It seems that the world grows every more sensitive by the day. There was a time when you could say, show or do pretty much anything you wanted, and no-one would take offence – or, if they did, they’d take the sensible approach of either getting us to shut up and think about about our actions, or switch off, walk away or ignore – whichever was most appropriate.

Today, it seems that everyone needs to be nannied to the point of smothering, or we’re all so terrified of causing offence or unwitting harm, that we’re somehow failing in our public duty if we fail to issue a timely warning that we may possibly cause some sort of offence to those of a sensitive nature.

Let me give you an example: I subscribe to a live Internet feed, capturing events, as they occur, in the wilds of the African bush. Recently the broadcaster has started to append the following solemn warning to the start of the broadcast…

“This programme shows coverage of a live African safari and may contain images of animal kills and carcasses. Viewer discretion is advised.”

You don’t say? And there was me expecting the lions to be playing nicely with the gazelles and behaving themselves for the camera! And what exactly does ‘viewer discretion’ mean anyway? Presumably it’s a reminder that we have the right not to watch, or to close our eyes or hide behind a cushion during the gory bits; but actually it’s a nonsense phrase – a misappropriation of a word placed in an artificial and incorrect context. Am I being told to be discrete? Should I be watching this with the curtains drawn and am I breaching the implied discretion by telling you about it?

You see these stupid advisory notes everywhere.. ‘Viewer discretion’, ‘Trigger warning’, ‘Contains disturbing scenes for those of a sensitive nature’, ‘NSFW’, and my favourite: ‘Contains mild peril’, a total oxymoron if every there was one! As far as I’m concerned, every one of these is completely unnecessary and a complete over-reaction to a non-existent problem. There’s only one warning that I’d ever consider even remotely legitimate… ‘Contains spoilers’!

You’ve gathered by now that I have no patience for political correctness or corporate over-protectiveness; neither am I impressed by the rationale that by pinning some sort of catch-all warning to their content a publisher/broadcaster is magically absolved of any responsibility or accountability for the effects of their content. However, I suppose what really irritates me is that the whole thing is totally unnecessary in the first place. If, for example, I go to watch a Disney film at the cinema, I know exactly what to expect – I don’t need any warnings or advisories to prepare me for what I about to see. Yet, if I buy that same movie on DVD, the case will be smothered with warnings of mild peril and romantic themes, all of which pales into insignificance when I turn on the news or open my newspaper to be greeted by pictures of dead bodies and terror – with no disclaimers or warnings at all… Similarly, I can tune in to a TV programme, preceded by dire warnings of bad language, yet walk down my local high street and be greeted by exactly the same, or worse, profanity with no option to turn off or switch channels.

It seems to me that much of this semi-censorship is about as effective as what we see in SL. You’d imagine that enforcement of TOS, community standards and social protocol would be a fairly straightforward affair in a virtual world platform, but the simple fact is that, no matter how comprehensive the rules, regulations and guidelines, they are pretty much unenforceable in the main, and flagrantly violated a large part of the time.

I spend a lot of time, for example, in sims with a ‘General’ rating. However, it’s a fairly common occurrence to come across people openly flouting the rules with impunity, various degrees of nudity, highly inappropriate behaviour, homes and public venues filled with questionable decor and pose balls are all fairly common occurrences. Then there’s the content of so many profiles which, at times, would make even the most broad-minded of us blush… And it’s on display for the world to see, seemingly totally unmoderated or policed. Surprising really when you consider that Linden Lab once famously took the view that female nipples depicted in classical artwork were offensive and should be censored.

I’d suggest that from any practical standpoint, we should be grown up about such things. We log in to SL in the full knowledge that we may see, hear and experience things that may be distasteful to us, and if we are of a sensitive disposition then it’s up to us to undertake our own level of censorship – much as we would like them to, other people are not going to moderate their behaviour just to suit us. Indeed, that’s what most of us manage to achieve inworld anyway, without a whole host of do-gooders trying to protect us from supposed harm.

If only the real world could be like that, but I fear that things can only get worse in the long run. I can foresee a time, in the not too distant future when new arrivals into the world will be greeted by a midwife sternly holding a notice warning us:

‘This is real life – it may contain distressing moments for some participants. Those of a sensitive nature may wish to return to the womb now!’

s. x

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
This is not a love song
This is not a love song
Public Image Ltd – This Is Not A Love Song

This entry was posted in Philosophicalisticality, Rants, RL, SL. Bookmark the permalink.

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