To Censor Or Not to Censor — Is That the Question?

22 Jul

In a recent blog exchange that began with the senseless murders in the Colorado theater, some folks were mentioning that efforts to censor violence in movies, games, etc., would only put us onto the “slippery slope” of over-regulation of our thoughts, acts, and very lives.  And I kind of agree.

 But then I got to thinking – always a dangerous thing – and came up with the following thoughts:

 Just to play devil’s advocate – in reality, SOMEone, or some entity, must declare what is socially acceptable.  Otherwise, we have chaos.

 Traditionally, these entities range from the inner voice, to the family, to the church, to the community, and, yes, to the government.

 One could argue that ANY influential force helps set social beliefs and behavioral norms.  And sometimes, yes, they do it through ordinances, through laws.  Smoking bans, gun control laws, laws against slander and libel, laws against assault, rape, murder, and robbery, against revenge, against beating children and spouses, against stalking, about inappropriate uses of public spaces, dress codes, laws against pornography, against threatening public officials, laws determining who can see what-rated movies, about using child restraints in cars, about abortions, about euthanasia, etc., ad nauseum.

 One person can say these are public safety issues, but then someone else will say “that’s a slippery slope” to the establishment of unreasonable control.  Sometimes, though, I think we use the term “slippery slope” to define where our own personal belief in constraints ends – we’re ok up to a point, but beyond that we are “on a slippery slope”.  Unfortunately, the next guy’s slope gets slippery at a different point than ours.

 In a manner of speaking, the censor is always at work in our lives.  Our utterances and our behaviors are censored — by law or by norm — by our government, our society, our associations, even down to our small groups.

 One might even say that a “society” has a responsibility to censor.  As much as we hate the word censor, isn’t censorship necessary in a society to maintain civility and order?  Like the term “slippery slope”, “censorship” is one of those words that implies badness inasmuch as censorship gets applied in a situation that is beyond our own personal or collective comfort zone – for example, Lady Chatterly’s Lover gets censored by some, devoured by others.

 I even wonder if our fear of the slippery slope, or of censorship – our fear of losing certain freedoms – actually, over time, inevitably leads us to a degraded society, one in which we suddenly open our eyes to find that we wish someone had called evil by its real name – “EVIL” – and stopped us years ago from going down the “slippery slope” of NOT censoring when we should have.

 Might the ultimate irony within a “free” society be that the LACK of  wisely-applied constraints/censorship actually leads to its moral and ethical collapse and its loss of the very freedoms we thought we were protecting? 

 But I hear the response already – entrusting anyone or any group to applying these constraints would put us on a “slippery slope” to losing our freedom.

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