Tag Archives: censorship

Boycotting abusive pornography beats censorship, hands down

Long, long time ago, there used to be a British Army Captain by the name of Charles Cunningham Boycott. He used to be an English land agent in Ireland. The Captain resisted the locals’ demand that their rents are reduced. The Irish came up with an ingenious way of getting back at him (and his masters). They ostracized him. They pretended he didn’t exist.

Captain Boycott would end up costing his masters and the British government a pretty penny. With the Irish refusing to help his masters with harvesting their crops, the Crown had to send in the army to do the work. To get about 500 pounds’ worth of crops off the fields would eventually cost about 10,000 pounds.

Good old Captain couldn’t buy his groceries locally, his mail delivery guy faced threats if he didn’t stop delivering mail, and, generally speaking, the locals made him into a non-entity.

Thus the word “boycott” came into existence.

This would be precisely the treatment the Fifty Grades of Grey ought to receive. Both as a book, and as a movie.

A British author who wouldn’t be able to write if it saved her life, one E. L. James, hit upon the idea of creating a novel that would celebrate all kinds of sexual perversities that she could think of. Making her dreams come true, so to speak. So, she wrote Fifty Shades of Grey. It started innocently enough as a blog entry, proving one more time (as if proof was needed) that the web really is the most democratic medium on earth. Anyone, no matter how untalented, can publish, more often than not not having to pay a red farthing for the privilege.

Then, for whatever reason, Vintage Books entered the scene. Now, it used to be a pretty respectable publishing outfit. Established in the 1950s by no less an authority on quality literature than Alfred A. Knopf, Random House bought it half a dozen years later. It sails under Random House’s flag even today.

Driven by the number of eyeballs that made this piece of excrement a popular sensation in the blogosphere, Vintage went and published it. The buck doesn’t stink.

Not to be outdone, Hollywood entered the fray. Focus Features, Michael De Luca Productions and Trigger Street Productions, with the support of Universal as the main distributor, made this regular nonsense into a movie.

Rather logical, that. Hollywood has long ago ceased to have any good story ideas of its own. It’s been making its dough on endless re-makes of re-makes, the more violent the better: why think of story development when a shrapnel explosion that releases some life-threatening space aliens will do the job as well, and it won’t cost as much, either?

Shockingly, some outfits that ought to know better, such as Publishers Weekly or Time, have pronounced E.L. James an important person, author, an artist, indeed.

Of course, if you consider someone who’s been selling filth under the guise of art an important person, just because that filth has been selling like hot cakes, it seems you have to return to kindergarten and re-learn basic human values.

Demeaning women wouldn’t be one of them.

And yet, this is what this drivel is all about: abuse is fun, abuse deserves our admiration, abuse deserves our applause. And the person who promotes it deserves every cent of the money she’s making.

Even more shocking: a public library in Florida removes the filth from its shelves, only to be censored by a politically correct hen from the American Library Association. The book, she said, attracts readership, and who the heck are those librarians who think they can decide what is and what is not in good taste.

Which brings us to a serious question.

Censorship, as such, should not exist. While, for example, most of us would agree that filth that demeans women and celebrates abuse should never see the light of day, once we attempt censorship, we’ve stepped on a very slippery path.

There’s a better way, for us, as citizens. Boycott this kind of dirt, and boycott those who celebrate it. Then, it still would be a form of censorship, but it would be based on our individual responsibilities, and nobody can be forcing us to support those who claim freedom of expression includes freedom to applauding criminal behaviour.

Criminal?

Yes, absolutely.

Abuse of anyone, be it sexually or any other way, happens to be criminal activity.

Our judicial system is not going to touch this with a ten-foot pole. It fears the onslaught of those who believe anything anybody published while claiming it’s art and it’s sacred.

Guess what: it’s not.

And the best way to drive the point home would be to boycott not only Fifty Shades of Grey (and any other installments of it), but also everything that has anything to do with Random House, as well as with the Hollywood morons who are pushing it through.

Feeling the pinch in their wallets is the only way we can stop them.

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Our own stupidity corrupts our own children

There’s a soldier in each and every one of us.

Thus claims a perfectly obnoxious television commercial that invites viewers to buy (and enjoy) a war video game that pretends it’s naturalistic beyond belief.

And the game’s creators are not ashamed of themselves for creating such rubbish. Neither are those who promote it.

Rubbish?

Yes, rubbish.

First and foremost, no, it’s not true that all and sundry have military leanings, considering the art of war the most imaginative art of all.

And secondly, what the commercial (and the game itself) shows is not war. It depicts battles as if they were picnics, with the good guys wandering around, machine guns and bazookas at hand, shooting the bad guys at will, laughing and singing merry songs with lyrics as stupid as lyrics can get.

That last point, by the way, is a miracle in and of itself. Today’s popular music, dressed up as whatever genre there is (from all forms of rock, and all the way to rap) promotes idiocy as if it were classic poetry. To be even more moronic than that, now, that takes special talent.

This is not an attack against the military. It is a most unfortunate state of affairs that our society needs a strong military force, what with all of the so-called neuralgic points that keep flaring up all over the world. We need somebody to defend us, and we should be thankful to those who are prepared to sacrifice their lives or health to keep us free and out of the dangers that lurk around us.

If you asked the military people about these war games, most of them would scoff and call them all kinds of unprintable names. Granted, some of them might play a game or two like this. They need to release the tensions they have to live through, especially when they are serving at their battle stations, not knowing whence (or when) the killer bullet may come. But if they do play these games, they know none of it is about reality (or realism).

The main problem begins when people who have never been in danger, mortal or otherwise, buy these games. For whatever reason they are of the view they need danger and the fear that comes with it. So, they succumb to artificial danger and artificial fear. They start playing these games. They begin to impersonate the creatures these games are filled with. Slowly but distinctly, they identify with those they have decided to consider their heroes.

Yes, yes, yes, creators of these games are legally (or should it be legalistically?) protected. Did they not say these games are listed as for mature users only? They did, aha! Well, who (and what) defines maturity? Age? Don’t be ridiculous. How many adults have you seen, say, on highways right after the freshly fallen snow had frozen into solid ice, and they are driving as if they were on clear roads, and alone, with absolutely no other traffic to contend with, to boot?

Here’s where those games’ creators are really off the hook: what if these games fall into children’s hands? Doesn’t matter whether by design or by accident. The damage has been done.

Having talked to police officers who handle involuntary deaths (read: manslaughters and murders in all degrees) there’s one way to sum up their experience. They hate these games. They have seen far too many cases where someone would kill somebody else and would be shocked there’s no re-set button that would bring the victim back to life.

And no, it’s not only immature children who are prone to this. Adults one would have expected to know better have been found guilty. Here’s something to leave you gasping: way too often, they are in shock that they are going to spend time behind bars. They didn’t mean any harm, did they?

One only wonders when someone launches a lawsuit saying game authors never said reality differs from whatever warped fantasy they promote in their games. Come to think of it, it’s perhaps for that same reason that many television shows that depict, for example, stunt driving, say not to attempt this at home. And then, they state this obvious warning in small print only, so as not to deter potential customers, perhaps.

We can never defeat stupidity, but we must never stop fighting it, Jan Werich, a Czech author, actor and philosopher who lived through the last century, used to say.

So, now what?

Should we demand that such games be banned? Or, at least, advertisements for them?

That wouldn’t solve anything. Also, censorship, no matter how appropriate the reasons for it in particular cases, leads us nowhere but on a slippery slope that defeats democracy.

Our education system is failing us, that would be the most usual cry. Depends. If you mean schools and teachers by that, you can hardly be more wrong. Schools and teachers have got a pretty difficult time of it teaching children the basics. Not that all of the basics our schools teach are useful or right, even, but that’s another issue for another day.

Why should schools and teachers be replacing those who should have instilled some elementary values in their children long before they went to day care, and never mind kindergarten?

When should they have started?

Decades ago, an experienced pediatrician was asked by a couple when they should begin educating their newborn. When was the baby born? asked the pediatrician. Six weeks ago, answered the parents. Well, said the pediatrician, you should have started six weeks ago.

Granted, today’s parents are busy beyond comprehension. In most cases, they are both working. Also, in alarmingly many cases, they might love their children as if they were their own, but they wouldn’t let child rearing interfere with their hobbies and other extracurricular interests.

They are only emulating their own parents. When THEIR parents wanted to sleep in Saturday (or Sunday) mornings, the kids were allowed to watch cartoons. So long as the sound wasn’t too loud, that is. And television networks accommodated them with pleasure: they had an audience that, they knew, was rather susceptible to all kinds of advertising, no matter how perfectly foul, and they would be bugging their parents to get this or that, and their parents, feeling subconsciously guilty, would accommodate their children, in turn, thus completing the circle.

Not much has changed since then. Just the medium: where there used to be television cartoons, we now have all kinds of video games and sundry Internet addresses. Most shockingly, the majority of parents are not aware of what games their children play, and where they browse on the web. They don’t even know there exist applications, most of them costing as much as zero dollars, that let them effectively and efficiently control their children’s browsing habits. They can make offending sites off-limits, but since they don’t know about those sites, and about these applications, either, their own kids grow like trees in a rain forest.

What should we do about it?

I don’t know. If I knew, I would have applied for a Nobel Prize long ago.

Being responsible citizens – which includes being responsible parents – might be a good first step.

Is it that much to ask?

And: will it be enough?

NHL: a nanny for new media-savvy players?

The NHL is walking a fine line between freedom of speech and censorship.

But, then again, so are other professional sports leagues and, indeed, so is society at large. We’ve been losing the sense of who we are since the arrival of political correctness on the scene. Just imagine a member of a race making a joke about his (or her: see, another nod to political correctness) own race. A humourless member of his own race might take offence and the joke-teller will end up before a human rights commission, a quasi-judiciary body with many judicial powers and no judicial responsibilities. The joke-teller will be guilty until he proves he’s innocent.

But that’s another story for another day.

NHL players took to modern new media technologies like Pooh Bear to honey, and the league has been looking askance since then.

And then it came up with what it thinks to be the most appropriate reaction. Basically, it tells the players of the many risks they might take if their speech becomes too uninhibited, and it reminds them of their obligations as employees.

The latter reminder is quite understandable: no company likes being badmouthed by its own employees, and most companies would just hate being badmouthed by their own employees on company time. A player IS at work from the moment he arrives at the arena for morning practice, until he leaves the premises after the game.

There have been known cases of players tweeting between periods of playoff games. Well, at least they didn’t tweet between their shifts during those games! In any case, they won’t be able to continue with this shocking habit. No more tweeting or facebooking two hours before the game. Get your warmup in, get concentrated on the task at hand. Play some soccer backstage if spirits move you. But no tweeting.

Of course, why the league has to remind its member clubs’ employees about their responsibilities is another question. One would have expected they’ve got enough motivation to be responsible. But, as the saying goes, boys will be boys.

New media are all about the lack of inhibitions, for better or for worse. Good old stuff about bulletin board material that would rile up an opposing team and bring pain upon the material’s author, that stuff gets peels of derisive laughter in return these days. Quite rightly, too. If a professional athlete needs insults from an opposing athlete as a tool to get motivated, that athlete should begin looking around for another profession.

Professional hockey players have been known as nice enough lads, friendly, outgoing, but terrible interviews in most cases. Yes, there definitely is no I in team, but Wayne Gretzky’s habit of speaking about himself in third person singular was perfectly annoying. Or: a player speaking of his injury in first person plural (such as: “We will do this or that”) sounds more like a member of the medical profession than a professional athlete. Except in exceptional situations, one-on-one with a journalist they trust, hockey players prefer clichés that won’t get them in trouble. That is why players such as Brett Hull or Jeremy Roenick have been so popular. They never succumbed to this oppressive code of omertà (Italian Mafia’s habit of keeping one’s mouth shut or else).

And into this comes the liberating spirit of social media. A breath of fresh air.

Athletes can talk directly to their fans. And their fans can talk directly to them. Nothing beats this direct contact. It promotes the game, and the club, and the league, too. What is better than a recent Twitter admission by two Colorado players that their team had stunk out the joint in a game against Los Angeles, but they solemnly swear nothing like this will happen again. Ever. And they addressed it to fans whose hard-earned dollars went to waste through no fault of their own, making the apology sound even more sincere.

Of course, if a player writes his club lost because he had only 90 seconds of ice time, and how is he supposed to help his team on that limited opportunity is beyond him, he would land in a soup. More with his teammates and, potentially, coaching staff, than with his club’s management. His teammates and his coaches see him every day in practices. If anyone should know how he copes, it would be these people.

More enlightened clubs have gone about the thing the most enlightened way: do as you please, they tell their players, so long as you don’t hurt anybody. And do it on your own time. The smartest clubs have gone one step further: they’ve hired new staff specializing in social media and began flooding social networking sites themselves, too.

The entire thing carries considerable risk with it. Social media networks have been known as spots that don’t care much for security. Can you imagine a young player’s shock when he’s told he’s got a page on Facebook, while he is perfectly certain he’s never created one? Can you imagine a grizzled general manager’s surprise when he finds out he’s got a Twitter account where he moans and chastises himself for trades he made (and didn’t make), not to mention his draft choices?

The clubs thus afflicted sent these matters to the NHL’s own security people, and they, in turn, forwarded them to appropriate police authorities. No results announced yet, which is quite normal, considering that neither of the two incidents was publicized too much, and who knows how many more have gone either unnoticed or unreported.

In any case, social media is here. Whether to stay, now, that would be a different question. What if people realize that they’re becoming friends with someone who they think lives on another continent – and then they find they’ve been talking to a neighbour who’s been living across their own street all along? That embarrassment in and of itself should be reason enough to think again about social media and – especially – re-consider our own participation.

But, as mentioned, social media is here. Say hi to your favourite players on Facebook, and tweet them if you didn’t like their new shoes.

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