One of the issues touched on in the Kathy Griffin incident was the issue of private censorship. This aspect has gone largely unmentioned, but it is an important part of the ethics of this particular event.
Let us assume that I host a party. You are invited, with a number of other people. You know what criteria I used to select the guests, you have a good idea of who will show up, and you know what usually goes on at these types of events.
This party is meant to be a celebration of sorts.
Let us assume that this is my wedding reception. It is a secular affair, and I have asked my guests to stand up and say a few words. You know that many of the guests make statements that are grounded on their religious beliefs. You will hear party goers speaking about their faith and the good that religion has done for them. This is to be expected.
At this party, it would seem perfectly acceptable to say, "Since I do not believe in any God or diety, I cannot call upon them to watch over you. For this marriage to work you will need a little luck, a lot of hard work, and some help from your friends from time to time. With luck, this friend will always be there for you."
This would be on a par with what the other guests have been saying.
However, let us say that instead of this you prepare a speech that includes vulgar statements precisely because you know that these vulgarities will rile the people that you want to rile. You use them precisely because you know they will make certain other guests uncomfortable.
One issue is the appropriateness of this type of conduct. I want to be clear once again that I am not objecting to what Kathy Griffin said but to the conditions under which she said it – as an invited guest to somebody else’s party.
However, let us set this issue aside for a moment. Now the time has come for me to edit the tape that I have made at my party. I will be showing this type to family, friends, and even as a public broadcast (since this is a high-profile wedding). In making my tape, I have decided not to include your speech.
For this, I am being accused of censorship. Allegedly there is some moral principle at play that states that when you appear at my party and make some vulgar statement intending to make my other guests feel uncomfortable, that I am obligated to refrain from editing that out of my record of my event.
Ultimately, this is going to be a short post. I have argued with respect to morality that here, too, people are to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. It is the job of those who condemn a person for some action to prove that the condemnation is justified - it is never the job of the person being condemned to prove that he is innocent.
In fact, about the only defense a person can offer for condemnation is to challenge the accuser to justify his actions. If I am to be condemned for going to the grocery store this afternoon, I can say nothing in defense of that action other than that there is no reason to condemn it. So, if somebody wishes to condemn it, they must identify the reason.
I can see no argument for condemnation that applies to the act of editing one's own video of one's own event - even if one intends that event to be distributed for public viewing. Somebody making a documentary, writing a novel, creating a blog posting, can put in whatever, to them, fits his or her intentions regarding that product.
How can the charge of 'censorship' be justified when we are talking about an organization's private record of their own private event?