Whenever I hear the word censorship, my mind immediately goes to what it would be like living in a communist country. But silencing others doesn’t only happen in North Korea, China, and Russia—this practice is occurring here, too. Exactly when did we stop believing in freedom of speech? I’m an author and blogger … what if someone censored me?
No doubt this topic can be tricky. We certainly cannot tolerate threats or hate speech. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m concerned about individuals’ rights to state their opinions, share their art, and question mainstream beliefs.
Lately, the right to express is popping up everyone. However, maybe this forces us to examine what constitutes censorship. Whether verbal pronouncements, online statements, or publications, how do we determine which words are “right” and which are “wrong”? And who possesses the authority to make these decisions? Someone once asked to remove the word “crazy” from a book. But is that word bad? I don’t think so. I suppose it’s the intent behind how we use a word, not just the word itself, that matters.
Recently, Roald Dahl, a renowned author, has come under scrutiny. New editions of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory no longer use “fat” to describe Augustus Gloop. Now, “enormous” is the chosen word. Having grown up as a chubby child, I appreciate being sensitive to references about weight. However, if we ban words or phrases from published literature because some find them offensive, not only are we altering original works, but we’re also sending a strong message—anytime something’s upsetting, we’ll simply erase it. Yet, life is not all roses and lollipops. Growing up can be challenging … downright difficult at times. And books show both the good and bad aspects of these formidable years.
As an alternative to censoring books, we could put a caution label on the cover, just as we do with songs, movies, and TV shows. Then parents would have the option to consider whether a book would be a good fit for their child instead of “someone else” making a blanket choice for all.
“We change people through conversations, not censorship.”—Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
No doubt, words can have a huge impact. What if we read with our kids, discussing what we find controversial? Perhaps we could also explore alternate interpretations of an author’s message. After all, open dialogue helps people think for themselves and promotes understanding why something may be offensive to one but not another. Wouldn’t this approach be better than merely banning literature?
Horror movies and thriller series upset me. I prefer “happy TV.” However, in no way would I suggest we eliminate scary or disturbing scenes from movies or television shows. Just because something makes me uncomfortable does not mean it’s wrong for others to view. While one could argue watching violent acts might dull the viewer’s sensitives or even spur acceptance of unacceptable behavior, censorship is not the answer. Denying these crimes happen will not miraculously prevent murder, rape, or assault.
Censoring literature, beliefs, and information that doesn’t fit with popular beliefs is not the answer to societal problems either. For us to “fix” our world, we need to ask questions, listen to alternative perspectives, and then decide for ourselves. Sharing information in a respectful manner creates opportunities for dialogue. Remember, we once believed the Earth was the center of the universe. But now we know it’s the Sun. If we do not allow people to challenge what is—censoring those who suggest something different—how will we ever grow and evolve?
Censorship is the ultimate form of control. And I suppose people resort to control when they’re afraid. But if we shift our approach and choose to discuss what concerns us instead of banning uncomfortable views, imagine how much progress we might make. Censoring shuts down communication, deeming one side right and another wrong. This only serves to feed division, society’s ultimate downfall.
I prefer a world where people feel free to share their ideas, allowing others to do the same. Hopefully, we express with grace and compassion. But in case someone falls short, we don’t have to read, watch, or listen to viewpoints that clash with ours. We still possess the right to choose.