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Censored

By , Palatine, IL
Censorship comes from The Latin, censere “to give as one’s opinion, to access” (Culture Shock). Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain individual, group or government find objectionable or dangerous. The American Library Association has a technical definition of censorship as “The removal of material from open access by government authorities.” The organization also defines levels of concern: Inquiry, Expression of Concern, Complaint, Attack and Censorship. Censorship is the official restriction of expression believed to threaten the political, social, or moral order. Censor has multiple definitions. The censor in most cases seems to see their action as justified, while the observer, or censored sees the action as suppression. Censorship places individuals and groups at opposite sides of a debate in which each party knows they are right. It will continue to exist because it is dependent on the perception and opinions of individuals involved in the debate. Censorship, pervasive and possessing a dynamic definition across time, restricts the exchange of ideals and is unhealthy in a free society.
From the definitions and examples, it is apparent censorship has a historical, cultural, organizational, and individual perspective. It can be characterized as moral censorship, military censorship, political censorship, religious censorship, and corporate censorship. There are examples of censorship across recent history from “American Experience”. In the 1920’s a play of Eugene O’Neil were flagged as “radical propaganda” for looking at industrialized society in a critical manner (an example of political censorship). Another play caused issues when a scene called for “white actress to kiss Negro’s hand” (an example of moral censorship). In modern time, neither of these would be the subject of censorship. During WW2, the Office of Censorship was formed. It was based on the question, “Is this information I would like to have if I were the enemy”(The Perilous Fight)? Many publisher were self-censoring their material. 10,000 civil servants censored millions of letters weekly especially ones to and from POWs or other internees (an example of military censorship).
An example of modern corporate censorship exists in Wal-Mart’s family value rules. Wal-Mart stores will not sell CD’s with covers or lyrics that are deemed overtly sexual or dealing with abortion, homosexuality, or Satanism (Store Wars). It forces artists to have a “sanitized” or censored version if they want to sell it in Wal-Mart retail outlets. “Wal-Mart is the world's largest CD retailer… Wal-Mart reaps about 10 percent of the total domestic music CD sales… in some regions the only place in town to purchase music entertainment products represent only a fraction of their business” (Store Wars).
Censorship is a mechanism to limit access to information and ideals. In general the concept is restrictive and contradicts the US Bill of Rights. The First Amendment states that Americans have the freedom of speech and press (Krull 59). Censorship impedes on those rights. Censorship exists throughout society. The definition is a moving target. A parent says a child cannot watch a certain TV show; the parent’s action could be “censorship” from the child’s perspective and “good parenting” from the adult perspective. Or, does an action have to be at broader level to be considered censorship? A school removes books from a school shelf, this is censorship from the student’s perspective. On the other hand, removal of the books, is simply being an accountable administrator from the school’s perspective. In the example of the removal of text from school shelves, an opportunity has been lost to debate and discuss the content of the “banned” text. If the discussion were to occur it would exemplify the First Amendment in a healthy free society.
There is irony in censorship because books placed on banned lists later become popular picks base on the exposure the “banned” status gives them. People read it because they wanting to know why it was censored. The funny thing is that authors that have been challenged have well known like Shel Silverstein, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Benjamin Franklin, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling.
Additional questions to consider are, “Is censorship ever justified?”(Weiss 6) and “What is the impact of censorship?” (6). In cases of national security, the point is justified to keep military secrets safe, yet in cases of banning books, because they have curse words, is not justified. If all materials were censored, then the point of literature to provide question and not the answer would be lost.
Censorship will continue to exist; it is harmful in an open-minded civilization. Each generation will have a new characterization of censorship. Censoring the media does not hide the issue it makes people ignorant of the issue. Books have been banned due to occult, immoral, offensive, profanity, and violence content hampers healthy debate. It will continue to places people at opposite sides of an argument where they feel that their idea is the right one. Censorship should not be allowed in a society that promotes free speech.


Work Cited
“Business Practices.” Store Wars. 22 Jan 2008.

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“Censorship.” The Perilous Fight. 22 Jan 2008.

< http://www.pbs.org/perilousfight/home_front/censorship/>.
“Definitions of Censorship.” Culture Shock. 22 Jan 2008.

< http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/whodecides/definitions.html>.
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