Tonoli Talk: F–k Censorship

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Photo courtesy of Amanda Tonoli

I am a huge book nerd — the kind of book nerd that reads other books to avoid reading books for class. There’s just something about getting lost in a story that is not my own that really draws me in. And as long as it’s not boring — like reading about the war of 1812 — I will pretty much read anything.

The topic of banned books is one that really hits close to home for me. Books are my family and beyond that, I have a real authority issue — I know, what a surprise — so being told what to do is not something I take lightly.

Taking away the right to read certain books by public libraries is a matter of censorship. Censorship began back in the days of Grecian dominance — though I suspect earlier humans also had certain … methods of silencing opposition — with the belief that it molded “the character of the citizens,” according to viking.coe.uh.edu.

Athens executed the philosopher Socrates in 339 B.C. for filling the Athenians heads with beliefs contrary to that of the elites, and they wanted to nip that in the bud, by any means necessary.

Other countries like China and Israel used censorship as a way to instill correct morals and values of their people.

The American Library Association reported that as of 2013, there were 307 challenges to have books and other material removed from a school or public library. The most common reasons given were sexually explicit content and offensive language that the challengers found unsuitable for the age group.

Another popular user of censorship with books is everyone’s favorite governing body — the U.S. Federal government. The U.S. Patriot Act allows the government to see who is borrowing what. Although this is not banning, it is a sure sign that the proverbial big brother is watching, perhaps censoring without actually censoring. They are intimidating.

Technology has evolved censorship from banning books to banning other forms of expression, such as playing video games and watching certain movies. Violent behavior has begun to be attributed to certain video games and movies — bringing out censorship of those as well.

In “State Lawmakers Again Trying to Justify Video Game Censorship,” published in November 2013 by The Huffington Post, Berin Szoka discussed yet another bill proposed to further the research of video games and violent behaviors and ultimately to enact restrictions on those that show a direct link to actual violence among the gamers.

The results of most studies going on, however, aren’t consistent — failing to meet the burden of proof. What advocates of video game censorship must prove is not only a direct link between game players’ violence and the video game in question, but also multiple examples of it. The results of these studies are coming up inconclusive.

It can be argued that we are censored for our safety, safeguarding us from the horrors of society — the horrors of violence and other explicit material in video games, books and real life. But perhaps exposing us to such horrors and harsh realities of the world will make us aware, knowledgeable individuals. After all, it is our right to express ourselves and the banned authors and video game creators were doing just that. Who is to say what expression is “appropriate” — it should be the decision of the readers and, without consistent proof of the expression causing violence, the banning in question is out of the question.

And I am not alone in this sentiment. Potter Stewart, a Supreme Court Justice from 1958-1981, said, “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”

Censoring us does not promote our safety, but violates our liberty.

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