A Look At The Arguments For And Against Censorship

1681 words - 7 pages

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” (Roleff, Barbour, and Szumski 5). Controversy surrounds the topic of censorship. Americans generally believe in the freedom of speech and expression, but some citizens of the liberal USA support censorship. Internationally speaking, censorship is not really a topic of discussion, it just exists. Librarians have struggled with censorship over the years and the development of new technology and communication has made the predicament even worse. The situation with censorship is akin to walking a desert filled with land mines; at any moment any idea or opinion once held near and dear may end up blown to smithereens. In a world where censorship is examined the lines between black and white begin to blur and everything turns into ten shades of gray.
When broaching the topic of censorship a direct definition of the word becomes necessary. Censorship is “the regulation or suppression of writing or speech that is considered harmful to the common good or a threat to national security” (“Censorship” par.1). The vagueness of this definition as well as numerous other definitions pose as a serious dilemma for law making officials. This ambiguity allows for many different interpretations in which proponents use to their advantage. Both advocates and opponents of censorship believe that everyone has the right to expand his knowledge and learn about new ideas. “Not all forms of speech are entitled to equal protection under US law.” (qtd. in “Introduction to Censorship:” par. 4). Both groups believe that people should have a right to say what they want to say, but for some that right applies only to a certain degree.
In political terms there are those who approve and those who do not. Of those who approve of censorship there are right wing censors and left wing censors. Right wing and left wing advocates play two different roles.
…right-wing pressure groups …control topics and content. These groups want schoolbooks to reflect their idealized vision of the past- an imaginary past in which all families were happy because they had a strong father, a nurturing mother, obedient children and a firm religious foundation. Crime, violence, divorce, abortion, and homosexuality did not exist in that fantasy-past, so they must never appear in any schoolbooks. (Westwater 3)
Leftist pressure groups generally hold the power to control vocabulary, to outlaw words and phrases, and to choose the words, phrases and modes of usage that will be deemed politically correct. The demands made by leftist groups revolve around their vision of a utopian future in which egalitarianism prevails in all social relationships. (Westwater 3)
Despite the differences in their mode of censorship, sometimes political groups agree on general topics. There have been failed attempts to ban books as well as quite a few successful attempts based on political reasoning. Some of these books include...

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