Q&A Friday #27: What The Government Should Do About Obscenity

Question: I’ve noticed that rightwingnews touches on a lot of topics, but there is one topic that is very important to me but has not been considered. And that is violence/obscenity in movies, tv, and videogames (especially videogames). And it’s not like there hasn’t been anything to comment on either. For example, last summer there was the “hot coffee mod” in GTA that got the game essentially banned in the state of California. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of this story or any others like it. No posts in favor of the banning or against it. Are you just indifferent to this topic or conflicted or what? — mightysamurai

Answer: I’m basically a free marketer when it comes to decency / obscenity and the media. So, while I didn’t approve of Janet Jackson flashing her breast at what most people could have reasonably assumed was a family friendly half-time show, I did not support increasing fines for indecency on the radio.

What it all comes down to is that I think some very basic steps need to be taken to protect people from exposed to indecent or obscene material who don’t want to see it and then from there, people should be able to make their own decisions.

When it comes to kids, I believe strongly that the government should not usurp the role of parents in deciding what their children should be exposed to, although of course, some people want them to do just that.

Personally, I think parents have a responsibility to look in on what sort of TV shows, radio shows their kids are watching. They also should check in on what their kids are looking at on their computer or in video games. If the parents aren’t doing that, it’s not the responsibility of the government to step in and do their job for them.

That is in part because when it comes to the media, the government always ends up swinging a wrecking ball to try to hit a fly. For example, take Grand Theft Auto. If you ban the game, yes, the job of parents who — understandably — don’t want their kids playing GTA gets easier. On the other hand, the vast majority of people who play the game — who are either adults or kids whose parents aren’t concerned about what they’re doing — will have been unfairly inconvenienced by the heavy handed actions of the government.

In short, beyond setting and enforcing the most basic standards of decency, the government shouldn’t be involved in telling people what kind of media people can consume.

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