From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
|"Nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach on the province of grammarians, and to engage in disputes of words, while they imagine they are handling controversies of the deepest importance and concern." - David Hume|
Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of opinion. The word was coined from the Latin controversia, as a composite of controversus - "turned in an opposite direction," from contra - "against" - and vertere - to turn, or versus, hence, "to turn against."
Perennial areas of controversy include history, religion, philosophy, sex and politics. Other minor areas of controversy may include economics, science, finances, and race. Controversy in matters of theology has traditionally been particularly heated, giving rise to the phrase odium theologicum. Controversial issues are held as potentially divisive in a given society, because they can lead to tension and ill will. Because of this, some controversies are considered taboo to discuss in public among other people, unless people are either mature enough or can find a common ground to share and discuss its people's feelings, and one's own direct observations and experiences on a controversial issue.
In early Christianity
Many of the early Christian writers, among them Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Jerome, were famed as "controversialists"; they wrote works against perceived heresy or heretical individuals, works whose titles begin "Adversus..." such as Irenaeus' Adversus haeresis and Jerome's Epistola adversus Jovinianum. The Christian writers inherited from the classical rhetors the conviction that controversial confrontations, even over trivial matters, were a demonstration of intellectual superiority.
Censorship is the removal or withholding of information from the public by a controlling group or body. Typically censorship is done by governments, religious groups, or the mass media, although other forms of censorship exist. The term "censorship" often carries with it a sense of untoward, inappropriate or repressive secrecy.
The Latin phrase Odium theologicum, literally meaning "theological hatred", is the name originally given to the often intense anger and hatred generated by disputes over theology. It has also been adopted to describe non-theological disputes of a rancorous nature.
The highly regarded philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell argued that the antidote to odium theologicum is science, which he characterized as dealing purely with fact, devoid of any personal commitment.
- The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. --"An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" in Unpopular Essays, 1950
Succès de scandale
It might seem contradictory that any kind of success might follow from scandal: but scandal attracts attention, and this attention (whether gossip or bad press or any other kind) is sometimes the beginning of notoriety and/or other successes. Today, the often used cynical phrase "no such thing as bad publicity" is indicative of the extent to which "success by scandal" is a part of modern culture.
The archetypal example of succes de scandale in art is Stravinsky's ballet Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) , which premiered in 1913 by the Ballets Russes. In the high days of the Belle Epoque, the public attending this premiere was so scandalised by the brutal sounds produced by the orchestra and the evocation of a blood sacrifice on stage that a riot broke out.
In the late 20th century several more succès de scandale examples would show what a powerful instrument scandal can be for turning a publicity campaign into a success, to the point it can make any other publicity agent's trick redundant. One of the most notorious examples of that was the late 20th century publicity campaign by Benetton.
Benford's law of controversy
Benford's law of controversy, as expressed by science fiction author Gregory Benford in 1980, states: Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real (true) information available. In other words, the fewer facts are known to and agreed on by the participants, the more controversy there is, and the more is known the less controversy there is. Thus, for example, controversies in physics are limited to subject-areas where experiments cannot be carried out yet, whereas Benford's Law implies that controversy is inherent to politics, where communities must frequently decide on courses of action based on insufficient information.
- Mass hysteria
- Media controversy
- Shock value