, a penis on public access TV. That’s Family Values, Rigas-style. And it’s a slippery slope. Censoring images leads to censoring words, which leads to censoring ideas and then actions, including unsavory business practices. When truth is censored, liars prevail.
Censorship is all over America these days. It’s in the air like the smog, polluting our natural atmosphere, clogging our brains like smog clogs our breathing passages. America is the most powerful country in the world right now, and it’s in the self-destructive throes of a Full-On Censorship Crusade. It’s coming from all directions, from the government and corporations, from the Right and the Left. But whether it’s right wing reactionary religious fundamentalist ranting or left-wing politically correct psychobabble, it all adds up to hypocrisy and oppression, a step backwards in our cultural development when we have so much potential to move forward. A fall back into the darkness, tripping over our fears. What did we call the most repressed, the most censorship-riddled period in Western History? The Dark Ages.
History knows. Censorship begets ignorance. Censorship hurts. Censorship kills images, ideas, people, liberty. Censorship seems easy, when you’re in power. “I don’t like what I’m hearing, so I won’t let them say it. I don’t like what I’m seeing, so I won’t let them show it.” And if the people accept the censorship, then the folks in power stay in power, and pass it onto their sons-from Bush to Bush, Hunt to Hunt, Rigas to Rigas. In the Information Age, censorship is the ultimate oppression of the Haves over the Have-Nots, because censorship means they won’t let you have the information or images you desire. We’re not talking about them not letting you kill somebody or steal something; we’re talking about them not letting you have information. Censorship means you only have the information that they want you to have.
Which makes you wonder: What else could the Adelphia Brotherhood be hiding?
Over 30 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King faced another oppressive, hypocritical situation in America, and he said, “I have a dream.” Part of his dream was that there would come a time when “we would judge each other not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.” That dream seemed like a pipedream back then, but at the turn of the twenty-first century, despite the awful attacks of a few reactionaries, that dream is coming true. So with all due respect and humility, I’d like to borrow a page from Dr. Martin’s book, and say “I have a dream.” Or perhaps, considering who I am, I should say: I have a fantasy…
I have a fantasy that there will come a time when a woman’s genitals will not be considered obscene.
I have a fantasy that there will come a time when a man’s genitals will not be considered indecent.
I have a fantasy that there will come a time when a woman’s breasts will not be banned–as obscene, indecent, offensive, censored, unseeable on American television.
I have a fantasy that there will come a time when sex will not be lumped together with violence as something base, something evil, something that children should never see.
I have a fantasy that there will come a time when we will judge people not by their sexual orientation but by their basic humanity, and not by superstitious, irrational religious morality but by simple ethics and decency.
I have a fantasy that there will come a time when censoring beautiful images of human sexuality like you see on my show will seem as silly as putting bags over the heads of Congress (in fact, it makes more sense to put bags over the heads of Congress).
I could go on. I have many fantasies, and I’m sure you do too. Just remember that the people who want to censor our fantasies tend to be the ones with something BIG to hide.
But they can’t hide forever. Coudersport is not the caves of Afghanistan. Thus the Block Curse strikes another arrogant adversary who grossly underestimated its power: Adelphia Family Censors. John J. Rigas & Sons: Repent! Repent of your wicked attempts to censor your viewers and fool your investors! Repent, or all the riches you have earned off the backs of these people shall slip through your slippery fingers like dust.
To join the fight against censorship, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Susan Block is a sex educator, host of the Dr. Susan Block radio show, and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit her website at: http://www.drsusanblock.com/