Censorship by a state has been confused to be a form of dictatorship in the modern form of governance. However, people must understand that censorship is a critical aspect to ensure high moral and ethical standards in society. Over the past couple of years, the media has been a primary source of information and knowledge to the community (Derecho, n.d.). It is, therefore, essential for the states to control the media content to ensure that all that is broadcasted in print and digital media must promote high ethical and moral standards.
The process by which the state supervises and controls the media content is referred to as censorship. This is the process through which there is an intensive examination of books, periodicals, magazines, films, plays, and radio and television programs with the intention of suppressing the parts considered to be offensive or objectionable (Darnton, n.d.). In essence, censorship by the state is the official prohibition or restriction of any expression that in its view is believed to threaten the political, social, religious or moral order.
It is worth understanding conformism and coercion and the difference between censorship and self censorship. These concepts are well understood from the Russia’s reporters especially during Putin’s third presidential term. It is believed that Russia’s federal television net work had numerous challenges since its reporters were coerced to report in favor of the government. The reporters of the state aligned television were conformists since they reported what they strongly believed the authority wanted them to do (Friesen, (2006). This is another form of self censorship where there are self-inflicted restrictions of free expression derived from political interference. Censorship conformism is a situation whereby the reporters and journalists just accept unquestioningly the usual practices or standards which were originally imposed through coercion. This was evident in the Russian case where reporters and activists were coerced to report the will of the government.
While a majority of the people in modern society has been against such censorship, citing freedom of expression, it is worth noting that censorship has a huge responsibility of ensuring sanity in the society. In this chapter, we will discuss at length several reasons as to why states should be encouraged to carry out censorship.
In defense of censorship
As earlier discussed, it is the concern of censors always to safeguard what is referred to as sacred in the community. It is for this reason that states have prohibited public displays of blasphemy, obscenity, and the large-scale promotion of irrelevance among the teenagers. Pornography viewing is considered as an immorality and ungodly thus making it a prerogative of the government of the day to ensure that the young generation is protected from such acts that are common in the modern media. The government must always ensure all the media content both in pictures and words do not corrupt the moral behaviors of the teens.
It is imperative to understand that the sexually-explicit content of pornography is offensive to family and religious values. The consumption of pornography material is bad for the society and seems to undermine religious and moral values. According to conservatives, use of pornographic materials can lead to sexual promiscuity, deviant sexual practices and other behaviors and attitudes considered eroding essential religious, family and moral values critical for peaceful co-existence in the community (Magoon, 2010). With this in mind, the state is justified to use its coercive power to uphold and enforce a community’s moral convictions and to prevent citizens from engaging in activities that offend the prevailing community moral standards and decency. China is the leading country where there are strict internet restriction laws aimed at protecting children from obscene and blasphemy.
In essence, legal moralism is an integral part of a good government. It is the responsibility of the state to prevent citizens from harming themselves which is common in pornography consumption (Darnton, n.d.). It is, therefore, legitimate for any government to prohibit publishing, selling or viewing of pornographic materials both in private and public places. This will play a great role in cultivating morality and decency in the community.
The free exchange of ideas has been a strong argument by the opponents of censorship. These people are of the idea that fee exchange of ideas will do a better job in the promotion of true beliefs and good customs. They are of the idea that every person has a right to explain their cases without obstruction. From the argument of J.S. Mill in his liberty work, he argues that true beliefs are guaranteed to be logically self-consistent and consistent with all accurately determined facts. He argues that free debate should be encouraged so that individuals can express their wills freely.
Nevertheless, as a defender of censorship, it is not logic to have a free debate to have positive impacts especially in the presence of real human beings and can only work where there is pure logical intelligence (Magoon, 2010). In the presence of real human beings, there is a high possibility that their propositions are untrue and can be used as a propaganda tool. In instances of free debate, people will try to maintain their pride and propagate one’s imagination that may not amount to truths. It is, therefore, essential for censorship to get in to ensure that the search for truth in public debate is on track. This kind of censorship has been exercised in some states such as Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama where the evolution theory is not taught in schools. These states are too religious and only creation theory is taught in schools.
In this context, it is essential that we consider the aspect of public debates on morality. Issues of morality must be distinguished from the scientific debate that ought not to be influenced by political, religious or moral standings. It is worth noting that debates on morality have their own legitimate and illegitimate temptations. Public determination of whether or not an act is morally illicit purely depends on the judgment of the audience. During public debates, the issue of enticement plays a great role in the determination of the morality of the act. The enticement has great influence in the decision-making a process that can lead to justification of what is morally wrong (Kaur, 2009). With this in mind, it is clear that consequentialism/utilitarianism holds the place it does in public debates entirely because of its philosophical merits. It is, therefore, essential to conclude that free debate on ethical matters does not always lead to moral truth. Since the moral consensus seems not to take care of itself, the state must undertake to prevent moral values of the society by using its coercive powers in control of such debates.
Another major issue f concern as far as censorship is concerned is the liberal ideal of neutrality. Opponents of censorship argue that states should be neutral between comprehensive theories of good. It is, however, essential that we understand that everyone of us have their conception of what good life (Shuger, 2006). Nevertheless, we can step out of our beliefs and adopt an original position that is above our beliefs where we can make decisions favorable to all. From the liberals’ point of view, we should embrace the principle of exchange of ideas and listen to all arguments and the make informed rational decisions. Nevertheless, it is difficult to have a neutral position above which every idea is good. According to conservatives, this position is not ideal, and vices such as individualism are eminent. Just as is the case in the free debate, it is difficult to arrive at a conclusion on the public opinions. For instance, the book ‘’ Naked Lunch’’ has been censored in the UK due to its controversial topics. The aspect of neutrality and accepting other people’s opinion can ruin religious and ethical values.
According to the liberals, the public is supposed to adopt a neutral position between the two sides. This should not be the case since rational human beings should be skeptical of all claims. In the case of moral debates, it will be difficult to judge between two competing systems since each of the systems has its claim. It is worth noting the judgment between the two moral systems will be from the inside and not from the neutral position at all. Nevertheless, morality must be realized at the end despite the means (Friesen, (2006). By advocating for liberalism, utilitarianism and consequentialism are embraced thus bringing about the issue of self-interest. It will, therefore, be essential to embrace censorship to ensure that critical issues relating to morality and sacredness are not prejudiced.
Freedom of speech and expression is another vital aspect as far as censorship is considered. People argue that this is a legislative work in the First Amendment and that people should be given freedom to express their views. Nevertheless, the state should have the right to ensure that no one criticizes its policies. The government must defend its authorities to ensure that it can offer legitimate governance to the public (Darnton, n.d.). Although the public must have the right to criticize poor governance, these rights should not go overboard and dictate the required moral standards.
Although the government has the right to control media content, it is of paramount importance to ensure that the censorship process does not bring about Utopia. Some of the countries such as India, Canada, and other European states have draconian laws that have suppressed free expression to unacceptable levels (Magoon, 2010). Some have an outlawed criticism of Islam or homosexuality. Most bizarrely of all, it is a crime in some European countries to deny that the Nazi Holocaust ever happened. This certainly seems peculiar. Though these states have equal rights just like the other states, it is the prerogative of the government to ensure that such fundamental rights are not compromised.
Some countries have fundamental censorship laws which govern their media. For example, in U.S., the censorship issues are handled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This country has very strict laws that govern obscene, indecent and profane broadcasts incase of violation of these laws (Kaur, 2009). On the other hand, UK also has strict censorship rules which are enacted by the Office of Communication (Ofcom). Just like in the U.S. these laws are very protective especially to children against obscene and blasphemy. It has also been noted that residents in the United Kingdom complain of insufficient censorship while those in U.S feel that there is too much censorship.
The issue of censorship has been a major topic of debate in the modern society. However, it is essential to note that censorship is both beneficial and inevitable. Every state should be encouraged to carry out censorship if the desire not to fall into utilitarianism and atheism state will be realized. Though there has been a spirited fight against censorship, it is beneficial for the government to protect its population from media content likely to erode religious, political and moral values of the community. The states are expected to find a strict balanced censorship set up that will ensure that the community upholds the acceptable moral standards. Any federal state must also protect its legitimacy and policy against any media critics for a smooth running of the government and security reasons (Kaur, 2009). Nevertheless, it is the obligation of the state to ensure that the fundamental rights of expression are upheld. Very strict censorship may be suicidal since it may deny the society right to information. All the governments must have the best censorship program that suits the needs of their countries.
Darnton, R. (n.d.). Censors at work: How states shaped literature.
Derecho, A. (n.d.). Illegitimate media: Race, gender and censorship in digital remix culture.
Friesen, A. (2006). In defense of privilege: Russian Mennonites and the state before and during World War I. Winnipeg: Kindred Productions.
Kaur, R. (2009). Censorship in South Asia cultural regulation from sedition to seduction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Magoon, K. (2010). Media censorship. Edina, Minn.: ABDO Pub.
Shuger, D. (2006). Censorship and cultural sensibility: The regulation of language in Tudor-Stuart England. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press.
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