17 July 2007

The difficulties of openness

I have known Jim Putnam, of Thinking through my fingers, for some years now. I am usually in agreement about him about most (not all) things, most (not all) of the time. Even when we are in disagreement, we are usually coming from similar directions to our different conclusions. Even when we are not coming from similar directions, I always respect his different perspectives and know them to be based on shared concerns.

So, it was with great surprise that I read his post ("What was CBS thinking?") of the 15th, in which I was able to agree with very little (well ... OK ... I have difficulty admitting it, but: nothing at all). I'm not going to start a general debate about the post; I'll stick to its headline issue. The primary concern of the post is a decision by CBS to run a current affairs programme segment in response to the film Crossing the Line* about James Joseph Dresnok, US defector and military deserter to North Korea in the 1960s.

This topic has clearly touched old nerves for Jim - and with that I can only sympathise, for I know only two well how the past can be triggered unexpectedly and devastatingly after decades of dormancy by a chance remark or event in the present.

Nevertheless. I know Jim to be a tireless and committed proponent of openness and freedom from censorship. I am sure, therefore, that in the long run he will not really suggest that CBS should emulate the horrendous North Korean regime by suppressing what we do not want to hear. There is already far too much of that tendency in our respective countries, without us encouraging it, and Jim is the last person to want it.

* Daniel Bonner & Nicholas Gordon. Crossing the Line, 2006, Sheffield, VeryMuchSo Productions.

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