The Dangers of Never Being Offended
April 27, 2005
In his recent article “Movie-sanitizing technology: clean flicks or dirty tricks?,” Paul K. McMasters, of the First Amendment Center in Virginia, examines the implications of “new technology and video equipment” that allows “sanitizers to delete words and images, skip whole scenes, change a speaker’s dialogue, switch background or scenery, put clothes on characters and insert promotions for products. It is even possible to erase a movie’s whole soundtrack and substitute a different one.” While no one denies the right of viewers to decide what they view, this technology brings up some interesting issues concerning the value of having our views and beliefs challenged. Paul (who we are very proud to have on the Board of Editors of our Guides Project) writes:
As the tools for tailoring all communication to our individual comfort zones become more sophisticated and available, we will have the power to convert everything that comes our way to just another version of what we already know and believe. That would be most unwise.
In the end, no amount of technology can take the place of the exquisitely fine filter that is the human mind. We have the ability to delete, deconstruct and even destroy any communication that comes our way, or to turn it to our own elevation. True, from time to time, we will encounter language or ideas that offend, but we should be wary of contracting out our right and duty to choose for ourselves which communications we receive, from Hollywood or anyone else, and how we evaluate what we do receive.
The First Amendment considerations for both the movie-makers and the sanitizers aside, it is our own rights we must not only guard but exercise. That includes asking how far we carry this idea of insulating ourselves or our families from offense.