Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Russell Brand manages to boost US teen pregnancy rate

As part of his shtick at the MTV VMAs this weekend, Russell Brand launched a squawking mock-bomb on the Jonas Brothers and their much-touted silver rings.

The abstinence people, though, are putting a brave face on it, claiming it's good news for them:

"I've received a good amount of feedback," said Jason Burtt, national director of Silver Ring Thing, a program that asks teens to pledge to remain virgins until marriage. "Nothing negative, but mostly positive support from all over the country from people interested in the program."

Of course, the Silver Ring people have more than enough negativity to cope with - what with how virginity pledges don't work - but still, it's nice the hear they're building on Brand's jokes as a way of spreading their failing message a little wider.

It's interesting that MTV News runs a largely uncritical piece - almost as if the parent company is desperate to balance out Brand's comments by bending over backwards. There is, at the very end, a mention of the negative studies into the idea, but downplayed:
A number of studies have shown that teens who take purity pledges tend to delay becoming sexually active for about 18 months longer than teens who don't, but that when they do become active, they are more likely to have unprotected or risky sex, though [Silver Ring Thing founder Denny] Pattyn said he does not support those findings.

It's not clear why a vague attempt to balance the story is then wiped out by quoting someone whose career depends on the Teen Abstinence industry. it's like running a piece saying how great turkey is, and then taking the one negative comment about turkey and adding that Bernard Matthews takes issue with the point.

Indeed, Pattyn has trouble with the idea that anything is a negative for his campaign:
"This is a big, big to-do," Pattyn said of the flap in his community over the Jonas Brothers/ Brand issue. "It's fantastic for an organization like ours, and we think this will open up some major things." Pattyn said he gave Meghan McCain one of his group's rings to give to Governor Palin for her daughter "to let her know we're supporting her and praying for her."

You might think that it might be a little late to be sending Bristol Palin a ring to mark her abstinence - and, indeed, coming from a home whose mother is committed to replacing sex education with abstinence "education", might prove a salutary example of just how it might not work to not mention the condoms at all.

Pattyn is using the extra attention Brand's gag has given his organisation to try and get access to Sarah Palin - something of an open door. If the election goes the wrong way, Russell Brand might have played a part in condemning a whole slew of young American girls into not getting proper sex education. Well done, Russell.


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