Marjorie Heins Responds

Marjorie Heins Responds

Elshtain and Etzioni respond to my ar-gument for minors’ First Amendment rights with the same highly charged rhetorical devices that have brought our culture to its current state of hysteria over the need to “protect” youth from presumably harmful speech. Substituting gratuitous insult for reasoned analysis, they contribute little new to the debate; but they do illustrate the emotionalism and failure of careful line-drawing that has led to the present impasse.

Etzioni, for example, inaccurately claims that in discussing catharsis I fail to acknowledge the “numerous studies showing that children are indeed harmed” by “media imagery.” On the contrary, my article says that “recognizing the power of catharsis” is “not intended to deny the obvious fact that the media do influence attitudes.” More important than Etzioni’s carelessness, though, is his failure to specify what “media imagery” or type of “harm” he has in mind. It is precisely this habit of sweeping generalization, this failure to recognize the complex, varied ways in which the culture combines with other influences on human behavior, that has led to V-chips, Internet filters, and other blunderbuss censorship devices as symbolic non-solutions to social problems.

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