Since the nation’s founding, freedom of speech has been an important part of American Democracy. Democracy is based on the idea that only when people are free to express their views openly can they govern themselves effectively. (Bender & Leone 13) When citizens can peacefully assemble and speak their mind, they are less likely to revolt and get violent. Which is why both the freedom of speech, and the freedom from censorship is very important for the government to run effectively, and safely.
The writers of the Constitution were well aware of the advantages of freedom of speech when they made the Bill of Rights. However, freedom of speech is not an absolute freedom. As with everything else, this too has limitations. Such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, or exposing children to pornography or anything that would cause injury to people. Unfortunately the problem is that there is a fine line between what is obscene and what is inoffensive.
So what should be censored, and who should censor it? Censorship is the act of deleting, editing or repressing anything felt to be immoral, offensive or objectionable. Books, magazines, newspapers, television, radio, music and the Internet are some of the things that are censored. Who should be involved in censorship, who should have the last word on it, and what should be censored? The Government should stay out of regulating censorship, and it should be left up to the individual parents. Pornography and other obscenities are out there for all to see, regardless of age.
Everyone agrees that minors should not be exposed to any of it, but with new forms of media popping up everyday, it is becoming harder and harder. Children can view violence on television, in newspapers, magazines, books, on the internet, etc. So comes the question: who should be in charge of censoring these forms of media? Some will say that the government should be the chief magistrate, while others will say it’s up the parents to decide what their children should and should not be exposed to. It is the parent’s right to supervise their children, and not the government’s.
Since 1791 there have been numerous attempts to limit free speech-including speech that threatens the national interest, speech with a potential to incite injurious behavior- speech that infringes on the rights of others, and extreme kinds of pornography or obscenity. Conversely, over the years the concept of freedom of speech has been expanded to include not just spoken or written work, but also symbolic arts of expression, such as wearing black arm bands, publishing pictures and artworks and flag burning. (Bender & Leone 13)
Since parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their own children, schools should have a decent respect for the parent’s beliefs and attitudes. Schools should make every possible effort to avoid offending the religious, ethical, cultural or ethnic values of school children and their parents. (O’Neill 139) Many different devices and programs have been made available to parents to censor the media. But they’re all brought about because of the government. One of the more obvious forms of censoring is the black bars or sound editing found on television, radio and in periodicals.
Anytime something pornographic or obscene is shown on television, a black bar is placed over the inappropriate areas, keeping children from seeing breasts, penises or other inappropriate body parts. With the audio end of this, in the past words were bleeped’ out, but nowadays they’re replaced with something less offensive. The newest method, for music only, is having the artist re-record it for public playback. This example can be found with Eminem’s song: My Name Is…. Slim Shady.
When this song is heard on the radio or played on MTV, they play one version of it, but on the CD the song sounds totally different. These are all good forms of censoring since parents can’t be everywhere all the time to watch their children. Another program for censoring can be found in movies. This method has been overlooked for a long time by the general public. The rating system is a more subtle form of censoring. By forcing a rating system on movies, it causes producers and directors to heavily edit their movies and try and make them more for the general public.
A movie with an NC-17′ rating isn’t likely to get many moviegoers to go see it, partially because of the fact that anyone under 17 will not be allowed to see it, and most movie theaters will refuse to carry it. Where as a movie with a G’ rating, anyone can see, and therefore most movie theaters will carry it. Local governments ban books that they see as objectionable from schools. The government has decided that certain books are objectionable and should therefore not be allowed in school libraries. This includes more than just pornographic books.
It also includes classic novels that most Americans have read in school. Groups have protested against the following books being allowed in schools; The Catcher in the Rye- by J. D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath- by John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men- by John Steinbeck, The adventures of Huckleberry Finn- by Mark Twain, 1984- by George Orwell, and a lot more. (Demac 10, 11) Fortunately, since we live in a democracy we the people can do something to fight against the government’s control on censorship. Many campaigns, and groups have been started to keep the government out of the censorship business.
One of the largest campaigns is the Blue Ribbon Campaign for Online Speech’, which is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Check out http://eff. org/blueribbon. html for more details on the blue ribbon campaign and how to join. We can vote for representatives, senators, and a president whose ideals follow our own beliefs. We can also write tour congressman, or representative about how we feel about censorship, and book banning. There’s nothing wrong with censorship, just with the government’s control of it.
If the government passes laws on what children can and can not see, they are taking away the rights of parents. There’s no argument that certain things should not be accessible to young children, but it is the right of the parents to choose what is and is not acceptable. For parents worried about their young children being exposed to obscene web sites there are a variety of web filtering software available to parents. A few of these are Net Nanny, SurfWatch, and CyberPatrol. The government tried introducing a V-chip into the media stream.
If passed it would have required all television stations to introduce a rating system for all of their television shows, much like the one used in the movies. Then the v-chip would block out all shows with the ratings you’ve specified. The problem with this is, the rating system doesn’t apply to the news stations, and doesn’t always work as advertised and blocks some shows that aren’t obscene by accident. Internet filtering software has the same problem. If the government is allowed to control censorship for all of us, then we as a country are one step closer to living in a totalitarian state.
We must exercise our constitutional rights and freedoms or else they will become extinct. Legislators and regulators in the US and around the world are intent on telling you what you and your children may read. Please help teach the government that such a decision belongs in your hands, and those of every other Internet user and parent. The Blue Ribbon Campaign is a way to raise awareness of online censorship and freedom issues, from locally to globally. (Blue Ribbon) Regardless of content or consequences, free expression is a basic human right that must not be infringed upon by unbalanced minds. Censorship is repression.