Censorship! Probably few words so readily stir emotion as does this word. And for good reason, so closely does it bear on our hard-won freedoms. We shudder to think of a day when we in America may lose the freedom of the press or the freedom of speech. Critics of censorship are therefore many and eloquent. They have contended, and perhaps rightly, that censorship lends itself readily to authoritarianism; that once adopted, it can become an effective weapon against minority groups and the suppression of ideas. Our generation is aware of the tragic effects of censorship in many countries; little wonder we shun it so.
Censorship is an effort on the part of some members of a society to protect themselves, as well as others, from certain materials or ideas which they regard as undesirable or potentially harmful. Certainly the licentious display of sex and immorality is offensive to many persons in contemporary society. Have these persons no right to protection against such things under our Constitution? Censorship would not be nearly so imperative if the distribution of this sex-laden material were confined to a small segment of society and were so isolated. It is the forcing of such material and ideas upon a defenseless and unsuspecting audience, subscriber, listener, or reader that is so objectionable. The receipt of unsolicited pornography by a child is an outrageous example.
One area of confusion concerns the censor’s motivation. Undoubtedly, many persons advocating censorship have the destruction of the thing censored as the ultimate objective. Because something may be misused by a person, however, does not necessarily mean that we should destroy or prohibit it. Many things would then be denied to us which in the hands of ...1
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