Censorship in a Nation
Censorship has always been and will continue to a part of society. Censorship is defined as the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, speech, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security. The term censorship, however, when most commonly used, connotes any examination of thought or expression in order to prevent publication of what is seen as ‘objectionable’ material. Day to day, what we see, observe, and hear, is censored by our government, religious groups, parents, and the people around us. We censor to avoid trouble, controversy, offending the audience, economic boycotts, lawsuits such as libel and invasion of privacy, and official censorship Whether we realize it or not, the world we see is not always the reality in which actually live. This censorship isn’t necessary to our society because there is no proof that offensive material leads to offensive behavior in those that observe it.
Sex in art and entertainment seems to be the most common target of censorship as it can easily offend many and the varying opinions on what is deemed to be obscene. Manybworks of literature, from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, have been banned from public schools based on their sexual content. In the 1978 decision of Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could mandate that radio and television stations that were to broadcast what was deemed as indecent material, to do so only during night hours when kids would be unlikely to listen or view. As for pornography, it has no legal stand. Pornograpghy is not a legal term. Its dictionary definition is “writing or pictures intended to arouse sexual desire.” Pornography comes in as a vast amount of varieties and tastes just as the human sexual impulse does and is protected by the First Amendment unless it should meet the definition for illegal obscenity. All in all, censorship of sex in the arts dulls creativity in a population because what is censored is very subjective to the viewer as whether it is offensive or not.
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Calls for censorship in current society are not motivated only by people’s morals and taste, but also by the widespread belief that exposure to images or videos of violence causes people to act in a destructive way. Pro-censorship groups often cite a multitude of “scientific studies” that allegedly prove fictional violence leads to real-life violence. There is, however, virtually no evidence that fictional violence causes otherwise stable minded people to become violent from what they’ve seen. If we suppressed material broadcasted and published based on the actions of unstable people, no work of fiction or art would be safe from censorship. Serial killer Ted Bundy collected cheerleading magazines, and the work most often cited by psychopaths as justification for their acts of violence is the Bible and ‘God’s will’. If there really were a clear cause-and-effect relationship between what children see on TV and harmful actions, then limits on such expression might arguably be warranted. However, no reliable study can attribute a causation between the two.
Censorship has been brought down on society for so long that the population even censors their own language to hide from the reality of the world. George Carlin, an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic, once did a segment about the use of ‘Soft language.’ Soft Language is used to to describe euphemistic expressions that “conceal reality” and “take the life out of life.” (Carlin. G 1990). Soft Language has become a way for the population to censor their own words to hide the truth and conceal the reality that is the world. Over time, generations have stopped using words that they feel are harsh, offensive, or simply use it to avoid conflict and offending those around them. The meaning of what is said with soft language is weakened as to not sound as harsh of a reality that it really is. Due to this, a society without social skills and direct language was born, hiding the truth in their words to feel better about the world.
Censorship is not needed in the vast amounts that are provided to society. No reliable study can show a direct correlation between violence on television, and violence acted on in real life, or that viewing what one may deem as obscene material would have obscene or indecent actions. Blaming the media does not get the population very far, and given that it draws our attention from the real issues, it may do more harm than good.