Vice Squad
Friday, February 13, 2004
Legislation Stemming From Moral Panics

One of my fears about the sensationalism of some vices is that it will lead to misguided legislative "solutions" that will haunt us for years -- thus my concern with the NY Times Magazine article on sex slavery in America that I found to be well over-the-top. Today in Slate is a reminder of one previous legislative solution to the problem of television programming that is inappropriate for children, though accessible by them. The imposed solution is the V-chip, which for some years has been required on new TVs sold in the US. A V-chip is a device that allows parents to automatically exclude adult-themed programming from being shown on the TV.

As by now these chips are everywhere, no doubt the loyal Vice Squad reader has substantial experience in activating V-chips. Oh, except that the vast majority of people (and the vast majority of families with kids) don't actually seem to use their V-chip, according to the linked Slate article, even when the parents do monitor their kids' TV viewing. The good news is that the chips are not expensive and dormant chips are inoffensive, although I am sure one could spin some sort of mad authoritarian tale of V-chip-enabled government censorship. But not all such fixes to moral panics are equally likely to remain benign.

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