This past weekend George Will in his Washington Post op-ed looked at censorship in entertainment. Entitled Our puritanical progressives, Will through connection to Fredric Wertham makes the argument that it’s progressives that are responsible for censorship in entertainment.
There’s numerous problems with Will’s writing, first and foremost, is his understanding of the word “progressive.” Wikipedia actually has a pretty decent rundown on the progressive ideology:
American progressives tend to support international economics: they advocate progressive taxation and oppose the growing influence of corporations. Progressives are in agreement on an international scale with left-liberalism in that they support organized labor and trade unions, they usually wish to introduce a living wage, and they often support the creation of a universal health care system.
So where does Wertham fall in there? Wertham was primarily concerned about violence and with protecting children from psychological harm, not exactly a progressive cause. His book, Seduction of the Innocent focused on entertainment and particularly comic books and their “corruption of the youth.” This lead to Senate hearings and the formation of the Comic Code Authority and cancellation of quite a few comic books due to their content.
The problem with Will’s article isn’t the history he cites, it’s his use of “progressive.” At no point does he make the case Wertham ever was one other than calling him one. One would say Wertham is more of a puritan or nannyist when it comes to entertainment, not so much a progressive. Will goes on to say:
Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.
Progressives tend to favor advocating changes or reform through governmental action. The progressive ideology is about improving harsh or unfair conditions, not telling you what you can or can’t watch.
As a whole the history Will cites is correct and gives a good background of the censorship of comic books and today’s attacks on video games. It’s unfortunate that he drags ideological labels into the battle, when today’s fights cross party lines.
The California law Will refers to was put forth by the State of California and championed by an elected Democrat but the court case bears the name of the state’s Republican Governor. When looking across the nation one can find numerous cases of censorship across parties. When it comes to scoring political points with parents by demonizing the latest trend, fad, or form of entertainment, both parties and all ideologies are guilty.
This has nothing to do with progressive ideals, in fact I’d argue it’s the antithesis of it. This is a new form of entertainment (video games) going through the puritan/nannyist smell test of “think about the children.”
Glenn Ray follows up on Will’s article. Agreeing with me this is a Puritan issue, not a progressive one. The writer cites himself as both a Puritan and progressive and lays out quite well that the two can be separate. While Ray says, he’s not a fan of today’s entertainment, he also cite’s this a “Puritan problem.”
I never used to believe in censorship, but that was before the Bill Ayers-Black Panther-LSD-meth- Islamic fascism and sexual revolution era of American values….this return to paganism and the fall of democratic senses.
Kind of interesting that Will who would be considered a conservative is against this modern day censorship, Ray who clearly a faith-based conservative is one that favors them.
Here I’ve shown two individuals of the similar side of the coin with opposing views on censorship, I hope George Will will think again before painting progressives in the same way.