Sunday, July 29, 2007

Article 2: Censor Censorship.

CENSOR CENSORSHIP.

We live in a very strange society in which it is considered more dangerous to display an erect penis on television than it is to show, for example, someone having his throat cut. This is just one symptom of the strange disease that afflicts the so-called great and the good, bringing about in them a myopia in which they come to see sex as somehow a more heinous sin than violence. Certain words are not allowed because of their shocking sexual connotations, yet it is alright to show people being shot and knifed. The sex act itself must be ridiculously disguised, yet the scene in which someone is burnt to death is as realistic as possible.

This is just one of the crazy inconsistencies of this madness called censorship. If we are to suppose that films on TV cause children and the weak of mind (neither of which are likely to pay licence fees) to emulate them, this begs the question: which of the above would you want your children to emulate? The censors would of course want the lot censored and to feed us on a diet of gardening and cookery programs. I can only say that this would only lead to people turning off the television and seeking their entertainment elsewhere, perhaps out mugging pensioners to get the money to rent a decent video tape or two.

I hate censorship and would throw more weight behind the argument calling for it to be removed. It is wrong. It is another mishandling of power that takes responsibility away from the individual and in effect makes individuals more irresponsible. I wonder just how many really scientific studies have been made of the effects of TV violence on the individual. None I would warrant, simply because it would be impossible. For one thing there is no possible control group for any experiment or study. All that has really been done is the kind of statistical analysis that comes up with the result that 'violent people watch more violence on television than non-violent people', which goes nowhere in revealing why those people were violent and renders the analysis meaningless. Still though, censorship persists, and grows.

In the literary world that hideous creeping fungus called 'political correctness' is walking censorship in through the back door of children's books, and I have to wonder how long it will be before it reaches adult books. How long before this force that has emasculated our teaching profession and police starts turning all fiction into an inane mush? How long before 'conflict' is removed from fiction because it is too … confrontational.

But how about a reversal?

There is a school of thought that believes TV violence to be cathartic, and that the people who watch it are likely to be more relaxed and less inclined to violence than they might have been. In Jung Chang's Wild Swans she describes China, during the cultural revolution, as a pressure cooker without the relief valves of spectator sports or violent films. Now there, I think, is a woman more fit to judge morality than many. The same applies to literature: recently, an interviewer pointed out how the body count in my most recent book started high and continued to rise, yet my last encounter with violence left me feeling sick to the stomach because I had been involved in something really sordid. Those who are the spectators of violence are perhaps less inclined to take it up as a pastime – probably because they really know what it is. If violence is removed from all our forms of entertainment then people will lose a valuable learning resource and wander naively into truly dangerous situations. We cannot wrap everyone in cotton wool – because there'll always be someone out there with lighter fuel and a match.

Unfortunately, the censors are very often precisely the people to whom we must perforce complain, and complaining to them about censorship would be the same as writing to an MP with the opinion that you consider politics unnecessary. Entrenched self-interest is as difficult to excise as a verruca. And the censors will never admit any argument that might reduce their power.

9 comments:

Mercurior said...

this violence, they mistake or they "forget" that it could be causation or just correlation.

if people are watching violent films then going out to be violent, were they already predisposed into violence, and would still do it even if no film was shown. thats the real question.

causation or correlation, or known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

this has been used in so many studies today. from global warming, to second hand smoke, to drug use and censorship.

example "Since the 1950s, both the atmospheric CO2 level and crime levels have increased sharply.
Hence, atmospheric CO2 causes crime" or in the global warming.

nunof22 said...

Let me begin by stating that here in portugal we don't have censorship. That done, the problem of what I call "the anathema of violence" is pretty much the same here as you describe to be in the UK. We live in golden times. For most of Mankind's history humans have been in close contact with real violence. Everyday and everywhen. But now we mostly get it secondhand, and mainly through the media. Children for instance, only come in contact with it through that. This is a major social change . Where will it take us? More impontant than that: can we do something about it? and should we? kids nowadays are sheltered in unprecedented ways, and I feel that they are generally becoming insensitized. We are not helping their empathy and emotions to grow as they are build to grow; on the other hand, we can't help protecting them at all costs. It is a paradox, and one that I hope will not take us the way of the Mayans. But let me get back to censorship: authority, in the hands of individuals and institutions, over what to say and show is as bad as authority over what to think. It is called force-conditionig or even brainwashing, even if it is of a mild sort. Nothing good ever comes of it, and that is the main point about it. Who controls the controller? Who censors the censors? And who the f*** diferent from us are they to have the authority to censor us or what we see/whatch/feel/etc.? When will people be considered as fully-thinking individuals AND fully responsible for their actions? However, and thinking that here in Portugal we do not have censorship, what troubles me is that there is the same double-standard towards sex and violence. We had censorship till 33 years ago, and (if we do not count our monarchic upbringing) for about 100 years before that. The answer is obvious, I think - we got the censors out of the system, but not the core idea of it: that some people think better and are better than most people...to the point that they can maim the reality of others to they standards. And the main problem is most people just don't f***ing care; what they want is to "get on with it!" no matter what...

Chris said...

Joan Bakewell presented a very good programme regarding censorship on BBC2 a couple of years ago. One segment had her standing beside a pornstar, his erect penis pixellated, "I can see it, the camera crew can see it, but unfortunately the law states you cannot."

Does the Establishment reckon the sight of an erect penis will immediately turn hetrosexual men gay?

There is also the Tintin in the Congo debacle a couple of weeks ago: personally, I reckon it was a ruse by the publisher, since sales of said book rocketed by 400%!

Which essentially is what "censorship" does: it fuels demand for said censored/banned item - how many copies of Lady Chatterley did Penguin sell during the obscenity trial? Would those "video nasties" be held in regard by gore-hounds if it weren't for the banning orders?

Mind you, I did discover something on the weekend which troubles me: I perused Facebook, looking for old classmates. I only found one person which specifically mentions my old school - a current teacher of English, couple of years younger than me. If her profile is anything to go by, I bloody well hope her grasp of the language is better in the classroom.

"Favorite book: Im more of a magazine person". :(

NovaWasp said...

"Horrific, deplorable violence is OK. Just so long as there are no dirty words in it" - South Park the Movie.

There is a certain, goofy sense to some of it, but censorship needs to stay in the hands of the individuals and the parents.

I avoid certain violence in video games. I won't play a game that has me killing other people all willy nilly. I will, however, shoot an alien with complete abandon. I would never advocate any sort of law that would prevent the making and selling of a game that did have the player killing people. I just won't buy it.

dave hutchinson said...

The removal of censorship is a tricky thing to advocate, because it means allowing material which most right-thinking people would find repulsive. I know `repulsive' can be a relative term, but there's some very extreme and nasty stuff which is not allowed to be shown on television - mostly because it's illegal - but if you remove censorship you find yourself having to defend the right of that stuff to be shown. Censorship is a zero-sum thing: either you have it, to a greater or lesser degree, or you don't and you have to accept that anything goes.

Neal Asher said...

As touched on by nunof22 ... Who judges the judges?

dave hutchinson said...

Very true. And as nunof22 says, you can get rid of the censors but the habit of censorship remains. But I'm interested - is there nothing that's proscribed on Portuguese television? Anything goes?

no stinking loops said...

A clear-headed and convincing case for censorship was made a few years back by Jonah Goldberg. Here it is:

Censorship: Just do it.

I found it persuasive then, and I still do.

Cheers,

sa

Neal Asher said...

Loops, it's a case of where and when and who? I take the view that censorship should be an end-user option i.e. you don't like your kid watching something, then you turn off the TV. Putting this into the hands of the 'great and the good' means you take it away from the general populace: remove responsibility and you make people more irresponsible. In the article he was going on about kiddy porn. Really, that porn doesn't need to be banned because it is already illegal - those with the camera were breaking the law by making it.

I think the genesis of this article was upon seeing Lethal Weapon reduced by the cuts to a farce that you just could not follow (violent films tend to get more violent near the end. This is where the censor hit that film hardest rendering the plot non-existent). Hearing the black detective's frequent 'I'm too old for this shit' changed to 'stuff' in a totally different voice. Then there's Predator: people skinned and hung up in trees, a whole troop of men killed off in various hideous ways, one at a time, by an alien monster. Then at the end Arnie's 'You are an ugly motherfucker' having the 'fucker' removed. Totally ridiculous.