Art vs. Pseudo-Science

Speaking of Ace, guest-blogger Gabriel Malor has reprinted part of an L.A. Times article which lists, in table format, the number of violent acts in the latest Rambo movie.

The last time I saw one of these tables drawn up was over 20 years ago, by a group that was against violence on TV. Their “ah-ha!” moment came from counting the number of violent acts in a certain cop show, which averaged something like one a minute.

Well, that does sound like a lot, doesn’t it? It had more violence– lots more violence–than any other show. In fact, in its half-hour time slot (22 minutes of actual show), thirty to fifty people could die!


Did you get the tip-off there? A half-hour cop show? Half-hour shows are sitcoms! (At least that was the rule back in the early ‘80s.)

Indeed, the “cop show” in question was “Police Squad!” The comedy show from the makers of “Airplane!” In one show–the one I know these “anti-violence” dinks were using as their metric–the CSI guy is trying to figure out the angle of attack for a gunshot wound. So, he lines people up and shoots them at different angles. Seven or eight people killed in just a few seconds!

But of course it was a joke! The scene was violent like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Not even that violent, because cartoons can exaggerate things without having to increase their budget much.

Now, we could assume that these anti-violent people–who never mentioned that the show was a comedy (and it was low-rated in the short time it was on, sadly)–were simply cynically incorporating a show that they knew would boost their message.

But far worse, I suspect that, to their minds, violence is violence is violence. Not only are we putty in the hands of convincing, real world violence, but we can’t even take a joke without being hideously transformed by a literal meaning that we inherently reject (as pat of the humor). Nobody watched “Police Squad!” (or “Airplane!”) and thought anybody really died. It’s like thinking rabbi, priests and ministers travel in packs, golfing, visiting bars and flying in airplanes.

It’s been pointed out that radical environmentalists have one solution for every problem: State control of human population. Too many people? The state should regulate how many children people can have. Too hot? The state should regulate what people can do in their lives that produces carbon (everything, including how many children people can have). Too cold? The state should regulate, etc. (Before the greenhouse-gas theory, which suggests particulate matter created by humans traps heat in, the coming ice age was going to be caused by the same particulate matter blocking the sun’s rays out!) And global cooling is coming again, as is over-population.

The science always fits the theory and the solution is always the same.

Not surprisingly, the anti-violence (and anti-sex) crowd work on the same premise. They know what they want: State control of what people may do, say and observe.

Of course, the state is all too happy to control everything, so you have this triangle of activist-government-science, and poor little science doesn’t stand a chance. It usually sends in its retarded younger brother, “science”, who will say anything to be popular.

I think–I hope–that we’re a little bit smarter now as a group. The censors haven’t been all that effective with video games (unlike their earlier attempts, which pulled the vicious Death Race from arcades in the ’70s), and in the ’80s, they only managed to stigmatize role-playing. (Er, beyond the nerd stigma it already carried.)

But there’s always a “Well, that was different” attitude in older people. Carmageddon is different from Death Race, therefore it’s a good thing to censor it. I mean, we could tell those stick figures weren’t really human, but that collection of polygons and pixels might actually fool some impressionable youngster into thinking running over people with cars is fun!

Rap is different from punk is different from rock is different from rock-and-roll is different from big band is different from flapper music. Music is the best for this, because you can trace scolds back to the first monk who said, “Hey, let’s sing two notes at the same time!”. (“Now, now, Brother Josef, you know that’s Satan talking!”)

Fiction in its various written forms is also a good one, though nobody reads much any more and a good many modern comic books really are geared toward adults, but let’s not forget the old EC comics (Tales from the Crypt), the Congressional hearings about superhero comic books like Superman and Batman, and pulp fiction from the likes of Burroughs and Lovecraft, which was said to be rotting the moral fiber of our youth.

And movies today are different from movies when I was a kid. Well, yeah, when I was a kid, every freaking movie had a sex scene. I’m pretty sure I saw Ken Berry and Karen Valentine bumping uglies in one of Disney’s Herbie-The-Love-Bug movies. And we never got popcorn when I was a kid so I had to just sit there, bored and embarrassed, until it was over.

And, I guess, given the current generation of parents, “Sex and drugs were different when I was having them as a kid.” No doubt. You trusted yourself, probably too much, and probably don’t trust your kids enough.

Now, none of this should be construed as an endorsement of modern culture. Modern culture is going to have to pay me a hefty sum before it gets my stamp of approval. (I can be bought, but not cheaply.) I like opera and Victorian novels alongside regular viewings of “Ow! My Balls!

But let’s be honest as to what this is all about.

At the minimum, it’s about taste. Too bad. The world doesn’t share yours. Get over it. (You can apply this to a lot of environmentalism as well. Hummers are just in bad taste, right?)

At the maximum, and worst, it’s about control. Once again, too bad. The world doesn’t want to be controlled, much. Censorship has largely been used as a bludgeon against the unfortunate few who weren’t big league enough to be on the right side of the club. So the best you can do is make a few people miserable (and for a lot of moral scolds, that’s a satisfying goal).

In fact, the greater the (coerced) centralized control, the greater the misery.

If you want to change things–really change things, and not just be parent to the world, convince the world that you’re right. There are plenty of groups that eschew popular culture, that promote better values, and so on. The beauty of this approach is, not only are you changing things, you’re a rebel! You’re bucking the system, going against the herd, swimming upstream!

And that’s always fun, right?