Jul 13 2015
In 399 BC Greek philosopher Socrates was executed for corrupting the youth and failing to reference certain gods in some of his teaching. It seems that for as long as people have had something to say there has always been an opposing group trying to silence them in a vain attempt to protect the moral decency of the common folk.
I have never understood censorship and I think everything is fine as long as it is in context.
As a child my favourite movie was Terminator 2, a very violent movie with a couple of naughty words here and there. I was allowed to watch it because even as a child I understood that the story was fiction and that there wasn’t really a T-1000 on the loose, stabbing lazy security guards in the eye and stealing their likeness. There are people I’m sure that would argue that the violence in the movie is gratuitous and unnecessary but I believe it’s critical to establishing the story’s high stakes and without it the character’s motivations would be questionable.
Now, if I was watching an episode of the Brady bunch and Mr Brady decided to choke little Peter to death with his belt while his family watched on in horror, I would probably find this disturbing. Not because I’ve never seen someone choked with a belt in a movie but because the violence has no place in the context of The Brady Bunch. If the writers of The Brady Bunch did want to start introducing more mature and complex storylines with teenage pregnancy and drug use that’s fine as well because if I find that offensive I can always decide not to watch. Unfortunately for me and you and anyone who has ever been apart of an organised society the choice to watch or not to watch the extreme version of The Brady Bunch has been made for you because the groups facilitating our enjoyment of art often impose their own moral agenda.
The reason I love podcasting so much is because of the artistic freedom given to the podcaster. There are no publishers to appease, no gatekeepers with agendas forcing their morality down the creators throat. There is pure freedom and it’s gathering momentum as a legitimate form of entertainment, occasionally art. Last night I searched the internet for articles on podcasts and censorship and was horrified to see blog post after blog post about people asking if they should censor their podcasts to eliminate swearing and adult themes. I just couldn’t comprehend why these people would ask. Then it became apparent; mass appeal. A podcaster was so concerned that his niche podcast about growing sunflowers in southern California might alienate one potential listener that he decided to remove an interview to ensure no one was offended. He said it was a shame because the interview was amazing.
This is at the heart of the podcasting paradox. A podcast is successful because of it’s niche focus but due to the popularity of certain shows mass appeal is becoming just as important as content and if this trend continues it’s only a matter of time before the community decides to self regulate. Podcast networks are already beginning to emerge with shows of similar styles banding together to share advertising money and improve listenership. It makes me wonder if eventually podcasting will be mostly experienced in a similar fashion to television and streaming services are today, through large network. Sadly, just like television networks, Podcast networks may eventually allow the advertisers to influence content through advertising revenue and consequently externally imposed censorship will find podcasting. If I could say anything to the podcasters asking if they should censor their podcast I would say this; Be true to your vision and don’t be so quick to conform for mass appeal, it’s a niche product and that’s ok.
I’m not saying the every podcast should be the Howard Stern show or that clean podcasts aren’t worthwhile. In fact, one of my favorite podcasts, Gavin Webber’s The Greening of Gavin, is completely family friendly. I just want the podcasting community to slow down and appreciate what we have; one of the last bastions of unrated entertainment.