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Censorship, A Failure?

Freedom is something that most, if not all, of the top countries strive to underscore. Any good business will also do its best to ensure the same. Some unfortunate censorship trends have been happening over the Internet, and we are entering a very “touchy” realm that we have to be mindful of. As much as we don’t like Facebook censoring users, they have every right to do so, just as we have every right to use another platform.

The justice warriors out there sometimes go a little extreme, using ‘freedom of speech’ as an excuse to berate others. They want to push laws or require Facebook to not censor users, which would be taking a different freedom away from Facebook and the owner(s).

As always, we need some healthy gray area. We do not want to censor anything. However, are their situations that could arise that influence our decision to censor? Maybe.

The Scenario

Imagine you are in a restaurant with your family. You have a couple of kids from 3–5 years old. Someone comes into the restaurant and sits next to you all and starts talking about how they hate your race. The person looks at you and says, without being angry or intimidating, more of a matter-of-fact voice; “No offense, but your race just sucks. You all probably don’t even know how to begin to be better.”  You analyze the situation and figure something needs to be said. So, also in a matter-of-fact voice, you say, “No offense, but I think you may need to see a psychologist.” You hoped the interaction would fizzle so you could continue with your dinner, but, of course, the person continues with more banter about why your race sucks. You ask the person if they could just let it be so you can enjoy your meal, but they won’t stop. The person is not being outright nasty, but it’s very annoying, and they clearly want to get their point across. You instead ask the staff if you could be moved to another table, and you finally part ways with the annoying person. “All’s well that ends well,” you think and continue on with your meal and time with the family.

Now imagine a slightly different scenario where the berating, annoying person decides to amp up their emotions, gets angry and frustrated, starts to curse, and says the most obscene things you can think of to your kids. They don’t look like they plan to get up and fight, but they are one gesture away from it. They won’t stop yelling and saying nasty, disrespectful things about you and your kids. You, of course, would want to do some pretty nasty things to this person too.. Things likely won’t end well, no matter how much in the right you are.

We Don’t Want to Hear It All

And so, we enter censorship. Even with the first scenario, people have a tendency to want to censor. However, since the person wasn’t being overtly nasty or provoking, there’s no reason to have them removed or censored. They may be racist, but they are entitled to their opinion and to express that opinion. Clearly, they should have better manners and read the situation to know that was not the time or place, but nevertheless, censoring is not necessary.

However, in the second situation, it is becoming more extreme; emotions are clearly getting evoked. Is it a tougher decision about censorship? What’s the difference? Despite what we see as vastly different, it’s much more difficult to discern where the line is. Some will want to draw the line at cursing, but it’s not simply ‘cursing.’ Others will draw the line at the obscene things said about you and your kids. Would you want them to be ‘censored’ if possible in that situation? If you could, would you press a button to not have to hear them spew whatever obscenities cross their mind?

Perspective Matters

One aspect we haven’t addressed yet is perspective, which is a strong differentiating factor affecting this equation. What does “obscene” mean? What does “angry and frustrated” mean? What is “cursing”? What does someone look like when they are about to fight or threaten you? What does “disrespectful” mean? Why does it matter that they were angry or frustrated? And who is this “person”? 

The point is, to some, cursing is the norm, and so the vast majority of cursing would not be considered “obscene.” For others, talking about sex is obscene. For some, physical harm is a very fast next step after these ‘obscenities.’ While for others, it would take much more.

The thing is, it is imperative to understand that 100 different people could answer all of those questions in 100 different ways. The ‘who’ for some people is also significant to determine the need for censorship. If the person was a seven-year-old boy versus a 30-year-old man versus a 30-year-old person with a mental disorder, would they all get censored the same? Should they? Who can answer these questions, and how can we have the audacity to say we know the best answer for the masses?

How are we supposed to determine what is censored when everyone has such vastly different ways of interpreting what should or shouldn’t be censored? This is sounding more and more like it isn’t our call, and as such, we have to say no to censorship, no matter how berating and annoying. Although we don’t agree with Facebook censorship, we empathize and understand how difficult it would be to try and walk that line.

Enter Filtership

We have no desire to censor, but we also know that there are things out there that we don’t want to see or hear about. Having some form of ‘filtership’ is something that we would love to see incorporated everywhere instead forms of censorship – something akin to covering up a spoiler and the over-18 tags. If you want to see the content that is ‘flagged,’ you have to select it deliberately through a filter. That way, we don’t have to censor, we could just move to another ‘room.’

Let’s all help promote ways to never censor things if at all possible. Will there ever be a time where we truly need to censor something? I don’t think so, but I acknowledge that “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.” -Mike Tyson

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