In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, from across the spectrum of the gun control debate, various actors are challenging the entertainment industry's right to free speech. Representing the president, Biden has met with entertainment industry representatives. NRA chief, Wayne LaPierre, has suggested that the industry bears the largest share of the blame for Sandy Hook. Most disappointingly however, major media contributors have also jumped on the bandwagon. These individuals apparently believe that they have the right to tell others what to watch.
Consider this argument by Ramin Setoodeh. Setoodeh arrogantly proclaims that because he was uncomfortable with the recent movie, Texas Chainsaw 3D, "... gore at the movies just doesn't feel entertaining". Therefore, he argues, Hollywood must abandon this genre. Except, as indicated by Chainsaw's box office takings, many others obviously thought exactly the opposite. For me, this is the crux of the issue. While individually, we might not always agree with its products, our entertainment industry is nonetheless at the heart of what America is all about. Not just in terms of its vigorous manifestation of free speech, but also, in terms of how this 'freedom to create' interacts with broader notions of American capitalism. Put simply, the fundamental truth is that the success of movies/video games resides upon their consumer desirability. While the First Amendment essentially assures that government cannot impose excessive legal restrictions on speech, my great concern is that further pressure from various actors could fuel an already present (see South Park and Mohammed) condition of self-censorship in the entertainment industry. This would be a disaster. Such a dynamic would not only assert the authoritarian moral judgments of the few, in preference to the majority opinions of society, it would also encourage a slippery slope towards even greater future censorship. In essence, the question would be asked, if violence is to be divorced from entertainment, then why not also the presentation of drugs (for the children's sake)? Or sex (let's stop STDs)? Or religion (we can't risk inflaming violence)? The precedent would be set and the following consequences would be clear: A thought police society locked in the despair of a creative, emotional and intellectual prison.
Just look to Europe for a prophetic example of what happens when political correctness takes root.
I'm not being alarmist. Today, censorship sympathizers are sadly a mainstream presence (see my comment -- it's the first one after the op/ed). They need to be challenged.
No one should deny that the Sandy Hook massacre was a tragedy of huge proportions. I freely agree, as a country -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, we need to work together to reduce the risks of future atrocities. But when it comes to the entertainment industry, the correct course of action is also evident. Parents should exert greater control over the entertainment choices of their children and adults should ignore movies which offend their moral values. It's incredibly important that we remember, without controversial speech, a free America would not have been born and slavery might have longer endured.
In its ability to drive debate forwards, often in unpredictable but positive ways, controversy can be an incredible force for good. Because of its polluting influence, content-based censorship of America's entertainment industry must be avoided at all costs.