Powell free to call this match as he sees it

Our friend Chris Powell's newspaper, The Journal Inquirer, is being threatened with a lawsuit by the company owned by the family of Linda McMahon, the Republican Party-endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Powell is the managing editor of the newspaper and is responsible for its news content and therefore, its adherence to journalistic standards. It is a responsibility he pursues diligently, judging by the high quality of his newspaper during his long tenure.

He's also a columnist for his newspaper and his column, like most, affords the writer an opportunity to share his opinions on various subjects of presumed interest to readers.

A recent Powell column dealt with McMahon's qualifications for the high office she is seeking for the second time since 2010, the year she resigned from the high office she occupied at the family firm, then known by its maiden name, World Wrestling Entertainment, since abbreviated to WWE.

With his usual economy of words, Powell summarized Ms. McMahon's qualifications thusly:

"Her practical qualifications for office did not extend beyond her fantastic wealth and that wealth derived from the business of violence, pornography and general raunch."

In the event that message eluded the reader, Powell added some amplification: "Without her ability to spend virtually infinite money, her candidacy would be a joke."

Taken together, the sentences reflect Powell's view that McMahon wouldn't be running for the Senate twice in two years if she didn't have a lot of money that was earned as an owner of WWE, a business that owes its fortune to engaging in the aforesaid "violence, pornography and general raunch."

WWE quickly took offense and demanded a retraction by the Journal Inquirer. "Should you fail to issue the retraction," wrote Brian Finn, WWE's senior vice president for marketing and communications, "we will seek legal and all available remedies."

Senior Vice President Finn's letter reminded Powell it was the second time he has written WWE is involved in pornography and lectured him that his position as managing editor would ethically require him to "report the facts and not distort the truth."

This raises some questions. They aren't particularly difficult questions, so we will try to answer them in this space.

Is McMahon's "fantastic wealth" derived from "the business of violence, pornography and raunch?"

In Powell's opinion, it does and that is all that counts in this instance.

I feel obliged to note that based on what I have seen of past WWE shows on the Internet, sex, violence and raunch are their only ingredients. I don't know if I'd call it pornography or aspiring pornography, but that is my opinion for which I am handsomely paid in the two-figure range, to paraphrase Calvin Trillin.

That the WWE peddles pornography is an opinion shared by many, including two of McMahon's opponents, Chris Shays, who calls it soft porn, and Susan Bysiewicz, who said in a debate, "I'll be darned if I let someone who sells sex and violence and pornography for a living be our next United States senator."

Finn claims in his letter to Mr. Powell that WWE's wrestling cable programs enjoy a PG rating. The rating comes from the profit-sharing industry, not from an independent body of parents like the one that rates motion pictures. WWE also correctly states that the FCC prohibits pornography in various forms but omits the fact that the FCC doesn't regulate cable, which is why you can find plenty of violence, raunch and pornography there, along with dirty words, if you look and listen.

And what is pornography anyway? It is what the eye of the beholder beholds, or as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once famously put it, "I know it when I see it."

That's what columnist Powell was doing.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury.


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