If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Unsuitable for Minors

YouTube seem to regard this as something which 'parents may prefer their children not to see', or something. I can't for the life of me see why.

To save you looking, it's a fairly gentle animation about a girl called Suzie who believes in Jesus, and prays for various things. The outcomes are shown to be the result of human work and ingenuity, and the whole thing is a gentle satire on those who believe in everyday divine intervention. It's not harsh, or offensive (unless you happen to be one of those who are offended by the opinions of people who don't agree with you, and hey, that seems to be most of us these days) and is polite, non-sweary and generally low-key.

And yet some muppet has used the 'flag' button to alert YouTube to potentially unsuitable content, and YouTube for their part have agreed to post the warning that the clip may be unsuitable for minors.

In what sense might it be unsuitable? The delivery is very non-threatening, so it must be the message contained therein. And the message (if there is one; it's more like a gentle suggestion to think things through) is hardly controversial or aggressive in the way that Richard Dawkins sometimes manages to be. I can only think that some people prefer that their children are not exposed to alternative world views, or encouraged to think about things. People who prefer indoctrination to enquiry, and dogma to debate.

And aren't these often the same people who condemn Islam for bringing children up with such a firm view of Paradise and martyrdom that they will cheerfully blow themselves up in the cause of Jihad?

Two sides of the same coin, really.

I am reminded of 1970s student politics, and the 'no platform for racists' policy, which assumed that students were so thick and malleable that mere exposure to racism would convert them by the thousand and lead to white hoods and lynchings across the campuses of Britain. The basic premise of this approach runs as follows:
  • There are people that we disagree with (let's leave the question of who 'we' are for the moment)
  • These people will influence people in ways that we do not like
  • Therefore, it is our duty not to allow these people to speak at all.
You've got two alternatives here - speech control, where certain viewpoints are suppressed and vilified, and free speech, where everyone can say what they please and be judged in the court of public opinon. I'd go with free speech, on the grounds that most people are pretty reasonable, and if exposed to a variety of viewpoints will generally sort the wheat from the chaff and dismiss the unacceptable as being, well, unacceptable.

Certainly, the recent successes of the BNP in the local and European elections gave them a lot of publicity and air time, but in the end I think that will do them no good at all. Many of the things they are advocating (placing British interests before those of other countries, for example) strike a chord with many people, and these are the viewpoints that have been suppressed by the media for a long time, which has made the BNP seem like a breath of fresh air. But you only have to listen to them for a few minutes to realise that the people articulating the views are not all that impressive, and probably fairly unpleasant characters. Do they say some of the things that ordinary people think? Yes. Do they say things that make people feel uneasy? Yes. On the basis of what we have seen, would we want them running the country? No.

Christian parents who truly believe in their faith should not be alarmed if their children meet other, and different, viewpoints. Children are generally resilient and bullshit-proof, and can spot flummery a mile off. If you truly believe, expose your children to every viewpoint possible (including your own) and let them make their own minds up.

The clip suggests that it is mankind who creates all the everyday miracles that 'save' people. I am reminded of an old but pertinent joke on the topic. Apologies if you have heard it.

A Rabbi is on a world cruise when the liner goes down in mid-Pacific. He is cast adrift in a small lifeboat, with sharks circling around him. He prays fervently for deliverance, and soon another lifeboat pulls alongside. "Come on, Rabbi, there's room, climb in the boat!"

"No, I'm staying here. God will save me!" The lifeboat drifts away.

Soon a fishing boat passes nearby, and the captian calls on a loudhailer: "Do you want me to send you a rescue boat?"

"No," shouts the Rabbi. "I am staying in this boat. God will save me!" The fishing boat sails away.

Soon, he hears a helicopter overhead, and a man is lowered down to him on a winch. "Come on, Rabbi, let me strap you onto this cable, and we will rescue you!"

"No, I am staying on this boat. God will rescue me; He has never let me down!" And the helicopter flies off.

Soon, the boat sinks and the Rabbi is eaten by sharks. He ascends to Heaven and is met by St Peter. He asks to speak to God in person, and is shown to God's office.

"Why did you desert me, Lord, when I prayed so fervently to you that you might rescue me?"

"Rabbi, I sent you two boats and a bloody helicopter. What more did you want?"

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