As we were getting into the final chapter, wherein we would both allow ourselves to editorialize and opine… I was getting pretty nervous. Not that we had some huge following or audience that we might “turn off” with our hot-takes or anything… it’s just that I had never expressed any controversial statements on-the-air before. Even if just one listener had clapped-back, I would have really been affected by it.
Reggie, as always, was cool about it. He invited me to share some of my takeaways… told me we’d do the recording, and afterwards… anything either of us didn’t feel comfortable with… would be edited out. Working very much “with a net”, I was able to allow myself to be honest… even if my honest opinion was one that might not be appreciated by a listener or two.
Here’s a look at our “Mission Statement” for Part 5:
Today’s blog post will be focusing on the very last line.
A story that kept creeping back into my head as we were preparing for this piece was one that… honestly, I can’t remember if it made air or not. I haven’t been able to go back and listen to our back catalog… I’m not really ready for that yet, ya know? The story was about the time I’d gotten into an contentious discussion a few years prior at, of all places, an anime and manga message board.
A man had been taken into custody for importing some digital manga (doujinshi, fan-made manga images, actually) into Canada… which, had been jumped on by the “commentary community” of the day… and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. These images, it’s worth noting, were… unsavory. Not the sort of thing you’d want left out on your coffee table when Grandma comes to visit. He was accused of having well, “kiddie” stuff due to the “moe” style of the art. That’s… an argument I’ll leave for other folks to discuss.
The person involved was, by all accounts, treated quite poorly by Canadian Customs, and it was an all-around horrible situation. Again, the actual content of the doujinshi (which you can find online, if you’re interested) isn’t something I’m going to be covering here. It’s more the fallout on this particular forum… wherein, one of the more notable members (an Admin, actually) wrote this scathing screed about censorship… and, as is often the case, blamed the entire thing on American Conservatives (this case, again, didn’t happen in the USA). This Admin found themselves lost in the weeds… completely forgot the plot, and was just all-around nasty to anyone who might’ve held an opposing political opinion.
So, on this forum… this notable member was able to foment this very pointed movement… and narrative about how, any time censorship had been invoked in the 20th Century, it always came from the political-Right (emphasis on always). I’m not one to carry the water for any political ideology… but, that’s just plain untrue. I added to the conversation, in as non-confrontational a way as possible in order to offer up a few examples of why this was, ultimately, a flawed position… and one that would only serve to divide and make people angry, rather than actually helping.
The two that immediately popped into my head were the semi-recent (within the past quarter-century at least), Parental Advisory stickers on music albums and the ESRB code on video games. The Music Industry had gotten push back for explicit lyrics from Tipper Gore, then-wife of then-Senator Al Gore (D) and the Parents’ Music Resource Center, which ultimately led to those stickers getting stuck… and probably for that Butthole Surfers album getting its new K-Mart-friendly “Squirrel cover”.
Video games, around the time of Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, faced a ton of criticism in Washington, D.C. Led by Joe Lieberman (D), Herb Kohl (D), and at the time-First Lady, Hillary Clinton. I’m not seeing any Conservatives just yet (not to say there weren’t any involved). Again, I’m not one to carry anybody’s water, and I was by no means attempting to make a blanket statement… I was just trying to add some context in order to stop everyone else from doing the same. There is a productive discussion to be had here… we just gotta peel back the layers of political partisanship in order to actually get there.
Naturally, I was exposed as a witch on that forum… and run off (banned actually, which… when you’re talking “censorship” is kind of a hoot) as a George W. Bush supporter/sympathizer (which, is a most laughable accusation).
Now, in learning all about Senator Estes Kefauver (D) throughout this project… this was yet another attempt at regulation coming from the American political Left. I figured, since this entire series of episodes was predicated on challenging established narratives (Wertham the Boogeyman, Seduction of the Innocent, etc.), it might not be the worst idea to bring some of these concepts into the light. I mean, we were already going to mention regulatory “Codes” in other media… but, without any sort of actual background discussion.
I was worried though. I wasn’t looking to attack anybody or any political “side” (I personally don’t have a dog in that fight)… this was going to be a simple presentation of facts. Actually, it was going to be one of the least editorialized “bits” of the episode… because, we were certainly not looking for any sort of political debate. But still… it’s politics on the internet, which is a scary slope to slide down. Since we’d be sharing this on social media… I grew even more trepidatious. Because, there are certain truisms on social media: nobody shops at Walmart, nobody eats at McDonald’s, everybody is a good driver, and everybody votes Democrat.
Granted, nothing ever came of this… we were never “called out” for our presentation of the facts… nor, looking back, was that really ever something to be worried about. We never took a position, which… when strictly presenting facts, is really the only way to be. Reggie was supportive, and honestly, I might’ve been most nervous about presenting this “bit” to him, as he was further to the Left politically. Seeing as though we were simply presenting facts, without any sort of snide opinion, he didn’t see anything wrong with it.
Now, the main reason we wanted to introduce Self-Regulation among other forms of media (music, video games… even television and the movies) into the conversation was to point out one thing in particular. American industries who regulate themselves don’t have to answer to the United States Constitution. This is something we touched on yesterday, regarding the harshness of the CCA vs. had the government actually intervened.
If the government had been forced to get involved, and judge every piece of media (comics and otherwise) being produced… they would have to be led by the First Amendment of the Constitution and likely, quite often run in with the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s a lot of effort… and, as we posited… not the sort of effort the Feds were looking to expend.
Here’s a bit from our notes:
Over the next couple of days, we’ll wrap this subject up once and for all… we still have to look at the end of the CCA (and life after the Code), talk about Frederic Wertham actually coming around to comics (and comics fandom) in his later years, and discuss perhaps the diciest subject of all: The “new” Comics Code Authority aka. social media.