In UK Law (and I would imagine many other countries, including the US), if you instigate, persuade or tell someone to enact a crime and they do it, this is called incitement. This is why someone like Charles Manson, who never actually murdered anyone, will spend the rest of his life in jail for inciting his minions to do it for him. (I understand the exception to this rule is when you hire a hitman to kill someone: then you are as guilty of murder as the person who does the actual murdering).
This is not a post about law, crime or suitable punishment however. This is more about the responsibility we have as writers and what exactly constitutes “incitement” with regard to media – and whether it even has a place at all. I’ll explain.
Last September, I touched on the notion of responsibility on this blog and the results were intriguing: some writers complained of censorship, that we should write whatever we like; others said that we DO have a responsibility and should ensure those watching/reading our work do not suffer from or because of our point of view; others still entreated other writers that it wasn’t anyone’s fault if people copy your work – if people are unhinged, they will do whatever they want regardless. There were some insults and cross words bandied about, ladeled with more than a soupcon of sarcasm and/or desperation that others could not see it the way the poster saw it (and I was no exception btw).
The conversation thread ran to 97, the longest I’ve ever seen on the Bang2write blog: feelings ran extremely high, very few people saw eye-to-eye and there was no resolution as such (that I could see, anyway). It was exactly what great debates are about as far as I’m concerned: those difficult things that AREN’T black and white and ARE difficult to put your finger on. Read it here if you haven’t already. whilst I don’t agree with what all the commenters say and some I downright disagree with, I’ve always believed what Malcom X once said, “I have more respect for the man who tells me his position…even if he’s wrong.” A bit of solipsism there of course, but then we are all guilty of that I should think.
So with this notion of incitement in mind – this idea that you tell someone to do something (and they do it), you are GUILTY of inciting them and should be punished for that – I have a few questions for you today. I’m keeping my thoughts under wraps for the minute, but I think it would be really interesting to hear what you guys out in www.land think:
1) If a writer writes a movie in which a murder (or similar) occurs and someone copies that in REAL LIFE, is that movie “incitement”?
2) If the movie DOES qualify as incitement, who should be punished in accordance with the law: the screenwriter? The Producer? The Director? The person who came up with the idea in the first place (I suppose it being a spec/commissioned would come into play here). All of them??
3) If the movie DOES NOT qualify as incitement, then how FAR does a movie have to go to qualify as such? Or can a movie NEVER manage this? Why not?
Your thoughts please…