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The New Age of Censorship

There is an old curse; “May you live in interesting times”.

We certainly live in interesting times. There are people who want to ban the Dr. Suess books from libraries. No doubt Suess was a racist and his books probably did quite a bit to brainwash kids into believing they had superiority over people who didn’t look like them, or belong to their exclusive club.

Yep, I said it. The Club. Light skin, or the appearance of “whiteness” gets you into the most exclusive club in the world. Anyone who can pass finds themselves with an automatic advantage. There is no doubt that not only Dr. Suess but many other writers and artists perpetuated this same myth of white superiority. And believe this; it’s a myth.

But debunking that myth is one subject, and censorship is another. This is a particularly thorny issue for anyone who has ever been told they can’t put up a sign, wear certain clothing, or say a certain phrase. It’s all because someone wants to control what we do and think. Based on this simplistic explanation, I’m opposed to censorship.

However, this subject isn’t so simple. It comes down to this; Should certain speech be allowed, and if so, who decides what to allow?

Let’s take the Nazi flag for example. The people of Germany outlaw certain symbols based on a very difficult part of their history. But in America we allow these symbols to be displayed without restriction. We even, a few years ago, allowed a group of people to march with them on the National Mall. I’ll bet every World War II veteran turned over in their graves over that one.

And the Confederate Flag. A symbol of treason against the United States of America. Why do we still allow people to fly this without restriction, encouraging more treasonous acts against the country that protects their free speech?

And pornography. We have lots of pornography. The Mapplethorpe exhibit in Cincinnati, OH in 1996 caused an extensive trial that many saw as government trying to abridge free speech, and tell people what was obscene and what wasn’t. Eventually, a jury found the defendants not guilty. But not before it spawned a backlash of conservativism that brought protestors to almost every porn shop and strip club in the state.

So the real question becomes, “How much will free speech cost us?”

Not, what speech should be free. Not, who should decide. Because it doesn’t matter what you say or who allows you to say it. There is a cost for ANY speech. And there is a cost for denying ANY speech.

Personally, I would like to muzzle a whole bunch of people, and I even found myself thinking people should have to have a brain before they’re allowed to vote. But the reality is this; there isn’t any of us who are smart enough to decide what’s good for someone else. It’s a place where common sense has to become a factor, a major factor, in what we as a society allow. And like another old saying says, “Common sense ain’t so common.”

We should use some common sense and reinstitute the fairness doctrine. This whole idea that the one who shouts the loudest is right will destroy the country. We should use common sense and restrict treasonous symbols to private display. Like porn, I can watch it in my house but I can’t display it in my yard for the neighborhood kids to see. This makes sense. Years ago the Supreme Court ruled that you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre just because you have freedom of speech. There are limits.

So, I am no more in favor of book banning than I am book burning. But I think parents need to know what their kids are reading, they need to talk to them about it, and teachers need to be free to give both sides of an argument so students can make up their own minds. We’re not going to decide what’s right for people to read, think, say, or do. The best we can do, as a nation, is play fair, keep an open mind, and try our best to be good to each other.

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