by Kenny Meyers
Those who want the government to suppress material deemed inappropriate for public consumption scrutinize many aspects of American life every day. Censorship is a political and social practice that has been utilized throughout history, from colonial America, to communist Russia, to present-day China. However, in the Unite States, despite the pride we have for our freedoms, it is certainly questionable as to how many of our fellow citizens comprehend the full extent of censorship in our lives.
Censorship currently affects many aspects of American life. The motivation behind this control of expression is most commonly associated with the idea of protecting the public from expletives and preventing libel, sedition, and controversial matters. However, many question whether or not it merely exists for these purposes.
Currently, one of the most prominent mechanisms of censorship is the Patriot Act. The introduction of this act questions the importance of domestic safety, and if it supersedes individuals’ freedom of speech. Media broadcasting, in particular, has been the target of censorship regulations and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) inspections.
Following events like Dom Imus’ on-air fiasco, the notorious Christian Bale recording, and the Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during Super Bowl XXXVIII, the FCC has been launching penalties with greater frequency than ever before, despite the public’s lack of objection to some violations.
In March 2006 alone, over 100 television shows were penalized. The short and long term effects of these monetary penalties—often more than $100,000—have been duly noted; many shows have since been fined, and other networks and writers have limited themselves for fear of similar consequences.
In addition to these issues, pornography, views on abortion, and media including slanderous material are also under fire. However, many Americans continue to stand at a crossroad concerning censorship’s pro’s and con’s in society. All the while, the nation continues to debate the extent of protection under First Amendment rights, and if inappropriate public images warrant a ban. As we move into 2010, all we can do is wait and see how the government will react, and how it may shape our lives and our perceptions of controversial ideas in the future.
However, these issues are not just present at the national level, or within politics. Even as teenagers among our peers, we censor ourselves. We are constantly influenced by what we see and hear, and allow these things to dictate what we say and think. We divide ourselves in our thoughts as we mask our opinions, feelings, and views in order to comply and conform. We self-censor to be viewed a certain way; independent ideas and views become dangerous and socially destructive, and are met with disgust, mockery, and contempt.
Beyond our friends, our collective student body must also take into consideration the censorship we face within the educational system. Despite the freedom of speech offered in our everyday lives, things are much different within the confines of school walls.
Consider the process required before graduation speeches, sporting events, morning announcements, or other public presentations. Our words are scrutinized and combed through. Ad-libbing or straying from the approved path leads to disciplinary action. And why? To eliminate explicit, suggestive, or inappropriate material that may offend. The question to ask, though, is at what cost?
As young adults, it is part of our obligation to think about how censorship influences arenas spanning politics, media outlets, and schools. Media and its censorship reflects our future, affecting the control of information, the spread of ideas, and the plight of the individual thinker. Both arguments have their merits, but it is up to Americans, as responsible citizens, to decide whether censorship is justified and how to use it in the future with fairness and sensibility.