Treading a fine line
I had a conversation with a friend of mine today that was sparked by them pointing out a van parked outside its owners house that carried a very large advert for the strip/pole dancing club that the owner works for on it. My friend pointed out that the neighbours must be a but pissed off as it's not exactly going to do the value of their house any favours. I agreed but pointed out that strip clubs are legal and are perfectly within their rights to advertise how distasteful either of us may find them. The conversation turned to censorship more generally and it gave me a few thoughts, and a few questions (not all of which I claim to have the answer to) which I thought I'd throw open for anyone that happens across this.
Firstly I take a pretty liberal view on this. I am extremely hesitant to censor anything. There is plenty of offensive stuff out there, be it speeches, writing, films, adverts. Or maybe I should say, they are things that I personally find offensive. Yet who am I to tell you that you can't see them or publish them? One of the earliest signs of a totalitarian regime is the banning of films or books etc and I would far rather be personally offended by something than have a situation where either you or I were silenced.
However.... certain actions are not acceptable. It is not acceptable to incite hatred or violence against others. yet where does the line lie in what is and isn't acceptable? I think anyone should be able to criticise anything, but at what point does that become inciting hatred? And, as a separate question, what should be done about it? Should it be accept the consequences of behaving in that way? Or should we be more pro active? Again I would prefer to be on the liberal side of that line but I simply don't know where that line lies.
Next up, what to make of the film classification system we have. In my opinion it is pretty harsh. How can you have a system where you can have sex and join the army at 16 yet you can't watch certain films because there is too much sex or violence in it? Just how fucked up is that? Next, where is the parental responsibility in all this? Who is more likely to know what is suitable for their child at a given stage of development? Mum and Dad or the BBFC? I'd wager on Mum and Dad personally. Certainly I'm not arguing for young children to be exposed to porn or extreme violence. That would be absurd. Yet having a regime where older children are legally banned from seeing certain things seems a bit illiberal for my liking. And why do we have such a system for film and not theatre? The whole classification system seems to me ridiculous at the moment.
Where does the right of reply lie? I am all for investigative journalism. I also think those reported on should have a right of reply, particularly where the media outlet involved gets it wrong. As things stand I think the consequences for newspapers etc where they publish incorrect or misleading stories are no where near good enough. I don't mean in terms of fines etc, but in terms of having to print corrections. Yet we have to face the fact that sensation front pages sell papers. Front page corrections do not. I would not want to see papers cease doing proper journalism for fear of the consequences. So once again, where does the line lie?
Questions, questions, questions.