I don’t like censorship. I don’t like asterisks, bleeps, black bars over “naughty areas,” or fluffing dubbing. According to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (courtesy of Elles), since my copy of the Oxford Not-Completely-Unabridged-But-Still-Huge English Dictionary is at home,
1. an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.
2. any person who supervises the manners or morality of others.
3. an adverse critic; faultfinder.
4. (in the ancient Roman republic) either of two officials who kept the register or census of the citizens, awarded public contracts, and supervised manners and morals.
5. (in early Freudian dream theory) the force that represses ideas, impulses, and feelings, and prevents them from entering consciousness in their original, undisguised forms.
–verb (used with object)
6. to examine and act upon as a censor.
7. to delete (a word or passage of text) in one’s capacity as a censor.
trans. To act as censor to; see CENSOR n. 2b; spec. with reference to the control of news and the departmental supervision of naval and military private correspondence (as in time of war) or to the censorship of dramatic or cinematographic productions. Often in ppl. a.
2b. spec. An official in some countries whose duty it is to inspect all books, journals, dramatic pieces, etc., before publication, to secure that they shall contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive to the government. More explicitly dramatic censor, film censor.
Censorship is the act of altering media “for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.” Save for censorship of important military or legal information, none of the above are justifiable.
Most of what we see as obscene today is the result of the rotting remains of puritanism clogging our collective common sense-nostrils. Material containing or suggestive of swear words, nudity, violence, or drugs are all considered obscene in most cultures, except in America where the list excludes violence.
I’ll address why censorship of all of these is stupid and pointless in turn, starting with profanity. I’d list all the words we’re not supposed to say, but I prefer to make my word counts variations of the devil’s number naturally.
A proper answer as to why exactly these words are “bad” is very difficult to find. “They just are, respect mah authoritau” seems to be the most common response. Let’s take a look at what could make these words bad.
Could it be sound? No, if it were sound, fuck and duck would be just as profane. This is certainly not the case – “fuck” gets shocked looks in some circles, while “duck” makes people reach for the nearest slice of bread. “Aren’t they cute?”
It’s not meaning either. If it were, saying “to doom to eternal punishment or condemn to hell” would be just as bad as “damn”. Since one can presumably read the bible on television, this isn’t it.
All that’s left is “that particular combination of letters and the sounds they make are intrinsically bad because we say so.” Given the permeation of religious hangups and stupidity in the world, it seems likely that this person who says so is Jesus.
The last time I checked, zombies were not allowed to dictate morality (I’m pro-life when it comes to brain eating.) Non-existent zombies are even more un-allowed (non-existent since the bible lacks truthiness). There is no good reason to censor profanity. You can’t keep kids from learning “bad words”, they don’t harm people, and they can help one to make their damn point if used correctly (see what I did there?).
Next up, nudity. Puritanism strikes again. It smells a lot like burnt almonds. Actually, I don’t know what burnt almonds smell like, but I’m sure they smell like puritanism. Regardless of the smell of burnt almonds, we have another case of things being “wrong” because a bunch of upper class Victorians were told by Jesus that it’s “just wrong”. Nice reasoning there, eighteenth century British culture.
By stigmatising the human body, we manage to destroy the body images of anyone’s Hollywood hasn’t destroyed yet. People can do with a lot less confidence in their mental faculties, and a lot more in their bodies (excluding situations involving trailers, the southern United States, and people who could do with a lot less confidence in both areas). All the non-rednecks, however, certainly shouldn’t feel that there are parts of them that are approximately as evil as Mordor. To anyone who will never be able to see The Lord of the Rings the same way again, I apologise.
Still, a person should be able to be comfortable with a figure somewhere in between “anorexic” and “morbidly obese”, and a complexion slightly less perfect than you’d expect from a skin cream advertisement.
The Black Bars of censorship fail to do what they are intended to do. People know what breasts, penii, and vulvae look like (I admit that this sentence is almost entirely a perhaps excessively nerdy exercise in pluralization), and covering them with magical black bars or pixelating them certainly doesn’t decrease people’s desires to see what’s underneath. Christians, who are mostly responsible for this, of all people, should know what forbidden fruit tends to do.
Now for humanity’s favourite pastime: violence! Violence in media, be it games, television, movies, or “other” is a convenient scapegoat often used to explain actual violence. The problem is that, as most people should be aware, correlation does not equal causation. If violence in media is grounds for banning it because violent people often enjoy it, we should probably ban socks. I’m sure most school shooters were wearing socks at the time of their killing sprees.
A better explanation is that violent people like violent media because it’s a convenient outlet for their tendencies. It’s far better to kill simulated people than it is real people. The skills someone might gain through playing violent games or watching violent films or movies is almost completely inapplicable to real life. The skills needed to play a First Person Shooter game and actually shoot people are completely different. Being good at aiming with a mouse does not make one a sniper in real life.
Next up, drugs. Without getting into why the war on drugs is stupid, I’ll say that the war on information about drugs is really stupid. Yet again, we turn drugs into forbidden fruit by saying nothing about them and making actual information about them rather hard to find. There are substances that people put into their bodies to make them live longer. There are substances people put into their bodies to numb pain. There are also substances people put into their bodies to make songs sung by the Beatles make sense, and make themselves feel really good.
We should feel just as obligated to tell people the effects of tetrahydrocannabidol as we do to tell them of the effects of excessive acetaminophen on their livers. For the less chemically inclined, those are the active ingredient in marijuana and Tylenol, respectively.
All the things I’ve described above exist. Covering them up doesn’t help, and in fact does the opposite. Covering things up because we don’t like them is childish and stupid. Let the ideas roam free(ly).