What is Censorship?

Censorship is suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

Rationale

The rationale for censorship is different for various types of information censored:

  • Moral censorship is the removal of materials that are obscene or otherwise considered morally questionable. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale, especially child pornography, which is illegal and censored in many jurisdictions in the world.[1][2]
  • 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. Very often, militaries will also attempt to suppress politically inconvenient information even if that information has no actual intelligence or combat-tactical value.
  • Political censorship occurs when governments hold back information from their citizens. This is often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might foment rebellion.
  • Religious censorship is the means by which any material considered objectionable by a certain faith is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less prevalent 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 disrupt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light,[3][4] or intervene to prevent alternate offers from reaching public exposure.[5]

Types

Political

Strict censorship existed in the Eastern Bloc.[7] Throughout the bloc, the various ministries of culture held a tight rein on their writers.[8] Cultural products there reflected the propaganda needs of the state.[8] Party-approved censors exercised strict control in the early years.[9] In the Stalinist period, even the weather forecasts were changed if they had the temerity to suggest that the sun might not shine on May Day.[9] Under Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania, weather reports were doctored so that the temperatures were not seen to rise above or fall below the levels which dictated that work must stop.[9]

Independent journalism did not exist in the Soviet Union until Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader; all reporting was directed by the Communist Party or related organizations. Pravda, the predominant newspaper in the Soviet Union, had a monopoly. Foreign newspapers were available only if they were published by Communist Parties sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

Possession and use of copying machines was tightly controlled in order to hinder production and distribution of samizdat, illegal self-published books and magazines. Possession of even a single samizdat manuscript such as a book by Andrei Sinyavsky was a serious crime which might involve a visit from the KGB. Another outlet for works which did not find favor with the authorities was publishing abroad.

The People’s Republic of China, which continues Communist rule in politics, if not in the controlled economy, employs some 30,000 ‘Internet police’ to monitor the internet and popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Iraq under Baathist Saddam Hussein had much the same techniques of press censorship as did Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu but with greater potential violence.

Cuban media is operated under the supervision of the Communist Party’s Department of, which “develops and coordinates propaganda strategies”.[10] Connecting to the Internet is illegal.[11]Revolutionary Orientation Censorship also takes place in capitalist nations. In 1973, a military coup took power in Uruguay, and the State practiced censorship. For example, writer Eduardo Galeano was imprisoned and later was forced to flee. His book Open Veins of Latin America was banned by the right-wing military government, not only in Uruguay, but also in Chile and Argentina.[12]

Critics of the Campaign finance reform in the United States claim that this reform imposes widespread restrictions on political speech.[13][14]

State secrets and prevention of 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 the proponents of this form of censorship argues that 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.

An example of “sanitization” policies comes from the USSR under Joseph 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.

Censorship is occasionally carried out to aid authorities or to protect an individual, as with some kidnappings when attention and media coverage of the victim can sometimes be seen as unhelpful.[15][16]

Wieczór Wrocławia – Daily newspaper of Wrocław, People’s Republic of Poland, March 20–21, 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 blanked out an official propaganda section. The right-hand page also includes a hand-written confirmation of that decision by the local “Solidarność” Trade Union.

Educational sources

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 removal of critical or conflicting events. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of The Holocaust (or Holocaust denial), Bombing of Dresden, the Nanking Massacre as found with Japanese history textbook controversies, the Armenian Genocide, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War.

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 changed heavily. A Ballantine Books version of the book Fahrenheit 451 which is the version used by most school classes[18] contained approximately 75 separate edits, omissions, and changes from the original Bradbury manuscript.

Music and popular culture

Music censorship has been implemented by states, religions, educational systems, families, retailers and lobbying groups – and in most cases they violate international conventions of human rights.[19]

Aside from the usual justifications of pornography, language and violence, some movies are censored due to changing racial attitudes or political correctness in order to avoid ethnic stereotyping and/or ethnic offense despite its historical or artistic value. One example is the still withdrawn “Censored Eleven” series of animated cartoons, which may have been innocent then, but are “incorrect” now.

Copy, picture, and writer approval

Copy approval is the right to read and amend an article, usually an interview, before publication. Many publications refuse to give copy approval but it is increasingly becoming common practice when dealing with publicity anxious celebrities.[20] Picture approval is the right given to an individual to choose which photos will be published and which will not. Robert Redford is well known for insisting upon picture approval.[21] Writer approval is when writers are chosen based on whether they will write flattering articles or not. Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley is known for banning certain writers who wrote undesirably about one of her clients from interviewing any of her other clients.

Maps

Censorship of maps is often employed for military purposes. For example, the technique was used in former East Germany, especially for the areas near the border to West Germany in order to make attempts of defection more difficult. Censorship of maps is also applied by Google maps, where certain areas are grayed out or areas are purposely left out-dated with old imagery.[22]

Meta censorship

In this form of censorship, any information about existence of censorship and the legal basis of the censorship is censored. Rules of censoring were classified. Removed texts or phrases were not marked.

Creative censorship

In this form of censorship, censors rewrite texts, giving these texts secret co-authors. This form of censorship is used in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Internet

Internet censorship is control or suppression of the publishing or accessing of information on the Internet. The legal issues are similar to offline censorship. One difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can find it on websites hosted outside the country. A government can try to prevent its citizens from viewing these even if it has no control over the websites themselves.

Barring total control on Internet-connected computers, such as in North Korea and Cuba, total censorship of information on the Internet is very difficult (or impossible) to achieve due to the underlying distributed technology of the Internet. During the Wikileaks crisis of 2010, for example, Wikileaks proliferated its content on servers in various nations, while volunteers created hundreds of mirror sites, keeping Wikileaks content public despite the efforts of government or corporate censors.[23] Pseudonymity and data havens (such as Freenet) allow unconditional free speech, as the technology guarantees that material cannot be removed and the author of any information is impossible to link to a physical identity or organization.

In some cases, Internet censorship may involve deceit. In such cases the censoring authority may block content while leading the public to believe that censorship has not been applied. This may be done by having the ISP provide a fake “Not Found” error message upon the request of an Internet page that is actually found but blocked (see 404 error for details).[24][25][26][27][28]

In November 2007, “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf stated that he sees government control of the Internet failing due to private ownership.[29]

The Australian government announced in December 2009 that it will introduce internet censorship legislation before the next Australian federal election.[30]

Implementation

The former Soviet Union maintained a particularly extensive program of state-imposed censorship. The main organ for official censorship in the Soviet Union was the Chief Agency for Protection of Military and State Secrets generally known as the Glavlit, its Russian acronym. The Glavlit handled censorship matters arising from domestic writings of just about any kind—even beer and vodka labels. Glavlit censorship personnel were present in every large Soviet publishing house or newspaper; the agency employed some 70,000 censors to review information before it was disseminated by publishing houses, editorial offices, and broadcasting studios. No mass medium escaped Glavlit’s control. All press agencies and radio and television stations had Glavlit representatives on their editorial staffs.

Sometimes, a specific and unique information whose very existence is barely known to the public, is kept in a subtle, near-censorship situation, being regarded as “subversive” or “inconvenient”. Michel Foucault’s 1978 text “Sexual Morality and the Law” (later republished as “The Danger of Child Sexuality”), for instance – originally published as La loi de la pudeur [literally, “the law of decency”, defends the decriminalization of statutory rape and the abolition of age of consent laws.

Censored pre-press proof of two articles from “Notícias da Amadora”, a Portuguese newspaper, 1970

When a publisher comes under pressure to suppress a book, but has already entered into a contract with the author, they will sometimes effectively censor the book by deliberately ordering a small print run and making minimal, if any, attempts to publicize it. This practice became known in the early 2000s as privishing.[31]

See Also:

Citations and Notes

  1. ^http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/CP_Legislation_Report.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.csecworldcongress.org/en/index.htm
  3. ^ Timothy Jay (2000). Why We Curse: A Neuro-psycho-social Theory of Speech. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 208–209. ISBN 1556197586.
  4. ^ David Goldberg, Stefaan G. Verhulst, Tony Prosser (1998). Regulating the Changing Media: A Comparative Study. Oxford University Press. pp. 207. ISBN 0198267819.
  5. ^ http://news.cnet.com/2010-1071_3-1021938.html
  6. ^ The Commissar vanishes (The Newseum)
  7. ^ Major & Mitter 2004, p. 6
  8. ^ a b Major & Mitter 2004, p. 15
  9. ^ a b c Crampton 1997, p. 247
  10. ^ “10 most censored countries”. The Committee to Protect Journalists. http://www.cpj.org/censored/censored_06.html.
  11. ^ “Going online in Cuba: Internet under surveillance”. Reporters Without Borders. 2006. http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/rapport_gb_md_1.pdf.
  12. ^ http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/28/eduardo
  13. ^ “The Trick of Campaign Finance Reform”. Christian Science Monitor. http://www.giantleap.org/envision/campaign.htm.
  14. ^ “Felonious Advocacy”. reason. http://www.reason.com/news/show/132594.html.
  15. ^ New York Times
  16. ^ The Raw Story | Investigative News and Politics
  17. ^ Lundqvist, J.. “More pictures of Iranian Censorship”. http://jturn.qem.se/2006/more-pictures-of-iranian-censorship/. Retrieved August 2007-01-21.
  18. ^ Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Del Rey Books. April 1991.
  19. ^ “What is Music Censorship?”. Freemuse.org. 1 January 2001. http://www.freemuse.org/sw2338.asp. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  20. ^ Ian Mayes (2005-04-23). “The readers’ editor on requests that are always refused”. London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1468351,00.html. Retrieved August 2007-01-21.
  21. ^ Barber, Lynn (2002-01-27). “Caution: big name ahead”. London: The Observer. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/life/story/0,6903,639829,00.html. Retrieved August 2007-01-21.
  22. ^ Jenna Johnson (2007-07-22). “Google’s View of D.C. Melds New and Sharp, Old and Fuzzy”. News (Washington Post). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/21/AR2007072101296.html. Retrieved 2007-07-22.
  23. ^ “Is Wikileaks Indestructible?”. Hosting Industry Watch. December 13, 2010. http://www.hostingindustrywatch.com/2010/12/13/is-wikileaks-indestructible/. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  24. ^ https://publicaffairs.linx.net/news/?p=154
  25. ^ “The Internet Watch Foundation must learn from the Wikipedia debacle”. The Daily Telegraph (London). 2008-12-10. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/shanerichmond/5938187/The_Internet_Watch_Foundation_must_learn_from_the_Wikipedia_debacle/.
  26. ^ Fisher, Frank (2008-12-09). “A nasty sting in the censors’ tail”. The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/09/scorpions-virgin-killer-censorship.
  27. ^ http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/07/brit_isps_censor_wikipedia/
  28. ^ Bangkok Post : The old fake ‘404 Not Found’ routine
  29. ^ Cerf sees government control of Internet failing
  30. ^ abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/15/2772467.htm
  31. ^ Winkler, David (11 July 2002). “Journalists Thrown ‘Into the Buzzsaw'”. CommonDreams.org. http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0711-05.htm.

General Information

  • 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. & Parker, Larry. “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
  • Ringmar, Erik A Blogger’s Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet (London: Anthem Press, 2007)
  • 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)
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2 comments on “What is Censorship?
  1. • • “Mae West in Bohemia — — Gin, Sin, Censorship, and Eugene O’Neill”

    An illustrated walking tour in the Washington Square area will focus on the locations and the people who influenced MAE WEST’s (censored) stage plays for Broadway during the Prohibition Era — such as Eugene O’Neil — and locations where the censorship of writers occurred during the 1920s in Greenwich Village. Timed for Mae West’s birthdate, August 17th, 1893.

    Venue address: Meet outdoors in front of The Lion: 62 West 9th Street, off Sixth Avenue — nearest train is the IND line to West Fourth Street

    · Event dates and times When: 3 PM on Sunday, 14 August 2011 — — rain or shine
    . Tour guide: Playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo whose stage play “Courting Mae West” will be seen in a theatre January 2012 in Australia.

  2. Dr. Kenneth Tennant says:

    After threatening to sue Quad-City TIMES for publishing false and misleading information (see front page articles, above the fold, March 30, 2011 and November 6, 2004, DRIVERS AIM TO DECEIVE…& AGENTS ARREST MAN…)
    The QC TIMES (Lee Enterprises) moved to CENSOR me, Kenneth Tennant, from commenting on their online “newspaper” which is nothing more than a propaganda machine for the good ol boy culture of corruption. Google: Kenneth Tennant, to read more.

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