By Bob Ciminel
August 21, 2006
This morning there was a feature on National Public Radio about CBS airing the documentary film "9/11" by the Naudet brothers. This would be the third showing of the film. Of course, the film is being shown now to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 unprovoked killing of over 3,000 civilians by an organization that has declared war on the United States. (Has Amnesty International ever accused Al Qaeda of war crimes?)
Artist Mike Keefe; The Denver Post
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Some say that cursing is a sign of limited vocabulary. To them I say, "What words would you have chosen from your vast repertoire of nouns, verbs, and adjectives to describe the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions you were experiencing had you been there?"
Those who do not want CBS to edit the sound track, even though children may be watching, use the excuse that this is reality, and children need to know that life can be violent and people swear a lot when they are under stress. To that I would reply with a word that starts with a B, is combined with one of the words the FCC strongly objects to, and describes male bovine excrement. In more socially restrictive environments we would simply say "BS!"
Today's children are exposed to more violence and foul language before they enter middle school than I heard (and used) during the five years I spent sharing a submarine with 124 other sailors, and that's if children only watch the Cartoon Network and the Family Channel!
I, for one, do not believe that bleeping out the four-letter words, (or as in the case of PBS, modifying the film so you can't see the person mouthing the words), affects reality because no film or video or photograph can capture reality. Why? Because Schrödinger's cat proved there is no such thing as reality.
Students of quantum physics, which I am not, are very familiar with Herr Schrödinger's cat - let's call him Fritz. In 1935, the Austrian physicist proposed a theoretical experiment, which means he did not use a real cat, to prove that at the subatomic level we affect reality simply by observing it. In other words, reality doesn't exist until we make it, and each of us creates his or her own "reality."
Schrödinger's theory was simple. He proposed putting Fritz into a solid steel box along with a Geiger counter, a radioactive substance that decays very slowly, a hammer, a mechanism for dropping the hammer, and a glass vial containing cyanide gas. He would need an interlock that only armed the system after everything was in the box and the lid was closed. His theory hinged on the fact that radioactive substances decay in a very random manner by emitting alpha or beta particles that can be detected by the Geiger counter. When the Geiger counter clicked, the hammer would drop, smash the vial, and release the cyanide.
Schrödinger hypothesized that after we closed the lid we wouldn't know if Fritz was dead or alive. Did the radionuclide emit a particle or didn't it? Only Fritz would know the answer. For us, reality would be created when we opened the box and took a look at Fritz. At that point we determined if Fritz was dead or alive, and up until that point, from our perspective, Fritz existed in an indeterminate state, neither dead nor alive. That is how we "create" reality.
If, after playing Russian roulette with Fritz's nine lives, we repeated the experiment with an infinite number of cats an infinite number of times, we'd probably find that 50 percent of the time the cat was dead and 50 percent of the time the cat was alive. So, what is the reality?
Using the theory of Schrödinger's
Cat and applying it to media, a "reality" television
show is not reality. The people taping or filming the show created
reality by observing and recording what was happening, and by
just being there they affected reality. Had the Naudet brothers
not been filming a rookie New York fireman on 9/11, and you or
I had been there instead, our reality would by unlike the realism
recorded on their film. And the least of our concerns would
be what kind of language those heroes used.
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He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference. Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
Contact Bob at email@example.com