The United States Bill of Rights guarantees its citizens the freedom of expression, but how far does that freedom extend? Does the right to express yourself include the right to observe the expressions of others? According to pro-censorship view holders, it does not. But to those who feel strongly against censorship, the freedom of information, or the “right to know,” should be an absolute right granted to the American public. Censoring material is the responsibility of the individual, not the institution itself, and certainly not the job of a separate institution. Also, the definition of what is censor-worthy is by no means clear.
Exercising the freedom of speech has two sides: the speaker and the listener. Censorship is unfair to both sides. When it takes away the speaker’s Constitutional freedom of expression, it simultaneously revokes the listener’s right to develop an informed opinion based on unobstructed truth. This opinion has been supported by the courts. In 1982, an informal agreement between several broadcasters from major media outlets known as the Code of Broadcaster Conduct, which banned “depictions of sexual encounters, violence and drug use, as well as excessive advertising,” was nullified because it was a violation of First Amendment rights (“Broadcast Decency”). Excessive censorship is viewed as unnecessary by both the American public and by the government that endorses it.
When regulating the content that someone sees or hears, it is the sole responsibility of the individual to block harmful or offensive content from themselves or their children. In an article by Dan Gutman, a children’s book author, he states that if a piece of literature is banned from a school library, it is not only blocked from the child whose parent strived to get it banned, but from every other child in the school as well. This also rings true in other areas. By censoring an item of controversy, the institution that blocks the item is not only exercising control over the content that they see, but what everyone else sees, too. Even where censorship is absolutely needed, the people have a right to know that they are being kept in the dark about something. In some places, censored material printed in periodicals is simply marked over with a black line, but in America we sometimes do not know that information is being withheld (Thom). This practice of censored censorship is unethical and unconstitutional. If we don’t know what is being censored, can’t we at least know that something is being censored?
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has certain standards for material to be considered as profane, indecent, or obscene (“Obscene, Indecent”). Unfortunately, not everything can be fit into these cookie cutter categories, and sometimes an object of controversy overlaps into two or more of these classifications. These requirements are tested against what is considered to be an “average person,” but who is this mythical,...