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Censorship, or "What I Know That You Shouldn't"

Censorship (n) - the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient".

One of the most egregious lies that we tell American children is that "America is 'the land of the free'". It isn't; not by a long shot. I think it could more accurately be described as "the land of the 'comfortable' (as long as you believe what I believe)", but that won't easily fit onto a bumper sticker. One of the great philosophical axioms is that people will do more to avoid something that they fear than they will to acquire something that they like, so the question I have is "what the hell is everyone so afraid of?" 

"They say there are strangers who threaten us; our immigrants and infidels. They say there is strangeness too dangerous in our theaters and bookstore shelves. And those who know what's best for us must rise and save us from ourselves."

In 1960, Penguin Books Ltd (U.K.) wanted to publish the D.H. Lawrence novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (first published in 1928, so it had been around for a while) but encountered the U.K.'s "Obscene Publications Act of 1959". The Kingdom sued the publisher to prevent widespread publication of the book. During the trial, another noted British author, E.M. Forster, who was a staunch opponent of censoring material on the grounds that it might be considered obscene or immoral, raised the subjectivity of both obscenity and morality as constantly changing.

"Lady Chatterley's Lover is a literary work of importance...I do not think that it could be held obscene, but am in a difficulty here, for the reason that I have never been able to follow the legal definition of obscenity. The law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know, it offers no definition of depravity or corruption."

Eventually, the publisher was found "not guilty" by the British jury and publication of the novel became widespread.

A little over 60 years later, here in Texas, the Karens and Richards, helicopter parents, or simply anyone who believes that they hold some form of moral, ethical, or proprietary high-ground are all taking the idea of rampant censorship out for a spin to see what they can make it do. Granted that most of these people couldn't figure out how to operate the Tilt-a-Whirl at a traveling carnival, and in many parts of our great state, the riposte "f*** you!" will get them a seat at the local Algonquin Round Table, but to my way of thinking, neither of these is sufficient reason for anyone to believe that they have a mandate to determine what should - and should not - be said or read, or how, or by whom.

"Features distorted in the flickering light, faces are twisted and grotesque. Silent and stern in the sweltering night, the mob moves like demons possessed. Quiet in conscience, calm in their 'right', confident their ways are best."

So, why do people (not just politicians) resort to censorship? Well, to be quite candid about it, there are a few reasons that proponents have given to justify the censorship of materials using different rationales:
  • Moral censorship - the removal of materials that are obscene or considered morally questionable (without necessarily defining obscenity or moral questionability)
  • Military censorship - the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from an enemy (despite the possibility that any reasonably intelligent enemy has probably already considered that intelligence or those tactics)
  • Political censorship - where governments hold back information from its citizens, often to exert control over the populace and prevent any free expression that might foment rebellion 
  • Religious censorship - where any material that is considered objectionable by a certain religion is removed, usually by a dominant regional religion thus forcing limitations on less prevalent ones, but also by shunning the works of another religion when they believe that its contents are not appropriate for their religion
  • Corporate censorship - where editors in corporate media outlets intervene to disrupt the publishing of information that might portray their business or business partners negatively, or intervene to prevent alternative offers from reaching public exposure.

However, despite any reasoning that censorship's proponents use to justify their actions, ALL of these justifications are derived from fear, and to make themselves more comfortable with the world around them, they have resorted to not just "avoiding what they fear", but wanting YOU to also avoid what they fear (even if it doesn't necessarily scare you). 

"Like a steely blade in a silken sheath, we don't see what they're made of. They shout out loud but when push comes to shove, they look for things they're afraid of. And the knowledge that they fear is a weapon to be used against them."

So now, go out and exercise your freedom by doing something that they fear. Buy (or even just read) a banned book. You can visit the ALA website to check out their list of top 100 most banned and challenged books (2010-2019), then stop by a library or a bookstore and pick one up. 

And to all of the Karens and Richards, helicopter parents, and moral/ethics/proprietary high-grounders, yes, you (as an adult) have a perfect right to determine what you and your children are able to read, to see, or to hear. What you DON'T have the right to do is to determine what anyone else (including someone else's children) are able to read, to see, or to hear. And if you still think that you do have that right, you're probably better off voting for someone else.



Wikipedia - Censorship


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