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The "Courage" of Censorship?

Ted Mandell commentary in the Indianapolis Star:

The Federal Communications Commission has issued its three-year research project on TV violence to Congress. Thirty-nine single-spaced pages. Detailed footnotes. Well documented. Gutless. Here are the conclusions:
  • • "There is strong evidence that exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior in children."
  • • "Congress likely has the ability and authority to craft a sustainable definition (of violence) for regulating violent television content."
  • • "Actions should be taken to address violent programming."
According to the FCC, these actions "could" include the industry committing itself to reducing the amount of excessively violent programming. Broadcasters "could" adopt a family hour at the beginning of prime time. Cable and satellite providers "could" allow consumers to choose which channels they receive instead of forcing pre-packaged bundles of channels on the consumer. Here's one more I'd like to add: The FCC "could" acquire a soul.

Censorship is not courageous, even when it's done for what's supposed to be a good cause. Freedom is what's courageous. It's making choices -- sometimes hard choices -- for yourself rather than allowing someone else to decide that something is just too violent (or sexy, or controversial or unpatriotic or un-Christian or whatever) for you to see. Tyranny will always come sugar-coated and wrapped in nice happy package. This is another example.

But what bothers me the most about this is that the author is a teacher of Film, Theater and Television at Notre Dame. You would hope that the academics would stand up for both freedom of expression and freedom of choice. But I guess fear and intellectual laziness is everywhere nowadays.

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Comments (3)

Mandell doesn't seem to recognize in his "shoulda-couldas" that Congress has to decide what to do since the airwaves belong to the people. Mandell seems to believe that the FCC, an agency of the Federal government, could and should step in, "find their soul" and regulate. No, bad Mandell, bad!

And there has to be some censorship on television, right Paul? Or is pornography ok on Saturday morning TV?

Paul Hamilton:

I think that parents should be in charge of their own households. That's why I support ideas like password-protecting shows according to their ratings which every cable system I've ever heard of has as standard equipment. And if parents art too lazy or too irresponsible to control their own television set, they forfeit any right to complain, IMHO.

To me, the idea that someone has decided they know what's appropriate for me to watch is much more offensive than skin, or even violence, on television. People are willingly giving up their own self-determination and that is truly obscene.

Censorship is always a a far greater danger than any speech itself. It is a dangerous path when government or any other self-appointed "watchdog" can claim that any antisocial conduct can grow out of the ideas expressed in speech based on solely on highly questionable personal beliefs or claimed "studies". Even when controversial adult entertainment has been suppressed with the abuse of criminal laws such as racketeering legislation which compares an offensive book or film to organized crime activity such as murder for hire or drug dealing, one can easily see the highly dangerous slippery slope where the Constitution and Bill Of Rights is soon lost to a form of antifree speech hysteria meant to justify extreme penalties.

In California, a young couple in their 20's are facing 50 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines from the Gonzales Justice Department because of an adult entertainment site most would simply find trashy and turn away from. Why some individuals are targeted at random for the abuse by the law is good question. But another trageted website made the military angry for example. Obscenity laws can mean the same as the death penalty for a business or the artists involved. This is a great danger to the Bill Of Rights.

Comic Lenny Bruce lost the will to live after obscenity arrests for example. Police used to tape record his performances. Doors' singer Jim Morrison had his problems worsen after a post-concert arrest in Miami on obscenity charges. Record store owners have been brought into court on obscenity charges for selling 2 Man Live Crew recordings. The cost of defending themselves led to near bankruptcy. But the cost of conviction would have been far worse.

The FCC is targeting more mainstream speech such as crime or spy dramas on CBS, NBC and FOX. But millions of viewers have decided that they like CSI, LAW & ORDER, 24, BONES or other dramas just fine and don't need government meddling.

Legislation against violence, indecency or obscenity all involve great dangers to artistic freedom. All such laws need to struck down and replaced with more limited protections for minors or persons who do want unwanted exposure to such materials.


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