Is Censorship Senseless In Society Today?

In the famous 1947 court case Roth v. United States, obscenity was affirmed as being unprotected by the First Amendment, meaning it was a punishable offense in the eyes of the law.

Sam Roth was convicted of mailing an obscene publication which was in direct violation of federal law. When the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction it brought up the conversation of censorship of the supposedly obscene by the government.

While many justices argued obscenity was of no social importance and therefore has no place in news, movies, and books, Justice Douglas and Justice Black disagreed. They believed nothing could be banned under the First Amendment, rather that people would watch and read the material and make the decision for themselves. As said best by municipal Judge Clayton W. Horn, “The best method of censorship is by the people…”.

It has been highly disputed that censorship and a free society do not go together, ever since censorship first made its way into the Supreme Court and still to today. For those in support of censorship, their argument relies heavily on keeping hate speech out of circulation, saying that it often overpowers the good. However, those in support of a society without censorship believe that we can never be a truly free society if what we see has all been censored. Furthermore, they bring up the point that if we are living in a censored society, who gets to decide what should or should not be censored?

In the world we are living in today, censorship seems to be pretty senseless. Society is already so suspicious of the information we are given from the government and news outlets, and censorship will only increase this mistrust. And for those who argue that exposing “taboo” ideas and images to children will ruin them, it is easy to argue that they are going to find a way around any censorship you put in place.

Now I am not saying we should allow children to freely read and watch inappropriate or traumatic materials, but censoring them completely from that is not going to prepare them for the real world. In the Black Mirror episode ArkAngel, an overprotective mother implants a device in her daughter to track her and censor what she sees. The girl cannot see anything dangerous or harmful, for example, she cannot see a mean dog barking at her or two boys beating each other up. Before long she becomes aggressive and lashes out at her mother for not allowing her to see such things. As the episode goes on she dabbles in more and more dangerous activity, having missed the education on it earlier in life.

Although censorship is not directly going to lead to violence, and the episode was definitely a dramatization of what can happen, it still has real world effects. Censorship limits our knowledge, shelters us from the harsh realities of today, and can hide the truth, and in a society where we already cannot trust the information we are given, censorship is senseless.

One thought on “Is Censorship Senseless In Society Today?

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  1. The idea of censoring hate speech and obscenities has always been something I’ve had a difficult time picking a side on. Living in the Simmons bubble during such a politically polarizing time, I find myself tuning out opinions I don’t want to hear, especially ones that are hateful or racist. The problem is, the only thing censoring my exposure does is make me feel more shocked and upset when I do hear upsetting things. I really like your connection to Black Mirror because it really mimics how being ignorant to something hateful or upsetting can go from comfortable to dangerous.


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