Tumblr has chosen a peculiar form of self-inflicted hari-kari. By now we’ve all heard of their total ban on ‘adult’ material, beginning on Dec. 17, 2018. Several artists and producers I’m following have already abandoned ship. I understand what prompted this extreme action, and I’m all for banning child pornography. But these new guidelines are broad enough to boot open the door to all manner of censorship across the Internet.
I have to wonder just how stringent the censorship search program they’ll have to use is going to be. There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands of sites and posts that may not be considered family-friendly on Tumblr. That’s been its major draw. Supposing someone posts a clip of an animal nursing its young–with its NIPPLES, of course. Will that set off the klaxons?
What’ll be next? If a person’s bog is not considered pure enough…if it’s too (OHHH!!!) politically correct, whatever that means these days, do we strike down that infidel’s webpage and block his/her access to all servers? Who’s to say where this stops, IF it stops?
We’ve seen this before. From 1930 until 1968, American motion pictures were bound by the Hays Code, which placed any films and television programs under a strict regime of self-censorship. There would be no ridicule of religion, no mention of homosexuality; men were men–white, usually, bad was bad and life went on in a virtual la-la land where good people [again, white people] always win.
Another example; Fredrick Werthem’s Seduction of the Innocent, published in 1954, put forth the claim that comic books promoted juvenile delinquency, which led to an inquiry by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which led to publishers voluntarily neutering comics with the imposition of the Comics Code in 1954. Marvel Comics began to break down thee improbable standards in 1971 with a three-part story involving drug-addition in The Amazing Spider-Man # 96-98.
In both cases, these codes were imposed by self-righteous ideologues inflating the dangers posed by their respective mediums all out of proportion, and often distorting the facts to achieve their ends. That does not appear to be the case with Tumblr at this time, but the window of exploitation is now open.
I take hope in the fact that while we may be entering a period where we will be forced to water down our artistic impulses, the day will come when new outlets of self-expression WILL arrive. The restrictions of far-right, narrow mined goons will be loosened, most likely with the passing of this generation of vipers that is set on putting these chains on us in the first place.
Tumblr by that time is likely to be either an anamoly, a platform once popular soon to be forgotten; or it will act as a compliant tool of ‘The Establishment’ the Internet was born to resist. In either case, you can’t cork a volcano, nor will the artistic impulse be caged forever.