Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Censorship," Public Arts Funding, and Media Bias

I am acutely aware of media bias, and have been trained to read between the lines of newspaper stories since my first debate class my sophomore year of high school. I consider myself a discerning consumer of news, and not easily fooled. But it's amazing how a headline can still inflame. Consider the following story, with the headlines I saw, accompanied by my thought processes:

(From Drudge) "Politician Wants Government to Review Movie Scripts -- Before Cameras Start Rolling..." Me: What the hell? This must be about that Dakota Fanning movie. Imagine - the federal government reviewing every movie script - what is this, North Korea? Outrageous! I wonder if it's a Democrat like Al Gore, who's music censorship insanity now gets a free pass, or if it's some nanny state "conservative." It'll never fly, but the fact that it even is up for debate is shameful! I need to check this out... Click.

The headline from the Wilmington Star, a North Carolina paper: "Republican: Scripts Need Reviewing" Me: Great. Even though I know the headline would read differently if a Democrat had proposed this, way to fulfill every negative stereotype about conservatives. I need to blog about this offensive and unconstitutional attack on free speech. Not only is it outrageous, but it'll be good to show those who think the FedSoc is just a GOP shill that principles trump party politics here. Government pre-screening of movie scripts - Outrageous!

And then I actually read it. In my head was the sound of the abrupt record scratch as the jukebox stops playing and everyone in the bar looks up.
That system, said state Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, would apply only to films seeking the state's lucrative filmmaker incentive, which refunds as much as 15 percent of what productions spend in North Carolina from the state treasury.
Me: Well I'll be darned. I just got punk'd by two headlines in a row. Not only is it entirely reasonable for a 15% stakeholder to want to review a script before committing to it, it has nothing to do with the First Amendment or government censorship of private art (however disgusting) at all. It doesn't have anything to do with the federal government, either.

I think it's a dangerous road to start down, to offer this kind of incentive package. I understand the state's desire to incentivize filmmakers to come to their state and show it off (hopefully in a positive light). But then comes the murky world of deciding what's "objectionable," allegations of "arbitrary and capricious" decision making, etc.

Regardless, nothing in the actual facts being reported has anything to do with the implications of the headline, which is that "Republicans hate free speech and want to censor Hollywood." It is a dishonest way to support an entitlement mentality - "I have the right to make a movie, therefore, the I have a right to government money that may help me do that."

One of the truisms behind the principles of limited government that most of us here share is that if government pays for it, they can control it. We generally therefore seek to limit government control and intrusion by cutting the purse strings. It is one of the logical absurdities of liberalism we here tend to reject - that one is entitled to the government's (other people's) money for our own benefit without any strings attached, and that the Constitution requires it.

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