May 17th, 2010

news, cronkite

Writer's Block: This material has been censored

Do you think the government should have the right to censor the media? If you're generally against censorship, are there any circumstances under which you feel it might be warranted?

Do you think the government should have the right to censor the media? If you're generally against censorship, are there any circumstances under which you feel it might be warranted?

Unca Bob had this one down:

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

—Robert Anson Heinlein, "If This Goes On—" (1940)

That, by the way, is from a short novel about a Fundamentalist takeover of the United States after a "backwoods preacher" is elected President in 2012.1

Heinlein also said, "The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak."

Now, Unca Bob, especially in the second quote, was talking about what Wikipedia calls moral censorship2, the suppression of speech that some individuals might find offensive or immoral; that is, in my estimation, subtly different from military censorship.

It is the opinion of Your Obedient Serpent that both "moral" and "military" censorship are always wrong; however, there are instances when the latter might be less bad than the alternatives. A Fully Transparent Government would not have survived World War II, and the most likely replacement had even less regard to such niceties.

It's a key part of my ethical system, however, that being forced to do bad things to avoid worse consequences does not make them good things; when you allow yourself to frame the kind of secrecy and suppression practiced in WWII as "good", you take the first step on the slippery slope that justifies political censorship, and all the cover-ups and black projects that burden us today.

I also don't automatically equate industry ratings systems as "censorship", although the MPAA has certainly demonstrated that they can be arbitrary and putative, and big studios, finding that "General Audience" films are often ignored, often tack extra nude scenes or coarse language to get an otherwise-acceptable movie out of the "kiddie ghetto"—an ironic kind of anti-censorship. Marvel Comics has implemented an entirely functional ratings system for their comics, however; while most adult comic readers are wholly unaware that Marvel even has one, the discreet little letter codes in the UPC symbol box provide a useful guide to parents looking for suitable reading material for their children, and comic store workers attempting to assist them.

I could go on, but I expect these opinions to get thoroughly Disassembled in the comments. I haven't even touched on the idea of "hate crimes" yet.

1The same timeline has a well-established Lunar colony at this point; grumbling about only getting the crappy parts of future histories may now commence.

2Wikipedia distinguishes between "moral" and "religious" censorship; please pardon me if I consider that to be hair-splitting.

hoard potato, tv, movies

Geektank: A Cave Without A Draft

This is partly related to legacy2020, and partly a matter of general curiosity.

Back in World War II, Clark Kent volunteered for service, but failed his eye test. He was sufficiently agitated that his x-ray vision kicked in, and he wound up reading the (entirely different) eye chart in the next exam room. That popped up in the Superman newspaper strip, in February of 1942:

Bruce Wayne, on the other claw ... I have no idea what kept him out of the service. The Batman movie serial of 1943 has a line where Bruce and Dick talk about being on "special assignment" for "Uncle Sam", with the implication that said uncle knows who Batman and Robin really are, but to the best of my knowledge, nothing of the sort was ever brought up in the funny pages.

We've got the appropriate volumes of The Batman Chronicles at the store, and I suppose I could leaf through them and find out. On the other claw, it's more fun to ask the LiveJournal Hive Mind:

  1. Did the comics of the '40s ever provide an explanation for why Bruce Wayne stayed out of the service?
  2. Did any post-WWII comics throw in any retcons to answer the question?
  3. Okay, gang, what do you think? Did Bruce use his wealth to pull strings? Or did the proverbial "little man from the Draft Board" simply never drop in on Wayne Manor? Not everyone got called up, after all, and Lazy Trust Fund Playboy is exactly the kind of stereotype nobody would expect to volunteer.

(Please indicate which questions you're answering when you comment. Specific citations are preferable to hearsay, naturally.)