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"Suppose there was a hit song that caused 80% of its listeners kill themselves. Should that song be banned, or would you argue that free speech is more important?"

Hell NO!


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You've read the book "influence" - now read this news article and wonder if the internet is a good thing ?

the trouble with the internet is it doesn't "go away" like the newspaper reports (mentioned in Influence). I watch with interest...


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Just to drop it by in case you weren't aware (since after skimming these comments I didn't see a reference to it, I assume you won't begrudge me not reading all 350 of them beforehand ^_-) there is a song called 'Gloomy Sunday' which was reportedly banned in many places due to its supposed links with suicides; whilst this has been stated by enough reliable sources for me to believe it, I state it as a possible, not a definate source.
For more information, check or the wiki at


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"The First Amendment is not a suicide pact," said one (though I can't remember which) Supreme Court justice. By our very nature, humans make decisions, and many of them are bad, and 99.999% of them are not original. So, at some point speech will cause bad actions, but to a degree that is expected. Christmas and holidays in general increase suicides. Does that mean that they should be banned? Also, I have no doubt that a beautiful and wholesome song on occassion results in suicides. Correlation is not causation, or at least not the only cause. Should be ban boyfriends, girlfriends, and friends in general, since so many suicides are the result of someone feeling left out? If we were to do so, I suspect it would INCREASE suicides. But, of course, once a certain form of speech creates a definite correlation with a negative thing, I suppose it could be managed legally. Isn't that how China justifies banning the words "freedom" and "democracy" from their Internet?


I think Frank Zappa made the final comment on suicide in "Suicide Chump". Anyone who kills him/herself over a song is increasing the overall intelligence of the human race.

Matthew Landers

Free speech is a very crucial freedom we are given in our country. The government can take money from our hard earned pay check, enroll all types of laws and protocol into our society. So far, this has worked out very well, but when does it get to be too much? If it continues this path, by the year 2050 the constitution will have to be revised. Banning a song because 80% of the listeners have killed themselves may seem logical and moral but legislating freedom of speech will be conflicting with the constitution. Other than the song being banned maybe the role of adults or parents should be looked into. Majority of school shootings has been due to the child living a life of disconnection from society of peers and parents. Before we start pointing fingers at media and music for causing these tragic events, we should understand that they do not provide the motivation or weapons to commit these acts. I can proudly say that my friends and myself can watch the depressing media, listen to explicit music, and play violent video games without ever thinking of committing such acts of violence.

Dave K

The suicide coverage is justified, of course! The news media needs to sell beer and toothpaste; how are they supposed to do that without compelling stories? The people killing themselves are near the edge anyway; they are probably grateful for the nudge. Wait a minute, if you think about it, the news media is providing a public service!


I am amused by all the people who assume (for no apparent reason) that they and their loved ones would not be among the 80% of suicides, but would be among the 20% of survivors.

These may or may not be the same people who don't seem to understand the difference between stupidity and mental illness, thus revealing at least one of their own deficiencies.

Now if only there were some moral and ethical way to "thin the herd" of ignorant, insensitive jerks.


John Siebert

This article just re-asks the olde question:
Which came first; the lemming, or, the cliff?
When "suggestion" over-rules "survival," it just proves humans are not nearly as sophisticated as we would like to think...

Avo Credit

Excellent post. Of course there is a correlation and of course there should be curbs on stories about suicides. The same correlation can be made about:
(1) showing car chases on TV inspiring more copycats,
(2) mentioning the name or showing the picture/video of a mass killer (like the Viginia Tech nut) only inspires more copycats...

Unfortunately the media cannot control themselves because of the overriding profit motive. That's why government needs intervene.

do I have to?

Whoever said that any of the tragedies in the previous comments had anything to do with natural selection? That would only be true if the forces at work in this hypothetical drama typically took effect BEFORE puberty, i.e., before the individuals had the ability to reproduce. What selective pressures actually exist in our environment? Few. Stupidity [read: lack of common sense] is definitely not one of them. Evidence: we're all here reading this blog. ... Almost anyone can have children. Anything that actually provides a means of natural selection within the human population is deemed a threat and systematically eliminated. And now there's 6+ billion of us.
6,592,622,232 as of 01:42 GMT May 03, 2007

Grant La Mora

With the case of suicide, I don't care because people who commit suicide choose to do so - and the justifications/influences are irrelevant. Psychologists and psychiatrists seem to agree that NO ONE can influence another to either commit suicide or not do so. As a result, your question seems moot. Better question: What if the song (somehow) (and leaving aside for the sake of conversation the ongoing Dilbertian debate over free will), caused (a) 10 people to go out and kill 10 other people, or (b) the song resulted in the death by coronary of 10% of the people who listened to it? A place to start thinking about this is to consider that cigarettes cause far more than 10% of their users to die, yet they are still legal.

dan jeffers

We make these decisions all the time. Every time we debate changes in traffic safety laws, or safety features in a car versus price, we make a social choice for a certain amount of risk. The side-issue is that, even though there is a statistical result that can be predicted, each individual event (suicide, car accident, whatever) is the sum of many other causes, including free-will.


There is much to criticize about the media in this country, and much of that criticism is deserved.

But do we want to be like China or Russia, a country in which governments determine which news is fit for the people to consume? No thanks.

There is a price to pay for freedom. I don't mean that to sound harsh, it is very tragic when people end their own lives. But maybe if more attention was brought to the problem, and to the fact that it is a problem, more would be done to help prevent it.


I wouldn't mind if 80% of the people that heard the news committed suicide. Would mean less traffic and prices would drop from less demand, so in a round about way all those suicides would increase my quality of life.

How is this a bad thing?


And because people's personal tragedies and bad taste should NEVER get in the way of free market capitalism:


Free speech does not mean freedom from being offended. I find Political Correctness offensive.

We must silence oppressive white males,

Don G

"Every time the media makes a big deal about a high profile suicide there’s a 100% chance it inspires additional suicide."

I have learned to be very skeptical of a statistic of 100% or 0% because they can be very hard to prove. In this case, it would only take one suicide to prove that statistic wrong.

Listo Entertainment

Are you talking about the song Tubular Bells?


It used to be that romantic poems were written about men in such unrequited love that they killed themselves. After reading these poems, incidents of suicide increased. Then it became music. Now it's the media telling us about it. People will find an excuse to do what they want to do. If they're stupid enough to let a poem, a song, or a newscast tell them what to do, then let them kill themselves and remove themselves from the gene pool.


Am I the only one who thinks that maybe it's a GOOD thing that people who are stupid enough to kill themselves over a song or another half-wit's example should be induced to do it? Good riddance - improve the human gene pool. Next stop: human rights lawyers.


Oh, and regarding such a song? I would publish it anyway - I look at it as one of the means of natural selection to weed out the incompetent.

If I happen to be one of the incompetent ones - well, off with my head!

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