Posts Tagged ‘Censorship’

“Shame on the media” or shame on us?

March 15, 2012
“Shame on the media,” said Mr. Alex Jones. He is a media professional, by the way, so that is rather ironic already.


Image via Wikipedia

“Shame on the media for their censored sensationalism. They are just trying to attract attention with dramatic stories to serve the interests of their advertisers who fund them,” said the famous hysteric, then adding ” and now a word from our sponsor….”
Let’s be realistic for a moment. You can go back to listening to Alex Jones for entertaining adrenalin rushes later if you are addicted to that (and prefer him over Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern or Bill Maher), but for now, let’s be realistic.
Media has to focus on certain subject matter and in certain ways, right? A single TV channel cannot show two programs at once, right? A radio station does not play more than one song at a time, right?
So there is a limited amount of content that can be publicized in a given segment of time. Further, there is only one specific way that  a program can be presented. Choices have to be made.
Keeping the attention of audience is a primary commitment of any media presentation, including even this one. Have you ever had a teacher (or professor) who seemed so bored with the material they were presenting that you fell asleep? If you go to one of those churches with long sermons, have you ever gotten at least a little bit drowsy while all that talking was going on?
Well, mass media businesses may target presenting enough intrigue and controversy and sensationalism to attract a loyal audience. Think of the most expensive media advertising in the world, the TV ads during the NFL super bowl sporting event in the US. They are not supposed to be challenging. They are supposed to be sensationalist. Realistically, that is the media’s job.
Further, of course all forms of media involve some degree of censorship. When a country music radio station does not play any reggae, we do not consider it censorship. It just doesn’t fit the format of their focus. Likewise, when a reggae music radio station does not play any country music, we do not consider it censorship either. The two formats appeal to different groups.
So, if some media outlet gets too controversial, that will not work well for them. They do not want to frighten their sponsors or advertisers, nor to horrify their audience.
If you are attracted to horrific stories of the atrocities of real crime stories and the history of espionage assassinations by governments and things like that, there may be some books or websites about those kind of content. There may even be some shows or stations that feature those kind of themes, like Mr. Alex Jones.
However, if a newspaper only prints it’s photographs in black and white, that is not really censorship of color images. If the newspaper only has articles written in English, that is not really censorship of any other particular language. Further, if there is censorship by the owners of the media company or by the government and court system, so what? Why shouldn’t there be some themes that are regularly emphasized and a huge amount of content that is basically avoided?
Governments keep secrets, like classified weapons research. Businesses keep secrets, too, like trade secrets. You keep secrets, too, like passwords to your computer or your debit card.
It is not censorship if you are careful not to print your PIN # to your debit card on the back of the card. It is considered stupidity.
It is not censorship if a business only publicizes content in English about dogs. That is just the focus of their publicity.
However, it is censorship if a government licenses and regulates the media (or operates it). The FCC is nothing but a censorship operation. That is what they do.

Censorship (Photo credit: IsaacMao)

Further, when PR companies create stories and lie and manipulate, that is called entertainment as well as propaganda. Every fictional movie is a bunch of lies and manipulations. Even documentary movies without actors may contain lies and manipulations- sometimes explicitly and sometimes not.
When religious authors speak in parables, that means they are telling a story that may not be literally true. When I make an analogy, like about not printing the PIN # on the back of your debit card, that is manipulative. Language is entirely manipulation. Communication is entirely influence.
These words either are for directing your attention and your perception and informing your future behavior, or they are not. If they are not for that, then it is nonsense. All communication is for influence or manipulating or guiding or governing or directing.
These words are either entirely true or entirely false (if either of those are really even possible) or else somewhere in between. So what?
Let’s say that in a certain legal jurisdiction, certain content is criminalized as illegal to access on the internet, such as child

Illustration of censorship.

Image via Wikipedia

pornography. So what? Is that censorship? Is that even surprising? If it was your child, would you want that picture or that video publicized?

People may not even like to think about certain subjects. They may be so horrified or disgusted that they do not even want other people to access that content. Or, maybe a government is concerned about the consequences of having certain content widespread, such as graphic violence on daytime TV that can be easily viewed by children. People may be hesitant about how that content may effect society as a whole over time.
People do not generally like to know about certain subjects like torture, including of animals. People may not want to know about the conditions in which the livestock raised for their food is kept. People may not want to know about the reality of the history of their government or even the corporations for which they work. People may want heroic myths about the founding fathers, even if the myths have an element of sensationalism.
Back to outright censorship, what if it was illegal to take someone’s personal medical history and publicize it on the internet without their permission? So what? Is that censorship?
What if it was illegal to take someone’s personal and confidential information of any kind, financial data or legal data or whatever, and publicize it on any media outlet without some kind of standards? So what?
Of course there are standards. Of course there are disputes about exactly what should be regulated and how. Of course there are controversies. Of course the standards change over time.
If someone knows the standards and violates them anyway, they are inviting investigation and punishment, right? If they publicize their violation of certain standards, they are definitely inviting attention and controversy, right?
However, some standards are not clearly specified. Even clearly specified standards must include a certain amount of precision and a certain amount of vagueness or even leeway, as in selective enforcement. Of course the son of a politician or public figure (politician, entertainer, esteemed scientist) may receive different forms of attention from a person without any celebrity.
Different kinds of celebrities are scrutinized in different ways. Also, anyone who is considered a threat politically or economically may be targeted for special scrutiny. Is this so surprising?
If someone publicly threatens to commit some shocking crime and then loses commercial sponsors just for making the threat, is that surprising? If advertisers support certain kinds of content and withdraw support from certain kinds of content, is that surprising? If governments support certain kinds of content and withdraw support from certain kinds of content, is that surprising?

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