As a former journalism student/reporting intern, I have to say that I’m mildly horrified at the level of censorship that I’ve encountered over the past few days.
First of all, there’s the censoring of Doonesbury.
I’m not sure who hasn’t heard about this already, but I’ll give you the short version: many papers (47, if the news media is to be believed) chose not to print or at least not print in full the past week’s Doonesbury cartoons due to the controversial nature of its content regarding the new Texas transvaginal ultrasound. Without getting on a soapbox on the issues the cartoons cover, I would just like to say that no matter what side of the issue a cartoon or editorial takes, it should never, ever be censored. I mean, think about where we would be if political cartoons were never allowed to be published! We wouldn’t have a way to reach many of our nation, or at least not a way that impacts people as well.
If you haven’t seen them, go ahead and click the link below to see the first in the series, and you can also click through to see all of the comics that were supposed to be published, and for the most part were. Then judge for yourself if anyone had the right to censor them.
If you disagree, that’s fine. Just remember that this particular blog? Guess what – it’s mine. That’s why it has my opinions and not yours. Inoffensive and rational opinions (whether with or against me) are always welcome, but I respectfully request that you refrain from making inappropriate or insulting comments. Remember this blog’s topic is CENSORSHIP, not abortion.
Before moving on, I would like to also take the opportunity to point out that though I often speak ill of my local newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, I have to give them a thumbs-up on this one. They did the right thing, by journalistic standards and by my standards. They ran the cartoon. They kept the dialogue open. Done and done.
Then we encounter the age-old past time of banning books. This week, I found that my favorite book of all time was challenged in Dallas ISD in 1979. Seriously 70s-teachers? Catch-22 was too controversial for children in the 70s because it called women “whores?” Look, I’m an independent woman who doesn’t take crap for being female, but I still love that book. And I happen to think that calling someone a “whore” is far from the worst thing I’ve read in a book.
Book banning throughout history is strikingly similar to this censorship issue that we’re dealing with right now, actually. Yes, Trudeau is writing a comic strip, not To Kill A Mockingbird or Othello, but the issues are essentially the same:
All banned books were removed for one of the following offenses:
– Offensive to groups (religions, cultures, etc.)
– Controversial topics
– Mature themes (aka sexual content, suicide, etc.)
– Against curriculum (in a school)
– Dangerous ideas (my personal favorite)
Personally, as a teacher, I can understand why some books are more appropriate for older audiences. But as a kid who read The Grapes of Wrath in fourth grade “for fun,” I can honestly say that a well-written book cannot scar a child any more than oppression and a sheltered existence can. Which is why, of course, I’m a person who always celebrates Banned Books week by explaining to my students the dangers of censorship and reading them portions of (age-appropriate) formerly banned books. And this year, I’ll be wearing my Banned Books bracelet. Check it.
And finally (most ridiculously), there’s the whole Words with Friends problem. Observe what happened when I tried to play a perfectly legit word last night:
I will have you all know, right here and now, that if we crack open my Miriam Webster’s unabridged dictionary from 2005, we will find that word there. It is not a proper noun. Yes, it is often capitalized as interjections tend to be, but it’s not a proper noun. And besides, this game will accept “Japan” and “merde” but not “fuck?”
I would also like to point out that when typing this, my ‘Proofread Writing’ automatically underlined transvaginal. Apparently, the program doesn’t think it’s a word. If only it weren’t, WordPress. If only.
Point – censorship sucks. A lot.
Art (and life, in my opinion) is all about expressing yourself using whatever words or pictures you so choose. Is everything for every audience? No, of course not. But the Doonesbury comics weren’t vulgar, simply opinionated. When a book is banned it removes personal choice and freedoms of the reader, not to mention limited the free expression of the writer.
And you know what – if I wanted to play that word to show how pissed I was that I was losing MISERABLY to one of my oldest friends, Words with Friends should have let me say whatever the fuck I want.
Just. Like. That.
Intro graphic by IsaacMao used under Creative Commons license.