How Censorship Is Supposed To Work

I have a real problem with the upcoming game Bully, from Rockstar (the same people that brought us GTA). I think it’s an inappropriate subject for a game, I think it’s in extremely poor taste, I suffered from bullying problems all the way up to high school, and it makes me physically ill to think that there will be some kids (and some grownups) who will enjoy vicariously making life hell for other kids, via this game.

And I’m going to do something about it.

I’m not going to buy it, either for myself or as a gift for someone else.

Because I don’t have the right to make that decision for other people.

That’s the way freedom of speech works. I have the right to free expression and the responsibility to respect other people’s rights to the same–and they have to respect mine.

I’m thinking about this because you have a whole chorus of wingnuts claiming that “Death of a President” should be banned because it uses a digital insertion of Dumbass instead of just an actor.

Censorship beyond the individual choosing for himself is always wrong. This does not mean that it’s okay to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater–there is a compelling “state interest” in the safety and protection of the citizens in the theater.

Bad taste—and more importantly, political subjects—are never grounds for censorship. Shame on Cinemark and Regal Theaters for refusing to give people the right to make their own choices.

As for me… I dunno if I want to see it or not. Those who know me know I’ve always said that the fate I wish for Dumbass is that he live long enough to see himself repudiated utterly by history… or more cruelly, that he have a moment of enlightenment, of satori, where he sees what a total and complete fuckup he was and is and just how much pain and suffering he’s caused.

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10 comments so far

  1. filkertom on

    Forgive me for this, but…

    Bully for you.

    Grin, Duck, Run.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      Too many bullies for me!

      Although I learned the way to deal with them. Nothing pissed them off more than being ignored. It made them more annoyed that I wasn’t annoyed.

      True story: I was a 12-year-old freshman at my high school, and small for my age anyway. Being a Catholic HS, I had to wear a tie–which by the events of this story, I hadn’t fully mastered yet, so I was wearing a clip-on.

      Here comes a senior who, from my vantage point, looked about six-foot-thirteen. And he yanks off my tie and throws it on the ground and stands on it.

      Me: (utterly unimpressed) I want my tie back.
      Him: Kiss my foot.
      Me: (no hesitation) Kiss my ass.

      He threw it at me and stormed away. And thus began the rumors that I was either secretly a black belt and not to be fucked with, or was completely insane and not to be fucked with. It also was observed by one of our football players (who later ended up playing for the Steelers) who let it be known (without my knowledge until *much* later) that I was under his protection. :)

  2. sailormac on

    I haven’t heard about that game before. That’s *repugnant*. Obviously, the people who designed it were never picked on. I’m amazed there hasn’t been a public outcry yet.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      There has been, actually. Some British stores have refused to carry it, and the final version instead casts the main character as an ultraviolent “protector” of bullying victims, resolving the problem by taking a baseball bat to the bully. Even having been the victim, I say that’s wrong, wrong, wrong, sick, and wrong–and an even worse message than letting one play as the bully, that you can fix the problem by pounding the ever-loving shit out of the problem-causer–it’s presumed that the original version let you play the bully and not the bully attacker; at least that’s the way I heard of the game.

      You ask me, the “fix” makes matters worse.

  3. nsingman on

    I agree with much of what you’ve said, except for one grave error. By choosing not to show “Death of a President,” neither chain is depriving anyone of any rights. Shame on those chains, yes, for being rather inconsistent in their selections of what is or isn’t offensive, but that is their prerogative. As long as no government agency is forcing theaters to show the film, or preventing them from showing it, and no agency is forcing people to view it, or preventing them from viewing it, there is no free expression issue.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      Well, if they did run it, no one would be forcing anyone to see it. However, they would be allowing people to make up their own minds about it rather than letting, say, Cinemark declare simply “It’s a subject matter we don’t wish to play.” When decisions are made on the basis of content being just uncomfortable, I have to say it’s wrong. I would point out that the movie–controversially, yes–has been generally (but not universally) well received critically, winning the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Most critics seem to hold it in fairly high–if disquieting–regard. The user ratings on IMDB are generally positive (personally, I always throw out the 10s and the 1s and re-calculate because there are exceedingly few of either).

      So if they can say they don’t want to show it because they don’t like the subject matter, what’s the next one they throw out because they don’t like it? What if it had been “Brokeback Mountain”… or for that matter, “Wag the Dog” or “Primary Colors”?

      Blocking for content reasons is censorship–whether it’s corporate or government. I’d feel better, honestly, if they’d just turned it down and not tried to explain why. Or at least shown it in areas where there was an interest in seeing it, considering that it is a controversial, even difficult, film.

      We’re have it here at the Drexel… I still haven’t made up my mind. But the more fuss there is made over it, the more I probably will want to go see it.

      • nsingman on

        I don’t disagree, Rev. I don’t like censorship of any kind, even when the censor has a right to do so (i.e., a private actor rather than a government). However, my point was that corporate censorship doesn’t violate anyone’s rights, whereas government censorship does.

        • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

          Whereas I would say that the decision not to run it on the basis of content does violate a person’s right to choose for him/herself. We’re getting into a fine-grain definition of ‘violation’ that would have Constitutional lawyers crossing their eyes, I know. :)

          Sure, this is the sort of movie that might get a respectable run in larger urban centers, like NYC, LA, Chicago, SF, etc. Heck, even Columbus is getting it. I would’ve understood had they decided to only run it in the large “art” markets. But when corporations make these decisions for reasons other than financial ones, that’s an exceedingly dangerous slope that we do not want to be on top of.

  4. jayteeone on

    Dude, my nephew rented the game from Gamefly and we discovered that the assholes who are trying to ban this game don’t realize the actual premise of the game. The main character has to make his way through school, and part of it is stopping the bullys from bullying himself and the weak. The main character is trying to achieve peace in the school. He has to beat up the bullys. He does not bully others, he himself is bullied, and overcomes it. The game has gotten bad press mainly by people who seem to enjoy bullying others (lawyers) and they fear those of us who were bullied will get the idea to rise up against them that this game puts forth. Things aren’t always as some would make them out to be.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      So noted above, in my reply to . I still strongly disapprove of the idea of using violence to “solve” a bullying problem, and still think it’s an ugly, unnecessary game. The only point I give in favor of Rockstar is that you have the choice to kiss a boy instead of a girl to get health back in teh game. I take some comfort in people being more wigged over the violence than over “teh gay”–although professional nutcase Jack Thompson, already facing a contempt of court citation for insulting the judge who ruled against him in his attempt to have Bully relegated to adult-only stores (and last I heard, the judge may move for a disbarment hearing), is railing about the ability to kiss boys. Big shock there.


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