Kevin Saunders Replies to What's Wrong With Censoring
I would like to thank Marjorie Heins for her thoughts and the editor
for the opportunity to respond. I will address a few details of the review,
but my difference with Heins is primarily in the way in which we view
children. As to the details, there are ways in which I believe Heins correct
but still maintain my position. On the underlying difference, we will
continue to disagree.
In addressing my discussion of violence, Ms. Heins notes that my earlier
work was more balanced in the treatment of the social science. That earlier
work was more balanced, because the science was not then as convincing.
In the interim the scientific community and all the major health organizations
have concluded that violence in media causes violence in society. The
studies Heins considers discredited are discredited only in the minds
of a very limited number of holdouts to the generally accepted conclusion.
I see the relationship as so strongly established, particularly with regard
to violent video games, that my approach may not even be necessary for
video games, and restrictions should meet strict scrutiny.
I also agree that claims of harm are more dubious, or I might say less
clear, for vulgarity. I don't really argue that there is harm but do note
that the court cases leave open the possibility that limits on such speech
to a child audience may be constitutional. That certainly is the case
with regard to broadcast vulgarity and may extend to other areas. Society
has recently expressed its continued concern in the broadcast arena, and
I believe society would be equally concerned with the examples I discuss.
With regard to the concern that my suggested limitations on hate speech
could reach material with serious value, I would certainly protect work
with such value for minors. In Ms. Heins' defense, I do fail to state
that protection in the chapter on hate speech, although I do in other
chapters and as a general principle in the conclusion.
Turning to the basic philosophical difference between Ms. Heins and myself,
we see children differently. Ms. Heins disagrees with attempts to shield
children from speech. I believe that children are harmed by some images
and speech and need protection. I agree with the educational efforts she
proposes but also believe society would be well served by some restrictions.
Some of my belief comes from an earlier career teaching kindergarten through
high school. I believe I had a positive effect on the children I taught,
and I cannot maintain that belief without entertaining the possibility
that other influences may have a negative effect. If we are interested
in teaching nonviolence, civility, racial tolerance or sexual restraint,
we must recognize, on the same theory that we can lead children to those
positions, that some material may lead in the opposite direction.
Professor of Law
Michigan State University-DCL College of Law
And, finally a reply to Saunders:
Saunders insists that somehow within the last few years, science has
proved "violence in media causes violence in society." Numerous
authorities, including the British medical journal Lancet and our
own Federal Trade Commission, have noted that no such proof exists. For
sources, see the Brief of 33 Media Scholars in the recent St. Louis video
games censorship case, www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/stlouis.pdf