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whatsthatsound On March - 28 - 2011

 

Imagine some of the things that you least (and I mean least) want to have happen to you, or to someone you love. Now imagine that a very sick person is doing all those things to you, or forcing you to watch them being done to someone you love. Now imagine a movie about this. Only about this. You don’t have to imagine, because I have just described the “plot” of a Japanese movie titled Grotesque, by horror movie director Koji Shiraishi. Except for a ridiculously out of place supernatural revenge sequence at the end, the only thing that happens in the movie is that two innocent people, a couple, are tortured and sexually abused for an hour and ten minutes. The English promotional materials promise to so outdo Saw and Hostel in gore, violence and depravity that watching those movies would thereafter be no different than watching West Side Story. Well, that was quite enough for the British Board of Film Classification, a body that determined that the – film – (can I just start calling it “piece of filth” or pof, for short?) had no redeeming value whatsoever, merely showed sexual depravity for its own sake, and presented a “risk of (psychological, I assume) harm” to potential viewers. “Not on these shores!”, decided the BBFC. They prohibited Grotesque from being shown or distributed in the UK, something that they normally just don’t do. Not surprisingly, Shiraishi wore this condemnation as a badge of honor, stood up for “artistic integrity” and redoubled his efforts to market his pof as the one film they don’t want you to see! Naturally, boasting this as its claim to fame, the standard audience for pofs of this nature felt even more determined to stand up for freedom of expression, to see what all the fuss was about, or to “test themselves” (let’s remember that no bravery is required to sit one’s posterior on a couch and watch a TV screen) against that which sought to disturb and disgust (or, just as possibly, arouse) them in every frame. The BBFC had their moral victory, and Shiraishi picked up a few extra yen. A win/win, if you will.
Why did the British film board decide to censor Grotesque, and not, for example, Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, a pof that features such heartwarming scenes as an innocent woman being forced to don a “mask” that has been fashioned out of her tortured-to-death husband’s facial skin? Because in the case of the former, it was determined that it in no way, shape or form even constituted a work of creativity. It was just, simply, extreme violence realistically portrayed so as to appeal to the most base and unhealthy interests of those wishing to watch it. In other words, they refused to recognize it as a work of art. Rather, they determined that it was just an unwholesome thingie,  probably falling somewhere between rabid dog saliva and Weapon of Mass Destruction in terms of how beneficial they considered it to be for the citizens of the UK.
Many people called foul. Many people here, I imagine, may feel that the BFFC’s decision was lame and convoluted, and that is probably true. Essentially, there is no difference between Grotesque and other “torture porn” movies that were allowed, and hence the decision merely served to bestow upon it an “honor” which it doesn’t actually merit, thereby attracting a few more viewers to a pof that, in the best of cases, has only a very limited audience, and could only stand to benefit from being turned into a cause celebre.
Personally, however, I stand behind the decision, not because I think the matter was handled particularly well, but simply because I think that a country has every right to empower its review boards to reject things that, patently, have no merit and can only add more upset and horror to a world that already has more than enough. I believe, in other words, in censorship. At the very least, I believe it to be an arguable position.

Censorship? Surely there are few things more revealing of a reactionary mindset, some would hasten to assure me. Why, censorship can be identified with all the cruelest dictatorships, the most oppressive regimes, the most hardcore religious fundamentalists, etc. This is indeed true. I believe that in any way limiting a person’s right to express his or her political or religious opinions can only be a sign of an outlaw government. There is no excuse for it, even less the means by which it is often enforced. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people have been executed, tortured, or wasted away in prisons for making statements (or being alleged to have made them), writing letters, drawing cartoons, etc. that dared to criticize the Powers that Be in countries all over the world, and throughout history. Such censorship can rightly be considered evil.
However, depictions of sadism and depravity fall under another category, surely. The human race has certainly evolved in terms of what it no longer considers entertainment. Romans went to watch gladiators fight to the death, starved animals loosed upon slaves, criminals, Christians, etc., and a vast parade of cruelties at their circuses. In the Dark Ages, asylum inmates were sometimes displayed to entertain passersby, petty criminals were dunked or placed in stocks and pillories, and in a plethora of other ways pain and humiliation were inflicted on some in order to entertain others. Although benighted governments even to this day continue practices just as heinous, it is a mark of the march of progress in human thinking that civilized countries and persons no longer consider such “entertainments” to be acceptable. Ditto for dog fights, cock fights, bare fisted boxing, etc.
One of the problems in our modern world is that technology has reached the point where the depictions of violence now appear every bit as real as actual acts of violence. We can now see on our film screens exactly what the Romans watched in their circuses. The only difference, a huge one assuredly, is that the acts are not real, and there is no real suffering taking place; no victims, in other words. But with the appalling stories of Abu Ghraib, and the more recent revelations about an Afghanistan-based GI rogue “kill team” and their trophy photos of their innocent victims, mightn’t we consider that there in fact is a victim; namely, society itself? Extrapolating into the future, can we imagine that technology will eventually make it possible to play one’s own virtual reality serial killer game (and the advertisements proudly proclaiming, “this is as real as it gets!”)? As we are obviously moving in that direction technologically, don’t we need to be thinking about how okay we are with that? When cruelty, whether real, filmed, or holographically simulated, is considered entertainment, doesn’t that throw up a red flag, or shouldn’t it? It does for me, certainly.

Sure, you can start by censoring things that nearly everyone finds objectionable, but aren’t you worried about a slippery slope?” Indeed, I am. It’s just that the slope I worry about slips in the other direction.

Consider this: imagine that you travel to a tribe in the Amazon that has almost no contact with the outside world, and still lives more or less exactly as their ancestors have for thousands upon thousands of years. You present an inhabitant there with a chocolate ice cream bar. I imagine that one of two scenarios would result:

The first would be that the sensations of super-sweetness and cold entering the mouth of the tribesman would be so unlike anything he’d previously experienced that he would instantly spit it out, perhaps considering it to be some kind of poison. He would be hard-pressed to identify what you have presented him with as “food”.

On the other hand, I suppose it is also possible that he would be delighted, as if the food had come from the world of the gods. He would want to share it with all his tribe’s members. Soon after, the tribe would come to recognize that their teeth were rotting, their overall health was decreasing and their children were becoming hyperactive and irritable. The tribal elders would insist that the tribe be allowed no more ice cream bars. They would censor that which they correctly determined to be harmful.

Ice cream is not a natural food; it is something that has evolved, as people have craved newer, fresher, sweeter, more stimulating sensations as they grew accustomed to the foods they were already eating. Cooking is an ongoing and evolving creative process, no less so than film-making, music, painting, etc. In all creative endeavors, it seems to be human nature to demand more, and for certain creators to strive to provide that. In other words, you make something sweet, I’ll make something sweeter. Oh, yeah? I’ll make something so sweet that your teeth will disintegrate. You show blood and torture, I’ll show twice as much blood and torture!  Oh,yeah? And so on. That is the “slippery slope” that alarms me. A mere fifty years ago, audiences were so shocked by the infamous shower scene in Psycho that they fled the theaters, retched, broke down and cried, etc. Nowadays, “Psycho” can be shown unedited on prime time television. The iterative nature of film-making has reached the point where any depraved act that is shown will be seen as nothing more than a challenge to some audience members and directors to go even further. And, unfortunately, we don’t have tribal elders coming to the conclusion that this is not good for us. That it is poisoning our very souls. Instead, we have “staunch defenders of freedom of expression”.

There is no evidence that watching such movies influences people to actually go out and do such things! Hmmm….well, in that case, perhaps we should start telling companies to stop throwing away all those billions of dollars they spend annually on advertising. The images and messages we are exposed to through film and television don’t influence our behavior. Let’s remember that advertisements are rarely of the blunt, literal, “Go! Buy a Coke! NOW!” type. They aren’t even generally of the “You should buy only coke because it tastes so much better than its rivals!” variety. Indeed, in the early days of advertising, copy like that was quite common, as advertisers logically assumed that the way to get the most bang for your buck was to get straight to the point (an actual ad suggests, plainly, “Drink Coca Cola from a bottle through a straw, Absolutely Sanitary, Delicious and Refreshing”). As the industry moved out of its infancy, and became increasingly sophisticated, it was discovered that more subtle, subconscious associations that the viewer made about products were more likely to influence their purchasing habits. So we have “The Most Interesting Man in the World”, and product placement in movies, etc. In other words, media experts will vociferously argue (if there’s a buck to be made) that even subtle messages, through repeated exposure, can and do influence the external behavior of an audience. Of course, not everyone who sees a Coke commercial will go out and buy a Coke, but the whole industry depends on a sizable number doing so. And yet we are expected to believe that continual exposure to bodies being tortured and sexually abused will not impact the behavior of a segment of the viewers? A the very least, that it will not change their way of looking at the human body, what it is, what it is for, what is acceptable to do to it, or with it, etc.?

If not, why? Why can advertising influence our behavior but depictions of violence not? Does advertising activate a different part of the brain? Of course not. The same cerebral centers are responding to the same basic stimulus of filmed narrative. So, again, why one and not the other? Mightn’t that just be a disingenuous evasion tactic used to protect the profits of “the torture porn industry”? Put another way, if Grotesque isn’t, in effect, an advertisement for sadism, what is it?

****As a footnote, although Japan has a considerably lower homicide rate than the United States and many other countries, over the past few decades there have been a number of crimes that have shocked the country to its very core, involving sexual violence and barbarity beyond imagining. In all the cases that I can recall, the perpetrators were discovered to have a large collection of violent films and/or manga, even to have gotten their ideas from such. Japan is coming around, and a debate is taking place in the nation as to what type of content should be made viewable to the public.

I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t watch! Well, in fact, we do. It is the government, after all, that decides that we don’t have to watch a man pull down his pants and start masturbating in front of our home, or in front of a nursery school. Although the man may protest that he was simply expressing himself as he is hauled off to jail, I doubt that many would see him as a martyr at the altar of Artistic Freedom.
To say that the government has “no business” making judgments about such matters is basically to argue against any form of government, as if it is always untrustworthy. If we are worried about government overreach gradually leading to oppression, then perhaps we should do away with the Food and Drug Administration, The Surgeon General’s Office, etc., and no longer permit the government to determine how much nicotine can go into a cigarette, how much air pollution is too much air pollution; in short, to make any judgement calls regarding the health of its populace.  Could a move to censor torture porn movies be used as a shoehorn to eventually legislate against other forms of expression? Certainly, the danger is there. But I’m not convinced that’s very likely. I think it would be a fairly simple matter to create clear guidelines as to what is or isn’t acceptable in a film or video game and to stay within those limits. I would like to consider what those type of  limits might be.

Let us begin with one of the earliest filmed depictions of depravity, the infamous eye slicing segment from Salvador Dali’s/Luis Bunuel’s bizarre short film, Un Chien Andalou. Probably many people reading this have never seen it. For those who have, how many have seen it twice? As for me, though it has been more than twenty years since I first saw the scene, and I have watched other portions of the film in the interim, I have absolutely no desire to ever again subject myself to that short bit of extreme gore, and in fact I cringe at the very thought of doing so. No doubt, that speaks to its power to evoke a response. But does that make it art? And even if it does, what kind of art? Am I in any way a better person for having watched it? Are any of us? If so, I would like to know how. Watching that scene, I am quite certain, has in no way elevated my spirit, expanded my horizons, raised my IQ, or made me a better person in any way. If it had never existed, I can’t see how I, or the world, would be the worse for it.
That raises the question as to what is art for? Should it only be that which elevates our spirits, expands our horizons, etc.? Plato, famously, felt so. He was of the, radical for our times, extreme view that art should show and promote “only the good”. In other words, he was of the belief that art, as is sometimes said about money, makes a great servant, but a terrible master. For him, censorship was an obvious response to this extremely powerful mode of human expression. To him the idea was preposterous that artists and poets could express themselves any old way, regardless of the effect that may have on audiences, and the public in general.  Surrealists like Dali and Bunuel would have challenged this viewpoint from their own understandings of the emerging science of psychology. Surrealism can in fact be seen as a direct outgrowth of Sigmund’s Freuds enormous influence. Suppressing humanity’s darker impulses can only be harmful, the argument goes. Art is a useful way for mankind to get its “shadow” out of its system. Personally, I suspect that both Plato and Freud (and Dali, Bunuel, etc.) are partially right, and that responsible choices can still be made about what to show and what not to show. After all, taken at its extreme, the pro-Freud notion (had it existed at the time) could have been used as an argument in the Roman days for continuing the torture shows in the circuses.
So, should the eye-cutting scene be (forgive the pun) cut? I think that would make an interesting debate. Personally, I’m not sure. The whole purpose of the movie was to shock, thereby stimulating the subconscious mind, the point of surrealist art in general. The film is not pandering to anyone, it is not a commercial film and the motivation for making it was not to make an easy buck, as I suspect it is in the case of directors like Eli Roth (Hostel) and Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, House of a 1000 Corpses). Furthermore, the entire scene lasts only a few seconds. The man doing the cutting is not shown as an evil, leering sadist, and the woman victim is not shown bleeding and screaming afterwards. It is all very clinical, even as it horrifies and shocks. Maybe the above points would be considered mitigating by a review board, maybe not. Personally, I feel they are points worth considering.
What about movies that are considered major artistic achievements that nevertheless contain scenes of extreme violence, such as Goodfellas or Saving Private Ryan? The case of the latter is perhaps the easier one to consider. The Normandy beach sequence was so horrific that the audience response was on a par with the earlier reaction to Psycho. People fled the theaters, or broke down sobbing in their seats. Saving Private Ryan is perhaps the most widely seen movie ever made that doesn’t shy away from the kind of carnage that is the torture porn auteurs’ stock in trade. Plato, no doubt, would nix it without a second thought, but few in our modern age would agree. Director Steven Spielberg’s intentions in showing such extreme violence could not be more clear. He wanted to show what really happens when countries clash. He wanted to impress that reality on our minds in a way that no previous war movie had ever done. It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying the first half hour of violence, identifying with its faceless killers, or getting any type of cheap thrill from it. Spielberg is an undisputed master at provoking the reaction he intends from his audience (to a fault,many would argue), and he made sure this scene became nobody’s wet dream.
Goodfellas is more problematic. It has numerous detractors. There are those who want to know why Martin Scorsese chose to make such a film. If Saving Private Ryan was an anti-war movie (or at least had anti-war overtones), wasn’t Goodfellas practically a pro-mafia one? With his scenes of spoiled hoodlums getting the best tables at the Copacabana, turning jail cells into bachelor pads, and sneering at the rest of us “shmucks”, this is clearly not your average cautionary tale. Far from it. It is more a grandly entertaining celebration of filmmaking that succeeds in entertaining us because its main characters are outrageously over the top, shockingly amoral and (in the case of Tommy and Jimmy) violent beyond our wildest imaginings. These are not people you want to go out and have a beer with. Just ask Billy Batts. In fact, the scene that depicts the unfortunate Mr. Batts’ brutal demise has some 2 million viewings, roughly, in its various incarnations on Youtube, and reading the comments, many of those are repeat viewings. Unlike the Normandy scene in SPR, which I imagine most people are content to see only once, many folks just can’t seem to get enough of Marty’s wiseguys, and their mayhem.

And, Goodfellas is considered by many to be one of the greatest movies ever made. It is a personal favorite of mine as well. Yet is it really all that different from the torture porn movies? Should it get a pass if they don’t? I waver on this one, frankly. Going back to my observations about Un Chien Andalou, I can’t very well argue that my spirit has been elevated in any way by having watched it. I am impressed by the breathtaking talent on display, particularly the masterful direction and Joe Pesci’s Oscar winning turn as Tommy. One might say that watching it and admiring it challenges and inspires me to go as far as I can with my own craft, and that I consider to be a good thing. Beyond that, I’m not really sure how best to argue on its behalf.
That is not to say that I equate Goodfellas in its most existential way with movies like Grotesque and The Devil’s Rejects, the Hostel series, etc. In Goodfellas, bodies are abused terribly, but in those other movies the abuse of bodies is their only reason for existing. Moreover, it is pretty much the only thing, or certainly the main thing, that viewers want to see. This is an area where I feel that societies have a right, perhaps even a duty, to make a stand. In my opinion, a society that does not honor, does not teach love and respect for, does not, if you will, revere, the human body, cannot truly be called civilized. The human body is our vessel while we are here. We don’t know how to make them, and our best scientists don’t know how to make a machine in any way as exquisite as them. We only get one, and without one, we’re pretty much up shit creek. Therefore, protecting and promoting the health of the body should be the central concern of any society, because after all what is society other than an community of human bodies living in close proximity to one another?
Is freedom of expression more important than that? I don’t see how. Freedom of expression is an important concept, of course. But it is, after all, a mental construction. It is an idea that people have come, over time, to accept, and some to revere. It is an invention. The human body is not; it is far beyond that. Whether you believe that it was created by God, or emerged by natural processes, it is decidedly not something that humans came up with and started talking about in the last few thousand years. Torture porn movies do not honor the human body. They spit on the very concept. They use the body’s limitations and capacity for pain as ingredients for a burlesque show of horror. They treat the body with the utmost contempt. What sort of notions – conscious/subconcsious/subliminal – does this create in the viewers of such films? How is it good for society to have its most important and valuable assets being thoroughly trashed for the cheap thrills that provides viewers? How is it wrong for a society to stand up and say, “no” to that?
I feel that censoring such films makes good sense. As to how to go about this, the film review boards of nations would need to go beyond just rating films as unsuitable for children, but would in fact be empowered to decide that some films are not even allowed to be released, shown or distributed. The determining question would be, I feel, something along the lines of “to what degree is this film dependent on the degradation and torture of the human body for its entertainment value?” I believe that there is nothing wrong with asking film directors to answer that simple question. Before being allowed to release a film, I believe that film companies or directors should have to present its outline to the film boards. In the case of directors such as Zombie and Roth, whose reputation, shall we say, proceeds them, I think it would be made clear to them that the odds of getting their next films released were slim to none, but they are welcome to try. Perhaps it would be a good opportunity for they, themselves, to look into what it is they are doing, and feel they are accomplishing. “I want to make this movie because there’s a market for it”. Sorry, you’ll have to do better for that. There is a market for slaves, Saturday Night Specials, and crack cocaine as well, let’s remember.
Clearly, this would lead to a number of films not being made (the whole torture porn genre would be unceremoniously dropped into the dustbin of history), and perhaps a number of scenes being altered or removed from movies that do get made. Perhaps future Goodfellas and SPRs would need to tone down the gore. I’m okay with that, I think. For me, the deeply held philosophical belief that the human body is sacred trumps my (perhaps selfish) desire to see what I want to see, all other considerations be damned. I believe that a group of highly respected professionals, consisting of philosophers, psychiatrists and psychologists, educators, art historians and film experts, etc. could be trusted to devise a sensible set of standards, and make those clear enough for anyone to understand and follow. I think the discussion that would ultimately lead to would, in itself, be good for society, if it got people to question their attitudes toward the human body, the nature of entertainment, and all the philosophical issues that would be raised.
With so much actual cruelty taking place in the world, with so much real bloodshed and pain, is this even a battle worth fighting, some may ask. I feel that it is. I feel that the human spirit, and the great gift that is having a body, would be the ultimate beneficiaries of such censorship. I can’t say for certain that any lives would  be saved, or that any potential psychopath would be steered away from actually becoming one, or sinking deeper into depravity, if pofs were to be outlawed. Nevertheless, I still feel the benefit would be real, and felt. Furthermore, I hardly feel that the human race in any way loses by deciding that people can’t make torture porn movies anymore. Rob Zombie can stick to his music, Eli Roth can stick to his acting, and the director of Grotesque can, I don’t know, go work at a car wash.

 

 

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To Censor Or Not To Censor, 10.0 out of 10 based on 7 ratings

Written by whatsthatsound

Writer, Illustrator, Curmudgeon. Ferret Owner. Tokyoite, formerly Ohioan. Much nicer in person.

347 Responses so far.

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  1. Questinia says:

    Raging Bull Flintstones.


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  2. KQuark says:

    WTS you made a very good argument for censoring the worst of the worst and I agree. I would agree we should outlaw torture porn like we do with child porn.

    But I really don’t think we should censor more in films like Goodfellas at all. The current rating system works fine for them.

    I also agree with what Adlib said about NC-17. I’m not sure if we need another rating but the NC-17 rating is like a ratings suicide. Movies with that rating are rarely seen by enough of the public to do much harm.

    I applaud BBFC’s move to completely censor Grotesque. It’s a somewhat of a Catch 22 because I refuse to watch the movie myself but the BBFC’s argument sounds valid. In other words if the BBFC is true to it’s word, there is no real narrative or character development and the film is only an excuse to show torture porn escalation it should be banned.

    Of course art films are in a category their own and I don’t think really affect a society enough for special consideration one way or another so only local obscenity laws should apply when displaying them.

    I’m far more concerned with how child porn and torture porn affect the mind rather how it depicts the human body even though I know the two are linked. I think society already worships the human body too much, at least in a the harmful way it sets unrealistic standards for people especially woman. I just don’t see that assault on the human body being as prevalent as you see it to be in movies. Sure our tolerance evolves when it comes to seeing violence on television but it has also evolved with language as well. You can say about half of George Carlin’s seven dirty words these days by just having a TV-MA stamp on a network show these days.

    I’m very curious to hear your views on censoring language, human nudity and adult sexuality. It just seems like a worthwhile part of the censorship argument that we haven’t discussed here.

    BTW I did not get what you were describing out of Goodfellas at all. I thought it was more like Henry Hill coming to age movie when he finally comes to the realization that what he thought was cool and something to strive for was just a facade for the reality of mob life. A life where psychopaths rule (like they do in corporate America I may add) and in the end you either end up dead or in prison for the rest of your life. That is unless you are the first member to make a deal.

    Sopranos on the other hand never really had a teaching metaphor like that because the biggest baddest psychopath “won”.

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thanks for the great comments, KQ. Essentially, I completely agree with you about movies such as Goodfellas, SPR, Un Chien Andalou, etc. I just put them out there, because failing to even consider them would do my argument no favors, I reasoned.

      As for current society being already too preoccupied with the body, I agree with that as well. And that is not what I am talking about. I don’t simply refer to its form, and consider that to be, if you will, almost incidental. I am talking about the body as an organism, the machine which we inhabit. It is not only an incredible, some would say miraculous, organism; it is also the essential component of our society.

      Look at it another way. Let’s say your business sells cars. Your entire revenue comes from the sale of cars, and you try your best to hire the best engineers, designers, floor workers, shop workers, sales personnel, etc. Of COURSE you do that! But then, let’s say some weird things start happening. One of your salesmen changes his business card to read, “Shit Salesman”. You call him in and threaten to fire him. “Hey; it was just a joke!”
      Some of your line workers deliberately start installing whoopee cushions into some of the seats. You find out about it. “Hey, it was just a joke! Who got hurt?”, they protest, when you yank them in.
      Your BUSINESS got hurt, that’s what! You’ve got a serious problem on your hand. For some reason your workers don’t take their work, CARS, seriously. They don’t respect them, or themselves apparently. If you’re smart, you fire them, no second chances.
      But, you see, we’re NOT smart. We let some of us folks disrespect the human body any old way with their filmmaking, celebrating the pain it can suffer. “Hey, who gets hurt? It’s just ENTERTAINMENT!”

      Not smart.

      Unh uh.

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  3. whatsthatsound says:

    A humorous case for how Goodfellas can be spared censorship!


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  4. ADONAI says:

    My point is that EVERYONE thinks they know what is best.

    The question is, what gives you the authority to decide for everyone else?

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Obviously, nothing. I don’t HAVE any authority, I am stating my opinion. But I know you understand that and your question is rhetorical.

      Where do I feel that my argument has strength whereas other arguments for censorship that is political, religious, cultural, etc. don’t? This is a very important question, and will either be agreed with or not; likely I can’t say any more about it than I already have.

      All other censorship notions take their ideas from books, such as the Bible, or laws. In other words, things that people made.
      The dignity of the human body is different. It is, as I have written before, the a priori, sine qua non component of a society. No body, no society, it’s that simple. If we can liken society TO a body, we can see that our immune system works very hard to remove and defend against toxins. The human body knows what’s good for it (and has enzymes to make use of that) and what is bad for it (and has an immune system). Our society, if it were to function well (and no, I do not feel that this current society functions well), would do very well, I feel, to model itself in this way.

      But you know what, AD? I think I should probably just do another post on this! :) It’s a kind of a big idea.

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      • KillgoreTrout says:

        wts, thinking of a society in terms of physical whole has it’s pros and cons. Especially the “immune system,” part.
        My next sentence in NO WAY refers to you or anybody else here. Hitler and Goebbels likened the nation of Germany to a body whole. They used this to make their argument against the Jews. They said Jews were like germs, infecting the body (nation) of Germany. Obviously, this was very effective in the attempt to wipe out European Jewry.
        Again my question goes back to WHO is to determine what should be considered a germ, or a virus? There is so much potential for abuse here, that I consider it more dangerous to society than the films and games and porno would be. I think it’s a recipe for disaster.

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        • whatsthatsound says:

          Oh, I completely understand that point, KT. But I don’t think the fact that an idea has been perverted necessarily causes it to be canceled out. My idea, after all, begins with the premise that the human body is not to be harmed or dishonored. That being strictly followed, you don’t get gas chambers.

          KT, as a follow up question, I just want to ask: Who do YOU feel is determining things NOW? Do you think that the choices that affect us all are being made by the wisest people, in the most benevolent possible way, NOW?
          And when you keep bringing up your assertion that this kind of violent porn doesn’t lead to violence, who is your authority on that? Why are THEY to be trusted, but not the people who I feel would be better guardians of this type of thing: i.e. legal experts, psychologists, art historians, philosophers, etc. than companies, directors out to make an easy buck, advertisers, and politicians who can perhaps be persuaded to look the other way?

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          • whatsthatsound says:

            KT, I think that in some ways we truly have been talking past each other. Some of the things you think I mean, I really DO mean, but I haven’t argued for them in a focused enough way because of our different definitions of “porn”. That seems to have caught us up in a loop.
            “Torture porn”, also referred to as “gorno”, is indeed a genre that is shown in theaters. It is referred to as “porn” even if it doesn’t have sexual content, because it is so exploitative (think of the term “food porn”, and how “porn” gets overused in other ways).
            “Saw”, “Hostel”, “Creep” ( a British film), “House of a 1000 Corpses”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, “Chaos”, etc. all had theater releases. I think each and every one of them should come up for review by a film board that has the power not only to rate them, but actually nix them. In my opinion, they add absolutely nothing to society; rather, they bring it down.
            But of course I would not be the only person to decide this, or even a member of a board that DID decide. I just think such a board should exist. That’s pretty much the whole point of my article.
            I absolutely feel that directors should have the power to argue vehemently for why their film(s) should be allowed, just as someone applying for a patent can. But I feel that there should be laws that would allow some films to be banned from any form of release, and that decision would be final after directors and studios had exhausted all appeals.

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            • KillgoreTrout says:

              wts, thanks for the clarification. I see what you mean, now.
              I agree about torture films like the ones you’ve mentioned. I see no value at all in them. I have never been a fan of slasher films and only viewed the first “Saw,” movie. I thought it was a stupid film.
              I am not sure about making such films illegal. As I said before, I think it is a dangerously slippery slope. I do think such films should be accompanied by severe warnings. Maybe a new letter in the ratings system. Parents need to know that these films could be detrimental to their child’s mental health.

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          • KillgoreTrout says:

            wts, I never argued for, “violent porn.” When I say violence, I am talking about the slasher films like Nightmare on Elm Street and others in that genre.
            I think we have been laboring under a confusion of sorts here.
            I believe that the Supreme Court ultimately has the last say on what is legal or not legal. Like I said earlier, the type of porn you are talking about is not shown in theaters or on TV. People have to search for those films on VHS or DVD. They pretty much have to go the black market to get such crap.

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      • ADONAI says:

        WTS, It really is. I’d love to see you expand on it. I feel like it would really open up new avenues of discussion and that’s always a good thing.

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  5. AdLib says:

    WTS, wonderful artwork and very thoughtful essay on film, art, morality and society.

    Though I oppose it for reasons I’ll explain below, I wish there was a way to censor the corrosive, exploitative films that have no redeeming value such as this Grotesque example.

    I don’t think the argument against censorship on such garbage like this should ever be that it’s art. All films are not automatically art (as those who paid to see Transformers 2 can attest).

    It is “The Film Business”, some films are made purely to exploit an audience for profit. Those films and those making such films are not and should not be treated as art or artists.

    So, in my book, strike that as reason to allow torture porn in theaters.

    The concern is best personified by Teabaggers.

    Yes, those who are thoughtful could act effectively as filters to keep horrific “entertainment” out of the social bloodstream but if government can decide what films should or shouldn’t be allowed to be shown to the public, where will we be if it is Michele Bachmann or one of her minions who gets to make that call.

    Would any Michael Moore films escape censorship for being poisonous to society or treasonous?

    Would any films with gay relationships, supporting abortion or attacking the wealthy and corporations make it past claims of undermining our social values?

    Put aside the “slippery slope” cliche, let’s instead use the Musical Chairs one. Put the power of deciding which films are corrosive to society in the hands of government and though that may be wielded fairly by liberal, the POV of a Teabagger in that same position would likely result in a whole different approach and range of “anti-social” films targeted.

    I think the solution is having the MPAA add a category such as PU (as in it stinks) to apply to films that are without any redeeming value and simply exploitative and offensive.

    Make the restrictions the same as NC-17 rated films, no one under the age of 18 admitted but require theaters to strictly enforce it or suffer harsh fines. People in the film biz know how it’s the kiss of death to get an NC-17 rating. Most newspapers and tv stations won’t allow NC-17 films to advertise, many theaters won’t run trailers for them.

    So, a PU rating would not enforce the banning of films but would limit the available publicity and audience which would make it less desirable to distributors to have a PU film. Yes, some theaters might not enforce well even if fined for it or some minors might sneak in but given time, the process of tainting films that get the PU rating would have a profound impact.

    The MPAA should be reformed in the process to allow for more representation of the public and get rid of the current double standard of banishing certain kinds of nudity or sexuality to NC-17 while allowing horrendous, graphic violence as R or even PG-13.

    BTW, if you haven’t seen it, check out this trailer for a fascinating film about the MPAA, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”:


    I do agree that constantly bathing society with sadistic and violent imagery is corrosive to a society and its sensibilities. At the same time, banning things often makes many who wouldn’t watch something, excited about seeing it.

    So my suggestion is strip such exploitative trash of being art or forbidden fruit, make them rotten eggs instead. P-U!

    Oh and as for Goodfellas, also one of my faves (and a forerunner to The Sopranos, also one of my faves) it was based upon a book, “Wiseguy” which was written about real life gangster Henry Hill, who’s portrayed by Ray Liotta in the movie.

    Now…here is the question. If someone (not you of course) suggested Goodfellas should have been banned…should not the book it was based on have been banned? Then, if we are banning books and movies that may even be historically accurate but contain graphic violence, would we not have to censor documentaries that deal openly with certain issues that could have graphic violence?

    And how would all of this have been administered in a Bush Administration that covered Lady Justice with a cloak in the Department of Justice?

    Censorship is either immediate or eventual quicksand. However, scenting that which degrades a society as garbage will accomplish much of the same goals without creating problems further down the line.

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Adlib, great comments and thank you for the trailer. I’d never heard of it.
      The argument that you can damn a movie like “Grotesque” with a certain kind of rating seems to not take into account the fact that producers of movies like it know from the get-go that their movie probably won’t get shown much, or at all, and is of the “straight to video” variety. They appeal to a niche market for the most part, but a substantial enough one to make the enterprise financially worthwhile. It can also boost their reputation and/or provide them with cash to make more mainstream movies.It is a crass, vulgar bit of commerce that I hardly see changing with the precautions you mention.

      The more important argument you make is: create the law, what happens when the government changes? This is certainly a danger and a risk. The point would be not to strike down the idea altogether, but to safeguard it against encroachment. For example, start by mandating that film companies, before making a film, submit its outline to a review board. If it seems to be a “Grotesque” in the making, call the producer and ask them to answer the simple question I placed in my post, to what degree does this film depend on the torture of the human body for its entertainment value? Give movie makers like Zombie every opportunity to defend their movie, but stick to caveat that a movie whose SOLE raison d’etat is to depict cruelty will not be accepted.
      A RW government would have to do an awful lot of fudging to change “torture of the human body” to homosexual themes, for example, and even further to argue that homosexuality was the SOLE point of the film. These are my ideas just off the top of my head. I am sure that a panel of specialists, naturally including lawyers, could come up with even more cut and dry rules that would be difficult to manipulate and/or alter.

      Another point you raise concerns the book “Wiseguys”. You will note that in my post I don’t even mention books. To my thinking, they perhaps needn’t be supervised in any way. Film, games, etc. are a much more powerful medium, an actual stimulant, much more so than reading, which is intellectual, emotional, etc. I think we have to take the medium into consideration (agreeing with Marshall MacLuhan, perhaps, in this regard).

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    • choicelady says:

      Hi AdLib! Overall I agree. I have never been able to pin this slippery slope down EVER.

      But as I had said, waaaaay back in the comments, we DO regulate commercial speech, and we do it all the time. We also regulate child pornography EVEN when no actual kids were exploited in the creation (cartoons etc.) So how is this different from either?

      Porn does, too often, involve the exploitation of people, usually women and children, who are trafficked and forced to make it. Violent porn can influence people with the prediliction to act on it where it becomes a ‘how to’ manual. Porn made with no story, no political point of view -- just as apparently this one has been -- and distributed for money, is what? Art? Hardly. It’s commerce, isn’t it?

      And yet -- who is judging? I think you’re quite right that it is a slippery slope, but the presence of 1. exploited people (human trafficking and genuine snuff films produce police investigations); 2. sheer violence and exploitative sex for their own sake; 3. speech sold for money. These three elements MIGHT give us a way to categorize things that are beyond the pale.

      We have an insistence on rights but very little insistence on responsibility of speech and communication. There are place and time restrictions on all speech, and there are things such as “true threats” that undermine the absolute right to say whatever you wish. Those plus commercial standards for purely commercial speech are used all the time to rein in speech for the greater good.

      I don’t know if it IS possible to use good judgment on a society-wide basis when there is no such thing as a single societal standard for films such as “Brokeback Mountain” even if there might be for this sort of garbage.

      So it is a conundrum. A free society really is a hard place in which to live.

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      • KillgoreTrout says:

        choice, thank goodness that child porn is totally illegal. I don’t think anybody here would argue in favor of it. So, it shouldn’t even be on a list within this discussion. It is ILLEGAL, as well it should be. There will never be child porn that is shown in theaters, or on TV, and though it does exist on DVDs and VHS, but those too are illegal to sell or possess. So I think we can rule out these types of movies when talking about censorship.

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        • choicelady says:

          But why JUST that? Is it Ok when the image or the reality is about violently debasing women who likely really ARE held in bondage forced to act in those films? Why kids and not 18 year old women who’ve been kidnapped and trafficked? Or even films with free-will 18 year olds who may voluntarily be filming stores about women who are depicted as kidnapped, raped, forced into sado masochistic sex? We can’t deny those have influence.Those who watch this filth and are enticed by the money and maybe the fear of the women DO act on the impulse.

          I don’t know I can see the distinction.

          That said, I was utterly horrified as a teen by the rape scene in “The Women” with Sophia Loren, but it is a powerful film, and the scene depicted an aspect of reality in women’s lives in WW II.

          No one can adequately define the difference, I do understand that, but ultimately the issue for me comes down to slavering voyerism vs. empathic critique. I can draw the distinction. I’m not sure society can.

          But I ask again -- can we reverse the question about “free speech rights” and ask if the test might be “free speech responsibility”? That does clarify for me just as the commercial cynicism does.

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          • KillgoreTrout says:

            choice, I think forcing women to be in any sort of film is illegal. I believe they have to sign a consent form. I am not certain of this, though. I would think that such films would already be illegal.
            As I said about violent films such as GF and SPR and many other well done films, is if the violence is a part of the story, then it should be depicted. I prefer realism in film making. Not gratuitous violence, or violence striving for shock value.
            Prior to the 1960s, there really was no graphic violence in films. Yeah there were plenty of “shoot em up,” westerns and gangster movies, war pictures, but the violence wasn’t graphic.
            If violence is not really part of the story, then I think depicting such violence is un-necessary.
            I think there should be a responsibility for a film maker to tell a story as truly as possible. I do think rape scenes should not be too graphic. I find such scenes hard to watch. But if it is part of the story, then it shouldn’t be disallowed. It’s a very nasty fact of life that such violence toward women happens. It should never be encouraged by any film, but films shouldn’t be so antiseptic that they portray a world that isn’t real. Just my opinion.

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            • KillgoreTrout says:

              wts, I think you are correct about our mind sets. And it’s always OK to agree to disagree. You make good points to consider. I am just pretty leery about censorship issues.

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            • whatsthatsound says:

              KT, replying here because we ran out of “Reply” buttons above. I am glad that we were able to sort out the semantic issue that seemed to keep us in a loop of misunderstanding. I understand your points and clarifications. I think that philosophically we are very much of the same mind, though we still have different ideas about how the law may come to bear on this.

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      • Artist50 says:

        CL -- Very well said. I can’t vote on the side of censorship but I have grave concerns about the exploitation of women and children in the making of these films, and I am very concerned about them getting into young peoples hands. Yes, the world should be full of perfect parents, but it’s not!

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      • Abbyrose86 says:

        Choicelady, as usual I agree with your point of view and appreciated how you articulated your arguments throughout his thread. Thank you!

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      • whatsthatsound says:

        “We have an insistence on rights but very little insistence on responsibility of speech and communication.”

        So true, and so well put, c-lady!

        I also like what Truth wrote, adding to a comment of mine about respectfulness.

        “Only alongside such attributes it becomes free speech, without them its is merely unrestricted speech.”

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  6. bzb says:

    A nice well written article which made me think of this post:

    What did Huffpost do with my Article?

    This past Friday, my article “Meet the New Soviets: Gingrich, Walker, Breitbart”, was yanked from the Huffington Post after being up for 8 hours. (My article is still not up, but you can read it here.) The reasons it was pulled are troubling to me and should be a concern to anyone who wonders about the future editorial directions of Huffington Post…..

    …..Breitbart’s tweet within two hours of my posting:

    Find the inappropriate ad hominems about me, Newt Gingrich & Scott Walker in this fresh @HuffingtonPost piece:http://huff.to/hf9ivc andrewbreitbart Highly Influential 3 days ago……

    http://dirtyhippies.org/2011/03/29/what-did-huffpost-do-with-my-article/
    ************************************
    If anyone still has an account at Huffington Shit then you’re part of the problem.

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    • Abbyrose86 says:

      @bzb….as you might know…when I left HP, I deleted myself and HAVE not gone back not even for a moment. I WILL NOT support that organization anymore, in anyway shape or form.

      I agree with you…those who continue to keep going there are perpetuating the problems over there. Sadly, this is one of those things, people have to decide for themselves. Eventually, I think HP, will have pissed off enough people, that more and more leave as time goes on.

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    • kesmarn says:

      Wow, bzb, it appears you touched the proverbial third rail at Huffy when you mentioned Breitbart in less than laudatory terms. Hell hath no fury like an Aryana offended, it seems.

      In a way, their rejection is a badge of honor, but that probably doesn’t help much…

      I was active there for about a year, then threw in the towel when the censorship became genuinely odious.

      Thanks for supplying us with a way to do an end run around HP’s censorship and get to your article.

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      • bzb says:

        You’re welcomed, I just get upset when people like her use people in such away that only benefits her and no one else.

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        • choicelady says:

          Maybe we should send her a copy of the video that began this discussion? She is doing gratuitous violence to free speech simply because she CAN. This is the area that we have not really discussed -- the curtailing of free expression by the PRIVATE sector. (OK -- I’ve not read ALL the replies so forgive me if we did wade through that, and I missed it.)

          I remember being horrified that every single Constitutional right stops at your employers’ door. No free speech, no right to petition and assemble, no safeguard from unreasonable searches and seizures -- your locker is “their” property, so tough nuggies. Your home can be bugged by your employer if they “suspect” you are affecting corporate profits somehow -- never forget Karen Silkwood.

          And yet -- there is not one word in the Constitution guaranteeing the rights of private property other than due process. Case law -- oh, my. But the Constitution? Nada. And still after all these years, property trumps personal freedom every single day.

          Not only can you not watch slasher videos even on break time, but you cannot read what the employer deems “bad” things. You may not speak freely. You may not even drink a Pepsi if you work for Coke. Guy got fired for that -- real case.

          IMHO -- censorship of slasher films might just be the LEAST of our problems.

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          • Abbyrose86 says:

            OH my goodness gracious…THANK YOU CHOICE LADY, for bringing this up!

            THIS subject, that the rights of a US citizen do not apply when in the employ of a corporation, has been bothering me for YEARS. I say the the whole concept is utter BULLSHIT. I do not think it was NOT the intent of the founders, to cede citizens rights to private enterprise. Most of the founders were anti corporations, so the whole idea that they would limit a citizens rights to a private business entity…is hogwash and that fact that so many BUY into it is hogwash as well.

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  7. Truth says:

    From the I-Ching:

    Unlimited possibilities are not suited to mankind. If they existed, his life would only dissolve into the boundless.

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    • choicelady says:

      It’s probably true, but it’s also the rationale the extreme religious right gives for keepint their children away from “harmful” things such as the radical notion GLBT people are human beings. I actually heard a mother SAY that -- children’s imaginations must be bounded. Why does it seem OK in I Ching and so chilling in her hands?

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      That’s very neat; I like how that works on both an esoteric level and can also add to the discussion here.

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  8. Truth says:

    ***Whats, I so agree with some of what you say on this issue and you raise many very important questions. To highlight again just a few of them:

    ….As we are obviously moving in that direction technologically, don’t we need to be thinking about how okay we are with that? When cruelty, whether real, filmed, or holographically simulated, is considered entertainment, doesn’t that throw up a red flag, or shouldn’t it? It does for me, certainly….

    ***Hell yes, of course it raises a red flag to me too. I only wondered why all the violence seen on the screen is widely seen as “normal”. Yet as you rightly pointed out:

    …The human race has certainly evolved in terms of what it no longer considers entertainment. Romans went to watch gladiators fight to the death, starved animals loosed upon slaves, criminals, Christians, etc., and a vast parade of cruelties at their circuses…

    ***And I especially like this part of your article: How to react to something that has slithered in and is learnt to be not beneficial:

    …Soon after, the tribe would come to recognize that their teeth were rotting, their overall health was decreasing and their children were becoming hyperactive and irritable. The tribal elders would insist that the tribe be allowed no more ice cream bars. They would censor that which they correctly determined to be harmful….

    ***But sadly the modern society looks more like that:

    …And, unfortunately, we don’t have tribal elders coming to the conclusion that this is not good for us. That it is poisoning our very souls. Instead, we have “staunch defenders of freedom of expression”….

    ***Next the question arises as to who really profits of unrestrained freedom of expression? First of all, I think “freedom of expression” is a largely misunderstood term. And as you point out there are certain restrictions already in place anyway, as in the case of the sexual predator. But by no means enough, in my opinion. And I think those who profit of unrestricted freedoms are mostly not the people, but the corporations. A healthy society has restrictions.

    Here’s some more food for thought:

    …In other words, media experts will vociferously argue (if there’s a buck to be made) that even subtle messages, through repeated exposure, can and do influence the external behavior of an audience. …

    ***Indeed the unrestricted violence in games and media seems to have led in India too to a lot more gruesome rapes and murders over the past 10 years. I did observe the increase in violence over that time span -- and I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that Indians became richer and have more TVs and DVD’s available. If I happen to be in a hotel and watch TV, which I then (would) enjoy I can hardly find something worth to watch.

    ***So finally, to cut it a bit short:

    …That raises the question as to what is art for? Should it only be that which elevates our spirits, expands our horizons, etc.?…

    *** My question: what else should it be for? I’m not saying everybody should play the harp and the harp only, but one can bring up even unpleasant themes in a way that they lead to something good. Art should come from as well as appeal to our higher selves in my opinion. And is there a bigger joy than to make the world a little bit a nicer place?

    PS: I noticed you shifted many items to the Art section — great!

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hi Truth, Great comments, and a very nice abridged presentation of my main points. I am not surprised, but very saddened, by the information about India. Yet we keep hearing there is “no evidence”. This makes me wonder; why do people not want “experts” telling them what they can watch, but they DO trust “experts” who tell them, in SPITE of what you write about India, what I wrote about Japan, and in SPITE of the fact that Ted Bundy, himself, charged pornography with stoking his depravity, that exposure to sadism doesn’t affect the brain in potentially dangerous ways? Could it be, mightn’t it just be, that THESE experts are just as trustworthy as the ones that everyone seems so afraid of?
      Maybe, just maybe, they say there’s no evidence because admitting there is would harm an industry? Just a thought. Maybe, just maybe, the studies are just as skewed as the industry sponsored test studies on environmental change. Just putting that out there.
      Again, thanks for your really thoughtful comments and encouraging words.

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      • Truth says:

        “Could it be, mightn’t it just be, that THESE experts are just as trustworthy as the ones that everyone seems so afraid of?
        Maybe, just maybe, they say there’s no evidence because admitting there is would harm an industry? Just a thought. Maybe, just maybe, the studies are just as skewed as the industry sponsored test studies on environmental change. Just putting that out there.”

        —That’s most probably the case, whats.

        What really bugs me is that as far as I came to know them both the Indian and the Japanese are such a peaceful and patient people. It took centuries to build these characteristics in an entire population, and it takes only a few years to tear- at least some of it -- down.

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  9. escribacat says:

    Whats--I just scrolled through all the comments looking for something you said yesterday….it was something about the “thought sphere,” I think was your term, and how it’s polluted by all this vile output. It’s really stuck in my mind. I absolutely believe in this. Something like the collective unconscious that we all share. I couldn’t find your comment again though. Do you happen to remember what you said?

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hi e-cat and Crazy Cat Lady, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to talk a little more about this “thought sphere”, because I think it will help me answer Crazy Cat Lady as well.

      The collective unconscious is of course, Jung’s term. The “noosphere” is a term that was used by Teilhard de Chardin, Buckminster Fuller, and others.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noosphere

      What it means is essentially that just as there is a biosphere from which all life emerges, and atmosphere (that is changed by the elements of the biosphere, and vice versa), etc., there is also a “thought sphere” that is the collective of human thought, art, subconscious, etc.
      It can be looked at this way. Mozart was a great composer, and his operas and music have elevated mankind. Now, you personally may be someone who has never listened to Mozart, and don’t even like classical music. Still, for all you know, your favorite teacher in high school, the one who encouraged you when no one else did and you can thank for choosing the career you did, may have LOVED Mozart. Listening to Mozart may have so profoundly touched and influenced this teacher that she always strove for excellence in her own field, teaching. And YOU benefit from that, even though you are not interested in M’s music.
      On the other hand, let’s say there is someone who really likes torture porn. He can’t get enough of it. He thinks it’s “cool” , but in no way does he feel that it changes his thinking or alters its behavior. It’s “just entertainment”. You work together, and he asks you out. You know nothing about his tastes in movies. But somehow, you get a “vibe” from him, that although he seems nice, something about the way he looks at you just creeps you out. ALL women know this feeling, I think. I’m not saying it HAS to be, but it MIGHT be that his views of the female body, his hours spent watching it tortured and degraded, have rubbed off on you, through the noosphere. This I think is possible.
      But these are both individual cases. To really understand the noosphere, we have to envision both types of scenarios, and countless others, taking place all the time, EVERY time human beings interact and share something of their consciousness with another. And go back to the very origins of thought, and possibly even into the future. THIS is the noosphere, and I think it’s real.

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      • escribacat says:

        Thank you, Whats. This subject is very interesting to me. I have a strong sense about it, if you know what I mean. At the risk of sounding almost childish, it seems to me this is where art originates. This is why you can create a piece of art that resonates for me or vice versa. And I mean the full meaning of the word “resonate.” I’m talking about a reaction that is beyond language. It’s an intimate recognition. I suppose you could explain it away by saying we are all humans but I sense that it’s much more than that. We are all connected humans — and it’s a connection beyond living on the planet, inhabiting human bodies, and speaking languages to one another.

        Have you seen “What the Bleep Do We Know” or heard of the book “The Field?” These are more of a scientific approach but seem to me to be closely related.

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        • whatsthatsound says:

          Hi e-cat. Yes, that’s it, I think. Not that we are all humans, but that we are all connected humans, in numerous ways.
          I haven’t seen the movie, or even heard about the book, but I’ll look into The Field, certainly, and maybe get around to watching the film.
          I also very much like “The Gaia Hypotesis” and have enjoyed watching interviews with its originator, James Lovelock.

          We live in a very interesting world/universe! :)

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      • Truth says:

        Since all life is intricately intertwined, how could the thought sphere possibly be separate?

        How I sometimes wished it were! Yet it’s amazing how people act on mere thoughts. I do observe regularly that people get uncomfortable if I entertain for example angry thoughts.
        People may not know what others think, but we certainly feel at ease or not depending on what others think. Animals react even more sensitive to thoughts.

        Then there is Rupert Sheldrakes interesting experiment ( or observation? I forgot the exact details) about some monkeys on an island that all of a sudden started to wash their veggies. Soon after monkeys on a entirely different island started to wash them too!

        Thus Sheldrake developed his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory.

        He can be seen talking here:


        And what a nice and lively person he is. I’ve never seen him before I watched this video. (He’s talking telepathy here, not explaining his morphic resonance theory as such)

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    • KillgoreTrout says:

      I wouldn’t use Ted Bundy as a source for what drove him to do the atrocious things he did. I seriously doubt that porn is responsible for his horrific acts. He came from a dysfunctional family, and had, let’s say, “mother issues.” The man was insane and I doubt much of anything he said was true. He tried to place the blame for his acts on society, just like Manson tried to do, and who knows how many others. I don’t buy the old, “a corrupt society made me do it, defense.

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      • whatsthatsound says:

        KT, with all due respect, I think that is a very convenient response from someone who has already made up ones mind about this. Here we have a serial killer, the REAL THING, saying that his viewing habits influenced him, and you say, nothing to see here, can’t be trusted.
        Of course I don’t feel that it was the only thing, of course his family life contributed. But how can you be so sure about what he says about porn?

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        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I am sure because millions of people have watched and do watch. They aren’t out there killing anybody. Bundy was a scumbag, through and through. I wouldn’t believe a word he told me.

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          • whatsthatsound says:

            KT, in all honesty I simply can’t authenticate this argument. Nothing Bundy says should be believed? And yet his testimony turned up bodies. You yourself say that you attribute his pathology to his upbringing. May I assume that at least some of the information about his “mommy issues”, as you put it, came from him? Should all of that be disregarded, and only other sources pertaining to that be validated?

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        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I appreciate your reply, but I stick by what I said. Bundy was a notorious liar. Millions of people watch porn. Why aren’t they out there slaughtering innocent women?

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          • whatsthatsound says:

            Khirad, when KT and I discuss “porn”, we are referring to extremely violent porn, not “boobies”. I am not privy to what Bundy kept in his collection, but let me just assume that it was a tad more than Victoria’s Secret catalogs, yes?

            So what I, and others, have repeatedly argued in various ways that KT won’t allow for, is that a.) violent porn is not the ONLY factor in sexual sadism and b.) no, not EVERYONE who exposes themselves to it becomes a sadist, but SOME might, or might feel more encouraged to act out their fantasies.

            I don’t see what is hard about this.
            Not EVERYONE who drives drunk will eventually wind up in a fatal accident.
            Not EVERYONE who has free speech will behave like the Westboro nuts.
            Not EVERYONE who smokes will die of lung cancer.
            Not EVERYONE who watches American Idol will like it.
            SOME will, not EVERYONE.
            People are complex. No less so our behavior and its causes.

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            • KillgoreTrout says:

              wts, I am not sure where, torture porn is shown in theaters and on TV. I know there is an underground market for such filth, but otherwise I don’t think it should be part of this discussion. Such films are underground for a reason. I wouldn’t want such films to be legal either.

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            • KillgoreTrout says:

              wts, what am not allowing for? I never said you couldn’t make the arguments you’ve made, I simply disagree with some of the things you’ve written.

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            • whatsthatsound says:

              KT, not ONCE in this post have I ever said that pornography as such should be banned. I am talking about violent porn, specifically “torture porn”.
              I need to head out now, but I am really hoping we can continue this debate, and furthermore perhaps recognize better what we are really saying to each other. I have no argument with you that pornography, within limits, should be free to anyone who wishes to watch it.

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            • KillgoreTrout says:

              wts, I am not talking about violent porn. I am talking about the usual fare. And Bundy giving body dump locations was done in the hopes of getting life in prison, in exchange for the death penalty.
              Since we don’t know what sort of porn Bundy was talking about, I think we should cease using him as an example. It just doesn’t fit in this debate about what is shown in theaters and on TV. As I said, millions of people, around the world watch porn, and they aren’t going out killing people.

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          • whatsthatsound says:

            I feel like I, and others here, have answered this question ad nauseum.

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    • Chernynkaya says:

      E’cat-you can maybe find it easier if you click on the “Comments” on the gray bar at the top of the page. You may have to go back a page or tow there though. I saw it there earlier.

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  10. Chernynkaya says:

    Whts—I read this when it first appeared and it is simply one of the best posts I’ve ever read. It is so well thought out and sincere and honest. I so appreciate how you have given us a look into your thought process. And it is a true testament to your post that it elicited so many wonderful responses—This is one of the best conversations around.

    So, where do I stand? I need to spend the time to write it out fully—it is not an easy answer, but my heart agrees with you. I have yet to know where my mind stands, but I’m working on that!

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hi Cher,

      I agree, it is NOT an easy answer. It is a very difficult matter to apply fairness to, and it challenges us on both an individual level and a societal one. That’s why we see so much excellent commentary from both sides of the debate on this thread.
      I feel that there are so many ways that our society has lost its way; our warmongering, factory farming, poisoning the environment, etc. etc. ALL of these seem to stem from Commerce just doing whatever the hell it wants, screw everything else, and we just go along, and along and along. We are a free society that is killing itself, but hey, we’re “free” to do that, right? Give me my RIGHTS, dammit, and when it gets too bad, pass the revolver over this way.

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  11. SequimBob2 says:

    WTS: Compliments on inspiring a lot of thoughtful discussion with your post. I’ve been thinking about censorship of late following the Supreme Court ruling on the Westboro protest case. The fact is I’m still thinking and pondering… and thinking some more.

    I can’t imagine anything I would find much harder than burying a child — unless that act required me to first run a gauntlet of protesters with signs reading, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and such.

    In his dissent with the majority ruling, Justice Alito said, “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims…”

    I agree with Alito, but maybe this is the proverbial slippery slope I’ve always been warned about.

    Still thinking. Thank you.

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    • kesmarn says:

      SB2, I’m certainly no fan of Alito’s. But I had the same reaction to his comments that you did. My thought? “I hate to admit it, but the man has a point.” Like you, I find the next question is “where do we go from here?” Honestly, I’m not at all sure.

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      • SequimBob2 says:

        Yeah, ’tis with some chagrin that I find myself on the same side of the aisle as Mr. Alito. If you ever hear me agree with Clarence Thomas, however, I’d appreciate it if you would send in an intervention team. :-)

        As for where we go from here, I’m just anxiously waiting for the 2012 polls to open. I’ll be there with as many neighbors as I can muster. I don’t relish the prospect of living in Kochville, USA. In the meantime, I’ll continue to think… ponder… and consider the thoughts of others as I orbit the planet. What a great site!

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hey, SB2, thanks a lot! I’m still thinking too, virtue of all these cogent arguments and insightful posts. The Westboro group are disgusting; just trying to shock and provoke, just as the torture porn directors do. I disagree with the idea that anything goes. Free speech IS an important cornerstone of our society, but so should be decency and respect, etc.
      These just aren’t easy issues; I’d rather be discussing and debating them than assuming they’re all settled.

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  12. ADONAI says:

    Every new medium is seen as the downfall of society. Video games are no different.

    Movies received the same treatment. As did plays. Music. Comics. Books in general. But it’s all an attempt to explain behavior that has existed long before any of those things were ever invented. A means to excuse us from the animals we very much are.

    So, basically, bad thoughts lead to bad actions and good thoughts lead to good actions.

    As someone who was once an adolescent boy, I can assure you that is definitely not the rule.

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Adonai, I think the main thrust of your argument, that people are “animals” and some of us behave badly, could just as easily be given FOR censorship. If what you are saying is true, then of course tribal elders, priests, kings, etc. will take it as a duty to do whatever possible to limit this animal expressing itself. After all, isn’t that what the burka is for? To dissuade lustful men from expressing their “animal nature”?

      I think my idea is actually very simple. The human body is sacred. If you don’t like that word, let’s just start by admitting that it is THE most essential element OF a society. Teaching respect for it, and the importance of not doing harm to it, seems like a no-brainer to me. Show it harmed, raped, mutilated, degraded -- for ENTERTAINMENT? Hmmmm… not such a good idea,methinks. If you have a valuable diamond, you don’t want to display it covered in shit. Nor do you want viewers to think of it AS shit.

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      • ADONAI says:

        WTS, It’s still a diamond.

        What about the artist who painted a picture of the Virgin Mary and then covered it in elephant shit? It’s art, right? I defended it.

        Total honesty, no. I don’t think the human body is sacred or the most vital part of society. But let’s get to my larger point. Doesn’t matter if you or I think it’s wrong to have that kind of “entertainment”. If a majority enjoys it, we have no right to take it away. Especially if it isn’t actually harming anyone.

        I believe you care. I believe you believe this is the right thing. But there are far too many singular pronouns in there for this to be democratic. If we don’t like it, we choose not to participate in it. Anything more is arrogance. A supreme belief that you know what is best.

        The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

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        • whatsthatsound says:

          Adonai, you don’t believe that the human body is the most vital part of society, but I feel that society may just disagree with you there. If I see you in a parking lot, and I say, “Hey stupid, you’re the ugliest person I’ve seen all year!” and walk away, nothing will happen to me. I have exercised my free speech. However, if I come up to you in the same parking lot and slug you, I can be hauled off to jail and sued by you as well.
          What’s the difference? In the first case, I hurt your mind, and in the second, I hurt your body. This is a case of society stating its preference.
          Without bodies, you simply don’t have society, period, and so we have laws that reflect their importance.

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      • escribacat says:

        To take that a step further, whats, the being inside the body is sacred as well.

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    • Sabreen60 says:

      I think EVERYTHING we see and hear has an impact on us. It may or may not be conscious. Can anyone deny that music touches us. It may sooth; make us want to dance; cry or laugh; we may hate it or love it. But it brings about some kind of feeling. Are images different? Why ARE people more violent today in this country than they were 40 years ago? Is it ONLY because there are more guns? Is Post Traumatic Shock” real? Can one become immune to violence because they have seen so much violence? Censorship is indeed a difficult issue. As a parent (although my son is grown) I know that while I attempted to keep certain images away from my son, not all parents were so inclined, which meant that since I could not be with my son 24/7 he saw things that I would not have allowed. I find this whole censorship much more difficult when viewed through the eyes of a mother.

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      • ADONAI says:

        Sabreen, Music, books, films, and any other experience do not conjure up anything that isn’t already there. In some cases it crystallizes it.

        These images and sounds don’t make you what you are. They aren’t real. And anyone who can’t tell the difference has a problem that manifested independently of it’s own accord.

        Then the question becomes, is that worth censoring something? On the off chance someone may see it and their particular insanity doesn’t process it like everyone else.

        And what do you base the less violent 40 years ago claim on? That was a time period of incredible strife. We are not living in unique times. Though many like to think we do. These are all arguments people were having 40 years ago. Is the media too violent? Should we be censoring things? What is acceptable and what isn’t?

        And I don’t have kids so I can’t really comment on that. You just do the best you can I guess. Parents are the first and last censors. It should always be their decision. And you can’t really prevent everything I guess but have faith that you raise them right and I think they will deal with it the way you would want them to. It worked for me and i was a pretty crazy kid.

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        • Buddy McCue says:

          ADONAI -- It’s certainly true that we are not living in unique times.

          Take the following quote for example:

          “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders… they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

          Of which generation was this said? The present generation? Generation X? The “Baby Boomer” generation?

          No, it was said by Socrates back in the 5th century BC. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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        • Sabreen60 says:

          Well do I know that this country has always been violent -- against some more than others. However, I also know that young people are exposed to so much more than I was while growing up. Children ARE more sexually active at an earlier age and many who are not active have enough information to make a hooker blush (a slight exaggeration). Surely the explicit sexual and violent images that young people see have SOME influence on them. No, all of them or maybe not even most of them will act on what they see and hear, but it influences them. For a while it was “way cool” to call girls biitches and hos because they heard it in the music and they repeated it. So, yes I do believe what we see and hear MAY influence our beliefs and our actions.

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          • ADONAI says:

            Sabreen, I agree with you pretty much. There are more outlets today for kids to be exposed to this stuff.

            But it still goes back to the parent. The first and last line of defense.

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            • ADONAI says:

              Sabreen, Well, peer pressure is a whole other issue. You’re not being influenced by your own perception of an abstract medium. You’re being directly influenced by outside pressure from a group of peers. And it is indeed a bitch.

              But, in my case, boys will be boys. Kids screw up. That’s what they do. They’re kids. How they screw up is usually not important. What is important, it seems to me, is how the parent responds to it.

              Kids, and I’m really speaking from my own experience here, have friends and teachers and mentors like sports coaches , but the parent or the person raises them is what sets the bar for them. Especially early on.

              Whatever standard you present, they will try to carry. However fairly or poorly. And if everyone can just survive those teenage years, it may have all been worth it. Who knows? They’re fuckin’ kids. But, the kids are alright. The kids, are alright. :)

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            • Sabreen60 says:

              I agree with you about the importance of good parenting. But I know some young people from really good two parent homes that have gotten into a lot of trouble. Do not underestimate the influence of peer pressure. :o

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      • Artist50 says:

        Agreed -- luckily mine are grown too, but now I have grandchildren. I had to decide whether to show Bambi to my 21/2 yr old last weekend. Luckily he didn’t really understand the part where Bambi’s mom was shot.

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      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Sabreen, I have often wondered, are we really more violent today or is it that the news of violence is so prevalent, and there are many more of us now than there was 40 years ago. America has a very violent history. All the way back to our founding. So I wonder.
        I can assure you that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is very real.

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        • Artist50 says:

          So doesn’t that tell us that the violent images must have an effect or do we have to live them? I just don’t understand the allure -- I’m not interested in watching. I remember years ago playing “Children of the Corn” with my then teenage sons and after the first scene we all elected to turn it off.

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          • KillgoreTrout says:

            Artist, I said earlier in this thread that I don’t care for gratuitous violence. Violence, just for the sake of violence.
            Movie making is story telling. If there is violence essential to the story, then I think that is OK. Actually, I would insist on it.
            People’s taste for violence hasn’t changed much in the last two or three thousand years. People (not all people)have an irresistible urge to look at car crashes, murder scenes, fires…etc. There is something in the human mind that feels compelled to watch the suffering of others, only if it is just a glance. Why is this? Not being trained in the science of the mind, I must say I don’t really know.
            Many people like to be frightened, even if it’s vicarious. Why do people love roller coasters? It’s a controlled way of being scared out of one’s wits. It is a physical thrill.
            I could certainly live without slasher films and torture flicks, but who am I to say that others shouldn’t be allowed to watch them, that people shouldn’t be allowed to make such films?
            Censorship is a form of thought control. Yes, children need to be protected, and that is why we have a rating system for films, and I would hope video games as well. We can tell parents that certain films are not suitable for children. But to outlaw such films is a blow against freedom. I would not want to live in such a sequestered society.

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  13. kesmarn says:

    WTS, look what you’ve started here! You can almost hear all the gears clicking madly as we are mulling over this most interesting question.

    I wonder if part of the reason we sweat bullets, as it were, in considering these choices is that the discussion goes to the heart of who we are as liberals (especially taken in opposition to conservatives). Censorship seems to get almost a kneejerk negative reaction, after all, from liberals. But should it?

    I wonder if there isn’t a reason that conservatives and liberals have been around in one form or another from the dawn of civilization. Maybe we libs and cons, in our better forms, are both necessary for balance. While we libs are running around yelling (rightfully, imho) “Freedom!” the cons are always trying to put the brakes on.

    But maybe there are times when putting the brakes on is what is needed. As you mentioned, we accept limitations on our liberties in other areas of our existence. We recognize — for the most part — the need for laws, police departments and a greater or lesser degree of government.

    The illusion of the completely free existence is just that. We put the brakes on ourselves all the time. No, you cannot drive 100 mph in a school zone. No, you cannot run around naked in the neighbor’s yard. No, you cannot carry a gun into the hospital. No, you cannot take a bunch of drugs and then go to work as an air traffic controller.

    There’s something about seeing a violent act depicted in a film that hints at legitimizing that act, even if we’re meant to be horrified by it. Not overtly legitimizing, mind you. But it can be a subtle way of saying to a really unbalanced person: “See? You’re not the only person who’s thought about that. You’re not alone. Other people have thought about doing these unspeakable things, too, or this movie would never have had a script and would never have been completed.”

    John Hinckley was reputed to have seen the movie “Taxi Driver” at least 15 times. I’m not in the least blaming Scorcese or de Niro for “making” Hinckley attempt the assassination of Reagan. But he pulled certain concepts and images from the culture around him, as his writings attest. And this film was part of that culture.

    Putting the brakes on can seem so tedious. So Republican (in the earlier, more conventional sense of the term). We cringe.

    But maybe applying the brakes occasionally is just — instead — what grown-ups do.

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    • Truth says:

      But maybe there are times when putting the brakes on is what is needed.

      Exactly. Imagine to go downhill at a high speed without any brakes?

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    • Abbyrose86 says:

      Kesman very well said.

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    • Artist50 says:

      Kes -- I think that was very well put and KT I am 60 and I think I’m just about as liberal today as I was at age 20, much to both my 30 something sons dismay!

      I don’t care what any adult watches or does but I do have a problem with children seeing this material and with women being exploited in the making of this material. I do work with college women and I don’t think the last forty years of the sexual revolution has been kind to them. Women still want romance and marriage and men still want sex and there is a great deal of conflict with sex, body image and sexualization of young girls that wasn’t happening when I was growing up and the media and porn may play a part in that. I don’t know but I worry about young women and I don’t want this stuff in childrens hands. That really bothers me.

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      • KillgoreTrout says:

        Artist, I said earlier that it is children we need to protect. I wasn’t arguing in favor of child porn. As far as body image goes, I think advertisers and magazines contribute the most to women thinking they aren’t attractive enough. Make up companies, cosmetic surgeons….etc.
        I was pretty wild in my 20s and 30s. But I do think age brings a certain amount of conservatism to one’s views and actions. When I say conservative, I don’t mean the far right fanatics that are so prevalent today. I just mean a more measured approach to life.

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        • Artist50 says:

          KT. Yes -- well I can agree with a more measured approach to life -- one day your body says I don’t want to party anymore and I like to read a book on Saturday night -- that kind of conservative I understand -- I was speaking more politically.

          Magazines and the media are the main problem with young girls and self image but porn is a nasty business that exploits women.

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    • KillgoreTrout says:

      kes, that is very slippery slope. Who gets to decide when these, “breaks,” get applied? That is the big question. Religious groups have wanted certain films to be banned because of a perceived threat to their theology. Family values groups want certain films banned because of too much violence or nudity. Who gets to decide? That is the big question.
      As far as how long there have been liberal and conservative thinkers goes, I would say, generally speaking, that young people tend to be more liberal and older people tend to be more conservative. I’m very near 60 years old and still consider myself a liberal, but I AM more conservative than I was at 20 or 30.

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      • kesmarn says:

        KT, I understand what you’re saying (although in many ways I’m more liberal now than when I was in my twenties, paradoxically!).

        But as WTS says, we determine all the time as a community when to set limits on ourselves. He mentions a “panel of experts” using defined criteria to make these determinations, and I don’t think having a significant number of people who are associated with religious groups on those boards would be very helpful. These aren’t really religious decisions, or even entirely artistic ones. As c’lady says, there’s a strong element of commerce involved here. In short, do we really want people to be able to peddle crap that does next to nothing helpful for sane people, and has the potential to set off unbalanced folks?

        It’s like Pepe’s example of cigarette advertizing. Is banning that interfering with freedom of speech?

        I did catch myself in a logic trap though! :-D I had to stop and ask myself if I would have voted a thumbs down on a brilliant movie like Taxi Driver. This is not an easy one!

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        • KillgoreTrout says:

          Again, it really comes down to who gets to decide. The phrase, “as a community,” is really rather vague. A liberal community? A conservative community?
          And how does one determine whether a certain film or game has value or not? Personally, I am not into gaming, but if I were I could see a minimum value in playing games. To counter boredom, or just as a form of dissipation from the stresses of everyday life.
          Cigarettes have, most definitely been found to be harmful. So that is why they are prohibited from advertising on TV.
          Who decides what films may or may not be harmful? Who decides what games? Censorship is a dangerously slippery slope.

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          • kesmarn says:

            I guess I would have to say, KT, that I worry, in general, about a culture of cruelty. We see it even in elementary schools, certainly in junior high and high school, on facebook and YouTube, in the office and in government.

            Where does it stop?

            Today in Morning Blog, Kalima supplied a link to a British article on this subject.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/28/charlie-brooker-rebecca-black-friday

            I found it very eloquent.

            Maybe the most fundamental question we have to ask ourselves — as a human community, beyond a liberal or conservative one — is why we need to torture, or even to witness torture.

            I have a pretty liberal attitude about drugs, but I realize, as a nurse that there are some drugs that really do need to be regulated. They’re just not okay for general consumption. Who decides which drugs are under lock and key? Not clergy people. But a combination of government folks, pharmacists, psychiatrists, I’m sure. But the deeper question is, I guess, why does our society feel it needs to drug itself?

            …with meds, or torture or any other addictions? What are we so afraid of?

            (And on that happy note, I must take my leave. After midnight here. And thank you for the way you always debate with such respect, KT!)

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            • kesmarn says:

              audadvnc, I don’t mean to laugh, but that made me chuckle. I’m thinking the FDA has much more to do with procedures involving hospital meds than the CIA!

              I know what you’re saying about LSD, but I guarantee you, I have never given a single dose of it at work.

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            • audadvnc says:

              “Who decides which drugs are under lock and key?… a combination of government folks, pharmacists, psychiatrists, I’m sure.”

              Like the CIA? The people that brought us LSD?

              My Russian emigrant experience was the opposite of KT’s, below. I once asked a former Russian co-worker about his old life, his reply was succinct: “Russia is big prison!”

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            • KillgoreTrout says:

              kes, I worry about it too. Are we really too permissive as a society?
              I was once on subway, going home, and two Russian men were sitting behind me talking. I thought their accents were Russian but I asked them if they were from Russia, because I wasn’t sure. Now this was in the mid 1980s, mind you.
              But I asked them what they thought of America. One of the men abruptly said, in broken English, “Too much freedom!”
              I was amazed that anyone could think there is such a thing as too much freedom.
              Now, many years later, I can see what the Russian man meant.
              I think the big question here is the age old question, does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?
              I do think America suffers from a sort of spiritual sickness, but I am a bit perplexed as to what should be done to remedy such sickness.

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    • cyrano1 says:

      In jest ( I think?) maybe eventually science will progress enough to accurately pinpoint those with brain wiring prone to acting out with violence due to the violence depicted in fictional entertainment. Then we can simply implant them with Orwellian tags which prevent them from watching the kind of horror films the rest of us are able to watch without viewing them as recipes for our own future actions. :)

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      • kesmarn says:

        cyrano, I hope that day comes! :-) The day when we can “pinpoint those with brain wiring prone to acting out with violence due to the violence depicted in fictional entertainment.” That would solve a lot of problems; we could “divert” a baby Ghadafi early on, and save everyone a lot of trouble!

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        • audadvnc says:

          Great idea. Of course, the same technology will first be used to find the faulty brain wiring that causes liberalism, homosexuality and empathy for one’s fellow humans. We will divert the baby Gaga’s early on, and save everybody a lot of trouble, too…

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          • kesmarn says:

            I say we “divert” future bullies by exposing them to lots of Lady Gaga and liberalism, with a side of empathy.

            cyrano and I were indulging in a little light-hearted banter. Sorry if it appeared I was advocating something like eugenics. I would never do that.

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    • whatsthatsound says:

      Beautiful and profound comments, Kes! I completely agree. I certainly anticipated the debate, because of the liberal and progressive mindset of folks here. It is great to see so much discussion.

      I think what you write above is, in a nutshell, the central point of my essay. Only I needed all those dang words to make it! How do you do it? :)

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  14. Pepe Lepew says:

    My initial reaction to this was that I don’t like any kind of censorship; even censorship of things I personally find disgusting and disturbing and sickening, but then I realized I’m an ardent advocate of banning all tobacco advertising, period … so I’m seeing the incongruity here.

    Damn you, WTS, you’re making me think!

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