In today’s world of paparazzi snapping embarrassing photos of the Royal Family and a controversial independent film on YouTube.com that is attributed for sparking uprisings in the Middle East, we need to understand the optics and tone of how these events can be used to advance an agenda for the reduction of our freedom of expression — and why we must stop it — cold.
There is a question we use to stimulate conversations about changing behaviors: How do you boil a frog, we ask? Answer: If you throw it into a pot of boiling water, then it hops out immediately, but if you slowly raise the temperate with the frog beginning in the pot of water at room temperature, then it will tire and eventually poach. And so this is how we lose personal freedoms — one degree at a time and before we know it, we’re that frog. Croaked.
The tone is out there, just observe. The Today Show (9.18.2012) featured a former member of the paparazzi demonstrating how an innocent sunbather’s image can be captured from more than a mile away using a high-tech camera body and powerful lenses. Why? Is this a method to advance an agenda for reducing or eliminating individual rights (albeit abhorrent in the case of paparazzi) to take these photographs? Suppose we remove those freedoms of expression and then change the circumstances of how the camera is used to one where an image of a political figure is captured during an illegal or immoral act. Would that image disappear entirely or be prohibited from publication, even result in the punishment or imprisonment of its photographer? It happens in North Korea, China and countless other countries less imbued with freedoms we fortunate Americans enjoy.
When the eye behind the lens is a government employee, does that change your perception? That’s a bit of a leading question, but we have to explore changes in the environment or circumstances to gauge the health of our freedoms. The optics get blurred through the lens one views life and how comfortable one is if greater restrictions are placed on personal expression through written words, photographs and video. Curbing or eliminating personal expression while removing restrictions on governmental intrusions is a dangerous concept. And in times of spy drones equipped with cameras flying high above us all, do we fully understand what their greater purpose serves?
A YouTube.com video trailer for The Innocence of Islam is attributed for the uprising s and attacks on U.S. Embassy locations that resulted in the deaths of American citizens and strategic personnel. The emerging narrative (via Media Matters and others) is that the video trailer should be removed in order to eliminate the offensive material from viewing. Censorship by the very same people in government who took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution? Yes, outright pressure from the U.S. government upon a private enterprise (YouTube.com and Google) to censor privately generated content — an oddly familiar tactic taken by countries in the Middle East that require governmental approval before publication. In those countries, simply knowing that censorship exists at these levels retards the creative expressions of artists. Fear of death, imprisonment or other gross penalty is the market gauge there, rather than free-market capitalism forces here. In America (right now) we are free to create content, view it, critique it and share it. Those are unreachable aspirations for less fortunate artists abroad.
And what happens if the narrative for restrictions and censorship, veiled as a tactic to protect the peace or prevent embarrassment, continue to advance? We know that freedoms, once given away, are regained only with sacrifice of blood and treasure. And we know the only way to boil a frog is to do it slowly. Are we smarter or more aware of our situation than a frog? If so, then maybe these two most current events are where we realize that it’s hot here and we have to regain the collective resolve to leap back to freedom to preserve our way of life.