The tragedy in Virginia yesterday is shinning a light on two hot topic subjects.
The media and gun control.
Both complicated issues and tangentially linked.
While I don’t much care for guns and agree, in principle, with second amendment advocates, I do feel it may be time to have a very frank discussion about gun control and ownership.
I feel more strongly about media, specifically the Internet. It must continue to adhere to the principles of Net Neutrality if we are to hold on to what little remains of our democracy.
On the one hand we know that the Internet is the one and only open and egalitarian forum that contains some brilliant ideas, a lot of ideology (offensive and otherwise) and a great deal of creativity because I, you, we have just as much access and freedom as anyone else.
Lest you be confused, this is a good thing.
On the other hand, it’s a place for people to prattle on about their awesome life or their awesome children or their awesome cat or their awesome dinner or their awesome job or their just plain awesomeness. As intellectually retarded as I find all of that and while I feel Facebook and so many other social media platforms do more harm than good, I believe firmly they should exist and in some cases (albeit very rare) even provide value.
The Internet goes so much further than social media. Thank God.
On the other other hand (I know, that’s three), there is the issue of offensive content. The jackasses of ISIS broadcasting every atrocity they commit, non-jihadists doing barbaric and awful things to animals and, of course, yesterday’s tragedy in Virginia are forcing us to look at what the Internet is becoming.
The Netflix of snuff films.
Not so long ago snuff films were thought to be a myth. No one could (or perhaps would) confirm their existence. With good reason, snuff films portrayed the real murder of another person.
That used to be a big deal!
Now, watching someone get murdered is as simple as has having a link sent via social media, getting an email, googling something, looking on YouTube, pick your poison and you can easily find someone being hurt.
There is a whole generation being raised to think that murder is almost normal and that it’s not so much of a big deal (Christ, I feel like I should be yelling at kids to get off my lawn).
Certainly this content, provided it’s legal (legality and ethics seldom sit on the same side of the table), it has a right to exist. Whether it should or not…wellll…but we are under no obligation to watch it and yet we do.
What does that say about us?
We report and show the murder of another person as “news”. The amount of people I have seen murdered this year on the Internet or on the news runs close to the body count in Rambo IV (OK, not really, but check this chart out…explains why the first Rambo movie is actually they best).
If it bleeds, it leads? Fuck that.
One of my film school teachers, Manny Kirchheimer, used to tell us why he disliked horror movies. He said, “My imagination is way more fertile than anything those idiots can come up with. Scarier too.”
With all of that mayhem and murder being broadcast on virtually every medium, the line is getting blurred between imagination and reality. And reality is becoming scarier. The question must be asked is the constant broadcasting of it desensitizing us to the sanctity of life?
I say yes, it is.
BUT, it’s a struggle because while the stuff has a right to exist and even be available, we don’t need to watch it. Similarly, I believe in the second amendment and while I think it may be time to have a very frank discussion about gun control, I do not believe in the abolishment of the second amendment.
While gun control advocates, gun purveyors and the media have all worked within the law and stuck to the rules (mostly) none are benchmark models of citizenry. Gun shows remain a loophole to purchasing guns and with 300 hours per minute of video being uploaded to YouTube, culling offensive content is a Sisyphean task if ever there was one.
But then if the government steps in to monitor gun shows, the NRA throws a fit “DON’T TREAD ON ME!”. Be honest NRA, it’s time, in’it? If not now, then when?
Net Neutrality ensures the Internet remains open with limited government oversight or corporate manipulation.
And if we truly want to keep the government out of both, then we must learn how to police ourselves.
In the case of the Internet and media, they do…to some extent. In new media, it’s called “content moderation“. In print and television it could be called editing or standards and practices. And you know what? It isn’t a bad thing. There is just shit we do not need to see.
Media companies removing and/or editing content or content moderation, isn’t that a form of censorship? Yes, it is.
Where do you draw the line? I don’t know. On the one hand, keep it up and have public discourse but no one has discourse anymore. He who shouts loudest wins. On the other, show nothing and paint a Pollyanna existence while someone else broadcasts offensive content?
How do we keep the Internet open and the news relative if we don’t air these things? Self policing and serving the public AND NOT THE ADVERTISERS…ya know, like news is supposed to do. Is it in the publics best interest to broadcast a snuff film? (note: because it was a live feed, nothing could have stopped the broadcast of yesterday’s murder…maybe a seven second delay, but even then...)
There is some instrumental value in broadcasting some of this content. At what point do we determine is enough? I don’t know. I really don’t.
There will ALWAYS be an audience for horrible images, moving or still. How do we handle that without running into straight out censorship?
Can it be as simple as free will?
Until WE say “Nah, I don’t need to see that” the media outlets will continue to show it. Like legality and ethics, need and want rarely sit on the same side of the table.
Why do we want to see it?
Am I really alone in not wanting to see the Internet become a vast wasteland of snuff films and people portraying how awesome their life is?
Jesus, I hope not.