Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

Leno, others misunderstood BYU-Idaho anti-porn video, president says

By Tad Walch, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Feb. 7 6:35 p.m. MST

 Jay Leno appears during the final taping of  NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,\

Jay Leno appears during the final taping of NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in Burbank, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Leno brings his 22-year career as the show host to an end Thursday in a special one-hour farewell broadcast. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

(Matt Sayles, Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

REXBURG, Idaho — Some websites backtracked this week after they realized they had misrepresented a BYU-Idaho video with an anti-pornography message.

Don't expect the same from Jay Leno, who rattled off multiple jokes at BYU-Idaho's expense — both based on the mistaken interpretation — on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the end of his run on "The Tonight Show."

Time.com tried to clear up the misperception that the video was a "war on masturbation" by publishing a lengthy Q&A with BYU-Idaho President Kim Clark on Thursday. The piece includes a long description of LDS doctrine.

“Neither my talk nor the video has anything to do with masturbation," Clark said. "There’s nothing in the video or in my talk about that. We were really focused on addictions, pornography, things that are really damaging spiritually to people.”

The errors began when standup comedian Ed Brayton found the BYU-Idaho video on YouTube and posted a short item at FreeThought Blogs under the headline, "BYU-Idaho warns its students against masturbation in earnest war-themed video."

The problem? The video, produced by students for the university's office of housing, was based on a 6-year-old devotional given by Clark, a former dean of the Harvard School of Business, in which he asked students to be Good Samaritans and accept their Christian responsibility for others by, for one thing, helping roommates struggling with pornography addictions.

But the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post and others picked up Brayton's angle and published pieces with headlines and raunchy jokes about masturbation and war. Several incorrectly called it an LDS Church video. After the publicity began, some sites mistakenly claimed the university had pulled the video when, in fact, a student involved in the production had made it private on his YouTube channel. The video remained public on the university's YouTube channel and in context on the BYU-Idaho housing website.

None of the sites referred or linked to Clark's original talk, which is available online and was meant to help students prepare for the opening of an LDS temple near campus. The lack of context led to further mistaken assumptions. Clark referred to a "Great War" in his talk, a Bible reference to a war in heaven described in the book of Revelation that Mormons take literally. To illustrate Clark's point that roommates should look out for each other, the video re-created a war scene about soldiers making a decision whether to help a wounded comrade stranded on a battlefield. Clark's voiceover refers to the stranded soldier as "spiritually wounded."

In context, the video's analogy of a battlefield was understood by LDS students to be one in a continuing struggle between good and evil that began before the earth's creation. But the Daily Beast, Bustle and even Time.com in its headline on Thursday mistook Clark's reference to a "Great War" as a reference to a nickname for World War I and labeled the video's nondescript war depiction a World War I re-enactment. Others, like Business Insider Australia, likened the video's scene to a World War II battlefield. Another said it was Vietnam.

At nearly every site, commenters saw the disconnect between the actual content of the video and the headlines, jokes and descriptions.

"This seems to be more about addressing pornography addiction than about masturbation," one reader wrote.

A Religion News blogger picked up on the same thing.

"But this video is about porn addiction, not masturbation, which is not even mentioned. ... So why is the piece going viral as a 'war on masturbation'?"

On Wednesday, BYU-Idaho spokesman Marc Stevens released a statement:

"Brigham Young University-Idaho adheres to the doctrines and practices of its sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, we regard addiction to pornography as a harmful and destructive vice. We also regard each other as brothers and sisters and believe we have a Christian obligation to watch out for the spiritual and physical well-being of those around us. The sole purpose of the video is to illustrate those principles for BYU-Idaho students as well as to encourage them to reach out in a spirit of love and concern if someone they know is struggling with any form of addiction. Any other interpretation of the video is inaccurate and unwarranted."

The Huffington Post added the statement to its report and corrected its headline.

The video is posted on the BYU-Idaho housing office's website on a page titled "Roommates Get Involved." The page has three headings — Love, Mutual Respect and Shared Responsibility — with multiple videos under each.

In one video, a student relates a story about a time he and others spoke with their Mormon bishop about a problem their roommate was having. He says the affected roommate talked to those who referred him to the bishop, understood their concern on his behalf and thanked them for caring.

Time.com's Elizabeth Dias asked Clark what he thought about the way the video drew what she called "the criticism of the non-Mormon world."

"If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Clark said, "you have to expect that from time to time you will be the recipient of scorn and ridicule, because you believe things and know things are true that are not fashionable and that other people will poke fun at and even ridicule or heap scorn on you. When it happens, say, well, that’s okay. That’s what we believe, we know it is true, and we stay the course.

Note: The Deseret News usually provides links to other websites when it refers to articles elsewhere. It chose not to on this story because of the nature of comments made in the stories themselves or in the comments attached to them.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

Recommended
1. atl134
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 7, 2014

Are we going to pretend it's not connected? It's what everyone associates with pornography and it's banned in the law of chastity too.

2. get her done
Bountiful, UT,
Feb. 7, 2014

With the internet, no one is exempt from being stupid. You can not fix stupid, and that video shows that.

3. Orem Parent
Orem, UT,
Feb. 7, 2014

Won't miss Leno one bit. The guy was semi funny 20 years ago but just got trashy the last 10 years trying for the cheap laugh. No wonder he is gone.

4. cjb
Bountiful, UT,
Feb. 7, 2014

I am puzzled as to why non violent porn is spiritually harmful and why intimacy in marriage is not. The marriage act is more realistic and intense yet it is deemed as harmless.

If anyone has a (logical) explanation please feel free to share it with someone who is trying to understand.

5. jcobabe
Provo, UT,
Feb. 8, 2014

Typical media treatment of this issue. A message about trying to help your friends who have a problem with porn doesn't make splashy headlines. Watch the video yourself. It is well done, and contains nothing even remotely like what the journalists have reported. It dramatizes a devotional talk from the president of Ricks College. There is nothing insensitive or offensive about it.

We should not feel ashamed about seeking help for our friends. Anyone not conflicted in that circumstance has a difficult enough time doing the right thing. I pray to God for help in making such awful decisions, because to anyone with half a brain, it is not an easy thing to face. But just because it is tough does not excuse us from taking responsible action.