The Dangers of Fictional Human Rights

I have written in the past about some of the seductive qualities of suppressing unpleasant speech in my entry titled, The Seduction of the Thought Police.

Below are some points that I made in that entry:

“…when faced with realities that seem unforgiving or complicated, fiction quickly becomes a tantalizing target to control and punish.”

“Regulating fiction and art is never effective, and it never addresses the causes behind violence, but it makes us feel better. We feel we have done something, even if it is futile.”

“Thought policing never stops a person from having evil thoughts. Thought policing makes us feel better. It does not make us safer.”

I would like to add a few more points, specifically about the dangers of introducing real life rights into the realm of fiction and how that can be a losing proposition for everybody.

How would you respond to the following claim; “We should be willing to surrender elements of free speech when it involves protecting children in how they are depicted in fiction. We are dealing with the most vulnerable elements of society, therefore society should make special provisions to protect their sense of well-being and discourage any narratives that suggests they can be sexually exploited.

I have already stated the logical fallacy in the belief that children can be better protected by restricting fiction in my bilingual essay Thought Police Can’t Protect Real Children but the claim that I listed above directly targets a caring person’s heart, making it more difficult to question it validity.

In fact, we must be willing to examine such arguments even more carefully for the very reason that they are claims that are emotional charged.

When it comes to protecting children, few can argue the fact that they deserve special treatment. This is the very reason why we restrict certain forms of free speech from being accessible to children. We do not allow children to engage in certain forms of behavior involving risk as well.

Free societies places high value on an individual’s ability for self-determination, diversity and freedom of choice. Because we appreciate that certain risks are involved in a free society, we have various safety mechanisms in place to insure informed decision-making can be conducted, and for those members of society that cannot make informed decision-making, we restrict their access and freedoms. This does not only to protect those who are vulnerable, but it also protects a system that requires participants to be responsible for their actions.

Free speech does not compete against human rights so long as its creation nor distribution of free speech does not directly involve hardship against an individual, e.g. reproducing someone else’s material without their permission, harming someone in the process of producing content, making false statements against an individual, etc. This is especially true in the case of fiction since the contents of fiction, by their very nature of being fiction, does not interrelate with the circumstances of real people.

Attempting to introduce the concepts of human right violations into the realm of fiction makes the definition of human rights less concise–Are we concerned about protecting people or should we be concerned about making people feel they are protected? Not only that, the issues of human rights already can involve contentions issues, e.g. historical and/or cultural sensitivities versus changing concepts of human rights, or competition between the desire to preserve group identities that conflicts with aspirations for individuality. Debating the merits of human rights in fiction makes these discussions needlessly complicated and can contribute toward apathy spreading in the public regarding concerns over human rights. Apathy and indifference toward laudable ideals are likely to expand when some feel those ideals are discriminatory or meaningless.

Few would argue against abolishing abuse of people, but what about making the claim that people depicted in fiction should be free of abuse? The former statement it easy to understand, but the later statement is a minefield for misunderstanding and confusion. Why do we need to protect people who don’t exist? Who are we protecting? Are we going to be selectively reflecting our real life ideals in fiction? Why?

And yet, there are instances when some feel their sensibilities (however well-meaning they may be) must be righteous over your assertions that human rights and free speech do not compete. In circumstances when you need to match someone’s emotionally charged sentiments with something equally strong, then consider asking the following question to them; “Would you sanction the use of torture of adults by the state for information that may safeguard children?

Asking people to choose between the torture of adults against the rights of children is extreme, nevertheless, this is the same logic behind calls for restricting depictions of minors in fiction in order to expunge society of “unwholesome and dangerous fantasies.”

If one feels debating a willingness to subject of torturing adults to protect children is preposterous, then why are we debating the application of real life norms in the world of fantasy. And why should the rights of fictional children be protected, while other groups are not? Do children deserve more protection then any other demographic? Why not introduce the concept of hate speech in fiction?

I do not support the contention that it should be legal to conduct torture to protect children, or for any other reason, not because I do not value the lives of children, but because I feel human rights are universal. Rights should apply to everyone equally, and the state must not be allowed to be in a position to place priorities regarding which lives deserve more protections than others.

As individual human beings, there may be instances where we may have to make difficult decisions, but we should never enter a situation where the government is entrusted to create a hierarchy regarding the worth of human beings between different groups of people.

The universal respect of human rights is the cornerstone of a free and equal, democratic civil society.

Another important cornerstone of free society is free speech, a right that enshrines diversity and tolerance for even unpopular speech.

Freedom of expression should not just tolerate unpopular speech, but it should be its patron saint. Remember, the voice of the rich, powerful and the majority will always dominate due to the authority it enjoys and the popularity that makes it ubiquitous. Those voices do not need free speech for them to be protected. Speech that maybe unpopular, ideas that challenge the status quo, concepts that might not be refined need protection the most. The success a given work can enjoy should be determined by the open marketplace of ideas, and not determined by how the state looks upon it as favorable or unworthy.

And while I have stated this many times already, I will repeat some important core principles of artistic freedom once more. Forcing art or popular fiction to fulfill the role of textbooks for moral education is counterproductive and misguided. Entertainment exists to entertain. Art exists to enlighten. Education exists to inform. Just as it is dangerous to mix fiction with reality, it is dangerous to introduce the legal requirement that art or fiction should be educational and conform to moral guidelines of the state.

Nevertheless, there are those that feel the protection of free speech should be applied narrowly toward material that serve a social benefit, or help achieve a laudable goal. This line of thinking assumes that free speech must be justified through social considerations, and while this sounds plausible, it is actually very dangerous. If you reverse the logic, it means your right to say something must be approved by others who are willing to validate your ideals and goals.

Calls to qualify free speech is nothing less than making calls to limit your own right to engage in free speech. It is dangerous and this must be pointed out accordingly.

If you are an advocate for free speech, if you support free manga and anime and other forms of popular culture,  if you oppose those that insist upon censorship–If can feel very frustrating that you must engage people those who are blasé about curving artistic freedom. Nevertheless, you must patiently and repeatedly point that “A culture grows richer through addition, not through subtraction,” “Freedom of thought and free speech may protect speech you disagree with, but it also protects your right to criticize such speech and protects your speech as well, and therefore you should not be willing to surrender your rights in piecemeal so easily,” and “Human rights must be respected equally.” These are ideals that must be tirelessly advocated as being both meaningful and universal.

Lastly, for those who wish to come to the defense of creators, publishers, and genres which are threatened, I would like to point out that there are simple things you can do. Buying their products, sending letters of appreciation, and/or singing  praises of their creations publicly on any medium will keep people encouraged and emboldened to create more, even in the face threats of censorship or strangulating  regulation. Loss of income and silence will do more harm than any regulation could hope to achieve.

Also, please consider giving donations to any local bodies that help protect free speech. For those in the English speaking world, I highly recommend the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. While their ability to come to the aid of those overseas is limited, keeping the United States a thriving land of free speech for comic books and cartoons, which includes manga and anime, will play an important role in indirectly keeping creativity unhindered and channels of distributions open in many others countries as well.

Posted in censorship, child pornography, harmful material, public morality and media | 1 Comment













既に今年2月に開催されるサンシャインクリエイション、SC2017 Winterと今年に4月に開催されるComic1☆11に申し込みました。当選したら順次報告する予定です。


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Ein Lee
紗汐 冴




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Posted in 8th Panzer Regiment (doujinshi circle), doujinshi, Japanese, Land battle witches projects | 6 Comments

Some Common Western Misconceptions

When answering inquires from the overseas press regarding artistic freedom in manga and anime, I try to add the following note. I am tired of being type cast as the tone-deaf guy that wants to protect anime and manga at the expense of everything else. I’m not sure if it helps, but I try all the same…

I would like to note that I am an advocate for free speech and freedom for both men and women to expressive themselves freely in every medium as long as they do not directly inhibit other’s human rights.

There has been strong interest in how Japan permits fictional sexually explicit anime and manga (animation and comic books) featuring minors in sexual situations aimed at male audiences. While the public and members of the media are quite aware of this, academics and specialists also note that the Western world tends not notice that nearly half of all animation and comic books in Japan are aimed at female audiences, a huge market for sexually explicit material for female audiences exists there, and that manga authorship in Japan is roughly gender equal (there are as many female author/artists as well as male author/artists.)

Solely focusing on the male audience and their market in Japan tends to reinforce the following Western assumptions:
1) Only men are interested in sexually explicit material.
2) Women are not interested in creatively pursuing sexually explicit material.
3) Ignore the fact that there is a market for both genders (and all common sexual orientations,) with a considerable amount of cross-over between these markets.
4) Preference for certain types of fictional sexually explicit material equates to holding such inclinations in real life as well.

There is a huge market for homoerotic material authored and consumed by Japanese women featuring male on male relationships. Few women who enjoy this material aspire to change their biological gender to pursue homosexual relationships.

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How to express yourself and survive

I just returned back from a trip to Toronto to attend Anime North. Takeshi Nogami and I were invited as guests and between the two of us we did a number of panels where the subject of self-expression came up. Having returned, I thought I might want to write something short based on the wonderful feedback that we got there.

Generally speaking two motivations stand out regarding self-expression. There is the satisfaction you win from seeing others enjoy your work. There is also desire to express what is inside all of us. These two elements of self-expression are similar but there is a big difference. There are cases where the two contradict each other, but you can learn to make the two coincide. Once you can learn to appreciate both aspects of self-expression and better understand what you want to do, then I am certain the creative process will become even more enjoyable.

Nearly everyone likes it when you see a smile appear on a person’s face when you mention something to them. Facilitating a person’s entertainment is a core desire on the part of most people who likes to express themselves to others. There is no better way to enhance a child’s creativity then show enthusiasm for the creation and encourage the child to do more.

But sometimes what people want is not what you want to create or express. This is natural, of course, since everyone is different. There are some universal themes that are appreciated by many, but even in taking up subjects that many find interesting, the direction and nuances involved will draw some closer while repelling others away.

And finally, there are personal emotions and aspirations that dominate our hearts and fester in our minds. Some of them might not be so pleasant, but that is perfectly fine. We all get angry, sad, and envious over the course of time. We need to vent it, but we also need the discretion to express these urges in forms that are constructive. If you carelessly express yourself and cause discomfort or resentment on the part of others, two of one things will happen. You will become afraid to express yourself, or you will start to interact with fewer and fewer number of people.

Emotions and opinions are what makes us human. Everybody has them. You need to find a realm that is safe to express them. You should not expect everyone to appreciate them all the time, anywhere you are. The last thing you need at the end of a long work day is having someone make fun of your face while waiting to check-out at the local supermarket.

The ability to channel our feelings and thoughts makes us feel more liberated and uninhibited. When you can direct them into forms that entertain others, it will give you a sense of fulfillment that is very difficult to match by anything else.

Just as some respects social institutions inhibit us more than free us, adhering to popular themes and genres can be restricting to a person’s creativity and originality. However, as you become more and more skillful in creating, then you will realize that there are many facets of being a creative person. Even in the most mundane and ubiquitous subject, there are ways to incorporate your unique creativity.

When you are starting out, do not get overly concerned about not being creative. Just like with dancing and cooking, you will become better through practice. If you are mindful, that you can learn from each time you complete a drawing or complete a project and present it to others. Over the course of time, the tools available to compose material will become more and more sophisticated and better polished. You will never be satisfied with what you can do, but you will amaze yourself with what you have accomplished when you compare it with what you were doing in the beginning.

Never mix up what you want to express with what people want. These are two separate things that you need to mediate and negotiate. Your desire to express yourself compels you to supply material to others, but if you strive to win larger audiences, then you must learn to channel your creativity in ways that go beyond just fulfilling your needs. Sometimes your tastes and the audience’s tastes match, and that is wonderful when it does. But in many instances, that may not always be the case.

Never lose focus on what you want to do, even if you need to do something else. There are many audiences out there, and for some projects it might be better to focus on satisfying a smaller audience than a larger one. There are strengths and weakness to both approaches, but if you do not remain conscious of the audience that you are speaking to, then you will easily get disillusioned.

And lastly, never get discouraged from trying again. There will be days when it seems like the end of the world. Don’t worry, it can always be worse! But most importantly, better things will never come by unless you try again.

Many people talk about talent, and to be frank, artistic talent is over-rated. The motivation and discipline that comes from a diligent and driven person will achieve growth and refinement that will far excel beyond an artistically talented person that only works casually.

A willingness to be diligent and the spirit of playfulness that comes along with being comfortable with the creative process will take you places you never expected. Most importantly, these attributes can be developed by nearly everyone.

It’s a wild ride, and everyone is welcome join in.

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