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Morality and the Media - Essay Example

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The debate between those who honor free speech as the means to create a free and prosperous society and those who wish to use free speech in order to further their own agenda regardless of its affects on society at large has long been a point of debate. The social experiment we call freedom has been shown to work best when people are able to direct their own destiny…
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Morality and the Media
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Morality and the Media Free Speech and Moral Responsibility The debate between those who honor free speech as the means to create a free and prosperous society and those who wish to use free speech in order to further their own agenda regardless of its affects on society at large has long been a point of debate. The social experiment we call freedom has been shown to work best when people are able to direct their own destiny. People who are oppressed by a small group who hold all the political power soon seek to overthrow such oppressive governments. On the other hand, people who want to have a free society wish to have a corporate say over the extent to which destructive behaviors and ideologies are allowed to roam. In other words, just as Thomas Jefferson said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The question is who gets to be in the place of the watchman.
In Victor Clines essay, he approaches the topic of free speech in media, even when it crosses lines which are traditionally held by moral peoples, in a manner that attempts to strip the moral issues from the essential freedom of speech. Cline approaches the issue of free speech within the media, and the question of setting boundaries on this free speech when it crosses these accepted moral limits, as if the people themselves set the moral boundaries within which they define acceptability. The argument insists that if one group of people feels that this particular expression of pornography or violence is morally wrong, and therefore should warrant censorship, then another group should be able to choose that the same expression is acceptable, and allowable within the boundaries of free speech. And so the argument continues.
Media producers have, in my opinion, been allowed to hide behind the veil of free speech by court decisions which have attempted to approach a moral issue from an amoral framework. As they produce works which are harming our social order, they argue that theirs is the right of free speech, and therefore no one person or group of people can limit their artistic endeavors. One hears most often from those who produce anti-social movies defenses such as "We are only producing what the public wants." or "we are producing art which imitates life." These manufacturers of the moral abyss which at times dominates the media will not accept the responsibility side or the equation. They only want to produce what they believe will sell, and to be paid for their work.
Equally problematic is the approach which attempts to put verbal and clearly written limits around the media production in order to define that which is moral, positive, offensive but allowed, and finally dis-allowed. As soon as definitions penned, organizations produce new media which either pushes the limits of the definition without breaking the line, or a new completely new media evolves which is difficult to regulate, such as the internet, or comes forth with a previously unseen and un-imagined product. Prior to the 1980's, music videos were an un-perceived media. And the phenomenon gained entrance and acceptance into the community as a result of the novelty and vast amounts of cash a single video could create. Yet, many of these productions are can only be described as pornographic; something those only 10 years prior would have been relegated to 25 cent peep show galleries. Another example is the recent movie block buster movies Saw and Saw II. The degree of horror and gore produced by one man's twisted imagination could not have been legislated against, and yet if a movie goer were to take this imagery into real life, and act out the scenes portrayed, he or she would be sent to jail for many, many years.
So the question remains who is responsible for the moral content the media outlets produce. Who should decide what movies are produced The answer is you and I. We the people cannot sit back and expect the courts, or groups of people 'out there somewhere' to make decisions as to what is acceptable and what isn't. The power of a society which is build on free speech, as touched on by Victor Cline, is the through public discourse a free people can guide and regulate their own lives. If a free people are to maintain the blessing of the freedoms to be enjoyed, they must also carry the responsibility of managing their own lives, and being active in the public discourse. On a deeper level and not touched upon by Mr. Cline is the foundation upon which the United States has established our freedoms. Cline cites the evolution of democracy, and individually held freedoms through centuries of civilized peoples who chose to follow a common thread, that which empowered a people to govern themselves. However, as Cline transverses across the Greek and Roman civilizations, the Magna Charta, Edict of Nantes and France's Declaration of the rights of Man and of Citizens, he fails to acknowledge that unchanging element which was boldly declared in the US Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote that man has been created, and given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These freedoms and the rights that come with them are not the creations of western civilizations. They have been given to men by the one who created freedom, and the one who created man. Only in this context, which by its nature must include discussions of morality, is the debate over free speech and its limits have any meaning, and bearing on mankind's ultimate wellbeing. Read More
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