In my infrequent role as a volunteer event photographer, I had the opportunity to attend the Gingerbread Build at Toronto City Hall. The purpose of the event was to both raise funds for a charity and to organize a family function congruent with the season. Among my instructions was to only photograph children with a green wristband; do not photograph those wearing a red band.
While most children wore green bands, there were some who didn’t. It caused me to reflect on why a parent might not want their child photographed; why would the sponsoring charity offer this option?
I concluded that child pornography was the likely answer. Offering the choice to be photographed respects that there is a diversity of opinion on the problem, with some believing that it has reached a scale to be of concern. For those who think it has crossed some critical threshold, preventing an image from being taken might be considered a form of child protection.
American Philosopher James Fieser points out, these factors (magnitude of a problem, protecting children) are among those often considered as part of an evaluation to censor or not. Now, by linking the choice of allowing a child’s picture to be taken at this event with censorship, it is not my intent to colour the decisions made by their parents. It is simply an observation of the parallels between two different things that triggered a thought process, that will become apparent shortly.
The availability of a choice recognises that there is a diversity of opinion on the matter and the organization decided to let the parents select, based on their own sensibilities. While the decision to be photographed, or not, might be viewed as a relatively small decision, my contention is that the factors used in making the decision are relevant to other decisions our community must make, such as those around abortion or legalization of cannabis. Both stir strong opinions in favour or against. Which side one stands depends, at least in part, on one’s beliefs; people with different belief systems — cultural norms — may draw different conclusions.
In a country as culturally diverse as Canada, we can extrapolate that opinions on many matters will be similarly diverse. Thus we face a source of tension within the community. While compromise might be sought, there are some topics for which there is no middle ground. It seems to me that it comes down to the tolerance the adherents of one side, or the other, are willing to extend.
As the diversity of opinions extends to accept more alternative outcomes, do we reach a point where everything is acceptable, because there is alway a group who tolerates the option or do we accept nothing because there is alway a group who finds the outcome obscene? Is this dichotomy intractable? How does this conundrum manifest? Frustration? Indignation? Intolerance? The tyranny of the righteous? Walls?
Among the observations in the essay by Geoffrey Batchen, in Thomas Barrow’s book Cancellations, was his view that defacing of the negatives was an act violence, which resonated with my feelings about mindless censorship, further magnified by the use of an “X” (rather than some other mark) which implicitly means “NO”.
My thought process into cross-cultural tensions had carried me through four points:  the use of censorship as a tool to navigate and expose the broader issue of cultural tension  the randomness of it all, as reflected in [Catch 22] Yossarian’s approach to censoring letters,  the violence, as explored in the book Cancellations, and  the tension developed in juxtaposing two seemingly valid objectives (e.g., protecting democracy and protecting our children).
[this is the first article of three: part 2, part 3]I recently photographed the Gingerbread Build at Toronto City Hall. The purpose of the event was to both raise funds for a charity and to organize a family function congruent with the season. Among my instructions was to only photograph children with a green wristband;…
[this is the second article of three: part 1, part 3] American Philosopher James Fieser cites a number of factors that inform censorship decisions. Those against censorship include: The arguments in support of censorship include: Reading Fieser’s ethics-based arguments I couldn’t help but think of Yossarian’s approach to censoring letters to home from enlisted men…
[this is the third article of three: part 1, part 2] Among the observations in the essay by Geoffrey Batchen, in Thomas Barrow’s book Cancellations, was his view that defacing of the negatives was an act violence, which resonated with my feelings about mindless censorship, further magnified by the use of an “X” (rather than…
It is a question sometimes faced by artworks: is this a work of art or simply in bad taste, or pornographic, and without value? By cutting Trump for commercial reasons (ironically to make room for commercials), the CBC has drawn international attention. The removed 8 minutes included a 7-second scene that portrays Trump as a…