Censorship: official restriction of any expression believed to threaten the political, social, or moral order.
A few weeks back I wrote a piece on violence in toy photography which caused a bit of a stir in our community. I was pleased by how respectful everyone was in dealing with this difficult subject . Although I was hurt that several people accused me of advocating censorship or at the very least, self censorship.
I will admit this upset me more than I would care to admit. How could I, a life long artist, a former photography of nudes who has dealt with my own accusations of censorship, be guilty of calling for censorship in others? I’ve been giving this topic a lot of thought and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am NOT guilty of calling for censorship. What I am guilty of is not respecting the right to freedom of speech. No matter how difficult, painful and ugly that speech might be.
Here in the United States we live with the assumption that we have freedom of speech, in fact its contained in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. I believe that publishing photos that are especially violent, while distasteful to me, would certainly fall under this right. It’s not for me to ask anyone to change what they’re doing photographically just because it offends me. Just as I wouldn’t want anyone to ask me to stop taking photos that offend them (Chima for instance). 🙂
This idea extends to other sensitive topics, like homosexuality. My friend @Brickandmordor had a clash of cultures recently. She posted an image of two lego figures in a same sex romance. A member of our toy community, who lives in Russia, was offended and wrote extensively about it in the comments on her image. While homosexuality is legally tolerated in Russia, there is wide spread discrimination within Russia towards anyone in the LGBT community. A very spirited discussion ensued on the Brickandmordor feed that led to no satisfactory conclusion except to open everyones eyes as to how different our cultures can be.
If you come across a photo of two same sex Lego figures getting intimate, or a photo of a storm trooper being brutally decapitated, it’s not for us the viewer to ask the artist to change, it for us the viewer to open our minds to new ideas. Art, effective art anyway, is designed to get us to think differently, to challenge our safe beliefs. Even if you don’t agree with the “art” argument you might consider this relevant section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
As always, I learn more than I can say from this crazy world wide community of toy photographers. We’re more than simple toy photographers, we are all humans and emissaries of our countries and our beliefs. We each create a window into our individual worlds which often reveal more than we realize about the unique countries we live in. Because we play on a world wide stage, its important to remember you will always come across something that offends you. But it’s how we react to that information that will either bring us together or drive us apart.
I will admit I’m never going to “like” an image that glorifies violence; I’m no saint. But I will respect your right to create and publish that image. I hope we all can embrace that right and be respectful of each others viewpoints, Maybe someday we will develop an understanding, an appreciation even, of everything that makes us different and everything that makes us the same.
Have you ever had an interaction on a social media platform that made you uncomfortable, but also helped you to understand someone else cultural point of view?
If you’re interested in a full list of censorship definitions from different view points, check out the list.
I have to admit, wanting to do a project around violent comments and harassment, this post kind of has my thoughts swimming.
Swimming in what way? I know you are up on the violence conversation, so what has changed?
I’m thinking about purpose. So maybe someone posts a comment on a picture that says “I bet you taste like strawberries.” It’s creepy, it’s eyebrow raising, and it crosses the line that I think is decent for a public conversation. But then so what? It’s not really different from a picture I don’t like. I wouldn’t base a project around photos I don’t like, so why would I around a comment? It complicates it even further by considering the harassment I was going to center on really isn’t present in the toy community. I just like the pairing of verbal violence next to toys. But all of it is within rights of people to say, regardless of if I would ever say it or not.
I think your right when you say comments like that creepy. They represent everything that is wrong with the internet. People think they have the right to say something offensive to someone just because that person can’t reach through he internet and slap them, which is probably what they deserve. The so called anonymity that the internet provides is a cheap form of permission to act like jerks. I am lucky and no one leaves comments like that on any of my multiple social media outlets. Why I don’t know? I have never been a magnet for that type of individual. For me I would simply delete and move on without a response. If it persisted, I would block them. I know that engaging in any way with that type of person, only makes it worse. And like you said, non of this behavior is present in the toy community, which I think we can all be grateful for. I think a light needs to be shown on the harassment that women are subjected to on the internet. How this is done and in what fashion doesn’t really matter. Its an important issue that needs to be talked about even if it isn’t directly applicable to the Toy community. Most of the people in our community play on multiple platforms. Does this help? Probably not. 🙂
Speaking as someone who is too thin-skinned to raise my head above the parapet, I found this article a breath of fresh air; especially in a society of increasing thought policing.
Being thin-skinned, I very rarely interact with others over social or political issues, on social media, but I just try to accept that others have another point of view. However, having my “politics” run by logic and common sense (and not dogma), I could punch holes in many a dogmatic Facebook rant, but I choose not to. I let it go. If I didn’t and I got into the inevitable fight – and that’s where they usually end up – it would get to me.
Thankfully, IG doesn’t often feature things like that, but there is one regular picture type that does make me frown and it’s always accompanied by the hashtag #streetart: graffiti. I understand that a lot of artistic effort and creativity goes into the featured works, but the hashtag #vandalism is always absent.
I have been close to saying something on a couple of these pictures, but then I just realise that I’m an old fart with a different generational upbringing and value (I had older parents, too) and just try to accept that the world is changing.
Although, if pictures do end up posing a real problem for me, the best course of action is to unfollow. A while back, someone started posting pictures of Lego minifigures with packets of drugs. Unfollowed!
Having said that, I’ve been known to make a few slight social comment themed pictures from time to time and it’s something I’d like to do again, but they’ll be about modern behavior and the absurdities of modern life. Mind you, I’ve been fairly absent from IG of late and I hope to put that right very soon.
Cole, I remember a time on Twitter when it felt like the wild west, you could say anything and it was awesome! Then the thought police took control. All original conversations ended and twitter was replaced by a bunch of bots spewing generic “news” for our consumption. Twitter is dying because you can get the news anywhere. I have no real friends on FB, mostly toy buddies, but on G+ I follow a whole mess of people who believe the polar opposite of me. I think it is easier to hear there rants when I don’t know who they are and I can read them without emotion. I am fascinated by other thought processes and I find it enlightening. It is good too step out from behind those safe walls we build around ourselves and see what the rest of the world thinks. I too have a hand time with graffiti. While it can be beautiful, as a property owner I am constantly having to go out and paint over it, because thats the law in my city. Its a pain in the ass. I would love to have you back on IG with your clever, insightful and dry wit. I can see you skewing the absurdities of modern life and making me laugh along the way. I will be anticipating that moment, even if I am at the end of your razor sharp wit. Shelly xoxo
Thanks for including my experience in this blog. I think the key word here is “respect”. People absolutely have the right to disagree with and be offended by someone’s art. It is my hope that if someone chooses to express their differing opinions that it be done so respectively, and that they are open to continuing a mature conversation about it (with the artist and others in the community, since it is a public forum after all). I would also hope that if such individuals do not want to talk about their differing opinions, that they either choose not to engage with the artist in the first place, or politely decline from further conversation about it.
The offended commenter in my recent experience was incredibly disrespectful and became hostile at the end. His negative words and tone continue to haunt me.
I’m sorry that the incident on your feed did not go as smoothly as the ones I was having around toy violence. But you are right, respect is the key. I think if we can all engage in respectful dialogue we all might come away a little wiser. Us in understanding what it must be like to live in Russia and our friend in that the world might be a little different outside Russia. We all need to appreciate what the other’s experience is like. But if we are to keep that conversation open, we have to respect the other persons view point. I hope we can all move forward a little more enlightened and hopefully with time you will feel a little better.
Freedom of speech. A most interesting topic, and not an easy one.
Now, I must say that one side of the balance in freedom of speech is equally important and that is respect for the individual being and what some call the “harm principle”.
So, while I am big believer of freedom of speech, have rallied before against censorship we should keep the balance with the harm principle.
So, violence in toy photography as an adult art form is something I may not personally appreciate, but would not object to as long as it respects all individuals and does not invoke the harm principle. Fantasy is a good example, where the balance between pure good and evil is used, respecting in most cases the harm principle. Now, when someone would start using simular violence in toy photography to follow a political agenda of lets say racism or religious superiority, the freedom of speech principle will come directly in conflict with the harm principle and laws and regulations will enforce censorship for the better good of humanity.
So I fully agree with you Shelly that we should all try to understand the others person view point and enrich and enlighten our time here on this little blue marble together.
That is an interesting point you bring up – The Harm Principle. I think that concept was why I wrote the original post. Since we all play on an open social media platform (and our main subject is toys) we will have children in the audience. That is a fact whether we like it or not. At what point do you invoke the harm principle? I know movies have a rating system to guide and advise, but what do we, as simple toy photographers have to guide our audience as to what is child safe? It seems nothing but out own imperfect moral compass. We are not creating high art, and even if we were plenty of artists have run afoul of the moral argument, so we shouldn’t be using that as an excuse. We live in new and interesting time where our humanity is being tested on a regular basis. In the scheme of things, this topic is one small aspect of the larger issue of how do we treat and respect our fellow man.
Thanks for weighing in. 😀