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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

OFFENSIVE MATERIAL

"The Bible is full of genocide, patricide, fratricide, general murder, animal torture, incest, wars, the "wrath of god". Horrible reading overall. They were right to protest."

Shocking Bible
England invented the postal system, delivering letters and packages with stamps to specific addresses. Most of the things we take for granted about the postal system come from the British system, such as it being illegal to mail certain things, a crime to tamper with a mailbox, and government employees delivering mail.

The system has developed over the years to greater sophistication, with mailmen usually not paying that much attention to what they deliver mostly due to sheer volume of mail they work with each day. In Jersey, they have a different set of rules from England, but are quite similar. However, their mail system took an odd turn recently.

Postal workers in Jersey refused to deliver CDs of a reading of the Gospel of Mark because they deemed the material potentially offensive:
Rev Liz Hunter of St Helier Methodist Centre said: ‘Initially Jersey Post seemed quite positive about helping us deliver the CDs.

‘But then a couple of weeks ago somebody from their marketing department phoned to say they would be unable to deliver them on the grounds that they could be deemed offensive.

‘They said there were guidelines about mass material that is sent out across the island and that religious recordings could offend people.

'This is not openly aggressive evangelism it was just a nice idea to give everyone a CD which they can chose to listen to if they wish.'
A couple of churches ordered the CDs so they could be delivered to every household on the isle of Jersey, and the mail carriers just refused. Still, this was in the Daily Mail, and sometimes they exaggerate or don't tell the whole story. Maybe there's more to it.

Not according to the BBC:
Chief Executive Kevin Keen, said: 'I understand that one of my colleagues did say the material was offensive.

'This decision was made on the basis of our terms and conditions which states that we have the right to refuse to distribute something that falls under the category of 'promotional material which could cause offence'.

'Clearly this was interpreted in the wrong way. I have spoken to the person involved and have written to all of my colleagues asking that they come to me if there is any doubt in their mind in the future.'

The CDs are now being delivered by volunteers.
In other words, some executive at the Jersey postal service decided a CD of someone reading Mark was offensive, and hence violated the guidelines of the mailing service.

I can't read his mind, but I'm guessing its someone who doesn't care for Christianity and just didn't want to have something like that delivered to their own home, so they ruled for everyone else. The problem is this idea of taking offense.

This is where porn has been relegated to legally; its not considered immoral, its just something some people might be offended by. In the United States, the Supreme Court determined that communities can ban or restrict pornography by age or area based on "community standards." They did this because its so hard to legally define pornography. That's why you can have a painting of a beautiful naked woman with her hand between her legs up in the Metropolitan Art Museum but the same pose, with a naked woman, can be declared pornography in another setting or depiction.

So instead of being based on any objective standard, it is controlled based on "offense." And the basic flaw with this approach is that it is totally subjective; leading to things like the post office. What one person thinks is offensive another may not - and the same person might find something offensive one day or in one setting and not in another. I'm not saying the law can really do things any different with porn, which is very difficult to legally define, I am just noting that these standards inevitably will lead to this kind of situation.

If you create rules about offensiveness then the standard simply becomes what some person feels on that day, which can be nearly anything. Because the decision is left up to someone's feelings and inclination rather than objective standards, there's really no limit to what can be declared offensive and blocked. Even "community standards" is an ever-shifting miasma of uncertainty, changed by whoever can push the standards further and shock people's sensibility into numbness as the boundaries are shoved more and more.

Steven Bochco, director and producer of shows like Hill Street Blues, LA Law, and NYPD Blue said about the last show that he was trying to change what could be shown on television. He deliberately put more and more nudity on television attempting to change the standards and what a community would find acceptable. And that's what it takes to change a culture, a small amount of influential, deliberate people who want to alter society and their perceptions.

In Europe, once the center of Christianity, the shift has gone so far away that now, Christian items are being deemed unacceptable and offensive. Each incremental step like this leads closer to a day when there won't be an outcry, and there won't be a reversal. Is that really where they want to be? And is it what people really want here, where religion is no longer protected but attacked and blocked, for the good of others?

And when it comes down to facts, is potentially causing offense truly significant enough an event to warrant legal sanction? In other words, should the government, with the force of law, try to protect people from being offended, from feeling bad about something? Isn't that what the left spent so much time trying to eliminate in the name of free speech in the 60s and 70s? Yet here we are a few decades later and the left is trying to implement their version of morality on everyone else, while pointing the finger at everyone else as a fascist violator of liberty.

I can't help but think of Animal Farm where the rules start out so very equal and full of liberty, but every morning the pigs have slipped more exemptions and clauses to them. The first amendment grants freedom to speech... unless its Christian.

*Hat tip to Right Wing News for this story.

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