My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Censorship "Nazis"

Ugh. I've been sick since Wednesday and didn't feel like blogging. I should have posted one of the drafts I've got saved up for such an occasion, but by the time I remembered that, I was too lazy. :D Anyway, here's my reaction to a news tidbit from today.

I like freedom of expression and freedom of access to information. To me, these two related freedoms are fundamental to any society that claims to be "free." Unfortunately, the spectre of political correctness (and more recently, patriotic correctness) shackles this freedom of speech with restrictions designed to prevent "offence" to groups of people. We see this everyday when we watch television with the profanity beeped out or listen to edited songs on the radio.

Today CBC News reported that a Belgian broadcaster would not be airing a Hitler-themed episode of a cooking show. At first glance, one wonders how a cooking show could have a Hitler-themed episode. If you read the article, however, you'll get a better idea of what it aims to do: it cooks the favourite dishes of famous people.

I take issue with this statement in particular by Michael Frelich, editor of Antwerp's Jewish affairs magazine Joods Actueel:

The problem is that Hitler is being featured in a cooking show, without any historical context.

Pardon? Your problem with this cooking show is that they're talking about Hitler instead of using their time slot to lecture everyone about all the atrocities Hitler committed or commissioned? Do you really think that anyone watching this show, especially anyone in Belgium, is ignorant of who Hitler is?

It's a cooking show! It's not pro-Nazi; it's not anti-Semitic. All it wanted to do was cook Hitler's favourite food, and show us some history along with it. What if I was interested in knowing what Hitler liked to eat? Now I'll never know.

This is the most recent example of an absurd trend of political correctness trumping our freedom of speech. I understand that some people are offended by things I deem unoffensive. Tough luck. Thanks to the plethora of television channels available these days, no one is forcing you to watch a TV show you deem offensive. That being said, if you want to write a letter to the broadcaster because you deem it offensive, go right ahead: I support everyone's right to free speech, even if they don't happen to agree with me.

But censorship is an ugly weapon of mass destruction, and it's one that all too easily backfires on the wielder. You might censor me today, but what's to stop me from censoring you tomorrow, when our positions are reversed?