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Do Not Let Censorship Tempt You

Updated on December 6, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1964. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

Book Burning in Chile in 1973


Rodney King -- 2012

Rodney King 2012
Rodney King 2012 | Source

Censorship is a dirty word.

Nobody likes it; nobody wants it; nobody wants to be accused of it.

As a newsman, I've always championed the First Amendment and free speech vehemently opposing any form of censorship. I've often seen people overreact to crises by demanding that words and actions they disagree with be censored. Fortunately, their calls for censorship invariably elicit opposition; the hue and cry of good people can be heard everywhere.

Omnipresent Temptations

But, if you read newspapers, watch television, or live in the real world you cannot exist very long without encountering something irritating, irreverent, irresponsible, distasteful or ribald that tempts you to react bitterly.

You can't help, sometimes, wondering, "Who the (expletive deleted) ever allowed that piece of garbage to get (in the newspaper, on TV.)

But, if you remain in charge of your senses, you stop short of saying, "Censor it!"

Senseless Violence in Movies

Movies and television today are replete with inappropriate sex, senseless violence and unmitigated anti-religious commentary. Well-known Hollywood types go on TV and promote their alien lifestyles, their same-sex affairs or their children out-of-wedlock. Nudity, risque language and situations, and abominable (behavior) has become all but commonplace on television -- not only on cable, but also on the networks and stations that once-upon-a-time believed they had an obligation to be responsible.

Violence used to be confined pretty much to the TV screen and the movies; we'd watch it on the news, in detective, adventure and war stories. Now we see it on our streets; few of us feel comfortable outside our own neighborhoods anymore.

Then we see, through the magic of videotape, Rodney King and Reginald Denny beaten to within an inch of their lives, and two separate juries seem to have seen something different from most of us.

The violence done to King and Denny cannot be censored. The violence done to the sensibilities of the American people because of the way both these cases were handled also cannot be censored.

A Call for Reason, Wisdom

When public art exhibitions or high school plays contain obscene or inappropriate works, we don't ask they be censored; instead we urge those in authority to be intelligent, reasonable, appropriate, wise.

A piece of art that is appropriate at the monthly meeting of the men's club may not be suitable for high school students, the Boy Scouts or a church social committee.

Sure it's tempting when you see or hear things that offend you to cry out for censorship.You naturally want to correct the situation, end the offense and bring the world back to sanity.

Censorship Not the Answer

But of greater importance is righting the wrong without creating an evil equal to or greater than the one you wish to destroy. What you really want to do is to fix the leak without springing another one somewhere else.

You can disagree with things people say or do, and want to do something about it, but censorship is never the answer.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper on Aug. 30, 1993. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Your support of censorship -- Who Controls the Internet?


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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The answer to your comment, wabond, would take a full-length book to cover the issue adequately. But here's my short answer: Any self-respecting newsman whose newspaper, radio, TV or other medium proclaims itself to be objective knows what it takes to be objective and reports the news in that manner. Media that fail to act objectively soon gain a reputation for bias and end up with readers or viewers of the same ilk. Inevitably, each newspaper, radio or TV station reflect the values of its owners, its management and its staff. That's how newspapers and TV stations develop reputations that reflect their overall views -- left or right, responsible or irresponsible, reliable or unreliable, objective or subjective. There are no easy answers.

    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 

      6 years ago from England

      Censorship can only work if you can censor things you don't like but no one is aware you are doing this. After all the mainstream media can choose to pick what stories to cover, and end up acting as censors of stories they refuse to cover.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, Paraglider. Protecting children is indeed difficult, and I'm sorry to say I don't think, as a society, we're doing a very good job.

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Hi William - just found this one as it popped up as a related hub on my newest one on much the same subject. I agree that censorship is very hard to live with. The _only_ case that can be made for it is protecting children, but that's technically very difficult or impossible to achieve.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      12 years ago

      GREAT response William!! As a promoter of self-publishing I am often amazed at the requests I get from people who have NOT thought through the entire process yet!! Wonderful to have all of you who continue to think independently, speak your mind, have common sense and are sensitive to some of the legalities!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      12 years ago from Chennai

      Hmmm...right. And I understand that there's no perfect answer to this, just as there's no perfect democracy.

      Thanks for an answer as long as the hub! 

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      12 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for the comment, Kenny. I believe that free speech is critical to a free society, which I think we all want. The U.S. Supreme Court says you can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater. The law also does not allow you to libel anyone. I think your free speech ends where someone else's rights are infringed. In a civilized society, I think we must follow the rule of law -- to do anything else would be folly. If someone publishes something "inflammatory" that provokes someone to do something illegal, it becomes a criminal investigation. Such provocation could be avoided by the publisher of such inflammatory remarks. Most newspaper, radio or TV stations, magazines, etc. are careful to avoid libel lawsuits. Attempting to solve the problem through censorship, I believe, would be counterproductive -- and futile. Ultimately, it's better to know what's on the minds of such people than to drive them underground. If it's not criminal, and not libelous, then its up to those who publish such material to apply good judgment and common sense.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      12 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, compu-smart and Bob for your feedback. I'm not opposed, Bob, to critical military secrets of the kind practiced in WW II. Earth Angel, I appreciate your input. In my remarks about "alien lifestyles" etc., my objection is to the "promotion" of these behaviors in movies and on TV -- It's not my intention to do harm to anyone. Each of us, I believe, has his own demons to struggle with, and now, more than ever, I take the view of "To each his own."

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      12 years ago from Chennai

      I am actually confused about censorship. I believe in free speech, and in self-discipline, and hate others dictating my speech and habits.

      But, I am not sure about it all the time. Suppose some one publishes something inflammatory that provokes others to burn cars or hurt people? 

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Excellent piece, and just as relevant as the day you first published it. I guess the time it stops being relevant is the time to worry -- because that could only happen if censorship becomes a fact of daily life in our society.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      12 years ago

      Another GREAT Hub William!!

      Thank you!! And yes, I agree, it is even more relevant today than when you first wrote it in 1993!! I, too am "against" censorship in all its forms, yet "for" appropriate expression!! For most people, the 10% on the "right" go too far and the 10% on the left go too far!! It's the middle 80% that is a bit harder to navigate!!

      I may not agree with you on the negative spin above: "alien lifestyles, their same-sex affairs or their children out-of-wedlock . . ." As a Life Skills Coach I know some incredibly wonderful people who would fall into those stereotypical categories!! I would never want to do/say anything to harm them!!

      Along the line of "appropriate expression" I think as responsible adults we need to view our words with a wider reach than ever before possible!! We need to be more conscious that what we write for our like-minded neighbors, might inadvertently incite violence half way around the world!!

      Thanks again William!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Bill........I believe in censorship in certain instances. My uncle used to send me mail from Europe during WW2. I think they called it V-Mail. Anyway , when you opened the letter there were all kinds of cut out passages. Remember that slogan " A slip of the lip might sing a ship". Well , I feel we're too free with some of the stuff that gets into the news when we're a war only helps the enemy. Sometimes I think that's the "in thing" to do these days. See you tomorrow.

    • compu-smart profile image


      12 years ago from London UK

      Censorship is definitely more relevant today...

      Thank-god we have the Internet.


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