Censorship -- ever justified?

EstairM at aol.com EstairM at aol.com
Mon Jun 19 15:56:53 EDT 2000

In a message dated 06/19/2000 8:02:18 AM Central Daylight Time, 
owner-dwj-digest at suberic.net writes:

>  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 being
>  "worthy" of censorship or do you favour absolute free speech? If not, do 
>  expect ... let's call it "good taste" ... making a sort of self-regulating
>  policy? i.e. if someone publishes a book that glorifies behaviour most of 
>  see as untenable, do you trust the public to shun that book or do you trust
>  the publisher to reject the ms or what?

On this particular topic I feel torn -- schizophrenic writing alert!

On one hand, the idea of ideas fighting it out in the marketplace is very 
attractive, and that censorship as it has generally been practiced is/was 
usually not only stupid and dictatorial, but ridiculous.  

On the other hand, I think the world would be a much better place if, say, 
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, had never been printed.  If people in 
Germany hadn't had a bunch of similar writings around and much of the culture 
didn't think to itself -- well, much of this stuff MUST be true, so many 
people write it and it's in print and everything, where there's smoke there 
must be fire, etc.   (My father is a survivor of the Holocaust, by the way.) 

 And I get confused thinking about, say, The Man-Boy Love Association 
printing detailed info about kidnapping young boys.  I think, sure, censor 
that one.  But the problem always is, who gets to do the censoring, isn't it? 
 Through history, the Talmud has been censored more than hate literature....  

(Forcing myself to think more clearly (ouch) ...  okay, I guess some writings 
are like incitement to murder or yelling fire in a crowded theater -- the 
kind of speech that is NOT protected by the First Amendment.  And logically, 
therefore, those writings that could reasonably lead to real harm to people 
should be censored.  And if anyone doesn't think writings can lead to such 
harm -- just look at history...

If there is anyone  who is firmly, 100% against all censoring could discuss 
the tough ones mentioned above, I'd be grateful.

On the other hand (how many hands now? ;-), the practical difficulties of 
censorship seem too overwhelming to make it possible.  Who decides?  Who 
decides who decides?  (I'm glad this is a DWJ list, you guys may just be able 
to figure out what I'm trying to express ;-).)  If we censor the Protocols, 
do we censor other books that discuss the ideas that are in the Protocols?  
If we try to protect "weak" segments of society, do we get 
politically-correct and brainless censoring that would ban Huckleberry Finn 
for the word 'n-word'?  Do we get pornography banned by feminists who say it 
encourages violence against women?  Where do we draw the line -- will we end 
up with only very loving and respectful relationships being able to be 

Would DWJ escape scot-free?  (Determined to drag this discourse back on topic 
by means in my power ;-)

So, if there is anyone out there who does think censorship is a good idea in 
severe cases -- any ideas on how to solve the practical difficulties?

Esther (who is sleep deprived and took seven children, 11 and under, to a 
demonstration today, so is making no claim to coherence AT ALL)

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