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Live and Censored

Posted: 11/1999

The Letter

Live and Censored

Khali HendersonAs I
was driving my sons to school recently, they insisted on hearing one of "their"
CDs instead of National Public Radio. Go figure. So, I flipped on the player to the dulcet
tones of Savage Garden. If you haven’t heard them, they are more "garden" than
"savage." I had heard a few of their syrupy lyrics, so I wasn’t really expecting
anything too deep.

And I wasn’t disappointed. However, there was this one line that stuck in my head:
"On the telephone line I am anyone. I am anything I want to be. I could be a
supermodel or Norman Mailer. And you wouldn’t know the difference."

Clearly, the song, "Santa Monica," was about wanting to, but not being able
to, fit into the Hollywood scene. But for me, it meant something else entirely. It got me
thinking about how the telephone has given people the freedom to be who and say what they
want.

When I was a teenager, I can remember those times waiting for "him" to call
and being so glad that he couldn’t see how excited I was to hear his voice as I answered
coolly to his invitations.

When I was a young reporter, the phone veiled my nervousness at speaking to celebrities
who were the subject of my beat.

Now, when I’m having an "ugly" day, only the people in my office have to see
it and remind me about it.

We can be thinner or taller, younger or older, smarter or more attractive without the
truth being told in the eyes of the beholder. I am concerned, however, that the collective
ruse may soon be up.

While the videophone has never made true on its promise to usher in the age of
"reality" communications, the multimedia Internet surely will. For now, the
Internet is just like the phone–one better even because it can hide the imperfections of
our voices (for example, the smoker’s gravel, the drunk’s slur, the teen’s squeak, the
lonely’s desperation).

But when the video component becomes commonplace, the mystery will be gone. No more
answering the "phone" in your underwear.

Maybe that’s a good thing–more so for some than others. But accountability inherent in
video may have merit. Will we be less likely to be rude, to harass or to swindle when
anonymity is not ensured?

I suppose so. But being the inventive, privacy-seeking race that we humans are, it will
no doubt be short-lived, interrupted by a popular optional feature called "video-call
blocking."

Khali Henderson

Editor-in-Chief


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