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"V" is for Vacuum-skulls
How I learned to stop worrying and love the 'chip

Blast San Francisco Bureau

They could've made a R-chip to cut out Reruns and Rush Limbaugh, or the OJ-chip, to spare us from, well, you know.

Instead, Congress has given us the V-chip, V for Violence, coming soon to a television near you. Make that every television near you. Soon you won't be able to buy a set without one.

Television just makes young people too violent, proponents say. The V-chip will let parents lock out shows designated as too gory. This, in turn, is supposed to fix kids' attitudes.

Let's take that a piece at a time. Young people, violent? Yeah, more so all the time. In California, for instance, police arrested 6,093 teens for assault and 306 for murder in 1984. A decade later, those numbers rose to 12,009 and 618.

TV to blame? Well, it does broadcast 2,605 violent acts a day. The average American kid sees 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 other violent acts by age 12. Hard to argue those figures have no impact.

So how about the V-chip? Will it help? Consider how the thing will work. Someone, or some group, will decide ahead of time what shows are rated V. Blood and sex are most likely to win programs this label. OK, "Tales from the Crypt" is out. So are films from "Die Hard" to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

But what about others that only allude to blood and sex? Exploding spaceships, shoes and clothes strewn beside the bed? There's no difference in principal, only in imagery. No censor can make judgements that jive with the values of everyone.

That means parents can't rely on the V-chip to alleviate their consciences when using the TV as a surrogate mother.

The V-Chip is a typical '90s product, a simple solution to a complicated problem, doomed to fall short of its supporter's expectations.

But don't worry, kids will outsmart the thing anyway. How many of you readers waited 17 years to see an R-rated movie?

How many would rather have a PB-chip, to cut out Political Bullshit?