Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why we need hate and ignorance on the radio

One of my favorite bloggers, Brad Warner, (whose blog happens to be posted on a non-explicit section of a porn site, so maybe don't click on this at work:) talks about the Imus affair. Imus was a radio talk show host who got fired for saying some racist stuff on the air.

Warner, to summarize, is basically saying that he doesn't care much about what Imus said on the air, and that we should take responsibility for ourselves rather than fretting about what other people say. Many of his commenters are disagreeing, saying that Imus is perpetuating racist attitudes in society, and he's rightfully being held responsible for his words by being fired.

I think there's a deeper point here, that hopefully Warner is getting at. When we stop people from saying offensive things on the grounds that it will have some general effect on the "public mind", we're encouraging people to value the state of this "public mind", rather than being skeptical of it. It's vitally important for the health of a society, for people to think skeptically. They must be able to hold onto their beliefs and opinions despite appeals to mob mentality, despite crazes and manias, despite panic and terror and lies and promises. We have to know that the "public mind" is untrustworthy, so we will never be tempted to use it to excuse ourselves from moral behavior.

When we attempt to scrub the airwaves of any bad ideas that might influence people, we cause the same sort of problem as overuse of antibiotics. People accustomed to hearing only socially acceptable stuff on the radio will not get much practice in distinguishing what they hear from what they have seen to be true with their own eyes. Their defenses will be down. But people who are used to hearing a lot of bullshit on the radio will get practice at questioning everything they hear.


Daniel said...

This debate isn't about censorship, it is about the responsibility that teachers have toward their students and the rest of society.

My full reply to Brad's article can be found on my blog Evolutionary Mind.

Chris Bogart said...

That's true -- I kind of got thinking about Imus and censorship and didn't really deal with the main question Brad was dealing with about what his own responsibilities might be.