Fit for Public Consumption

Sadistic, brutal and bleak: censors ban Manhunt 2 game | Technology | Guardian Unlimited Technology

Censorship is a horrible thing, of course, but the question of whether something material or intellectual is “fit for public consumption” is a legitimate one. If governments can ban certain foods (for example, the Guelaguetza chain here in Los Angeles no longer serves grasshoppers.) from consumption, then it is fair to ask whether they can ban other things from being consumed.

Germany and Austria have, understandably and justifiably, banned Nazism from public consumption. The Federal Communications Commission in the US has banned consumption of Janet Jackson’s nipple by the general public (and we are told that the Superbowl watching audience is one and the same with the general public, but I have my suspicions). And now, the British government is recommending the banning of the video game Manhunt 2 because the game has “an unrelenting focus on brutal slaying”, and because “The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected the game after finding it ‘constantly encourages visceral killing’.”

Is this a legitimate banning of virtual cocaine? Is it equivalent to (though clearly not on the same scale as) the banning of Nazism and Janet Jackson’s decorated nipple? The FCC will probably argue that Manhunt 2 will not be broadcast to innocent children as JJ’s nipple was, but the argument skirts the real question of whether anything as sadistic as Manhunt 2 is fit for consumption by anyone. Certainly, the government deems it necessary to keep everyone safe from child pornography, bestiality, and snuff films. Why is it that a virtual murderous rampage is morally more defensible than Janet Jackson’s nipple, and child and bestial pornography?

If the corrupting of the mind is a scourge to be battled by authorities, then why not ban a game containing no political statement, no intellectual content and no aspirations of decency? Why do the purveyors of trash enjoy greater freedoms in the US than do dissenting political factions? It seems as if the British authorities have a better notion of what is fit for public consumption than their American counterparts.

Deep fried Snickers bar, notwithstanding.

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