Do Not Let Censorship Tempt You
Book Burning in Chile in 1973
Rodney King -- 2012
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.
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.