Especially after today's class, Taylor's earlier post about whether censorship is dying out got me thinking about the problems that persist in the media today -- even (and some would say especially) in democratic societies like ours.
It's incredibly obvious -- particularly in the U.S., where the thought of government control over the media can set off a lot of knee-jerk reactions from the freedom of speech crowd -- that Venezuela's Ley RESORTE is oppressive and problematic. Living in a world with no consistently reliable source of news and information is a terrifying thought, and it's all too easy to draw comparisons to Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy. And yes, as Taylor mentioned, a lot of our wartime propaganda is fairly laughable in comparison. But just because we don't deal with blatant jingoism and overall media restrictions are slowly becoming looser (try to imagine your grandparents growing up watching Friends, a show these days widely considered harmless, PG fun), does that mean we don't still have problems with the government getting all up in our media?
We're all aware of TV ratings and cable censorship, right? Those things aren't necessarily horrible in and of themselves. But compared to a lot of the developed world -- although not much of Latin America -- we are positively puritanical. A woman's breasts? Rated R. Cover up, cover up, cover up! And don't get me started on the seven dirty words (warning for language). Are these the things we really need to be protecting the youth of America from? Instead of communicating clear messages about sexual consent or violence or any number of real problems that can come from unsupervised media consumption, we're worried about kids being exposed to the F word?
Now, I wouldn't go so far as to put this on par with the rigid government control and censorship still rampant in Venezuela and many other countries. Yes, a lot of our restrictions are slowly relaxing. Yes, we'd like to think we're beyond the sort of fearmongering the government did during the world wars -- the sort that the Venezuelan government still relies on. But in addition to feeling grateful that we are better off than those other guys, in addition to raising these issues in regards to other countries, we need to step back and take a look at the media we all consume outside of our telenovelas. The government might not own our major news channels, but that doesn't mean free speech is really free, or that the FCC and its various movers and shakers don't have plenty of control over our mass media. It's important not just to look at this as someone else's problem but also to take a look around ourselves and think critically about the messages we consume.