A British father is pissed at FHM magazine after his 14-year-old daughter saw some “grotesque” pictures in it, fainted, hit her head on the pavement, and died. I’m very sorry for his loss, and I’m not trying to belittle that in any way. But how on earth is this magazine responsible? What if I’m reading the newspaper and I’m so engrossed in a good story that I step out in front of a bus and get squished? Is that the newspaper’s fault? Why was this girl, who has been described as extremely “squeamish”, looking at those pictures in the first place? Either she chose to look, or someone thrust them in her face (and if that’s the case, why isn’t that person responsible?). In a way, this reminds me of an article I just read over at the Banned Books Project. Parents don’t understand that if they want to restrict access to what their kids’ read and see, fine. The way to do that is to accompany your kids to the library or ask them what they’re reading or generally just be involved in their lives. If you can’t do that, you have no right to request that the material be made unavailable to everybody else. This father says, “I can’t see how anyone’s life is improved by seeing the range of degenerative pictures.” I’d like to respond and say that just because he can’t see any worth, that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t. Who’s to be the judge of which material is appropriate and should be available? I hate to trot out the old “book burning Nazis” clichÃ©, but that’s what I think every time I read about another of these censorship outcries.
(I just deleted a couple lines in there about the First Amendment, which I suddenly realized doesn’t apply in this case. As my knowledge of British law is scant at best, where is freedom of speech guaranteed here? It is, isn’t it?)