Censorship Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:54:34
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Of Peter NoyesErin Lowe- also author of many “outstanding” American Historyessays. . . .
of which two are published somewhere here. . . .
. one about Peter Noyes,and another about Mercantilism. . .
. . “Books won’t stay banned. They won’tburn.
Ideas won’t go to jail. . . In the long run of history, the censor and theinquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is betterideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom.
The surest path to wisdom is aliberal education. ” The only way that the ideas of this world that aredeemed bad are going to go away is if we are allowed to see them and changethem. If we are not allowed to see what is “bad” then our society willnever grow to become a better place. What censorship does is keep us protected;leaving us living sheltered lives. If we never see a racist comment how are weto know that racism is bad? At the same time Censorship can be a good thingbecause it keeps children from seeing pornography, and terrible acts ofviolence. However censorship should not keep anyone from seeing literature, evenif it is considered slightly explicit in a sexual, racial, or violent manner.
Censorship should leave the ideas of people alone and leave them with theirfirst amendment rights. Amendment one of the United States Bill of Rights reads”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, orprohibiting the free exercise there of; or abridging the freedom of speech, orof the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble. . . “. Whatthis means is that we, in America have the right to be any religion, and to nothave that religion forced upon us.
We have the right to say what we want and topublish our ideas if we so wish, and to read the ideas that others havepublished. We can also peaceably assemble, or gather in protest without violencewhat we think is wrong. The biggest right that we have is that of free speechand press. We can say what we want! As American sometimes we take this forgranted.
However even though we have the right to free speech we have to drawthe line somewhere, but where? “We so often condemn books that were writtento fight the very things that we claim to be fighting. ” This quoteillustrates one of the things that are so wrong with censorship. We seem to banor censor books, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that are actuallyagainst racism or whatever the objection to the book is. When a book is takenthe wrong way it is simply the fault of the reader, and not the book. The booktherefore cannot be censored in this case. To override the right of free speechon the grounds that the speech in question is likely to harm or offend others isto commit an act of censorship.
Not all censorship of this manner is unjustifiedhowever, for some speech causes significant and direct harm to others, such asmaliciously defaming speech, and speech which opens national secrets to”enemies”. There should be however a presumption that all speech isprotected from censorship in that the censor always has to prove and to persuadethe people that the speech is bad. In this way it is using new and better ideasto eliminate the bad ideas. The speaker should not have to prove every time thatan individual challenges his/her speech that it really is good.
The proof has tobe that whatever harm or offense the speech has caused is significant, anddirect. Free speech is a valuable thing, and should not be restricted by itsremote or superficially adverse affect on others. “Without free speech nosearch for truth is possible. . . no discovery of truth is useful.
. . Better athousandfold abuse of free speech that denial of free speech. The abuse dies ina day, but the denial slays the life f the people, and entombs the hope of therace” This quote had an excellent point in the case against censorship.
Todiscover new ideas and the truth of life we need to be exposed to new thoughts,and different thoughts. If we always saw the same thoughts over and over wecould never expand; we could never become better as a society without new ideas. If new ideas cannot be written or seen then their discovery is useless, for theycannot help without being seen. SO it is better that we see cases in which freespeech is used in a bad way, such as in defaming specific people or groups orideas, than to have no free speech at all as a result of free censorship.
Defaming something that should not be defamed can be recovered from, for goodthings will be supported more than gone against. Also, things that need to beobliterated from society will be by this right of free speech. The denial offree speech will smother the life of a society. A society where different ideasaren’t all owed will soon fail.
However there is no right to harm or to offendother people. If an idea in a book is explicitly insulting a particular group orperson it could be censored, depending on the type of offense. If, for example abook says that African Americans are all stupid, simple, and should be killedoff for this fact the book should only be read by choice, and not be forced uponanyone. An adult is capable of making a choice not to read, or allow their childto read a book that is expressly offensive to them.
People always seem to be notconcerned with what they read, but with what other people read. Quite often itis a white person that bans a book for fear that it might insult an AfricanAmerican, or a male, thinking that it might insult a female. “Did you everhear anyone say ‘That work had better be banned because I might read it and itmight me very damaging to me’?” People should really only censor forthemselves, and they should be allowed to censor for themselves. “The mindthat becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean” Thisstatement is in many cases true.
Small children should not be exposed topornography, or to extreme violence, for their developing minds are veryimpressionable. However they can be exposed to a wide variety of ideas, so thatas they grow older they can decide for themselves what and who they want to be. If they are exposed to racist ideas, it is very likely that they will also beexposed to anti-racist ideas, leaving their mind still undecided. If childrenare exposed to minor sexuality then it will leave them having a much easier timeaccepting themselves when they become young adults, and then adults. The thingsthat are put into the minds of the young will never leave them, and so in somecases censorship is necessary. Many books are censored for reasons of sex,violence, the occult, racism, or for having “rebellious children” inthem.
Most common are the racism, and sex reasons. Welcome to the Monkey Houseby Kurt Vonnegut is an example of a book banned for these reasons. The book is acollection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut and the title is the same as thetitle of one of the stories. These stories include “Welcome to the MonkeyHouse”, “All the King’s Horses”, “Who am I This Time?”,”More Stately Mansions”, “The Foster portfolio”, and”The Kid Nobody Could Handle” along with many others. Those listedhowever seemed the most likely to be banned out of the book.
Kurt Vonnegut iswell known as a pessimistic writer, whose topic usually is the future. He wrotethese for mass produced and distributed magazines. They therefore are ratherconventional, both thematically, and technically. Through these stories you cansee some of the information about Vonnegut himself. He is the product of anIndianapolis middle class family. Many of the stories also show Vonnegut’s andAmerica’s preoccupation with the Cold War, love, status, and identity.
The firststory, “Welcome to the Monkey House” a future society is described inAmerica where a scientist had invented and ethical birth- control pill thatremoves all pleasure from sex, and the government requires al women and men totake them. “The pills are ethical because they didn’t interfere with aperson’s ability to reproduce, which would have been unnatural and immoral, allthe pills did was take every bit of pleasure out of sex. Thus did science andmorals go hand in hand” The hero of this story is a very short, funnylooking man who calls himself Billy the Poet. He seduces the suicide hostesses,whose job it is to help people commit suicide painlessly and effectively,whenever they want in a pleasurable way. In this case he dresses up as an oldman who wants to commit suicide.
When he seduces these women, always at gunpointhe forces them to abandon their ethical birth control pills. “The peoplewho understood science said that people had to quit reproducing so much, and thepeople who understood morals said that society would collapse if people used sexfor nothing but pleasure” This story is not nearly as pessimistic as someof Vonnegut’s other novels, however it isn’t optimistic either. The story makesthe government and the scientific community the villains of the story for takingaway sex. It also makes Billy the Poet a hero for rebelling against thegovernment edict and for spreading his philosophy of pleasure through sexualintercourse.
One thing that should be pointed out about this story is that itwas originally written for Playboy magazine. One of the ironies of the story wasafter Billy raped the suicide hostess and removed her ethical birth controlpills. He leaves her with a poem and a bottle of regular birth control pills. The poem was “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways” which isironic because Billy has shown no love for the suicide hostess, only a littlebit of pleasure for converting her to a “Nothinghead”.
However thepoem is appropriate because the suicide hostess’ feeling about sex were verylike those of most Victorian ladies. The effect of the ethical birth controlpills is also much like the effects that the author of the poem, ElisabethBrowning, felt after falling off of her horse. The theme of this story is not inthe altruistic efforts of Billy the Poet, but rather, things that seem goodreally aren’t necessarily good. The next story was “All the King’sHorses”. This story is the product of the Cold War of the early 1950’s whenAmericans were becoming more and more suspicious of the Soviet Union and ofChina. The Sort describes a battle between a group of Americans, led by ColonelKelley, and Pi Ying, a Chinese guerilla leader.
The Americans were the victimsof a plane crash in China. Ying brings Kelley, his wife, his 2 sons, and twelveAmerican soldiers to a hideout where he offers the Colonel one chance to saveall their lives. The chance is that he must uses the Americans as chess piecesin a game against Pi Ying while a Russian advisor observes. If Kelley wins theAmericans will go free.
Ying is a rather evil bloodthirsty character and theRussian is eager for a war between the United States and Russia as soon as thetime is right. Ying is assassinated by his mistress, and then the Russian takesover, but Kelley has already won. The Russian lets the Americans go, and saysthat ultimately there will be a war between them, but later. This story nowseems very dated, however it reflects accurately the American sentiment duringthe early Cold War period.
The theme of the story seems to be in the choicesthat people make. People make good decisions and people make bad decisions. Those that make good decisions come out well in the end. The story “Who amI this time?” is an example of Vonnegut’s stories that show a concern aboutrole playing, and people being who they are, and aren’t. The main character, avery shy hardware clerk only comes alive when he is in a role in the localtheatre group.
The director in the story decides to do the play A StreetcarNamed Desire. The hardware clerk, Harry becomes Marlin Brando in the play and ayoung girl named Helene who plays Stella in the play falls in love with him. Because harry was left on the doorstep of a church as a baby he has no conceptof self, and Helene was always employed moving from place to place, so she neverdeveloped a personality of her own. Both of them therefore yearn for anenvironment in which they can blend in and feel that they have an identity.
Theymarry, and their marriage only works because they are constantly reading linesof couples from various plays. The story “More Stately Mansions” wasabout a woman who from the beginning of the story is rather odd and in the endseems completely psychotic. The theme of the story is that the dream is alwaysmore precious than the reality. A couple moves into a suburban home anddiscovers that their neighbor Grace has an obsession with home decorating. Graceinvites them over for a couple drinks and they discover that Grace’s home israther dull, dirty, and everything is falling apart.
Grace falls sick and whileshe is in the hospital her husband inherits enough money that he can do all ofher decorating that she’d been dreaming about over the years. When she came homefrom the hospital however the only thing that she notices is the bouquet ofroses that her husband bought her. She seems to think that this was the way thatshe left her house, and that it was always perfect and beautiful. She sits onthe couch, looking rather depressed and her husband announces that a new”Home Beautiful” has come in the mail, to which she replies “readone and you’ve read them all” when she used to be obsessed with themagazines.
“The Foster Portfolio” is one of the most pessimistic ofany of the stories. IT is one of his many stories about the relationshipsbetween fathers and sons. Herbert Foster works as a bookkeeper to support hiswife and child. He has inherited almost a million-dollar stock portfolio, but hefeels that the money is tainted because it came from his father, a man whoabandoned wife and child to devote his life to playing music and to drinking ginand he won’t touch it. Three nights a week Herbert goes out to a cheap barbecause he “had the respectability his mother had hammered into him. Butjust as priceless as that was an income not quite big enough to go around.
Itleft him no alternative but- in the holy names of wife, child and home- to playpiano in a dive, and breathe smoke, and drink gin, to be Firehouse Harris, hisfather’s son, three nights out of seven”. Foster’s split personality causeshim to find it necessary to create roles that help him cope with what seemunbearable problems. The story that gives this book the biggest merit is”The Kid Nobody Could Handle”. The music teacher, Helmholtz isappalled to find that Jim Donnini, a juvenile delinquent from the streets ofChicago, has been vandalizing Lincoln High School. Filled with compassion anddesperation Helmholtz offers him his most prized possession, John Philip Sousa’atrumpet.
When the boy initially shows no interest, Helmholtz hammers theinstrument against a coat tree and mutter that “Life is no damn good”; and only then does Donnini show any interest in Helmholtz. With the start of anew school semester, Jim Donnini takes the last seat of the worst trumpetsection of the “C” band. As Helmholtz tells him and the rest of theband “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we cameinto it. . .
Love yourself. . . and make your instrument sing about it” Vonnegutis saying in this story that without a sense of self worth it is impossible foranyone to achieve anything. The entire book Welcome to the Monkey House wasbanned only a few times, for it isn’t taught in very many schools.
However themain example of it being banned was in Alabama, where a teacher was fired forteaching it because the book promoted the killing off of the elderly, and freesex. The teacher later sued, and won. These two things, the killing off of theelderly, and free sex were both in the actual story “welcome to the MonkeyHouse”. The story did promote free sex, but only normal amounts of sex. Theidea was that the pills were wrong, not that people now should have more sex.
Asfor the killing off of the elderly, the idea was for the killing off of anyonethat wanted to die because there was a large population problem going on. Therewere also many good reasons for the book being taught. The book has many moralstaught in it and just about every story has a positive message in it. Thepositive message in “All the Kings Horses” was about making goodchoices and being bold in life, the message in “The Kid Nobody CouldHandle” was about believing in yourself. There was even a positive messagein “More Stately Mansions” that dreams are sometimes better thanreality, and that the dreamer is not necessarily bad. The positive message in”Welcome to the Monkey House” is that sometimes the big guy is wrong,and change can be brought about by one small person, along with that weshouldn’t as a society be afraid of sex.
In most cases censorship indeed seemsto be only a violation of peoples right to free speech. It is, in the words ofthe Disinformation website “an easy way for prudish control freaks to gettheir jollies”. However, there are cases in which censorship is right. Forchildren, there is a reason for censorship, but adults can decide whether or notthey want to read books like “Welcome to the Monkey House”.

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