Fling staff writers sound off on censorship


Photo via Foundation for Economic Education

The concept of “free speech” has been a catalyst in one of the most intense political climates of the 21st century. With growing political polarization and extremism in America, the definition of “hate speech” has become progressively more subjective. The line between hate speech and free speech is filled with inconsistencies and bias, which now threatens the principle which the United States has been founded on. A large number of the population now urges for less censorship, no matter the content or value of the media, primarily to preserve the values and integrity of their given rights as American citizens. – A. Mancuso

The idea of censorship is a concept that can be traced back to ancient times. Greek philosopher Plato suggested that censorship was needed for the moral betterment of society, but is the elimination of speech ,that is deemed harmful, truly the right way to improve the world? – J.Nguyen

Censorship can be used in many different ways, and have different motives such as prohibiting speech or rigging elections, but ultimately, can cause societies to be less informed about the state of the world and the affairs of their own country. -I. Jimenez

Because of the government’s strict suppression of journalists who write about anti-government news, the people in that country are left clueless about the possible negative state they live in.  According to Censorship and Society, “Journalists throughout the world are routinely put in jail or even killed for publishing stories that shed a negative light on government leaders and their decisions. This prevents the citizens of those countries to get an accurate and honest look at the political regimes they live under.” Citizens are unable to protest the wrongdoings of their country if they do not have any idea of these complications themselves. – I. Jimenez

One of the primary reasons for no censoring of media that isn’t explicitly prohibited by the First Amendment is that the current motivations behind most censorship have become purely political. As Conner Pardini explains in his article criticizing the attempts of censorship of “the left” on the UC Santa Barbara campus, “…in a small act of what is perhaps imitation of their more violent comrades at Berkeley, leftists of UC Santa Barbara have destroyed the signs advertising the Ben Shapiro event. Nothing else could be expected from those who consider speech violence. To equivocate speech and violence is to obliterate the distinction between reason and force.” Attempts to censor opinions which may be considered “hate speech” allows conservative individuals, like Pardini, and extremists to claim that they are being “oppressed by the left” and need to stand firm in their opinions. If nothing else, attempts to censor right-leaning speeches or other media is only adding to political polarization and the dilution of political discourse, and feeding into the “us vs. them” mentality of the current political climate. -A. Mancuso

Political censorship destroys our democracy and prevents the everyday citizen from exercising their power. Take Turkey for example. They have already implemented a law that requires “hosting companies are required to retain traffic data, which… can map all the activities of a person.” The government can now monitor what an individual is doing online and see what they are up to. If ,say, they see you supporting an opposing political group , they will keep that in mind and will treat you more harshly based on that. It will limit individual freedom and prevents them from supporting ideas that they believe will better the world. – J. Nguyen

Censorship can often start in schools– from banning the confederate flag to banning books that curse too many times. But this censorship is often dealt with unequally, and leads to “…students of color and low-income students [being] slighted,” says Hadar Harris and Mary Beth Tinker. The students who are harmed most by this are minorities, because they’re often the ones to protest unjust rules, and because they’re the ones represented in the books and curriculum getting routinely banned. In 2013, the novel Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell was banned, with parents citing harsh language and depictions of race. However, books like these are essential because, as Kristin Pekoll reveals, “…the novel mirrors some of the same situations students find themselves in.” Censorship in schools is incredibly harmful to students first experiencing how their government works and regards them, and that’s just the beginning. – A.McElroy.

When too many parts of the media are censored, growing adolescents are not exposed to the information that they should be reading, listening to, and watching. Censorship can also “deprive students of a realistic view of the world and of an opportunity to pursue and test ideas of how to improve that world,” says Fred Hechinger. Putting censorship on everything that a student reads because it’s deemed as slightly innapropriate can keep them from making their own critical thinking and it ends up affecting them negatively for the rest of their life. -A. Robles

When asked how teens may be affected by the censoring of books displaying these subjects, Blasingame said, “LGBTQ literature, it was just completely absent from school libraries and public libraries and school curriculum until fairly recently. Eleven percent of our population is LGBTQ, and as far as they can tell, they don’t exist because they don’t see themselves in any of the books they read. They’re being told that their existence doesn’t count. Same thing with indigenous students. Books that don’t have any indigenous characters in them, what does that say to the kid who’s reading these books?” Durand adds that, “It implies that reading and talking about these issues is somehow shameful and denies youth the opportunity to find relief in knowing they are not the only ones facing these issues.” Schools often censor books that discuss sexuality. As the professors said, when students don’t see any characters that they can relate to in this way, they tend to look down upon themselves. They feel as though they are unwelcome among those who may have different views on this topic. They feel worthless. – T. Pollack

Furthermore, the ideals of censorship simply hide certain parts of history from children, as well. Without knowing their full history, how are students supposed to learn from the past, or from suppressed ideas that challenge the status quo? James Baldwin elaborates on this issue as well. “What is upsetting the country is a sense of its own identity. If, for example, one managed to change the curriculum in all the schools so that Negroes learned more about themselves and their real contributions to this culture, you would be liberating not only Negroes, you’d be liberating white people who know nothing about their own history.” Purposely not teaching specific topics under the concept of “censorship” is not only leaving out history, but also discouraging children from thinking past the preconceptions that come with the “perfect” idea of history our society has created, and children deserve to know the truth. – B. Tredway

The idea of complete censorship is, as David Lowenthal says, “either a rigorous censorship of the mass media, in conformity with responsible republican government, with censors known to all and operating under law, or an accelerating descent into barbarism and the destruction, sooner or later, of free society itself.” To simplify, censorship should be either all in, or all out.

We have the equation for a perfect society. Ignorance = Bliss. However, because of the internet, censorship is just plain unrealistic. Because of the time we live in, the answer is easy: let everyone consume everything and deny them the beauty of ignorance. Human nature is nosy. The burden of the truth needs to be evenly distributed among the masses for the survival of humankind. Although censorship looks good on paper, it is what it is : Utopia. – N. Mitchell