McAdams On: Legislating Loudness Levels

BUCHOLIA, U.S.A.: The setting–a small country farmhouse in the Midwest. Era–TV sets had dials. Evening. Supper is over. Dishes are done. By hand.

Harley: “Put on ‘Lawrence Welk,’ would you Mama?”
Emabel: Walks over to the TV set and turns on “Lawrence Welk.”
He indulges in his dream of being Myron Floren.
Commercial break.
Harley: “Turn that down a little.”
Emabel: Gets up and turns down the volume.

Cut to years later, when TV sets had remote controls.
He: “Put on ‘Three’s Company,’ would you Mama?”
She: Hands him the remote, which is lying on the end table next to his La-Z-Boy. He dreams of being Jack Tripper.
Commercial break.
He: Presses the mute button.

This is how loud TV commercials were legislated at RR 1 Box 168, Cozad, Nebraska. Granted, this legislation would not have worked well in later households with, for example, the Mssrs. McAdams and myself. And yet somehow we managed to endure television audio free of federal controls.

One has to wonder how the collective TV-watching We survived 50 years of aural anarchy. Were we merely unaware of the abuse to which we were being subjected? It became hard to sort out offenses after the advent of contrived-reality TV, which somehow remains legal.

Unlike loud TV commercials. We now have a law against loud TV commercials. It will ultimately consume thousands government staff hours comprising a few million payroll dollars donated by taxpayers. Schools, in the meantime, are going down the tubes, to such an extent, it seems, that people can no longer read the word, “mute.”

I understand that folks are annoyed by loud TV commercials, but to me, this legislation epitomizes the concept of Big Government run amuck. It’s either that, or We the People have become so profoundly lazy that the federal government must now control the volume on our TV sets.

Perhaps the newly enacted Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act will usher in a new category of legislation based on annoyance factors. All you people out there with your cell phone ring volume on high, consider yourself warned. If it plays the cha-cha, you could be looking at jail time. And you there, driving the Terminator school bus and taking up three parking spaces. Pony up. Carry an animal in your purse? Ditto. Blather on in blog postings pontificatively? Yep. Take ridiculous license with language. Bingo.

Robertson Davies said “There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.”

He was kind of a crank, though. Mark Twain was, too, but more colloquially:
“I think it is not wise for an emperor, or a king, or a president, to come down into the boxing ring, so to speak, and lower the dignity of his office by meddling in the small affairs of private citizens.”

And heeeeere’s Groucho: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.”

And finally, the master, William Penn Adair Rogers: “Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what’s going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?”
RIP, Will.
-- Deborah D. McAdams