[Error: unknown template qotd]Do you think the government should have the right to censor the media? If you're generally against censorship, are there any circumstances under which you feel it might be warranted?Unca Bob
had this one down:
When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
—Robert Anson Heinlein, "If This Goes On—" (1940)
That, by the way, is from a short novel about a Fundamentalist takeover of the United States after a "backwoods preacher" is elected President in 2012.1
Heinlein also said, "The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak."
Now, Unca Bob, especially in the second quote, was talking about what Wikipedia
calls moral censorship2
, the suppression of speech that some individuals might find offensive or immoral; that is, in my estimation, subtly different from military censorship
It is the opinion of Your Obedient Serpent that both "moral" and "military" censorship are always wrong
; however, there are instances when the latter might be less bad
than the alternatives. A Fully Transparent Government would not have survived World War II, and the most likely replacement had even less regard to such niceties.
It's a key part of my ethical system, however, that being forced to do bad things to avoid worse consequences does not make them good things;
when you allow yourself to frame the kind of secrecy and suppression practiced in WWII as "good", you take the first step on the slippery slope that justifies political
censorship, and all the cover-ups and black projects that burden us today.
I also don't automatically equate industry ratings systems as "censorship", although the MPAA
has certainly demonstrated that they can be arbitrary and putative, and big studios, finding that "General Audience" films are often ignored, often tack extra nude scenes or coarse language to get an otherwise-acceptable movie out of the "kiddie ghetto"—an ironic kind of anti-censorship. Marvel Comics has implemented an entirely functional ratings system for their comics, however; while most adult comic readers are wholly unaware that Marvel even has
one, the discreet little letter codes in the UPC symbol box provide a useful guide to parents looking for suitable reading material for their children, and comic store workers attempting to assist them.
I could go on, but I expect these opinions to get thoroughly Disassembled
in the comments. I haven't even touched
on the idea of "hate crimes" yet.
1The same timeline has a well-established Lunar colony at this point; grumbling about only getting the crappy parts of future histories may now commence.
2Wikipedia distinguishes between "moral" and "religious" censorship; please pardon me if I consider that to be hair-splitting.