Focus on the Family is teaming up with TVGuardian to provide clean entertainment choices for families through the TVGuardian filter, a device that eliminates objectionable language from television shows.
Penned as a “foul language filter” for HDTV’s, the device seeks to protect children not only from all foul language, but also from offensive religious slurs, sexual references, and other inappropriate phrases. (LINK)
Out of the gate, let me say something loudly, clearly, and unequivocally: I am in favor of everyone’s right to choose what to read, what to watch, and what to listen to. I do NOT believe that there’s anything *inherently* wrong with a device to censor objectionable material for individuals in their private homes. I support the manufacturer’s right to make and sell this device.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what this device represents, and why I oppose it in ethical principle.
First, and most importantly, this device is a denial of reality. It is designed primarily for Christian families, with the express purpose of keeping children ignorant of the pluralistic reality of the human condition. It is a private extension of the public policy espoused by the Far Christian Right: Deny it exists, prohibit people from talking about it, and it will magically disappear.
We’ve seen many examples of this tactic in recent weeks. Tennessee made news for their legislation prohibiting teachers from even mentioning the existence of homosexuality. North Carolina instituted a policy prohibiting inmates from reading anything but the Bible. A California elementary school is taking flack for teaching the scientific reality that gender is not exclusively male/female in the animal kingdom.
Denialism is the foundation of Christian theology in America today, and this TV filter is another thread in the blindfold being voluntarily woven by those who would turn America into a Christian nation no matter the cost.
It’s not just about denialism, though. It’s also about suppression of ideas, and that is something I am vehemently opposed to. The only way to effectively discover the truth is to explore all options. It’s a basic rule of debate: Know your opponent’s position at least as well as they do, or look like a bumbling idiot.
While it is true that I am 99.99% convinced that Christianity is so much ancient mythology with no grounding in empirical reality, it’s possible that I’m wrong. Because of this possibility, I am completely in favor of Christian apologetics. I want them to keep trying to prove God’s existence, and I want them to try to convince people of their beliefs. I want to engage in dialog and learn from the exchange of ideas. I hope that if I am right, I will change some minds — by the free and open dissemination of my ideas. Christian suppression and denial are the antithesis of open discussion, and do not further the pursuit of truth.
Denialism is also about fear. Let’s say this plainly: True ideas become more evident the more they are questioned. That’s why science has such rigid protocols for trying to prove a conclusion wrong. When an idea is sheltered from criticism, this is a giant red flag alerting us to the inability of the idea to stand up to criticism.
Christians are either consciously or unconsciously protecting their beliefs from criticism. They are afraid they are wrong, and they’re doing anything and everything they can to continue living in their insulated little universe, where gays don’t exist, atheists really believe in God, evolution doesn’t exist, and a great big boat somehow carried the buffalo of North America from the Middle East to the Middle East, and then magically transported them back to America. Or something.
Finally, the suppression of ideas is the first and biggest red flag we should look for when a country is moving towards fascism. And America is most definitely moving towards fascism.
- 1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
- 2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
- 3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
- 4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
- 5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
- 6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
- 7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
- 8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
- 9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
- 10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
- 11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
- 12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
- 13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
- 14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
I include all 14 criteria to illustrate the point that nothing happens in a vacuum, and that the Christian Agenda is systematically pursuing many, if not most, of these goals at a national, state, and local level. The brilliance of the Christian leaders comes from the fact that they have convinced millions of Americans to voluntarily censor themselves, creating the appearance but not the reality of a free and objective media. Christians across the nation are individually contributing to the suppression of homosexuality, religious dissent, plurality, and open debate, doing the fascists’ work for them. It is the new brand of fascism, built from the ground up with the willing participation of the oppressed.
So… like I said, I am — in principle — in favor of people having the freedom to do whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. And I am in favor of parents’ right to determine what their children can watch on TV. However, I am not in favor of what this technology represents — the voluntary rise of fear, denialism, censorship, and fascism. It is at one time both the embodiment of freedom and its extermination.