“An attack upon our ability to tell stories is not just censorship – it is a crime against our nature as human beings.”–Salman Rushdie
Whenever someone issues an edict or warning with the aim of preventing me from reading something, I immediately want to investigate the forbidden writing. Any attempt at censorship feeds the contrarian part of my personality. Even subtle, passive attempts to dissuade me from reading a book or viewing a movie trigger my innate urge to investigate. The item might turn out to be enlightening in some way or it may be a lousy waste of time; but at least I’ve looked into it for myself.
During the past year or so there has been considerable sabre-rattling and threats to public libraries and public school systems from radical groups challenging books and literature that address race, gender, and sexuality. In actions reminiscent of torches and pitchforks, some of the groups threaten violence against library and school board members if demands are not met.
There has also been an increase in such groups working to nationalize efforts to ban literature and video focusing on certain subjects by lobbying legislatures to legalize censorship of particular, hot-button topics. These are well-funded challenges to the free interchange of ideas; hence freedom of speech is being challenged. These threats are worrying to academics, librarians, scientists, civil libertarians, and journalists. The censorship efforts aim to restrict what students can learn about systemic bias, oppression, and violence that happens in the United States. Laundering of information has serious repurcussions in the nuts and bolts of a healthy democratic republic.
Many historical observers have noted that censorship is the tool of people who desire to hide the truth from themselves and others. Censorship through bans and fear-mongering are temporarily effective tools in their efforts to suppress the voices of others. Such censors forget that banning the public from access to materials, is de facto advertising for the forbidden item. One might say that censorship is free advertising and publicity paid for by the censors.
There is also the problem of voluntary censorship. I witnessed this in commercial media during my time in radio. The news department was unofficially cautioned about airing stories that might be construed as injurious to advertisers, law enforcement, or regular news sources. The fear of losing ad revenue and friendly news sources made self-censorship a tempting corporate policy. This is one reason why I advise news and information consumers to utilize a wide range of media–not only media that agrees with one’s opinions and point of view. Meantime, professional news organizations must be careful not to voluntarily censor themselves.
When it comes down to brass tacks, censorship is not the answer to controversy and human relations. Censorship is inconsistant with American communication norms and constitutional guarantees. On a personal level, I’d rather learn the truth of a matter, even if it is unpleasant or rubs me wrong. To bury my head in the sand would be an unforgivable personal sin.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author, researcher, Internet freedom advocate, and co-founder of the citizen media network Global Voices, Rebecca MacKinnon. “A moral argument about whether censorship is good or bad deteriorates quickly into accusations about who is more or less patriotic, moral, pious, and so on.”
If one would have told us a decade ago or two that censorship on literature and arts would become a topic again i would have advised the person to smoke less or better stuff 😎 This is not a minor glitch. And it is a mirror of the society where censorship is happening. and, as you mentioned, there are interest groups behind. It also started in Europe. Watch the last “documenta” art fair. This fight over a painting which has been displayed several times before has become a topic since months.
Freedom of information is a subset of freedom itself. Hence, censorship is an abridgement of freedom. The “morality police” remind me that tyranny awaits at every opportunity and freedom is easily taken away.
Exactly. The younger generation who grew up in freedom and never faced tyranny too easily doesn’t see the writing on the wall.
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I do not approve of banning books and ideas for the reasons you stated. It gets trickier when thinking about social media platforms and lies, falsehoods and hateful speech.
The Internet has greatly changed the court of public opinion. I hope we can soon resolve these tricky problems.
In the internet, just as with the printed page, lies, insults and false speech are permitted.
They may be pointed out as what they are.
Individual site administrators may legitimately ban any reader or reader generated comment they wish from their particular domain, just as book editors of yore honed the messages of individual books.
It is not okay to generally censor any “type” of verbal input unless that input is actually called after a person on the street, in which case it quite rightly qualifies in the eyes of the law as both harassment and assault with enhancements for hatred and any discrimination which may be in play.
In this poet’s opinion, censorship advocates should move to nations in which it is an accepted standard ~ and see how they like it.
We came here for freedoms of both speech and religious worship. Let’s exercise them.
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Banning books and censoring information doesn’t negate them, it makes knowledge and awareness harder to find, especially for those taught not to look. I like your advice to seek information from a broad range of sources, and then to think for yourself.
It’s good to think like an objective news reporter. IMO every student should take a journalism class in school.