Censorship; A Plague

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What’s your favorite book? What’s your favorite movie? Imagine a world where society can take these away from you because someone deems it “offensive,” “unethical,” or “wrong?” Censorship is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as an “examination in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.” This statement alone says enough; who is to say what is “objectionable” and what is not? What authority constitutes the revocation of thoughts and ideas? Censorship restricts the creative abilities and free transport of thoughts and ideas in a free society.

Censorship is enacted by both religious and political groups as an attempt to block harmful, sinful, or corrupt information that could potentially harm society. Mass media censorship in the United States can officially be traced back to the novel Fanny Hill by John Cleland, in 1748. This novel also breaks the record for the longest ban in United States history—outlawed until 1966. The book was written as a memoir of a prostitute, which was completely unheard of back in the sixteenth century. In 1873, a man named Anthony Comstock headed a council in New York that searched and destroyed mail with “obscene materials.” In film, the Hays Office, established in 1930, came into power. Under this code of rules, movies could be shut down in the middle of production if they were deemed “too offensive.” Such offenses included revenge, crime, any sexual tension between characters, a happy ending for a sinner, and my personal favorite—lustful kissing and embracing. Throughout the history of censorship in the United States, many forms of communication have been blocked because of the opinion of one group of people who have neither means nor right to take it away.

Today, censorship controls nearly every form of media. The Hays Code, although becoming defunct in 1968, laid the path for the future Motion Picture Rating Arts Association rating systems (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, etc.). Books that today we consider “classics” have been censored, such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Great Gatsby, A Catcher in the Rye, and Of Mice and Men. A particular book that caused some controversy was the use of the “n-word” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with a publishing company reprinting the novel, replacing the profanity with the word “slave.” Modern books have been censored as well, from religious debates sparked by Harry Potter and Twilight, to indecent exposure in the Captain Underpants books, to drug use in Go Ask Alice, which practically serves as a public service announcement AGAINST drugs!

Very recently, the potential of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in the United States Senate has created controversy over the World Wide Web. These bills, if passed, would censor which websites one could and could not visit. I will venture to call this and the entire process of censorship “unconstitutional.” It violates our First Amendment rights to “Freedom of Speech and Expression.” Conversely to this opinion is the idea that censorship protects and shields the morals of society. Therefore I pose this question; would it not be better to let the individual or peers around the individual to retain their freedom to decide what is morally ethical to view and not to view?
Censorship puts restrictions on what the public can and cannot see, read, or access. Censoring on film during the Hays Office days completely changed the endings to several films, including Sayonara, The King and I, and An Affair to Remember. Censorship on books and literature prevents the flow of creativity and ideas, shielding society on questionable materials. These materials MIGHT be questionable—but why don’t we let society decide for themselves what they choose to question? In an American society founded on the ideas of “freedom of choice,” it is extremely important that this value be upheld and not clouded by censorship.



















Source Page:
"National Coalition Against Censorship." National Coalition Against Censorship. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <http://www.ncac.org>.

"Stop American Censorship." a Campaign from Fight for the Future. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. <http://www.americancensorship.org>.

Nakaya, Andrea C. Censorship: Opposing Viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven, 2005. Print.

Long, Robert Emmet. Censorship. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1990. Print.





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