Greetings and Salutations;
It being just past “Talk like a pirate day”, I thought it appropriate to go on a little ocean voyage…
An interesting question was brought to my attention today – “Is Censorship Good, or Bad?” This came up in a discussion of the efforts of the major social media companies such as Instagram, Facebook, etc, to shut down websites that were questionable in nature. At the moment these are pretty much all Neo-Nazi sites. However, it being the Internet, there is a huge range of sites available in the cyber-ocean, so, deciding which ones should go away can become difficult. That having been said…here is my answer to the question:
this is a complicated question, as censorship is a double-edged sword. Let us look at the definition of the word:
“the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.”
That goal seems very virtuous, and I suspect that most of us would agree with it. However, the tool of censorship MUST be applied with caution, or it becomes a power for evil. Let us look at an example or two.
To start off in the modern era, what about neo-nazi websites, (I cannot give a link to a neo-nazi website, as the ISPs have pretty much wiped them off the visible web. In order to access the cesspool of hate, prejudice, holocaust denial and white supremacy they push, one must search on the so-called Dark Web.) I suspect that the censorship of these sites, and their removal from the Net is something that most people would look upon as a good thing.
What about a slightly greyer area, such as the Conspiracy Loony websites, such as prisonplanet.com, or theflatearthsociety.org? Should they be removed from the Net? after all, they are spreading lies and opinions unsupported by evidence, or facts. I would argue that they should NOT be censored, unless they slip into an area where they are posting stories that are actively hurtful to other citizens, or advocating violence against other citizens. As for the former…And here I am looking at Alex Jones and InfoWars.com for his diatribes against the mass shootings that plague America these days, and, continuing claims that they are “False Flag” operations, used by the government for some nefarious purpose and that no one has actually been killed in these so-called mass murders. His pontificating should be censored in my opinion, as his preaching about the idea that no one has been killed in these school shootings is not only blatantly untrue, it has brought great pain to the surviving relatives of those that WERE killed.
To go back a few years (most recently, alas, March of this year), or perhaps more than just a few! Over the millennia of recorded time, there have been many episodes of book burning. here is an interesting list that is lengthy, if not comprehensive.
Book burning is an extreme form of censorship, and one that I do not, in general, ascribe to or approve of. One common thread that runs through these events, from the destruction of Ebla in 2240 B.C. to the Greek Orthodox Priest burning Harry Potter books in 2019, is that the destruction of the libraries was caused by an intense dislike or fear of the knowledge contained in them. It was, I suspect, based not on rational thought, but, rather the hatred and fear of “The Other”, or the mindless preconceptions and narrow views of the people burning the books. This sort of censorship, I find repulsive and obscene, and do not believe it should happen.
(That having been said, I am forced to admit that when I read “Lord of the Flies” in High School, I was so disgusted with it and the picture of humanity it presented, the ONLY way I could express my feelings and, to a certain extent, cleanse my mind, was to burn the book. It is the ONLY book I have destroyed this way, though, and while I still find it disgusting, I have reached a point where I remain an objective observer of stories I read. In High School, I was much more vulnerable, and tended to dive into the story so completely, it was as if I was in the world of the story, and it left the same thoughts and feelings with me when I escaped the book as if I had been in that world.)
We all practice censorship on a daily basis.
- Some of us change the channel when representatives of the current administration come on to speak.
- Some of us turn off the television when a televangelist appears.
- Some of us choose to watch Fox news, instead of the BBC, CNN, or another channel.
- Some of us say “I will never read a book by O’Reilly/Bill Gates/A trump cultist/Rachael Maddow/Lawrence O’Donnell/etc”
- Some of us say “Libtard, Dumbocrat, Socialist, Communist, Snowflake, etc.”
- Some of us say “Rethuglican, Cultist, etc.” (it is difficult to find a lot of ad hominem insults used by the Liberal/Progressives when referring to Right-Wingers)
- Some of us say “I will reach out to sources of opinions that differ from mine, the better to understand their, and my own, patterns of thought, prejudices, etc, and what brings them to believe what they believe.”
- Some of our elected leaders rail against the news media, and claim it is “Fake News” not because it is a lie, but because they do not like what is being reported.
Some of these alternatives are positive, some are not. The important thing to do here is to make those decisions mindfully. Be aware of the choices we are making, and decide: “Am I making this choice because something there will hurt my feelings?” or “Am I making this choice because I am searching out the most accurate information I can find?” In my opinion, the latter question is valid, and important. The former is simply willful blindness. It is especially important for us to look at anything we are told with skepticism, and not accept it as the gospel truth. When I was in elementary school, and being taught the basic skills, one of the subjects was “Library Skills” and writing a properly supported article. The latter had, as rule number 1, believe nothing until it is supported by three, independent sources. The former gave me the tools to FIND those sources. This is the sort of mindfulness I am talking about.
God Help Us All!
Bee Man Dave