Censorship & Totalitarianism- a long reply

Rowland, Jennifer jennifer.rowland at ic.ac.uk
Mon Jun 19 07:12:06 EDT 2000

Maybe it's because I'm from the UK, where there is a law against material
that promotes racial hatred rather than one permitting total free speech,
but I see *some* censorship as OK. For example, I would not put
sexist/racist material into a children's library. The vital thing is that
the grounds for not allowing material are totally open and people can
contest decisions, and it doesn't lead to a position where the government,
religious leaders or rich people control what is in the newspapers. (Well,
more than rich people control what is in the papers at the moment, just by
owning them. Murdoch anybody?)

I find it difficult to say exactly what I think is unacceptable, every rule
I can think of has exceptions, but basically materials which advocate
hating/hurting people or show deliberately causing pain as acceptable. As
far as rating films goes I think violence should be more strongly
discouraged than it is at the moment and sex possibly less, (apart from rape
and so on which come under "causing pain".) As far as political stuff goes,
I think the Socialist Workers advocating the overthrow of the government is
fine but the BNP advocating "sending back immigrants" is most definitely
I think we're doing relatively all right at the moment. (Although I would
like to see the laws against blasphemy repealed, rather than just ignored).

It seems to me that there is a sort of censorship in America (this is my
personal view from 5000 miles away), which consists of people being scared
to stand up to the Moral Minority in case they get shot, and which is much
more insidious than when it's openly admitted to. For example, (evolution
again), the states where they insist that evolution, for which there is a
lot of evidence, is tangentially mentioned as sort of an idea that a few
wacky scientists have, not as the basis for the whole modern synthesis of
biology; whereas creationism (which should be regarded as part of religion
and not mentioned in schools at all), is given equal time, when the evidence
for it is "it says in the bible, which is true Because I Say So". Or the
abortion "debate". 
Phew. As you can tell, I feel strongly about this. I respect people's right
to believe what they want, and I really apologise if I've offended anyone,
but I find religion rather scary in a lot of ways, it can so easily lead to
fanatics who don't respect *my* rights. 

To bring this slightly on-topic again, people have mentioned before that DWJ
encourages thinking for oneself rather than following the authorities
without thinking about it. I think a questioning attitude and looking at the
evidence (and who says it is evidence!) should be encouraged in children. In
fact, I think my school managed that quite well, in science as well as
history and english. Although Maths! Gosh, the things we just had to
*accept* were true. 2+2=4, eh? <g> 

Have I just contradicted myself saying people should think for themselves
and yet some things should be censored? I guess you can think what you want
but you can't do what you want- laws against murder, stealing etc already
control people's right to *behave* exactly as they wish and I think one
should also be made to *publish* in a responsible and non-damaging way.
People are free to disagree with me, of course, although they would be
WRONG! (There, a liberal laying down the truth).
(What's so bad about being politically correct? It's better than insulting
people.) :)

A melatonically-challenged person of gender XX.
In case anyone feels it is relevant my personal politics are green, left
wing, and feminist, and I'm a Unitarian. But my views don't represent
anyone's position but my own. And I don't expect to convert anyone to my
point of view, either- I think one reason discussions of religion and
politics are avoided are because they so often lead to bad feeling which
can't really be resolved, as one's position is often more emotional than
logical. Not that there aren't rational reasons for e.g. my being feminist-
just that if someone came up with a logical "but" to all my opinions I doubt
I'd suddenly become a doormat. But I can't resist replying to a direct
question like Sally's.

>Just for the sake of argument, how do the people on this list see
>censorship? Wholly wrong? Sometimes right? Do you see *any* books as
>"worthy" of censorship or do you favour absolute free speech? If not, do
>expect ... let's call it "good taste" ... making a sort of
>policy? i.e. if someone publishes a book that glorifies behaviour most
>of us
>see as untenable, do you trust the public to shun that book or do you
>the publisher to reject the ms or what?

>Sallyo (genuinely curious and not trying to start a fight).

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