To Sysops from jms

 Posted on 3/3/1997 by J. Michael Straczynski <> to CIS

{original post had no questions}

Y'know, I've been thinking about all this a lot over the last
few days (what else do I have to do, run a show or something?) and
here's the thing that gets me in the area of parental controls.

It starts with discussions over language, and nobody wants to
say "We can't have language or other problematic items our
conferences," because it smacks of censorship (which, in fact, it is).
(And, granted, some uses of language are a little more disagreeable
than others, I'm not getting into degrees here, just the overall

So someone says, "Instead of doing that, let's have a Ratings
System, which will tell parents which forums (or shows) are safe for
their kids, and which are not, so we can have areas where you can say
whatever you want, and other areas where it's more controlled, and
parents know where to go."

Then the ratings go into place...but nobody wants to be tagged
with the harsher designation. Because that would mean a loss of
revenue, or prestige, or visibility. So now everyone starts doing
whatever it takes to avoid that rating, by changing content or
enforcing stricter rules to avoid the label, since that's somewhat
easier to defend (even though it's exactly the same as the original
problem, they've just moved the target to something that's less of an
obvious flash-point as censorship).

What you therefore end up with is that all forums or shows move
toward the safer designation, and there no longer IS a choice between
"kid" and "adult" conversations or topics or language or subjects.
Because the latter has ceased to exist not for political reasons but
for *economic* ones.

It's much like what happened in the record biz...some groups
wanted labels put on records, have them rated so parents and kids could
tell the hard stuff from the safe stuff, "But we're not pro-censorship,
we just want to be informed." Until the records started coming out, at
which point the same parents groups began screaming about x-rated
albums being even in the same STORE where kids could enter their orbit,
even if protected by cellophane wrapping and warned by labels. It
became a basis for exclusion.

Nobody in TV right now wants to be hit with the TV-M (mature)
rating, because of threatened boycotts. It's the same material that
may have been there before, but now that it has a label, that label has
become a target.

The expressed intent is to create clarity in making choices in

The result is to *remove* choices by excluding material.

The more I look at it, the more insidious it gets.

I think I'll write something about this, one of these days....