Free Speech Is Bad, Says Newspaper Publisher. Because of Zombies!
In what may be the purest evidence yet that most people's tolerance for other folks' liberty stops at what they consider icky, the publisher of a community newspaper in San Francisco has run (and broadcast!) a revealing column arguing that free speech protections go too far, because zombies creep him out. Seriously. Steven J. Moss, publisher of The Potrero View, apparently got drawn into watching "The Walking Dead," which led to reading the comic book, which motivated him to "reconsider" his previous opposition to censorship.
In a piece broadcast over KQED as well as published in his paper, Moss argues that the gory images of the undead actually changed the way he was thinking!
I can't easily explain why I was attracted to this gloomy entertainment. But I do know that the gory consumption binge impacted me emotionally. Like the fictional characters I was following on pages and screens, I became more fearful, distrustful, and morose. I worried that the rustling of the wind indicated an unpleasant surprise in the attic, or that a door was closed for a morbid reason. Three inches into the zombie compilation I felt like I was changing my brain chemistry, with a heightened sense of paranoia that mimicked what might happen after too many hits of the wrong kind of marijuana. Even as I recognized what the zombies were doing to me I kept at until, until, my mind bloated, I finished the last comic book.
That's right, "The Walking Dead" became an addiction that Moss just couldn't resist. Zombies got into his brain! But don't they always?
I'm recovering from all that now, but the episode got me wondering how what we watch or read impacts us. We've long attached warning labels to shows and movies that have violent or sexual scenes. We used to censor or ban provocative books. Recent attempts have been made to regulate rap music and video games, lest they incite youth to aggressive acts. Liberals, libertarians, and secular intellectuals have typically dismissed such efforts as liberty-stifling government over-reach. Up until now I'd have agreed with them. But my immersion into the zombie milieu has prompted me to reconsider.
Occasionally viewing or reading a brutal or sexual scene seems largely harmless, at least for grown-ups. But saturating ourselves with any set of images seems likely to mold our minds along particular channels. Billboards, magazines, books, and videos that feature ubiquitous skinny, large-breasted or chested models, fatty foods, and unrelenting acts of gun-related violence would seem to create a society obsessed with thin, well-appointed bodies, fattening fodder, and weapons. Did I just describe us?
So, because Moss became fascinated with zombie movies and comics to the point that he freaked himself out, we should consider regulating media so that we're not saturated with messages that … umm … might freak us out, too. Or maybe they'll just get us thinking in ways that will freak Moss out some more. We have been warned! We must regulate so that we don't saturate ourselves with stuff that makes us fearful, distrustful, and morose
Actually, I tried the first episode of "The Walking Dead" and, like Moss, I was creeped out. So, I turned it off. I found that pretty effective.
For your edification, a little appropriate mood music by The Cramps, below. Don't get saturated.