“Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
—The Constitution of the United States, Amendments I and XIV.
‘So David, what do you think about this Sally Field thing? It’s a blatant case of censorship, right?” I really love questions like this. It invokes memories of the response I would hear from my late uncle Seymour: “Sometimes that answer is, ‘There is no answer.’”
Yes, Fox Entertainment did censor the comments made by Field, but they can. More on that in a moment. (Click here to see the uncensored version at YouTube.com).
Morality is the establishment of what a society deems “right” or “wrong.” It is a subject that should be discussed in every class in high school and college based on the standards of that institution, from plagiarism to censorship, with no gaps in the continuum of conversation. It should not be a threat of “If you do, we will catch you and punish you,” but an intellectual dialogue of academic morality and human frailties. Ethics is the study of morality.
During lecture, I cite the case of Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I’ve met Ward and, in a strange way, like the man, though he is obnoxious and often seeking the limelight. However, his statements just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were cruel and heartless, as he concluded that the attacks were somehow justified. However offensive, these were his opinions, and despite the efforts of the public, the governor of Colorado and the university’s governing board to fire him, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects Churchill’s comments, and he remained at CU.
On the other hand, if he worked for, let us say, Columbia or Stephens colleges, he would have been sacked before he closed his mouth. Why the difference? Because “Congress shall make no law,” and the University of Colorado-Boulder, like MU, is a government-run institution, whereas Columbia and Stephens are private. Different entities, different rules.
Most people arguing the validity of Field’s comments at the Emmy Awards have not heard them, relying on the incomplete reporting by media. The uncensored clip is available online. Field was over her allotted time, was rushed, and made a general comment concerning all war. Her message: War is bad and should be damned. With the exception of only a few extremist hawks, I hope we all generally agree with this sentiment.
Field also implied that women, especially mothers, would be less inclined to rush to war than men (and I assume especially fathers). History, of course, proves otherwise, with Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher as the most recent examples.
Fox’s news release concerning the removal of Field’s statement concerned the sensitivity of their viewers concerning the use of “goddamned” as taking the “Lord’s name in vain.” Fox has the right to censor what it deems offensive; it is a private corporation. Fox leases its television and radio frequencies from and is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, but Fox is not a government entity. It has the “right” to decide what is and is not broadcast under its name.
I agree with Sally Field: War in all forms should be damned. The killing of innocents to provoke terror is on the top of that list, as is the threat of the use of nuclear weapons and mutually assured destruction, which is still part of diplomatic language and negotiating strategy. I could be more specific, but I won’t. Field could have been more specific, but she wasn’t.
Field had gone over her allotted time. She said something that the network, during a live broadcast, instantly decided was unacceptable. ABC, CBS, NBC and others might have done the same. All things considered, Fox did what it thought was “right” under its code of morality. So did Sally.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.