Censorship exists all over the world and has been around for a very long time and has widely dictated the media industry. Censorship is defined as the suppression of speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions. There are some conflicting opinions as to whether censorship is good or bad, examples of these are shown down below.
How Censorship Helps
Censored material for children can be helpful as a young child’s mind can sometimes be very imaginative and won’t distinguish the differences between real and fiction. Hence censoring material that is deemed too violent or sexual etc. can actually be good, so no child is exposed to any harmful content that can affect the development of their minds. In argument on this could be that parents should be able to do this instead of having some regulatory control telling them what their kids can and can’t watch. While this is a valid point to make, it doesn’t take into account parents who are not informed enough to make this decision. Also not to mention the circumstances in which a parent will try censor their child but it won’t always work, because their child somehow found a way around it. An example could be a parent blocking websites on their computer, however a lot of “tech-savvy” kids know that you can get around this through a proxy.
Censorship can protect the privacy of people. In media related terms this can mean that if someone is filming a show or a video that will be up on the internet or some digital form that can accessed by the public, they can sometimes film someone who doesn’t actually want to be filmed or caught on film. This could mean that they blur that persons face out, so now they won’t be recognized by anyone watching the video. We often see this in documentaries where real people are interviewed and depending on the nature of the documentary that person being interviewed could want to remain anonymous but still participate in the interview. This will usually entail the person being interviewed to have their face blurred out or covered up so they are unrecognisable. In the video below Youtuber Andrew Hales is creating a video for his YouTube channel LAHWF, in this video he is whispering “I love you” to people in a creepy way to get people’s reactions. One of the guys that he does this to doesn’t give him permission to use his face in the video so Andrew has to cover up the guy’s face.
Cultural and religious conflicts can be avoided by the censorship of material which can be insulting or offensive to a particular religious or cultural group. This can be very beneficial to society as it can prevent the spread of racism and hate towards any group of people.
Censorship can be useful in hiding sensitive military information, which could be used by an enemy state. During every war in which the United States has been involved with since the early 20th Century, journalist were required to submit their recording and documentations to the military. This was because the military wanted to censor any material that might accidental expose information regarding troop movements and plans.
Points Against Censorship
Just like the military may use censorship to prevent any sensitive material reaching their enemy’s they may also use censorship in a negative way by the military and/or the government it represents wishing to conceal illicit activities or war crimes, such as killing innocent civilians. A good example are the photos that were released of the 2004 torture of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. America had previously stated that they respected the Geneva Conventions and any Iraqi prisoners they got from the War on Iraq they would not torture. However after thousands of photos were leaked at what occurred of the inmates at Abu Ghraib prison we see that this was not the case. “A review of all the computer media submitted to this office revealed a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of military working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts.” (Al Jazeera, 2011)
By censoring topics like sex and having a ban of it in the media means that they will only generate curiosity about it. Which means that the younger people may look in the absolutely wrong places for information. Rather than have these topics discussed in a healthy manner where sex education and awareness of STDs can be dealt with. If sex-related topics are completely censored it becomes difficult to teach children and teenagers about the dangers of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/Aids.
Censorship can hinder creativity, by having censorship in books, plays, movies or any other form of media the censorship may compromise their entertainment value. In doing it puts these limitations on what you can do or say, which in turn can limit what you think. This can limit people and artists from truly expressing themselves and art is all about expression.
I consider myself lucky that I live in New Zealand where censoring on media doesn’t affect me that much at all. The only thing that annoyed me was censored scenes in New Zealand and Australia’s version of the South Park Stick of Truth game. Instead of having some of these scenes because they were deemed “too inappropriate” there was a picture of a crying Kola with a caption of what the scene was. This mainly just annoyed me because I thought it was pointless. Considering I had seen far worse from the South Park T.V. show that airs in New Zealand and not to mention any kid who is young can tune in and watch that. But with the game it had an R rating so it makes it that much harder for a younger person to obtain the game but yet they still had to censor the game but when it comes to the show its fine. I just ended up going on the internet and looking up the scenes I missed so overall the censoring of that part of the game was completely pointless.
I’ve talked to some people in my course about censorship and one of the international students from China told me that in her country Facebook and Google are banned. From what I understand they have other social networking sites they use instead of Facebook but I thought having Google banned was a big deal considering how it’s the site I use every day and the site I use the most. In fact personally for me the internet and Google go hand in hand and without Google I almost feel that there is no internet. I guess it shows just how much I use one particular search engine all the time and never really use any other ones, even though there are plenty more sites like Google that will do the job just fine.
Censorship, particularly regarding media, will always be a topic where you’ll find a lot of points that are in favour of Censorship and a lot of points against Censorship. I think it’s fair to say that the current practice for censoring material is flawed and that it can be quite harmful when Governments abuse their power to censor material and create media propaganda to hide what is really going on in the world. Not to mention the relevancy of censoring certain material but then not on another platform, even though the material is the same it just exists on different platforms e.g. books, television, video games, movies. Censorship does help however when it comes to stopping people from viewing offensive material and has other benefits as well. I think the focus should not be if we need censorship in media or not but rather how can we improve the way we go about censoring material so that our process is more consistent, reliable and not malicious in anyway.
What happens when you add bleeps and blurred mouths to a children’s film?
Is Censorship a Good or Bad Idea. (2013). Retrieved from www.slideshare.net/PJG123/is-censorship-a-good-or-bad-idea-29181915
Censorship. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship
Prabhakar Pillai. (2016). Pros and Cons of Censorship. Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pros-and-cons-of-censorship.html
Media Censorship: Good or Bad? (2014). Retrieved from http://www.targetgdpi.com/2014/03/media-censorship-good-or-bad.html
Enotes. (2014). Examples of Military Censorship. Retrieved from http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-some-examples-military-censorship-468936
Ted Rall. (2011). Censorship of War Casualties in the US. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/07/20117258316765540.html