Editorial: The Societal and Historical Effects of Censorship

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By Taylor Brown, Correspondent

           Censorship in media, literature and press has been used to dictate the thoughts and morals of populations for centuries. On a federal level, censorship is condemned by the United States Constitution, declaring freedom of speech and press a first amendment right. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere as the protection of thoughts and ideas have been challenged throughout history. Even today the civil right remains globally attested.

Censorship has plagued the world all throughout history, used as a dangerous weapon against democracy. For instance, in historical Europe, censorship increased to suppress the spread of heresy and keep the population in submission to the church. In 1543, it was decreed that no book could be printed without the church’s approval, criminalizing scientific and artistic expression. Later, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) banned the works of Galileo Galilei, sentencing him to house arrest until his death in 1642.

           Even in the 19th and 20th centuries, public schools, libraries and entire governments banned progressive literature. Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” was banned due to the socialist ideologies of the author. Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been banned repeatedly since it was printed because it depicts racism and sexual assault. Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”, a book that describes his experience in World War Two as a military medic, was banned after the writing style was considered ‘salacious’ by the Boston police.

Hemingway’s publisher responded to the scandal claiming the ban “is an evidence of the improper use of censorship which bases its objections upon certain passages w/o taking into account the effect and purpose of the story as a whole.”

           These works, and the other forbidden publications, are not dangerous to society. They do not spread harmful propaganda or hate speech, incite violence or chaos. These works were banned because a government or organization wanted to control the content the world was exposed to.

           The danger of censorship lies in an attempt to seize control, to monitor the thoughts and opinions of entire populations of people to sustain a desired narrative. By not allowing the people the right to transparency, the right to formulate their own opinions, the right to the truth, democracy as a whole is threatened.

           The problem persists in the modern day. Social media has become a key player in the suppression of ideas and information, giving corporate America the power to determine what information reaches the public. On an international scale, many less-developed countries face political indoctrination by being denied transparency and accuracy in their media. For instance, in South Korea, the government censors publications that criticize political powers, even going so far as to arrest the journalists responsible.

           During the Age of Enlightenment, the writer Voltaire said “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.” Censorship is a dangerous threat to free will and every citizen has a right to the truth.

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