Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fire in the canyon, rain on the plains

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Speech isn’t free.

No matter what you may have heard to the contrary, the first amendment only stops Congress from making any laws that prohibit the free speech’s exercise, you can make all the laws against free speech that you have the time and patience to commit to paper.

Many of us, especially those people with younger children, make laws prohibiting the free exercise of speech all the time, and if you don’t believe me, then just think about what happened the last time you called your father a motherfucker.

Now that you’ve had time to relive a painful childhood memory and gingerly finger the belt scars on your buttocks, you will completely agree with me when I say that speech isn’t free.

In fact, people restrict speech all the time.

The government restricts all kinds of speech because they deem it Top Secret. There are some things that soldiers are not authorized to reveal. For example, I once spent an afternoon at a naval weapons station and my tour guide told me that there were nuclear weapons stored somewhere on the base; he wouldn’t tell me where, so, I asked him if the nukes were inside every building we passed. Eventually, after a few dozen “No” responses, we came to a warehouse with lots of danger signs everywhere. I asked him if the nuclear weapons were in that building and he said, “That’s classified.”

I just hope the terrorists don’t figure that one out.

Of course, there’s only so much the government can restrict speech before people get angry about having their testicles hooked up to car batteries for National Security purposes, and they have to pass the reigns over to private enterprise.

Just as they do not torture, the United States does not censor its citizen’s collective voice.

They let the advertisers do that for them.

As any movie or television producer can attest, controversial topics send advertisers fleeing to the hills; of course, controversy is incredibly popular so you can’t keep them away forever. Advertisers and the companies for whom they advertise may have morals (as much as I don’t want to admit they do), but they love money a lot more than they love integrity which is why American Gladiators is back on the air and in its second season.

For a long time, television and films stayed nice and bland because no one wanted to sponsor a program called Captain Kangaroo’s Cunt Cavalcade: Pussies on Parade for fear that they would be labeled an immoral company and the public would no longer want to buy their household poisons, pocket fishermen, and other various nostrums.

Unfortunately, for the people who want everyone else to share in their sexless existences, the majority of people want foul language, violence, sex, nudity, and filth, and they spend their money on the things that make advertisers ejaculate in their pants, like pills that make your penis hard and kitchen appliances that double as dust magnets.

Thus, ratings systems were born.

With a ratings system, you don’t have to organize timely boycotts of companies that sponsor immoral programming because all artistic media with a similar rating can be safely lumped together. That’s why children shouldn’t see Barton Fink, Basic Instinct, Full Meta Jacket, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall because of the common danger they represent to developing minds.

It’s hard to tell if movie and television ratings do more harm than good or good than harm, because, with the exception of a few circumstances, most people don’t watch the movie Carrie and head to the nearest local hog farm for a fresh bucket of comeuppance blood or practice putting on a pair of sunglasses and delivering one liners a la David Caruso on CSI: Miami.

It is an admirable undertaking, to attempt to shield people from dangerous or destructive behavior, and yet, for some reason, language, violence, drug use, and sex seem to be the only things about which anyone is worried. I have yet to see a rating at the beginning of a war picture that says “Warning: The following program may cause enlistment. Parental caution is advised” and yet, joining the military puts young, impressionable people at greater risk to experience profanity, violence, drug use, and sex than they would if they had been influenced to get a realtor’s license after watching Glengarry Glen Ross.

The most troubling aspect is that the ratings are poorly worded and hard to decipher. There are no such things as adult content or adult situations.

Someday, I want to make a movie and deliberately have it rated R for adult situations and then show two hours of people standing in line at a bank or on hold with a customer service call center.

I’d show it on a street corner next to a drunk, rambling hobo.

Now that’s what I call free speech.

Sex Mahoney for President

Currently listening to:

Traffic and Weather
by Fountains of Wayne

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