Here’s a thought experiment: What if he were talking about novels and poetry instead? Or opera, ballet, and fine-art painting? Or even Sweden’s own August Strindberg, who believed that “Woman…is useful only as an ovary and womb?”. You know, the classy sorts of stuff that we educated types consume with our critical faculties rather than the junk culture that the masses gobble down like the Chocolate Wonderfall at Golden Corral?
My guess is that most people—with the exception of the touchy undergrads at my alma mater Rutgers calling for “trigger warnings” before reading The Great Gatsby—would run screaming from the idea of a “government-funded innovation agency” goading writers, composers, and poets into using their art to help “create more diverse workplaces.”
Yet when it comes to pop culture, especially lucrative low-brow fare like video games, there remains a much-higher tolerance for censorship, ratings, and other means of restricting or improving “dangerous” forms of expression. In her excellent 2002 book Is Art Good for Us?, communications professor Joli Jensen explains some of the reasons for this. She argues that in most societies, a “guardian class” of political and social leaders assumes what she calls “an instrumental view” of culture. In this understanding, art is like a medicine or a toxin, transforming its audience for good or ill. If you read “bad” books or listen to “bad” music, you’ll become a bad person. Responsible guardians tend to make distinctions between art (good) and media (bad, or at least suspect) and try to police the latter for the good of society.
People can think for themselves. But increasingly, what people think is being policed.