Cultural historians often ask how the preoccupations of an era shape a society. And the best insights are revealed, not through the clarity of connection, the union of expression or the dominant ideology, but through the chaos and rupture caused by the dissenting voice. It is often when an artist is most at odds with his or her world, most subject to critical debate, that we glimpse the dominant values of society, giving way to the cultural conscience of the time. "One of the artist's and humanist's greatest value to a society is in the mirror of self-examination which they raise so that society can become aware of its short-comings as well as its strengths," stated the 1965 Senate Report on the establishment of the National Endowments of the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment of Humanities (NEH) (Childs, 2). This is the artist's job, to make us, all of society, think about who we are and who we are becoming.
Art, just like any other production of public discourse, is there to persuade us to look at our lives and to act accordingly. And despite the fact that they might not explicitly say what our course of action should be, they will tell us through their brushstrokes, sculpting or lyrics. Likewise, the artist creates a bond with the beholder in expressing his or her most intimate beliefs, and at looking, hearing or seeing the artist's work, we are immediately connected. We feel what the artist feels. With that, how can an artists reveal us his innermost thoughts, feelings and desires, if the work is first dismantled and then reassembled because some third party feels that the artist's message or method of "speaking" to us is unfit. Some people feel government has a right to step in between the artist and spectator to decide what we as American adults can or cannot see, hear, watch and read, or ultimately to determine what we are allowed to think.
However, as American's we are guaranteed the freedom of expression as written in the Constitutional Bill of Rights, stating:
Congress shall make no law representing an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is with this First Amendment that allows us the right to the freedom of the speech, press and discourse, and through cases in the Supreme Court, the freedoms have extended to all aspects of life. Therefore, the censoring of any material, including in the arts and entertainment industry is not and should not happen in the land of the free.
To begin, one must define what censorship is and determine when something has been censored. There are several definitions going around, both by non-partisan group as well as special-interest groups. The term "censorship" has its entomological roots in Latin and the word censere, meaning "to give as one's opinion, to...