by Arianna Sarjoo
Censorship is the deliberate suppression of free speech. The term is well known but not well accepted in the writing and media communities, as it should not be. It involves withholding information from the public because someone of some higher power happened to consider it “inappropriate” for their cause. Some may argue that the public is better off not seeing certain selections of information, but is ignorance really bliss?
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution was put in place to prevent “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” which just so happens to seem like the definition of “anti censorship,” if you will. If this amendment has been put in place for the protection of speech within the United States, why are there attempts to hide the thoughts and opinions of the public, even if they have the right to share those ideas?
The most common form of censorship a student might see is of books and other reading materials within schools and libraries. According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, between 1900 and 2000 there were well over 6,000 challenges to quit a few of the materials found in schools and public libraries. The largest amount of complaints were due to “sexually explicit” material or material containing “offensive language.” Although those topics may not be optimal in one person’s point of view, it does not change the fact that someone was expressing an idea that they chose to communicate. Furthermore, often times the offensive section of the material is not even the focus of the material. In such cases, the reader is the only person that has the right to determine if what is being read is suitable, and for themselves only.
Most often, when advocating the practice of censorship in society, the claim is that censorship is necessary to protect children. For example, when a child is scrolling through television channels, they might come across a channel that has “offensive language.” For this reason, such channels come with warnings on the type of content to expect. Society cannot expect every public material to be lacking in controversy, because society itself is not even set up in that way. How can those making contributions to the media be expected to put work into the world that is considered “safe” for all to read if one can find public controversy at every corner?
In theory censorship might seem like a good idea, but that simply is not the case. Who would technically be allowed to decide that a material wasn’t appropriate for the general public? How many cases of censorship would have to happen before the United States is no longer upholding their right to freedom of speech?