Censorship *****'s Essay

Censorship S Essay

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Censorship *****’s “Censorship, so far as I see it, is like a law which prohibits swimming altogether because such a law will prevent someone from swimming in a sewer” (Brower 1). Here, in the twenty-first century, the banning of thoughts and ideas in humanities and media has become one of the most widely disputed issues facing this country. Though it is highly controversial, hazardous to literature, and unconstitutional, censorship is rampant in America. Censorship is defined as “Policy of restricting the public expression of ideas, opinions, conceptions, and impulses, which have or are believed to have the capacity to undermine the governing authority or the social and moral order which that authority considers itself bound to protect” (Abraham 357). There is said to be four different categories, which are referred to as political, religious, against obscenity, and censorship affecting academic freedom. All of these categories are equal in their destructiveness towards free speech. There are two different forms that censorship takes ;prior, which refers to advance suppression and “post facto” which is suppression after it has been published (Brower 5). Authorities since the beginning of the written word have used both of these forms of censorship. Throughout history, figures that don’t have the real power to censor resort to personal pressure tactics to intimidate those who have influence over, or in command of, channels of communication. The McCarthy era during the 1940’s and 1950’s is a compelling example of this. During this time there was blacklisting of controversial literary figures as well as performing artists, thus blocking their employment in certain media such as movies, radio, and television. By doing this they accomplished the task of preventing the public from seeing what they considered to be objectionable material (Dubin 27). There are many rationalizations that are used by people that promote censorship. The first rationalization is that ideas presented or about to be presented are “false” and/or “dangerous” by the standards of the authorities and so they must be suppressed or punished. The second is that the minds of those who would be subjected to the ideas to be censored are not capable of seeing the “falsity” and would hence be led astray. Lastly, ideas that lead to “anti-social behavior” such as hardcore pornography must be censored (Abraham 360). For as many people that use these rationalizations, there is as many that do not. Wherever there is suppression of thoughts or ideas, whether it is in written form or spoken, there will always be people who oppose it. The reasons for protesting censorship are wide and abundant but the most substantial reason is that our constitution specifically forbids it. Anti-censorship activists feel that each individual should have the right to see, and not to see whatever they want, and that there should be no governmental involvement. Matt Lewis sums up their feelings when he said, “Censorship is ultimately a prohibition against information. And as time and history have and will repeatedly tell, does not work. How are we to learn form out mistakes if we never know we made them”(Corner 4)? The most common way that information is censored is with books. From Galileo, forced to recant his beliefs and watch his works burned, to the Council appointed by King James to develop the definitive English version of the Bible, which left so many books out, and into the present day, censorship has tried to suppress ideas and books, rather than refute them with better ones (Corner 1). Banning books has become very common in the 1990’s. From 1991 to 1994 the number of formal demands for the removal of books from public and school libraries has increases by more than 50 percent. There were as many as 4,500 instances of book challenges in 1994 and forty-two percent of the complainants were successful in having the offending books banned (ALA). Some of the books that have been the most frequently banned in 1990’s are: Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Blubber, A Day No Pigs Would Die, Little Red Riding Hood, James and the Giant Peach, The Grapes of Wrath, Black Beauty, and Lord of the Flies. Most of these books are award-winning classics but due to censorship some people may never get the chance to read them. Black Beauty has been removed from shelves because it depicts cruelty to animals. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned because it contains the word “nigger”. “Even to the present day, we so often condemn books that were written to fight the very things we claim to be fighting. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is so often cited as being racist, when it was written against slavery and racism” (Jennings). Most frequently, books are challenged because they contain curse words, violence, sex, homosexuality, or rebellious children (ALA). Many of these books are banned in libraries. Librarians, who buy at least half of hardcover literary trade books published, have ever-tightening budgets and face a constricted job market. Under pressure from administrators not to land their school in midst of controversy, many librarians have become increasingly cautious about the kind of books they order. Publishers respond by rejecting many manuscripts that contain problematic language and stories on tough subjects like sexual abuse. Authors also censor themselves, weeding out curse words and steering away from difficult areas, regardless of feelings that such omissions affect the credibility of their work (Jennings 34). When librarians, publishers, and writers censor themselves the public is being denied the opportunity to decide for themselves what is appropriate. There is still one more substantial reason that censorship is hazardous. Amendment 1: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ;or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievance” (The Bill of Rights). What this means is that censorship is unconstitutional and that there can not be any laws passed preventing free speech. Some people believe that does not apply to students in public schools. According to the American Bar Association, “Students in public school have the right to free speech and expression, so long as the exercise of those rights would not materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” There have also been many court cases that have dealt with censorship. In 1964, the case of The New York Times v. Sullivan found that the press is not censurable and it even cannot be sued for allegedly libelous statements unless deliberate malice is proved. In the Supreme Court case of Roth v. U.S. and Alberts v. California, Judge William Brennan stated that, “obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech because it is utterly without redeeming social importance, however sex and obscenity are not synonymous and the portrayal of sex is entitled to constitutional protection as long as it is not obscene” (Abraham). These court cases have shown that censorship is unconstitutional and hopefully there will be no more laws that condone it. It is easy to say that censorship will always be a highly controversial issue and that there will always be many people with strong viewpoints on both sides. It has been proved that it is unconstitutional and damaging to literature but unless something is done to stop it, censorship will be rampant in America now and into the future. Censorship *****’s “Censorship, so far as I see it, is like a law which prohibits swimming altogether because such a law will prevent someone from swimming in a sewer” (Brower 1). Here, in the twenty-first century, the banning of thoughts and ideas in humanities and media has become one of the most widely disputed issues facing this country. Though it is highly controversial, hazardous to literature, and unconstitutional, censorship is rampant in America. Censorship is defined as “Policy of restricting the public expression of ideas, opinions, conceptions, and impulses, which have or are believed to have the capacity to undermine the governing authority or the social and moral order which that authority considers itself bound to protect” (Abraham 357). There is said to be four different categories, which are referred to as political, religious, against obscenity, and censorship affecting academic freedom. All of these categories are equal in their destructiveness towards free speech. There are two different forms that censorship takes ;prior, which refers to advance suppression and “post facto” which is suppression after it has been published (Brower 5). Authorities since the beginning of the written word have used both of these forms of censorship. Throughout history, figures that don’t have the real power to censor resort to personal pressure tactics to intimidate those who have influence over, or in command of, channels of communication. The McCarthy era during the 1940’s and 1950’s is a compelling example of this. During this time there was blacklisting of controversial literary figures as well as performing artists, thus blocking their employment in certain media such as movies, radio, and television. By doing this they accomplished the task of preventing the public from seeing what they considered to be objectionable material (Dubin 27). There are many rationalizations that are used by people that promote censorship. The first rationalization is that ideas presented or about to be presented are “false” and/or “dangerous” by the standards of the authorities and so they must be suppressed or punished. The second is that the minds of those who would be subjected to the ideas to be censored are not capable of seeing the “falsity” and would hence be led astray. Lastly, ideas that lead to “anti-social behavior” such as hardcore pornography must be censored (Abraham 360). For as many people that use these rationalizations, there is as many that do not. Wherever there is suppression of thoughts or ideas, whether it is in written form or spoken, there will always be people who oppose it. The reasons for protesting censorship are wide and abundant but the most substantial reason is that our constitution specifically forbids it. Anti-censorship activists feel that each individual should have the right to see, and not to see whatever they want, and that there should be no governmental involvement. Matt Lewis sums up their feelings when he said, “Censorship is ultimately a prohibition against information. And as time and history have and will repeatedly tell, does not work. How are we to learn form out mistakes if we never know we made them”(Corner 4)? The most common way that information is censored is with books. From Galileo, forced to recant his beliefs and watch his works burned, to the Council appointed by King James to develop the definitive English version of the Bible, which left so many books out, and into the present day, censorship has tried to suppress ideas and books, rather than refute them with better ones (Corner 1). Banning books has become very common in the 1990’s. From 1991 to 1994 the number of formal demands for the removal of books from public and school libraries has increases by more than 50 percent. There were as many as 4,500 instances of book challenges in 1994 and forty-two percent of the complainants were successful in having the offending books banned (ALA). Some of the books that have been the most frequently banned in 1990’s are: Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Blubber, A Day No Pigs Would Die, Little Red Riding Hood, James and the Giant Peach, The Grapes of Wrath, Black Beauty, and Lord of the Flies. Most of these books are award-winning classics but due to censorship some people may never get the chance to read them. Black Beauty has been removed from shelves because it depicts cruelty to animals. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned because it contains the word “nigger”. “Even to the present day, we so often condemn books that were written to fight the very things we claim to be fighting. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is so often cited as being racist, when it was written against slavery and racism” (Jennings). Most frequently, books are challenged because they contain curse words, violence, sex, homosexuality, or rebellious children (ALA). Many of these books are banned in libraries. Librarians, who buy at least half of hardcover literary trade books published, have ever-tightening budgets and face a constricted job market. Under pressure from administrators not to land their school in midst of controversy, many librarians have become increasingly cautious about the kind of books they order. Publishers respond by rejecting many manuscripts that contain problematic language and stories on tough subjects like sexual abuse. Authors also censor themselves, weeding out curse words and steering away from difficult areas, regardless of feelings that such omissions affect the credibility of their work (Jennings 34). When librarians, publishers, and writers censor themselves the public is being denied the opportunity to decide for themselves what is appropriate. There is still one more substantial reason that censorship is hazardous. Amendment 1: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ;or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievance” (The Bill of Rights). What this means is that censorship is unconstitutional and that there can not be any laws passed preventing free speech. Some people believe that does not apply to students in public schools. According to the American Bar Association, “Students in public school have the right to free speech and expression, so long as the exercise of those rights would not materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” There have also been many court cases that have dealt with censorship. In 1964, the case of The New York Times v. Sullivan found that the press is not censurable and it even cannot be sued for allegedly libelous statements unless deliberate malice is proved. In the Supreme Court case of Roth v. U.S. and Alberts v. California, Judge William Brennan stated that, “obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech because it is utterly without redeeming social importance, however sex and obscenity are not synonymous and the portrayal of sex is entitled to constitutional protection as long as it is not obscene” (Abraham). These court cases have shown that censorship is unconstitutional and hopefully there will be no more laws that condone it. It is easy to say that censorship will always be a highly controversial issue and that there will always be many people with strong viewpoints on both sides. It has been proved that it is unconstitutional and damaging to literature but unless something is done to stop it, censorship will be rampant in America now and into the future.

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