In open societies like the ones in which most of us live, censorship is a growing issue. The public are not happy with information being withheld from them, whether thats in the form of pixelation on a picture or the banning of certain content on the internet. But is censorship ever appropriate in the 21st century?
I’m just getting back into writing after a bit of a break, so I’ll try to keep this interesting and fun, but by the nature of the topic, this post has the potential to get deep. Sorry!
Anyway – I think we should start by saying that in some cases, censorship is needed and totally appropriate. Young children need to be protected from inappropriate content, and companies like google, bing and youtube (to name a few) have introduced ‘safe search’ features to ensure that children are only exposed to content that is appropriate for them. This, it seems, is the least debated form of censorship, but the problem comes when we need to decide where exactly to draw the line.
Indeed, this is the most simple form of censorship, protecting people from things that they don’t want to see or hear about by avoiding unnecessary detail, which is most often in the form of pixelated images or news reporters describing horrific events as a ‘brutal stabbing’ or a ‘fatal gunshot’ rather than describing the event in intense detail.
Youtube recently came under fire by the ‘Youtube community’ when their ‘restricted mode’ removed any videos with reference to LGBT+ issues from the view of young users, even if it was just a man referring to his boyfriend. Feminist vloggers who created education material had their content removed too. Outcry from Youtubers prompted an apology from youtube and the guidelines were swiftly changed. But was youtube right to ban such videos from young children, how do we decide where to draw the line between indecent material and appropriate content?
Hmmmm… it’s a difficult question to answer.
In countries like North Korea and China, censorship has been taken to the extreme, the government is using censorship as a tool to control their citizens and the public don’t like it (would you?).
Ideas that the government don’t like are removed from public access as if it were never there to ‘protect their society’ and defend the integrity of their leaders. A common phrase for some is ‘censorship breeds ignorance, not innocence’. In places where people are not allowed to debate and explore new ideologies and arguments, can we really expect society do develop and mature in the same way that cultures in the west have?
Thats like me deleting every comment on this blog that disagrees with my point of view just so that everything I write appears to be agreed with by everyone who reads my stuff.
(I would obviously never do that because all you comments are valuable and much appreciated and make the blog so much more interesting! 🙂 )
Censorship has been a useful tool for disgusting political leaders and dictators like Hitler and Kim Jong-Un to suppress people and force their own ideologies upon their citizens. There is a video on youtube at the moment of a young North Korean girl called Yeonmi Park talking about her experiences of censorship of north Korea. I’ll leave a link to her touching speech at the end of the post but here are a few quotes from her amazing speech.
“North Korea is an unimaginable country. There is only one channel on TV. There is only one Internet.”
“When I was nine years old, I saw my friend’s mother publicly executed. Her crime: watching a Hollywood movie.”
“Expressing doubt about the cruelness of the regime can get three generations of a family imprisoned or executed.”
If this horrible situation isn’t extreme censorship and a huge breach of basic human rights to freedom expression, I don’t know what is.
Its clear that censorship in North Korea is having a detrimental, destroying effect on their citizens, and for many in the western world, this is the reality that they never want to have to face. The battle against censorship is an ongoing on all over the world as we fight to see and hear what we want to.
Of course, In terms of government censorship, there are many things that would constitute censoring that are needed. It is justifiable to censor whenever a ‘clear and present danger’ is present, especially considering the current world state with terrorism. It is vital to censor certain things in order to protect national security. Whatever we can see, the enemy can see too. Also, many nations have required to censor the absolute truth in order to keep the public open to new ideas and solutions to problems. Take WWII for example, it was necessary for Franklin D. Roosevelt to censor certain truths in order to keep the general public open to helping the nation. If everyone knew the bleakness of some truths, mass panic would be inevitable.
Well, I think that was quite interesting, don’t you?
So, just to round off, I think we can all accept that in some cases censorship is wholly appropriate (let me know if you disagree), but I think that in most circumstances, the nature of the society in which we live means that we should have access to what we want to know, and that the government and media have a responsibility to keep us informed in a reliable, and unbiased manner.
Link to Yeonmi Park’s speech – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufhKWfPSQOw
Thanks for reading!