Let’s face it, you spend more time with them than with your wife,” explains the popular Israeli Web portal “Walla” in a series of articles titled “World’s hottest porn stars.” “Who’s ass is this?” and “Identify this cleavage” are regular columns on the site.
Ynet, Yediot Aharonot’s Web outlet, regularly posts headlines like “10 killed in Bagdad blast,” followed by something along the lines of “Hot cover-girls in skimpy bikinis.”
Channel 10 and Netvision’s “nana10” portal also commences with a serious-looking headline, followed by “Shirley Bouganim without clothes,” “Jennifer Aniston undressed,” “Angelina Jolie topless,” “Paris Hilton without underwear” or the simple “Heidi Klum naked.”
Popular, mainstream Web portals in Israel display an inferior collection of sleazy, trashy, detrimental and shameful content, aimed at the lowest common denominator and promoting gossip, voyeurism, pornography and celebrity idolization.
It is a manipulative business focused on one objective – drawing our attention and keeping us online and insite, by whatever it takes and whatever the cost.
What regulations are there for appropriate content online? The Israel Press Council sets Rules of Professional Ethics of Journalism to which the press must subscribe.
These rules also apply to “electronic means of communication and online newspapers.”
The rules cover only basic themes such as the requirement to provide “accurate, fair and responsible reporting of news and opinions.” Modesty, decency and morality are not addressed, so there are no guidelines limiting sexual content and profanity.
Without proper regulation, portals are pools of shallow content. “Gossip” and “Celeb” sections constantly violate people’s privacy and good name.
All sections, from Tourism to Judaism, somehow relapse to celebrities, gossip and of course – sex.
Under “Culture” you can read about Gwyneth Paltrow’s book, Gwyneth Paltrow’s house, Gwyneth Paltrow’s body and the latest “Gwyneth Paltrow jumping in tiny bikini.”
The networks have manipulative ways to make headlines attractive. They usually don’t lie, only twist, mislead and deceive. Many times a provocative headline leads to mild content, but sometimes they tell it as it is, as Walla did last week. “Watch Lady Gaga naked,” they promised – and delivered.
“Professional consultations” with sexologists on the front page are there to lure by using sexual terminology.
Teenagers seeking the advice of professionals sounds so serious and innocent, who can oppose this? I can, and I do, for a question by a 17-year-old is not necessarily appropriate viewing for a 12-year-old.
The appalling “Wardrobe malfunctions,” showing intimate body parts of celebrities, are probably mostly staged media stunts, but people “buy it,” so the idea is planted in their minds that it is OK to be a “peeping tom.” But it is NOT.
Last week, Ynet published a series of paparazzi photos of Channel 1’s Geula Even and her young daughter, wearing bathing suits. Unless specific permission was granted, this should be considered illegitimate and maybe even an illegal invasion of privacy. Hundreds of readers protested online, with no response or corrective action by Ynet.
You may say: “Sex is a part of life. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just portraying reality and giving people what they want to see.”
Sounds convincing, and matches the spirit of our time. But do not be fooled by this demagoguery! First, not everything in life should be viewed, especially by children. Second, as with prostitution and pedophilia, not everything that people want should be allowed or supplied. Third, peeking under Angelina Jolie’s dress by no means portrays proper conduct in real life, just as pornography doesn’t portray real sex.
Another classic excuse: “If you don’t like it, don’t go there.” I agree and strongly advise one to seek different sources of online information and entertainment.
The problem is that many don’t, and the negative influence takes its toll.
Portals are targeting mainly young people, whose immaturity in moral judgment makes them more susceptible to negative influence. Their minds are being poisoned with negative examples of human behavior, brainwashing them that these are appropriate things to think, say and do.
If I were to imagine one person embodying the attributes and outlook reflected by these portals, I would say he was a disturbed young man, obsessively engaged in profane thoughts and sexually deviant behavior. He adheres to no moral guidelines and has no respect for human beings on the whole and for women in particular, seeing them as mere sexual objects – not as people. I would do everything in my power to protect and distance my family from his dangerous influence.
I believe that the moral standards being introduced by some media channels are despicable and shameful, but I do not argue this only on the basis of right and wrong on a personal level, but what is appropriate in the public domain.
Limitless freedom of expression is in fact limiting the freedom of people to control what they and their children are exposed to.
Because we are so diverse in our beliefs and standards, we should conform to a wider common denominator. This would not be religious coercion, but a civilized way to allow diverse people to live together.
It’s not like we don’t have red lines already. You can’t walk down the street naked. All I’m saying is – let’s recalibrate the red line.
My ultra-Orthodox parents use filtered Internet.
They can’t enter these portals or even watch YouTube – isn’t that crazy? I’m not so sure. Actually, they may be wise in protecting themselves while we are crazy for allowing this in our homes and minds.
Separating the innocent from the harmful is extremely difficult, especially for young users. It is up to us to shield ourselves and our children from the dangers of negative influence online, and to connect to positive sources of information and entertainment.
Here’s a good rule of thumb. Seriously consider abandoning websites which post: “Nicki Minaj’s ‘assets’ exposed!”
The writer is a former pilot in the IAF, founder of Cross-Cultural Strategies Ltd. and international project manager at CockpitRM.