If you haven't read my previous blog post, go back and read that one before reading this one! Really.
Here’s my answer to the “censorship” prompt in my last blog post:
While I believe “selective censorship,” as stated in Perspective One, is appropriate and necessary to protect children from inappropriate (e.g. explicitly violent or sexual) communications, and to prevent violations of the law or threats to national security, I believe Perspectives Two and Three come closest to my view on free speech and free expression. I believe censorship generally stifles the development of ideas and allows the government, or others in power, to control people’s thoughts, and thus their behavior.
Perspective One states the understandable viewpoint of parents, teachers, and indeed, any responsible adults. Certainly, children should not be allowed to view twisted, perverse pornography, or graphic, stomach-turning violence, or if they must, they should not view those things without the supervision of responsible adults. This is simply common-sense child rearing.
However, as Kurt Vonnegut, a famous and well-respected author whose works have been targeted for removal from school libraries put it, if widespread censorship comes to the United States, it will be “for the children.” We should not, and must not, allow people to censor books, films, radio, the Internet, television, or live speech, simply because some person thinks it’s “dirty,” “blasphemous,” “unpatriotic” or has some other quality of which they don’t approve.
Perspective Two states that censorship interferes with freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which is wrong because people have the right to explore and evaluate ideas without government interference. Certainly, as children grow, they should be given progressively more freedom to decide what information they would like to hear, and should be exposed to more sophisticated ideas, even ideas that may be troubling or disturbing. As adults, we are all required to deal with unpleasant, even shocking truths, or suffer dire, possibly deadly, consequences as the result of ignoring them. For example, not discussing homosexual male sex practices and intravenous drug use would have led to the AIDS epidemic killing even more people than it has, since people would not have been warned to use condoms, not share needles, and so on. Similarly, censorship of speech concerning how AIDS is spread would have seriously slowed, and perhaps even stopped, advances in AIDS treatment and prevention. As AIDS activists put it since the 1980s, “SILENCE = DEATH.” For that reason, adult speech and free expression cannot be censored, except in the obvious case where the speech is itself a crime (e.g., extortionate threats of violence – “Give me your money or I will burn your house down.”) or there are legitimate state secrets (e.g., it would be a bad idea to publish the passwords to access computers that control nuclear missiles).
Perspective Three examines one aspect of Perspective Two, and explains why Perspective Two is important – any government or entity that can control vital information can control the populace. If an AIDS or cancer cure existed, but the information was suppressed, the information could be used to create an elite that is protected from those diseases, and a vast underclass controlled by fear of those diseases.
The AIDS example I have referenced is a common “urban myth” believed by many poor, minority people in the U.S, and while it is a wild, unsubstantiated rumor, it does reflect a probable outcome if such information existed but was censored – the wealthy and “connected” would be able to avoid problems faced by the lower classes and those “out of the loop.” Also, the lack of openness leads to the proliferation of wild rumors and paranoia, which cannot be good for society, since they lead to paranoia and civil unrest. I certainly wouldn’t want to work for people I thought were withholding a cancer or AIDS cure, to continue my example.
The best way to fight destructive and/or incorrect speech is to respond with true and constructive speech. Showing what is being done about AIDS and cancer would be the best way to respond to AIDS and cancer paranoia. The best way to deal with stupid claims made by racists is to point out the achievements of racial minorities.
For the reasons stated above, I agree with Perspectives Two and Three, subject to obvious, common-sense legal limitations. Censorship based on “feelings” or “think of the children” arguments is generally destructive and to be avoided. Censorship, when it is tolerated, must only be to prevent obvious harm to society caused by the speech (e.g., the perpetration of crime or the revelation of military secrets).
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.