Censorship V. Decernment

It’s not censorship when I just don’t want to publish crap.

This is how far we’ve fallen as a society. If a webmaster of a popular website writes “’Howard The Duck’ is the worst movie ever made. It’s embarrassingly bad. It’s an insult to my intelligence and I’m ashamed for and by the people who love it” and the biggest fan of “Howard The Duck” breaks into that webmaster's house before killing his entire family; there will be people saying “That webmaster shouldn’t have said that! He should have known he would have incited violence. People should know better than posting opinions that are going to make people mad and cause violence!”

There will be people blaming the victim and say it’s the victim’s fault because he published an “unpopular opinion” and the writer/artist should have known better. Only a minority of those people will admit that the perpetrator was clearly in the wrong and needs to not become violent over something he merely wrote.

But “everyone” agrees, we should have laws in place to prevent people from saying things that will cause violence. What we really need is more censorship because the old rhyme about “sticks and stones” is all but forgotten?

With that said…

Back To School - Vocabulary Words of The Week!

Here’s the other side of the argument that I began with “Content Management.” The short version is that nobody has to publish anything they don’t want to, and choosing not to publish something or removing bad content is not “censorship.”

As a refresher, here’s the actual dictionary definition of the word:

Definition of CENSORSHIP

1a : the institution, system, or practice of censoring
• They oppose government censorship.
b : the actions or practices of censors; especially : censorial control exercised repressively
• censorship that has … permitted a very limited dispersion of facts
• —Philip Wylie
2: the office, power, or term of a Roman censor
3: exclusion from consciousness by the psychic censor

Definition of CENSOR

1: a person who supervises conduct and morals: such as
a : an official who examines materials (such as publications or films) for objectionable matter
• Government censors deleted all references to the protest.
b : an official (as in time of war) who reads communications (such as letters) and deletes material considered sensitive or harmful
2: one of two magistrates of early Rome acting as census takers, assessors, and inspectors of morals and conduct
• Cato the Censor accused Africanus and his senior officers of running an army riddled with moral laxity
• —Colleen McCullough
3: a hypothetical psychic agency that represses unacceptable notions before they reach consciousness

There have been in the past people who have demanded that I publish their work on The Fedora Chronicles. Since I like to consider myself an open-minded and accommodating guy I’ve looked at their work and I’ve either hosted it here on the website or declined based upon a couple of factors.

It’s obvious that if it’s any good and it has value to our readers and listeners I’ve hosted it. End of story.

Now, the meat of the story and the controversy comes when I either come right out and said “this isn’t any good” or “this doesn’t fit the theme of our website” or “this isn’t appropriate for our target audience and demographics.”

If these folks say “OK, thanks for your time,” we part as friends. I hope.

The problem comes when they try to shame me into posting an article or artwork and call me names and say I’m censoring them. By refusing to post their work, I’m somehow a ‘fascist’ and I’m everything I claim I hate. I am a hypocrite. This should be a great time for me to communicating with them and move on to something better to do with my time, but I’m a sucker for controversy and a topic for a future rant.

Most of these people will not even discuss why I don’t want to host their content on my website. They don’t want to hear about how it’s not well written, it doesn’t fit with the theme of the website, or it might actually insult my audience. No, they would rather take a shortcut and make the problem about me and make the issue about how I’m trying to “censor and silence” them, or “stifle their creativity.”

They have often used the excuse that “this will start a debate” or “this will begin a much-needed dialog” that is desperately needed on my website. As if to say I don’t have enough controversy and I haven’t gotten myself into a lot of trouble already?

… None of this actually gets to the heart of the matter, it’s merely avoiding the fact that I just don’t want it here on The Fedora Chronicles. All these other arguments is ignoring the real problem.

It’s not about Censorship, it’s about discernment.

The New York Times is under no obligation to publish anyone’s work in their newspaper or other publications. I can not walk into their editor’s office and demand that they publish a rant that I wrote that I think is very good. They get to look at what I’ve written and say “this is crap” before telling me to leave or have security forcibly removed. That is not censorship, that is discernment. It’s making a judgement on whether or not my writing is worthy of ink and page space.

I can not demand that GQ host a picture of me as one of their models and put me on the cover of the next issue of their magazine. They get to discern whether or not I am good looking enough or not to be there if my image or personality will help drive sales at newsstands or checkout counters. If I’m shunned by GQ, that is not censorship.

I can not demand that the local radio stations air my podcast in the middle of the night, and when they decline I can not say they are “censoring” me.

Too many of us toss around the world "censorship" to cover up the fact that sometimes the work isn't any good and we need someone else to blame.

Nobody gets to call what’s going on “Censorship” until the government actually goes to the location of where something is published and yells “shut it down” at gunpoint. Censorship is when someone in an elected or appointed position removes content or prevents it from being published or distributed in the name of a (local, state, federal) government.

When a private citizen or group demands that a publication be pulled for “offensive” content, and the publisher or service provider complies, that is also a form censorship.

Cover Your Ass...

What is happening now with YouTube and Facebook removing content from their servers and deleting accounts is a weird highbred between censorship and discernment. What they are actually trying to do is remove all their liability because when violence occurs again because someone read or watch something that caused them to commit violence – somebody will say “They should have known better to host that material, they should have taken it down and now someone is dead and now I want to sue!”

These social media outlets and free content services are protecting their inevitable bottom line by proactively going out and removing content under the guise of “civic duty and social responsibility.”

Because we live in a world now where we need to second guess ourselves. We need to divine and predict like the Oracle at Delphi that something I might say might piss someone off to the extent that they might try to do some harm. We're at the point when we're second-guessing ourselves... "gee, I really have something that is important to say but what if I make people too mad?" So many authors and other creative people have made themselves so neurotic and inflicted themselves with anxiety disorders to the point they can't function so they quit.

When you're too busy worrying about what might happen more than you're working at making a product, it's time to pack it up and go. Screw this, who needs this hassle?

I will also admit that to an extent I am protecting myself, my family, my friends, and especially my readers and listeners when I refuse to host crap. I will also admit that most of my decisions are based upon protecting my image and enhancing my brand by shielding fans of The Fedora Chronicles.

But secretly – just between us – I’m just too damn lazy to deal with the fuss of having to explain why there’s shit on this site and I don’t want to waste time defending it. I just detete crap if it embarrases you or me or if I just don't have the energy to stand behind it and face the criticism if the product isn't worth it. Not because I don't have the integrety, it's because after all this time I'm tired and I'm spent.

Oh, and before I forget. While my wife and sons are much better marksmen than I am, they are not nearly as brutal as I am with hatchet... I say that in the context that ‘Howard The Duck’ is the worst movie ever made. It’s embarrassingly bad. It’s an insult to my intelligence and I’m ashamed for and by the people who love it.