Thursday, January 05, 2012


A theater* professor in Wisconsin is being censored for a "Firefly" quote. I missed this when it was new.  I don't know Firefly, except that even some heavy intellectual types seem to like the show.  Maybe this is the villain, or some other contemptible character. 

Yet it doesn't matter.  It is clearly not being censored for whatever it means in context of the TV series.  It is being considered inappropriate, worthy of being ripped down, because it refers to shooting and violence.  This is because to many non-gun people it all ties together: America's Love Affair With Guns, and all that.  The belief persists, for entirely cultural rather than intellectual reasons, that if we weren't so darn encouraging of all this gun talk that a New Soviet M... excuse me, I meant to write a better type of person would slowly emerge, and we wouldn't have so much violence, because everyone would learn war is not the answer and all that.  Not that all those Bambi-kil... I mean hunters aren't necessarily violent people, no, no, they're the salt-of-the-earth, usually, but they just don't see, not like John Lennon that it just encourages people to think that violence solves their problems...

Lots of 'em really think like that, as the story of an entire university that seems unable to understand simple ideas illustrates.  As if drugrunners were heavily influenced by cowboy movies, or some other bizarre American-culture-is-the-problem idiocy. 

I get it that there are lots of yahoos who own guns, and they leave them around in manners I would consider unsafe.  But the folks they kill through that carelessness are their own,  it is very few, and it's not what drives the violent crime rate.  It's not caring about safety that makes folks want to restrict them, it's caring about whose culture gets to be Big Penis in the USA.

A long rant, I know.  The takeaway: too many people think that discouraging certain Other People from speaking, and trying to drum up social sanction against them, will reduce violence.  It won't.  Violence is driven by entirely different factors.

(HT: Volokh)

*Or "Theatre," as we used to say at W&M.  If you were really good - and we were - you could discern the difference in pronunciation.


Lelia Rose Foreman said...

I am surprised that you haven't seen the series. I would recommend you watch the series and then the movie. It's a cowboys in space adventure that explores why we want government to leave us alone.
I think I remember the quote being from the captain reassuring a scared passenger that he is not going to sneak up and kill the passenger.
I'm sure someone will correct me.

karrde said...

Pretty accurate, Lelia.

It's a memorable quote for Captain Reynolds, spoken near the end of the pilot episode.

I don't know if we can properly call Reynolds a hero, as he is fond of skirting the law for personal profit. But he claims to have a valid grudge against the central authorities whose laws he defies.

And the places he travels in his space ship are kind of like the distant towns of the old West. The law is enforced when possible in a rough manner. The environment can kill the unprepared. And there are lots of places to hide.

I think Reynolds is having a conversation with a passenger who has just been offered a position as a permanent crew-member. The passenger, a doctor, has a price on his head. He's not sure if Reynolds will kill for that money. And they just came through a little adventure with lots of gunfire and more than one death...

Texan99 said...

"Firefly" was an entertaining series. We discovered it late, then watched all the episodes at one time with real pleasure. I liked the scene when a weary Captain Reynolds said to an annoying crew member, "Well, I'm confused, I'm angry -- and I'm armed." I supposed if Professor Miller put that on a poster he'd simply be dragged to jail.

Way for this supremely silly university to miss the point, that Captain Reynolds is an old-fashioned hero of the cowboy sort, who might be violent but never would be cowardly or underhanded.

Roy Lofquist said...

Firefly is by far the best TV fare I have ever watched, and I've been watching since 1949 or so. Space opera at its best. Etymology: soap opera -> horse opera -> space opera.

Every couple of months I crank up Netflix on my trusty TRS-80 and watch it all the way through. Requires a lot of cheap gin to get through the marathon session.

Nine, count-em, nine strong complex characters that I like and care about. Moral ambiguity abounds.

As to the violence, it is vintage Heinlein. The captain and his crew go out of their way to avoid it, but when it finds them they deal with it with dispatch.

All that with humor and wit.

AVI, I don't usually recommend things to people but you are surely missing something worthwhile here.

karrde said...

...back to the subject at hand.

Guns and gun culture seems to wrap people up in absurd fantasies. On one end are 'mall-ninja' guys who pretend to have skills (and equipment) usually only found among Special Forces in the military. Are they more or less frightening than the lazy and careless gun-owner?

On the other end are people who imagine that guns are evil agents, somehow polluting minds and turning normal people into killers. There's also the people who think that they can create the New Soviet...Non-Violent American Man by restricting glorification of violence.

There is one thing that the anti-violence people seem unable to grasp: more than one kind of violence can happen. Some violence is predatory; some violence is protective. Violence can be justified, or unjustified.

Rather than condemning violence, can we focus our attention on deciding which category an instance of violence fits into?

The tool (firearm, knife, club, wine-bottle, baseball-bat, fists, boots, etc.) can limit the scope of the violence. It is much less important than the wielder, his intent, his deeds, and the impact of the deeds on others.

Lelia Rose Foreman said...

So. AVI, let us know what you think after you watch the series with your wife and other hangers-on.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

We haven't had a TV since Jonathan was born. He's 32 now.

james said...

Our TV had a rather noisy flyback transformer, and our eldest would wake up and come downstairs if we turned it on. And if we let him watch anything it was nearly an hour before he'd settle down to sleep (run-around-the-chairs hyper). So the TV began to stay off at night, and we allowed only a few limited shows during the day.

I wearied of the low information density in the news programs, and I think the last straw was the Loma Prieta earthquake. We have friends out there, and so we had the TV on all day trying to get some inkling of how they were. The blimp focused on the same burning building for hours, and only panned the city when they ran low on fuel and had to leave. Nobody thought to tack up a map and decorate it to show where they'd heard of damage and where there was none. Earnest talking heads abounded, but it was all words without knowledge.

The TV is in the basement, and we never did get around to getting an adapter; so all it is good for is watching videos.

The word verification is "worship", which I suppose is appropriate when discussing the typical living room shrine :-)

Donna B. said...

So... get a TV. It's not what it used to be. Get one you can hook up to your computer and watch only what you want to watch on it.

Or watch Firefly on your computer.

Like all tools, TV is only evil if you make it so :-)

Texan99 said...

Watching it on a computer is surely the easiest route. Old shows like Firefly are easy to rent or buy on DVD. Who needs a TV when you aren't interested in immediate access to whatever's being broadcast tonight?

We do have a TV and watch it often. I can't claim to be one of the folks who have one in a backroom and drag it out only to catch the occasional moon landing! There are shows I like to watch, and I can't download them on this computer because my satellite internet connection is way too limited. So yes, my name is Texan99 and I own and operate a TV.

I agree about the broadcast news, though. The producers aren't putting much effort into the exposition. About the idea of giving the poor audience a map, I wish the same would occur sometimes to the print media. Even on the Net, where I get most of my news, I often have to look up a byline on a search engine to find out where the heck some story is happening. Am I supposed to recognize Deer Trot, Iowa?

We have a hilarious local newspaper in the nearby town, practically a one-man operation. The editor will cover city council stories about municipal purchases of land or rezoning without ever thinking even to explain where the parcel in question is located, let alone provide a small map. Someone donated a historic house to the city? Where? Hey, what does it look like? A clue about the era, maybe? But as rudimentary as this local effort is, it sometimes stacks up well against national broadcast news.