Censorship has been an issue widely debated. Would censorship bring about repression of the individual’s inherent rights or is it important in society over the long run. This paper explores several argumentative positions in defense of censorship. First of all it is important to define the concept. Censorship refers to the use of state or group power to control freedom of expression. In a modern perspective, censorship is defined as any attempt to suppress information, points of views or method of expression such as art. Social groups, organized religions, corporations and governments commonly use censorship. (Labor Law 1987). This paper looks into the censorship issue and argues that censorship provides the necessary safety net for guarding sensitive information and therefore must be practiced by concerned sectors of society.
Tools of mass media that include television, radio and Internet content have been scrutinized for decades. Depending on age group, content can be classified as decent or inappropriate. Most sexual images have been blurred or edited out on television shows. In addition, obscene language on the radio has been bleeped out. (Think Quest 2004). Censorship is generally equated with an authoritarian regime; under such scenario, actions of societal players are monitored and in some instances restrained to the fullest extent. Censorship just like any state policy has its own advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages of censorship are manifested in controls instituted in the music and performing arts industry. If left unchecked performers can do everything they want. These performers using the guise of the freedom to express one’s view have at times exploited said freedom. Some artists would carelessly say offensive things through their works or convey obscenity as manifested in their performances. As artists, they are regarded as role models, whose actions should convey exemplary and morally right principles. A good majority would want to emulate their example and as such they should be guided properly.
The working parameters through which their actions are regulated come in the form of censorship. We should be wary of individuals who can directly and indirectly influence especially the youth. Their works may show improper values such as violence, racism, prejudice that conditions the minds of their audience and with the power of shaping the individual’s disposition, they have a social responsibility to society. Censorship serves as a filter to bad values that may corrupt and provide instability among members of the community. In this sense, it functions as an instrument in which erring performances or works of artists are checked in terms of their content as well as implications on the character of their audience.
Banning Sites in the Internet
Censorship has never been more imperative in the case of the Internet. With the emergence of the Internet, access to information has dramatically increased. Just about everything under the sun can be culled from the net. While it is beneficial that everyone has access to information, the flipside of the coin is that information in the wrong hands can be disastrous. In addition, information at the disposal of dissident forces could pose as threats to national security. Internet censorship in this particular context is deemed important. With the outreach of the Internet, it can be utilized as an effective means of propaganda. In this regard, black propaganda can destroy the image of social institutions and the credibility of personalities.
The Internet is an example of the implementation of the Constitution’s freedom of expression and freedom of speech clause. It is a collection of various websites that contain material which is both offensive and acceptable. With the particular stand on pornography, there are several people who have decided that the best way to combat a child’s exposure to this supposedly offensive material is to censor these Internet sites. However, it would be wrong if these sites would be censored by the government first, because it is directly in opposition to the Constitution, particularly the first Amendment of the Constitution. It states that “…Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech and of the press…” It is specifically this particular clause in the Constitution that protects the freedom of people who supervise and maintain these sites. This particular area of interest is offensive to some people but it may not be considered offensive for some other people. The rule of thumb is, the decision should not be made just because there are those who find it offensive. The decision should not also be made just because the Internet sites are already out there in the open, available for the public and can thus be accessed by the children. As discussed by the Garlock, if there is the knowledge of these Internet sites, then if one finds it offensive, that person should not access it any more. (Garlock, 1999).
The blocking of Internet sites will not be enough to stop people from creating sites that may pass through the different possible loopholes that can be devised by people who can create discreet sites which lead to much more mature content. Yet, it is imperative that young people, especially children should not have access to these sites.
Guarding sensitive information
Censorship in the Internet provides the necessary safety net for guarding sensitive information. Case to point was in the 1996 Senate Defense Appropriation bill; Senator Feinstein introduced a provision, which bans bomb making material and references from the Internet. (Electronic Privacy Information Center 2002). Information pertaining to the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction should be restricted because individuals with the intent to sow terror in society can utilize these materials. Censorship acts as the first line of defense in the proliferation of classified information such as bomb making.
Censorship is important in deterring pornography. The spread of pornography is mitigated by the implementation of censorship measures. Pornography victimizes the youth, specifically in the matter concerning sexuality. With pornography, issues on sexuality are relegated within the carnal perspective. Censorship gives authorities the proper means in which to prevent pornography or other forms of obscene behavior from spreading.
Censorship also provides a check to irresponsible journalism and baseless criticisms. Any form of criticism should be grounded on clear and verifiable facts. Given the present context in which the power of the media has been enhanced largely due to globalization and technological innovation, the media’s ability in determining key events and entities in society has been more evident. As such, censorship functions as a tool in which to counter act abuses of media practioners in terms of reporting matters whose veracity is dubious, implicating individuals to controversies without the required evidence and at times the media can use its logistics to blackmail a specific institution or entity. Censorship can thresh out media actions whose intentions are to mislead the public or to sensationalize news events.
For instance, news anchors should be limited to just stating the news and not on expressing their commentaries as their inputs are highly biased and more importantly, lacks research. Another example would be investigative pieces made by the media, where censorship evaluates and verifies information. This prevents the media from being used in character assassination and for the self-interest of the few.
More often than not, censorship is often criticized for its methods that stymie free speech. Censorship does not incorporate limits on free speech but it forces free speech to the tow the lines of morality and more importantly towards accountability. While the Constitution guarantees that each individual is accorded the freedom to say whatever he or she pleases, said freedom should not bring about any form of harm towards another individual. Censorship provides a semblance of order in a highly liberal society in which everyone has the freedom to express oneself. We should be responsible with the things we do and say. Thus, in these circumstances censorship serves as a watchdog.
Anthony Gregory in his article entitled “Swift Boat Censorship” gives an argument on the concepts of censorship and free speech. Gregory notes, “True censorship involves force, specifically government force, used to prohibit people from speaking, writing, or publishing, under penalties of law”. He adds “when people boycott or pressure companies to refrain from publishing or broadcasting, by threatening to withhold patronage or to complain loudly in public, such pressure, even though directed to lessen the impact of another’s message, is certainly not censorship, in fact it is itself an exercise of free speech”. (Gregory 2004).
In sum, for censorship to be credible, individuals with the right set of principles should be in charged with censorship. These persons have the moral ascendancy and they could lead by example. Censorship works for the common good. Without censorship, a chaotic situation with no sovereign body to police our actions would ensue because just about anyone can say or do what serves his interests.
Labor Law. 1987. Censorship definition Dictionary Labor Law Talk. Retrieved Feb.7,
2007 at: http:/encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Censorship
Think Quest. 2004. Censorship. Retrieved Feb.7, 2007 at:
Garlock, Adam P. (1999). Internet Censorship. Retrieved Feb.7, 2007 at:
Gregory, Anthony. 2004. “Swift Boat Censorship” The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Retrieved Feb.7, 2007 at: http://www.fff.org/comment/com0409c.asp
Electronic Privacy Information Center. 2002. Internet Censorship. Retrieved Feb.7,
2007 at: www.freedomexpression.org