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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Going Softly with a DVD

The House is getting ready to consider new legislation that will allow anyone to skip over objectionable material in a DVD automatically. Generally, giving parents more control over what their kids see is a good thing. This move, however, is being done in a way that only shows the conservative movement has degenerated from an intellectual opposition to the New Deal into just another political machine, out to reward its cronies.
First, the technology is already available through a company called ClearPlay in Salt Lake City. It isn’t commercially available because deleting entire scenes and changing character lines is a copyright infringement. ClearPlay, it seems, is unwilling to do what every television network has done and pay a copyright fee to the producers of movies they want to edit. ClearPlay is so unwilling to pay its fair share that a group of Hollywood producers threatened a lawsuit over copyright infringement.
Well, ClearPlay no longer has to worry. Their buddies in Congress have given them blanket protection from legal action on copyright infringement. This means that their little box can change any material anyway they desire and there is nothing the owner of the copyright can do about it. In other words, it destroys the entire concept of copyrights.
So what’s wrong with a mother not wanting to show her ten-year-old the murder and violence of “The Pianist” or “Schindler’s List”? Well, for one thing, it is the horror of the callous way in which murder and violence were meted out by the Nazis that makes it so horrible. If your ten-year-old is not able to deal with it, then wait another year to show it to them. Showing them a sensitized version is tantamount to endorsing the claims of the wackos who claim the Holocaust didn’t really happen.
For another thing, once you set this box on your television and it starts censoring things, how are you to know when it is active and when it isn’t? Give it a five second delay and it can delete objectionable material from your live television signal. Now a very small group of people in Salt Lake City can determine which version of the nightly news you see – and how can you tell the difference? Did David Letterman just seriously endorse the Republican Party? Did Harry Reid just say he doesn’t think pedophiles should be punished?
The worst part is what I mentioned first, though. It’s no secret that Hollywood producers are, in general, no friend of the Republican Party. Stripping producers of their legal right to make money off of their product is a direct violation of their Constitutional rights. ClearPlay can now make money off of the works of other people – making them a legal parasite on the backs of truly productive people. It is punishing your political enemies while rewarding those who are your friends.
The fact is that ClearPlay’s technology doesn’t allow anything that parents can’t do already. When I was raising my kids, there were times when I decided “This won’t be shown in my house”. Pretty much every time, my kids were unhappy with me. The only thing it does is allow you to escape responsibility for your choices. By trusting your personal morality to someone else, you don’t have to tell your kids, “That isn’t the kind of show we watch in this house”. They simply go along, oblivious to the fact that they haven’t even seen what they think they are seeing.
Once you train a generation to put its faith in a little box to protect them from “evil” speech and pictures, you have set the foundation for a generation who is ready to give up their freedom. “Protect us from those pictures of planes flying into buildings” and “protect us from the war footage in Iraq” are not so different from “protect us from naked people and dirty words”. I said before that my philosophy requires people to face reality, even when it is uncomfortable – no, especially when it is uncomfortable.
There are definitely programs that I would not allow a child to see. There are some, like “Schindler’s List” that I would allow some kids to see, but only with adult supervision. But when my kid and your kid talk about “Schindler’s List” and the horror of the Holocaust, I want them to be talking about reality – the same reality, not some reality dreamed up by a PG-13 censor. If you don’t want your kids to see something, grow up and tell them, “No” – be a parent for Christ’s sake.

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