Is censorship a good or bad idea?


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Is censorship a good or bad idea?

  1. 1. Is Censorship a Good or Bad Idea? Censorship is defined as the suppression of speech or other public communication that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive or inconvenient, as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body ( Censorship could involve a slight edit to a particular scene etc or could be an out right ban. One aspect of censorship is what’s called a gagging order. A gagging order is defined as a legal order by court or government restricting information or comments being made in public or passed onto any unauthorized person. They may be used to keep secrets of a company, or keep someones identity safe. In 1993, James Bulger was abducted and murdered by two 10-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. They were imprisoned for 8 years and after release were given new identities protected with a gagging order. This gagging order is in place to protect the safety of the two men, though some debate whether it is in the public’s interest. Since Jon Venables was arrested in 2010 once again after child pornography was found on his computer, people have grown more and more interested in his new identity so that they can protect their children after his release. It is difficult to say whether gagging orders are beneficial or not, as there are two reasonable arguments both for and against. Though I think it is the business of the police to sort criminals out if they reoffend or if they have the potential to reoffend, it is not the publics business. Revealing their identity could potentially do more harm than good. Censorship can mostly be argued as a good idea in the case of children. Warnings and age ratings on films and games are beneficial as it shows parents what is suitable for their child’s age and what the film or game contains. Some content may not be suitable for a child, such as violence and sexual content. This is because they are argued to be more impressionable than adults. The Hypodermic Needle Theory backs up this idea. This theory suggests that people will copy the films, games and other forms of media they are exposed to. In 1938 a broadcast of The War of the Worlds sent out widespread panic across America. It was assumed that this was proof of the Hypodermic Needle Theory, although Paul Lazarsfeld and Herta Herzog led research on the matter and discovered that the panic was not based on the media drilling ideas into their heads but the attitudes among them. The Hypodermic Needle Theory is now considered obsolete. Beyond the age of 18, most film is available for the public to watch, depending on whether it is legal or not. The government needs to approve a film for it to be made available to the public. Films such as The Human Centipede 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Reservoir Dogs have ether been banned or highly censored to abide by government standards. I think that films that show graphic content of murder, torture, rape, pedophilia or incest in a glorified light should be banned as I think the content could be considered offensive to victims of these crimes. Though I think that some films with graphic content that reflects true life should not be censored, as I don’t think we should be hiding people from the reality of others lives. I think that our government’s standards of what is appropriate are slightly warped. I do not think that bad language should justify a
  2. 2. film being rated 18 as I do not think that bad language is harmful to a child. Swearing is just another form of expression and is proven to help us deal with pain, so I don’t believe that children need protecting from it. Another argument for censorship is to protect against hate speech against a particular group in society. This could include racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ageism, amongst other things. This sort of content in a film or any form of media could be detrimental to society. As proof of this, the 1791 First Amendment in the USA allows the people of America to voice their opinions whatever they may be. This allows members of their society to protest outside gay clubs, or abortion clinics, they can write about or talk about a group in society and say whatever offensive things they like. On Louis Theroux’s documentary The Most Hated Family in America, he discusses the Phelps family, at the center of the Westboro Baptist Church. The Phelps family frequently protests in the street against homosexuality, other religions and many other subjects. They are allowed to hold up signs using obscene language such as “thank God for AIDS”, “fags die God laughs” and “thank God for dead soldiers”. Since the anti-gay law came though in Russia, homophobic violence has risen catastrophically. There is no censorship of what people can say, or do to homosexuals, even the police are committing these offensive acts, and it has had a horrific effect on their society. It is extremely damaging to their society as it makes people think that it is okay to express extreme hate to one another, and could lead to these views being seen as the norm. It is also damaging to the people affected by these signs, comments or violence as it could lead to depression or even suicide. In the UK we do not have such a law, so participating in hateful behavior, and voicing hateful opinions in the media is unacceptable. In this case censoring is definitely beneficial for society as it protects us from violence, and other hateful slander in the media and on the street. Recently in the UK an advert for Cash Lady, a payday loan firm, was banned for featuring the former bankrupt singer/ reality TV star Kerry Katona. The Advertising Standards Authority said that the advert was “irresponsible”. They said that people might think that the payday loan “would help to fund a celebrity lifestyle”. They also decided to ban the advert as the APR wasn’t stated clear enough. The ASA received 29 complaints from viewers too. It is important to censor payday loan advertisements. They can be seriously dangerous to those who cannot afford to pay back the loans back quickly. The APR needs to appear large on any advertisements in order to make it clear to the viewer how much the amount they will need to pay back will rise, and laws are currently in place to protect people from being deceived by these adverts. Payday loan adverts are commonly on daytime TV channels. It could be assumed that the people watching daytime TV do not have jobs, and are the ones who need the money more. This could be seen as targeting vulnerable people. Children growing up seeing cartoon style advertisements for payday loans may make them feel as if they are normal, and may appeal to them more as adults. Culmination Theory states that the media can desensitize children towards certain things. Usually this theory applies more to violence in the media, but I can apply it to my example too, as these adverts are desensitizing children to payday loans.
  3. 3. On the other hand though, censorship can also be damaging to society. In the USA many states have banned creationism being taught in schools. In Georgia stickers were put on school textbooks as a disclaimer saying, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” Six parents from Cobb Courtney, Georgia sued to have the sticker removed from textbooks. In 2005 a federal judge in Atlanta ruled that the stickers should be removed as they breached the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The school board appealed the decision. Later in 2005, the appeal court panel criticized the lower court ruling, and one judge evidently did not understand the difference between evolution and abiogenesis. Finally in 2006 the Cobb Courtney Board of Education withdrew from the case and no longer allowed textbooks to show that sticker. And due to negotiation with the parents they withdrew any legal action against the board. In this case, censorship was more damaging than good, as it singled out the widely accepted scientific theory as being just another idea. There were no disclaimers on creationism on the book, clearly showing that they wanted to censor the evolution theory from the students and not the creationism theory. In relation to this story, I believe censorship, especially in the USA allows religion to have too much power over society. In many states in America, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books have been banned from schools, libraries and even burned because of their strong religious beliefs. Many in the US believe that the Harry Potter books teach children to disobey God and practice magic spells. On the website, one man has written his list of 12 reasons why Harry Potter should be banned. He states, “The movie’s foundation in fantasy, not reality, doesn’t diminish its power to change beliefs and values…” Many also believe it will convert Christian children to Paganism, as this man states on, “The main product marketed through this movie is a new belief system.” The majority of Americans are devout Christians, and Christianity is a large part of American politics making it unrealistic that religion will ever not influence what is censored in the media. My belief is that religion is a personal experience, and should not influence what is shown in the media. Religion is a choice, and a decision children should make on their own, in their own time. I do not believe that a fictional book such as Harry Potter could influence a child’s religious views, as there is no mention of religion in the book. It is not relevant to wider society what a child grows up to believe, so we should not allow them to be guarded from all of the options available. Another argument against censorship is that it allows government too much power over society. North Korea is a good example of this. In North Korea radios and TVs are set to only receive government frequencies. They are sealed with a label to help prevent tampering with them, and it is a serious criminal offence to do so. Internet is also illegal in North Korea, with only a few exceptions of some government officials who have access through a secret North Korean- Chinese connection. Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, has used censorship to his advantage to prevent people from seeing what other areas of the world are like, preventing there being a revolution. This means he will remain in power. This type of extreme censorship has fueled Kim Jong-un’s
  4. 4. ability to run his dictatorship. With the ability to censor what he wants he has trapped the people of North Korea, and completely cut them off from the rest of the world. I think we should ban this type of extreme censorship worldwide to prevent Kim Jong-un from running a dictatorship. Though there are arguments for censorship, I think that the reasons against censorship are much more important. Censorship allows certain groups or leaders to have too much power over society. What is considered “objectionable, harmful, sensitive or inconvenient” ( may be distorted by religion, or the government, and as a result may be more objectionable, harmful, sensitive or inconvenient to society. Although I do think that censorship should be used for certain advertisements, such as payday loans. The ban of the Cash Lady advert was effective as it prevented anyone from being deceived by the APR, and prevented anyone from misinterpreting the advert for a solution to dept problems. My conclusion on censorship is that it should be limited from government power, to prevent corrupt politicians having too much power over what we see. We should pass the power to a non-government power with the only intention to protect us, and not to protect themselves.