CNNGo recently looked for writers. I happened to look at the call for applicants, and I recall that it was formidable. “Professionals only,” they insisted, “with years of prior work experience and a strong grounding in the nuances of the local language.” Lists of specific proficiencies followed. Perhaps CNN staff were so enamored of their lists that they forgot to check for basic writing ability.
If true, that would go a long way toward explaining this Richard Smart article on a proposed manga censorship policy. Using such wonderfully precise phrases as “needs to be fixed right way up” and “Seem obvious? It should do,” it is a study in how not to write an editorial.
The essence of Smart’s article can be found in a quote he takes from Simon Scott, and his reaction to it:
“Japan’s new law, insofar as it strives to regulate more than just the surface images to look at the overall theme of the story, suggests that the country is moving in a Western direction.”
This is a good thing, particularly with regard to child pornography.
A reader would normally expect further explanation by Smart here, or a justification for the general statement that Japan becoming more like the West is a good thing. But such trifles are beyond Richard Smart – he moves directly on to quoting other sources and describing other things happening, without even a hint of justification for the sweeping statement he has just dropped.
This, I fear, is the danger of arguing a majority position. The need to think is gone, lost in the reflexive assessment, “Well, obviously everyone thinks child porn is bad.” The article goes round and round the topic of child porn being bad and does not ever face the issue dead-on. Why is child porn bad, aside from it being a thing that reflexively generates disgust in people from Western society?
The question is vitally important, if this is to be a moral decision: people raised in an earlier era had (and may still have) the same reflexive disgust for homosexuality, interracial dating, or other behaviors. We now accept that those behaviors are not morally reprehensible, and that our reflexive response prevented us as a society from examining the issue seriously. There is, then, a need to make moral judgments from moral reasoning, and not just a simple gut feeling of distaste. (My own reasoning, previously discussed here, is that child porn is bad because it harms the children involved. Therefore any facsimile that does not involve any actual children may be equally revolting, but it is not actually bad.)
Beyond that – moral issue or not – I am still flabbergasted that a professional writer went on that long and gave no justification for his argument.
Yuricon: It was an opinion piece, I think. One founded on a flawed idea that censorship=safety for kids
WilliamFlanagan: And on the extremely flawed idea that western censorship has somehow been effective.
SatoshiMiwa: Censorship of fiction allows people to feel like they did something on an issue when they haven’t.