In the modern era, it is considered both common practice and politic etiquette to encroach upon the freedom of information accessible to society; to mitigate certain aspects that are permitted to be seen and to strategically prevent haphazard situations being leaked into the media. The aforementioned problems have lead to questionable scandal within the media over the past decade and with the abundant accumulation of technology, information that has always rivalled among newspapers and cyberspace is now rivalled by politicians who ask themselves whether certain material is worthy of being censored.
Considering I work in the media industry, censorship not only affects me, but more importantly, my readers. I thought of basing my blog around the concept of censorship when I saw an article by the Daily Mail saying the Christina Aguilera’s now infamous performance of Express from her movie Burlesque was acceptable, and then Ofcom arguing back that it wasn‘t, following a plethora of complaints from parents. Though I strongly disagree with the sexualisation of young children, that is my opinion. It is not mine or anybody else’s responsibility to speak out on behalf of others, considering I am oblivious to many of the existing opinions. Therefore, if these complaining parents are offended by the things being shown to their children, I’m compelled to assume they are unaware of how to turn off their TVs.
I asked my close friend Sam Kojczyk who’s finishing up his media course at Palmers College, his opinion on censorship: “It determines who can say what and when. It places power and control into those who decide what can be said. This limits the power of the press to communicate issues, problems, and the agendas of those holding political power. Censorship decides what you should know, what you can know, as well as what you can say. It is a political tool that advances the agenda of those who hold the power. It goes against the foundations this country was built on, mainly freedom to express opinions that go against the norm.”
Whilst the suppression of material that can be perceived as objectionable restrains any pandemonium, there can be different standards of morals among different societies quite different from the ones imposed by the censorship and it can be misused to conceal legitimate criticism. Despite it being used in many democratic countries, it has no true place in such a society where the free flow of ideas should be encouraged and the freedom of speech should not be compromised.
Josh Billings once said: “The trouble ain’t that people are ignorant: it’s that they know so much that ain’t so.” The very concept of censorship generates ignorance within society by withholding information that will, in the broadest sense of the word, be seen as trying to control people. The censoring of information also leads to a wrong image recognised by the public. Governments should not control their citizens, the citizens should control the way in which the government operates.
A barbaric, all too documented example of the poor and crude usage of censorship is when Adolf Hilter burnt any books that went against the Nazis’ beliefs and made textbooks that created a false, distinguished image of the atrocity the Nazis would perpetrate. Censorship stifles the opposition, broadcasting only a particular point of view and it is this that resonates its exact intention.
In 1922, the novel Ulysses by James Joyce was banned in the United Kingdom when it was declared obscene and offensive. James Joyce is one of the world’s most influential authors and not only did this censorship prevent us from have a glimpse into the time it was written, it stopped us from learning his writing technique and creative linguistics.
Paul McCartney’s hit song Give Ireland Back to the Irish was written in response to Blood Sunday in Northern Ireland in 1972. The song was later banned of the “political taboo” but in actual fact, exposed the barbaric events that took place. Its ban prevented people from understanding what happened, only allowing people to hear one side of the story that was often the government trying to defend their actions. For me, this is what turned censorship from a social issue to a political issue.
More modern examples of censorship affects everyone that picks up a newspaper. In 2008 into 2009, the press were barred from printing the names of concerned parties in the murder of Baby Peter. Those who published the names of the defendants and the boy fell under police investigation for conducting a so-called “internet hate campaign.” Despite the ban being lifted on 10th August 2009, we still weren’t allowed to shame and pity members of our society and make more people aware of such an atrocious crime.
It is only in humanity’s nature that once something is hidden, we will become extra curious about the subject. It is not longer it our interest to be naïve idealists. As our contributions to society have increased, as oppose to our government managing the particulars of the country, we have grown to be cynical individuals after being exposed to harsh realities. We are less scared of what we have to approach and in my opinion, would rather be prepared.
The term censorship is predominantly associated with dictatorship. This allows dictators to promote a flattering image of themselves and remove any information that is negative to them and then releasing it to the press.
Given the inevitability of individuals having different tastes, censorship also compromises the entertainment value of books, plays and movies. Controversial books like A Clockwork Orange have been ridiculed for their explicit context, however, they embrace life’s problems and obstacles. Without such information, we are oblivious to the happenings in our society and can no longer be empathic, philanthropic or generally decent human beings. As well as this, if sex-related topics are completely censored it becomes difficult to teach children and teenagers about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
Some argue that censorship prevents vulgarity, obscenity and cause for offence, particularly among impressionable children. However, it is not the responsibility of the government to restrict what children can and cannot see, it is the responsibility of the parents of whom have different views of what is appropriate and what is not. Some even claim it corrupts the nation by revealing its secrets and that echoes our previous question: don’t we have the right to know? When Margaret Thatcher was in power, a member of the government exposed the fact that our country’s armed forces had sunk a Argentinean ship that was retreating away from the conflict taking place. People were shocked they had been lying to, but more importantly, thankful that they knew the so-called Iron Lady was not so invincible and had been lying to the very people who voted her in, leaving many with the bitter taste of betrayal, yet more aware of their country’s behaviour and influence. It is much better to speak the truth as oppose to lying. It is a moral we have always taught our children so in actuality, censorship removes the scruples of the youth who follow the examples set out by the government.
Whilst censorship prevents certain information from getting into the wrong hands, information that relates and is relevant to us should be broadcasted and accessible or else, the question escalates from: don’t we have the right to know to, why didn’t you tell us this before? Ultimately, if something is there, it is meant to be seen.