Censorship

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For other uses, see Censor.

Censorship is the editing, removing, or otherwise changing speech and other forms of human expression. In some cases, it is exercised by governing bodies but it is always and continuously carried out by the mass media. The visible motive of censorship is often to stabilize, improve or persuade the society group that the censoring organization would have control over. It is most commonly applied to acts that occur in public circumstances, and most formally involves the suppression of ideas by criminalizing or regulating expression. Furthermore, discussion of censorship often includes less formal means of controlling perceptions by excluding various ideas from mass communication. What is censored may range from specific words to entire concepts and it may be influenced by value systems; but currently, the most common reasons for censoring ("omitting") information are the particular interests of the distribution companies of news and entertainment, their owners, and their commercial and political connections.

Sanitization (removal) and whitewashing are almost interchangeable terms that refer to a particular form of censorship via omission, which seeks to "clean up" the portrayal of particular issues and/or facts that are already known, but that may be in conflict with the point of view of the censor. Some may consider extreme political correctness to be related, as a socially-imposed (rather than governmentally imposed) type of restriction, which, if taken to extremes, may qualify as self-censorship.

Contents

[edit] Types

Most public speech depends on an organized forum such as a court or town meeting, or on technologies such as paper, the printing press, radio, television, or the Internet. In each case, only a minority of people have initially had free access to the medium of public communication. Most often, censorship does not seek to ban certain ideas "in a vacuum," but rather to restrict what may be said in particular media of communication.

In England, censorship began with the introduction of copyright laws, which gave the Crown the permission to license publishing. Without government approval, printing was not allowed. For a court or other governmental body to prevent a person from speaking or publishing before the act has taken place is sometimes called prior restraint, which may be viewed as worse than punishment received after someone speaks, as in libel suits.

Censorship can be explicit, as in laws passed to prevent select positions from being published or propagated (e.g., the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Australia, and The United States), or it can be implicit, taking the form of intimidation by government, where people are afraid to express or support certain opinions for fear of losing their jobs, their position in society, their credibility, or their lives. The latter form is similar to McCarthyism and is prevalent in a number of countries including the United States.

Image:Natgeo censorship.jpg
A National Geographic Magazine censored by Iranian authorities. The offending cover was about the subject of love, and the picture hidden beneath the white sticker is of an embracing couple<ref>Lundqvist, J. 'More pictures of Iranian Censorship [1]</ref>. February 2006.
Image:WieczorWroclawia20marca1981.jpg
Wieczór Wrocławia" - Daily newspaper of Wrocław, People's Republic of Poland, March 20-21-21, 1981, with censor intervention on first and last pages --- under the headlines "Co zdarzyło się w Bydgoszczy?" (What happened in Bydgoszcz?) and "Pogotowie strajkowe w całym kraju" (Country-wide strike alert). The censor had removed a section regarding the strike alert; hence the workers in the printing house had decided to also blank out a second official propaganda section. The right-hand page also includes a hand-written confirmation of that decision by the local "Solidarność" Trade Union.

[edit] Subject matter

The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored. There are five main types:

  • Moral censorship is the means by which any material that contains what the censor deems to be of questionable morality is removed. The censoring body disapproves of what it deems to be the values behind the material and limits access to it. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale. In another example, graphic violence resulted in the censorship of the 1932 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" movie entitled "Scarface" originally completed in 1930.
  • Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy. This is used to counter espionage, which is the process of gleaning military information. Additionally, military censorship may involve a restriction on information or media coverage that can be released to the public such as in Iraq, where the U.S. government restricts the photographing or filming of dead soldiers or their caskets and its subsequent broadcast in the U.S. This is done to avoid public reaction similar to that which occurred during the Vietnam War or the Iran Hostage Crisis.
  • Political censorship occurs when governments conceal secrets from their citizens. The logic is to prevent the free expression needed to revolt. Democracies do not officially approve of political censorship but often endorse it privately. Any dissent against the government is thought to be a “weakness” for the enemy to exploit. Campaign tactics are also often kept secret: see the Watergate scandal.
  • Religious censorship is the means by which any material objectionable to a certain faith is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less dominant ones. Alternatively, one religion may shun the works of another when they believe the content is not appropriate for their faith.
  • Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light. Privately owned corporations in the business of reporting the news also sometimes refuse to distribute information due to the potential loss of advertiser revenue or shareholder value which adverse publicity may bring.

[edit] State secrets and unwanted attention

In wartime, explicit censorship is carried out with the intent of preventing the release of information that might be useful to an enemy. Typically it involves keeping times or locations secret, or delaying the release of information (e.g., an operational objective) until it is of no possible use to enemy forces. The moral issues here are often seen as somewhat different, as release of tactical information usually presents a greater risk of casualties among one's own forces and could possibly lead to loss of the overall conflict. During World War I letters written by British soldiers would have to go through censorship. This consisted of officers going through letters with a black marker and crossing out anything which might compromise operational secrecy before the letter was sent. The World War II catchphrase "Loose lips sink ships" was used as a common justification to exercise official wartime censorship and encourage individual restraint when sharing potentially sensitive information.

A well-known example of sanitization policies comes from the USSR under Josef Stalin, where publicly used photographs were often altered to remove people whom Stalin had condemned to execution. Though past photographs may have been remembered or kept, this deliberate and systematic alteration to all of history in the public mind is seen as one of the central themes of Stalinism and totalitarianism. More recently, the official exclusion of television crews from locales where coffins of military dead were in transit has been cited as a form of censorship. This particular example obviously represents an incomplete or failed form of censorship, as numerous photographs of these coffins are often printed in newspapers, magazines, and on the web.

[edit] School textbooks

The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, since their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Nanking Massacre, the Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist, favorable or patriotic view.

Also, some religious groups have at times attempted to block the teaching of evolution in schools, as evolutionary theory appears to contradict their religious beliefs. The teaching of sexual education in school and the inclusion of information about sexual health and contraceptive practices in school textbooks is another area where suppression of information occurs.

In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it can lead to a slippery slope enforcing wider and more politically-motivated censorship. Some artists such as Frank Zappa helped in the protest against censorship. Although they failed they did put up a good argument. One of the main things that first caused censorship was the rap group N.W.A. for the themes in their music.

An example of such censorship is, ironically, Fahrenheit 451. The book was themed against censorship, but changed heavily.The version that appeared in school English textbooks did so with an estimated 75 separate edits, ommisions, or changes. <ref> Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Del Rey Books. April 1991.</ref>

[edit] Music

American musicians such as Frank Zappa have repeatadly protested against censorship in music and pushed for more freedom of expression. In 1986, Zappa appeared on CNN Crossfire to protest censorship of lyrics in rock songs.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<references/>

[edit] References

  • Abbott, Randy. "A Critical Analysis of the Library-Related Literature Concerning Censorship in Public Libraries and Public School Libraries in the United States During the 1980s." Project for degree of Education Specialist, University of South Florida, December 1987. [ED 308 864]
  • Burress, Lee. Battle of the Books. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. [ED 308 508]
  • Butler, Judith, "Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative" (1997)
  • Foucault, Michel, edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman. Philosophy, Culture: interviews and other writings 1977-1984 (New York/London: 1988, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90082-4) [The text Sexual Morality and the Law is Chapter 16 of the book]
  • O'Reilly, Robert C. and Larry Parker. "Censorship or Curriculum Modification?" Paper presented at a School Boards Association, 1982, 14 p. [ED 226 432]
  • Hansen, Terry. The Missing Times: News media complicity in the UFO cover-up, 2000. ISBN 0-7388-3612-5
  • Hendrikson, Leslie. "Library Censorship: ERIC Digest No. 23." ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, Boulder, Colorado, November 1985. [ED 264 165]
  • Hoffman, Frank. "Intellectual Freedom and Censorship." Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1989. [ED 307 652]
  • Marek, Kate. "Schoolbook Censorship USA." June 1987. [ED 300 018]
  • National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC). "Books on Trial: A Survey of Recent Cases." January 1985. [ED 258 597]
  • Small, Robert C., Jr. "Preparing the New English Teacher to Deal with Censorship, or Will I Have to Face it Alone?" Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, 1987, 16 p.
(Arguing that an English teacher should get advice from school librarians in preparing to encounter three levels of censorship:
  1. Rejection of adolescent fiction and popular teen magazines as having low value,
  2. Experienced colleagues discouraging "difficult" lesson plans,
  3. Outside interest groups limiting students' exposure. [ED 289 172])
  • Terry, John David II. "Censorship: Post Pico." In "School Law Update, 1986," edited by Thomas N. Jones and Darel P. Semler. [ED 272 994]
  • [2] Supreme Court rejects advocates' plea to preserve useful formats
  • World Book Encyclopedia, volume 3 (C-Ch), pages 345, 346

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