To Censor or Not to Censor: That Is the Question
Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of ACT Insurance, its employees, or any of the companies affiliated with it.
In light of recent events, it seemed a good time to write a blog post about something that many artists and other creative people have faced for thousands of years and that some of them are still facing today. When, if ever, is it ok to censor art or books, and how much freedom of expression should creative people be allowed to have?
These are difficult questions that can’t be fully answered with this simple blog post. So why bring it up? Why bother even writing about it? Because having the conversation is just as important as answering the question.
As with most everything, people have differing opinions on the issue. There are those who believe that some images and words are not appropriate and should be censored every time. Other people believe that nothing should be censored - under any circumstances. There are also those who take a middle ground.
Sometimes the reasons art is censored changes over the years. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain has been censored numerous times over the years. While today it is usually banned because of its racist language and stereotypes, it was first banned one month after its publication by a Massachusetts library in 1885, according to a Huck Finn teacher’s guide provided by PBS. Why was it banned? Because of the “very low grade of morality...couched in the language of a rough dialect [with] a systemic use of bad grammar and an employment of rough, coarse, inelegant expressions. It is also very irreverent…”
Ouch! What artist or author would want to hear that about their work? Mark Twain didn’t mind. His response: “They have expelled Huck from their library...this will sell us another 25,000 copies for sure.”
There are good reasons that people give for why censorship is needed (usually for the sake of children), whether you agree with them or not. There are good reasons that people give for why censorship is not needed, whether you agree with them or not.
Still, it seems odd to call for art to be censored simply because I don’t like what I’m seeing. Who am I to censor something that I consider “offensive” when someone else may have the opposite feelings as I do? My feelings about this “indecent” thing may be very strong. The other person may have feelings just as strong as mine. A piece of art that I consider “immoral” could be a beautiful work of art to someone else.
And here’s the great thing: If I am offended by some piece of art, I have options. I can be my own censor.
If I find a passage in a book that is offensive to me, I can stop reading and close the book.
If I’m at a museum and I see something “indecent,” I can walk away.
If I see art I consider offensive about someone or something that I consider sacred (or that I feel at least deserves reverential treatment), I can ignore it.
What I do know, and I think the majority of people in the world would agree with me, is that there is NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON LIVING ON THIS EARTH who has the right to kill someone else because they were offended by an image, word, or other piece of art. Ever. No exceptions.
Artists, authors, sculptors, and other creative individuals should have the right to create whatever art they want. I have the right to personally decide whether that art is something I want to look at or not. In essence, it really is that simple.
Do you agree with the post? Want to express your opinion about censorship? Please comment below.