greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


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Would you ban a particular type of movie because it will have a bad influence on one person?

Let's say you were going to make a fictional movie about crime, a "crime thriller," something like the new "Jack Reacher" by Tom Cruise. Let's say you knew a million people would find the movie entertaining and somewhat stimulating. But you also knew the movie would influence one person to go out and commit a crime. Would you make the movie for the sake of entertaining the one million, or would you refrain in order to prevent the crime?

  • Dec 24 2012: When you are making a movie you just can't know in advance how it will impact on society. However, while telling the story you should be aware of your own moral principals and presenting the characters according to those principals should be part of your working process. To tell the story of a criminal is very different from glorifying him/her, so it should be obvious to all movie makers that presenting a criminal as a hero is the unethical thing to do. Crimes happen all the time, but you won't solve the problem by not telling the story.

    The story itself is not the problem, the problem lies on the way it is told.
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      Jan 5 2013: George, you're right. In real life we can't know how what we make will impact on society.

      The situation I am presenting is more of a hypothetical one to explore values. If you really knew in advance that your movie would entertain a million, but hurt one, would you make it?
  • Dec 24 2012: No movie would ever be made if criteria like this were used. We would never end the discussions. Sad but true. I haven't seen this movie - It sounds interesting So should we ban Robin Hood and so much more?
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      Jan 7 2013: Superb comment, george. I believe that in Plato's perfect state, as described in The Republic, he does ban all art. What do you think? What does art do for you? Do you think the world would be better if there were no art?
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    Dec 24 2012: If a movie can influence someone into doing something then it stands to reason that such a person is ultimately a ticking time bomb until they come across something (anything) that can be used to justify their future actions.
    There is no reasonable step forwards from this point that would justify banning a movie in the scenario presented.
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      Jan 7 2013: True, Xavier, but in this scenario it's the movie you made that the person used to justify their actions. Are you willing to be the person that gave them that influence?
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    Dec 23 2012: i would not ban any movies even if had bad influence on everyone. that's for the title. about your explanation, you make the mistake of assuming causality between a movie and a person's actions. a person's actions are a result of many factors, the movie is just one of them. maybe the last drop, but still just a drop. you can't blame it for being the last. movies don't cause actions, and it would be advisable for everyone to acknowledge once and for all.
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      Jan 7 2013: Krisztian, you wouldn't ban any movies whatsoever? So if someone made a movie that you knew would cause the viewer to come and murder you, you wouldn't ban it?
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        Jan 7 2013: movies can not cause people to murder. there is no causal relationship between the two. i don't want people around me that only need a movie to become a murderer.

        i also don't mind sparks around me either. i just don't want volatile explosives in the room.
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          Jan 7 2013: Well, Krisztian, all of this is more of an imaginary scenario, "hypothetical," as a way to expore values. Let me return to your original comment. You said a movie would only be the last drip in pushing the person to commit the crime. But are you willing to be the last drip? Who knows, maybe if you don't add that last drop, nobody else will add that last drop either, and the person won't commit the crime.

          Thanks for playing with me.
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        Jan 7 2013: and i said: you can't blame the last drop. everything is a last drop. it can be one too much cup of coffee. it can be bad weather. it can be bad news. it can be a sudden impulse.

        the solution is not a completely impulse-free sterilized environment. but stable people that don't explode because of a last drop.
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          Jan 21 2013: Thanks, Krisztian. I kept thinking about this, but I could not reach a definitive comment. Part of me thinks a crime movie would be more likely to spark a crime than would a cup of coffee, but part of me agrees with you that it could be anything.

          Thanks for conversing with me, this conversation is about to close.
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    Jan 22 2013: Thank you. Congratulations. Your question, the topic, I found it very interesting. It's possible to keep talking about it a long while. It was pleasant for me to do so, even only it lasted a little bit. Greets.
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    Jan 21 2013: First of all we should define what we mean by "cause". In my opinion, it is one thing to talk about acts that threaten the lives of people and another to believe that anything you see in a film causes a person to commit a criminal act.
    The society operates under conventional tacit agreements, which must be respected. And these agreements are formed with the will of all involved profiled over time, months, years or centuries.
    But in my opinion the key to the whole thing is to define when something (a movie, for example) is considered "capable" of causing any concrete facts (good or bad facts) made for persons or groups of people, Other than that, the rest don't seems so essential.
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      Jan 21 2013: Yeah, you're right, Sean. But let's just say we create an imaginary situation where we do know the effects of the movie. Purely imaginary, not reality, we know that the movie will entertain a million people, but cause one person to steal a little money from a cash register. Would you make the movie, why or why not?

      Still curious about your life story.
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        Jan 21 2013: Specifically, no. No ban a film if it happens the case as you put it. Because otherwise, how would the freedom of the individual? Anyone who commits a crime is accountable. And if someone commits a crime because of insanity suffers, society must protect itself and protect him or her, providing him medical help.
        And yes, I'm from Spain.
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          Jan 21 2013: Yes, thanks, Sean. I had not thought of it that way, that even in an imaginary situation we could think about the psychology of the person who commits the crime.

          This conversation is about to close. If I don't get back to you, thanks for conversing. Still wonder how you got a name that doesn't sound very "Spanish."
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    Jan 20 2013: Greg, in my opinion, it's very important that people can get entertainment, it's meaningful, of course, but, I'm firmly convinced that something (a movie, or whatelse) that would entertain many (a million, or a billion) people, never must be made if it causes death to a person. Never something shaped for fun may attack so directly something so sacred as human life. Who could approve the fun of a lot of people if knowing that the victim will be himself, or somebody of his family or friends, for example? Or a human being unknown at any place of the world? Who could sleep quiet after watching that movie?
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      Jan 20 2013: Thank you. But what if the movie entertained a million (or a billion), but caused one person to commit a minor crime, such as stealing a little money from a cash register? What is your verdict then, because even stealing a little money is an immoral act?

      Sean, I can't remember, you're from Spain? But your name sounds very "white." What is the story there?
  • Jan 5 2013: If you are talking about an hypothetical situation then your question has a major flaw, because you are not providing any data about the hypothetical crime. It is obviously a different situation If you are talking about blowing a nuclear bomb at the center of a megalopolis than if you are talking about stealing a few bucks from a cash register at a mall. Another other thing to consider are crime rates, it is different if the hypothetical crime has low rates than if it has high rates. Increasing by 1 a crime rate may mean a 10% increase or it may mean 0.001% increase, the first case could put the entire police force on high alert, while the second may not even worry the most paranoid citizen.
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      Jan 6 2013: Well, let's say this hypothetical movie would entertain a million people, but it would inspire one viewer to go steal a few bucks from a cash register at a mall. Would you make the movie? Why or why not?
  • Dec 24 2012: A movie is a story.
    Like any store, but particularly good ones, they have a beginning, a middle and an end.
    Along the way, things happen to characters in the story and they change,are changed or don't change.
    They face challenges, they win and sometimes they lose.
    Most stories have a moral of sorts about how things turn out and why.
    Some is left for the reader or viewer to decide, imagine, ponder or figure out.

    Just because one person may act in a bad way, influenced by something in the story, it would be wrong to ban or prohibit everyone else from seeing or reading the story in order to stop just one person.

    However, that is what has been happening in society, although some here say they wouldn't ban such a movie.
    They are going along with the stories (movies) the authorities are telling them through their completely owned media
    using what one or some may, might or could do, and taking away the rights of the majority to (in this case), to protect only one. A reversal of your idea. It seems to have fooled people in to thinking it makes sense,when it doesn't.

    It's a sham and a shame.
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      Jan 13 2013: Random, what authorities are you referring to here? What completely owned media are you referring to? What rights are these authorities taking away from the majority?
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    Dec 24 2012: You may find this article interesting:
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      Jan 7 2013: Thank you Fritz. I like the way you encourage people to study serious research on their topics. I'm not sure I care enough about this topic to study serious research on it, but I'm glad to have the option.

      What topics in life do you care enough about that you would study serious research on them? In general, what do you like to read about? Read newspapers? Books? Which ones?
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          Jan 7 2013: Thanks. Just wondering, if you were sitting in a cafe with a friend, and the friend asked your opinion on a deep subject you hadn't read much about, would you go ahead and give your opinion? Or would you say, well, I haven't read much on that so I'll refrain from giving my opinion? I could see that doing it the first way, actually giving your opinion, might keep the conversation "sparkly," kind of rolling and bubbling along; the second way might be more intellectually honest, or true. Speaking for myself, I'd probably go ahead and give an opinion just to keep the conversation rolling.

          I've been influenced by the "anti-expert" position as I understand it in punk rock. Do you follow punk rock at all? Punk emerged at a time when rock had become very sophisticated. You had to take ten years of music lessons just to play rock 'n' roll! Punk said, "No, wait a minute, rock 'n' roll is supposed to be about fun. Just learn three chords, join a band, and start having some fun." This rather works for me, and I can apply it in many fields of life, even TED conversations. Could you ever have any sympathy for this "anti-expert" position?
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        Jan 7 2013: It depends on the question. If it is a matter of fact and I am not familiar with the facts, I would look things up rather than guess.

        If it is a matter of logic in an area that I understand well enough to put forward something meaningful and potentially viable, I am absolutely comfortable doing that.
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    Dec 23 2012: Nanny state. Viva Liberte!
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      Jan 7 2013: So wait a second, Ken. You would give perfect freedom even if you knew someone was going to get hurt? Have you ever been the victim of a crime? What were the circumstances? Was it extremely traumatic to you, as it was to me?
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    Dec 23 2012: In my opinion, if they ought to refrain in order to prevent a crime or simply misbehaviouring, I think we should not have movies, literature, theater, and so on. But the question is pretty different if we're speaking about a movie or a book in which bad conducts against people, nature, etc., are stimulated or invigorated: in that case, it's necessary to define clearly where the borders are.
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      Jan 12 2013: Sean, I can't follow this comment very well. Is English your first language? At first you seem to say we should not have movies at all. But then you seem to say we can have movies if we define where the borders are? Can you break it down for me?
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        Jan 12 2013: Greg, I'm sorry for my bad English. This language isn't my first language, I'd like to speak it much better, but I consider that if I don't take the risk of be mis understood, I couldn't contribute to TED's questions or debates, and that's a pity.

        What I wanted to say isn't that we should not have movies, but that movies were not possible if we were totally or fully bounded with plenty of rules. I also wanted to say that society must anyway clarify what's and what isn't right or convenient for all its members and then, the borderlines must be respected.

        I dont know if I have explained it a little bit clearly, sorry very much if not. About my participation in debates etc., related to my English level, the question is to participate or not to participate. I think that if I beg the tolerance of you the English speakers, I could take part as I'd like.

        Thank you very much.
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          Jan 18 2013: Okay, Sean, but how meaningful is entertainment, how important is it that people get entertainment? I'll return to the original question in the body of my question, which is, if you could make a movie that would entertain a million people, but cause one person to become the victim of a crime, would you make it?

          Some people would say entertainment is trivial, but being the victim of a crime is really, genuinely horrible.