I've read this somewhere, and it has been confirmed by a slimy laywer friend of mine, so I'll go ahead and spout this out and hope it's the gospel truth...

In the United States, the legal definition of 'illegal censorship' is 'any governmental organization blocking access to information anywhere, and any group blocking access to information on publicly owned grounds'. Not private grounds. On private grounds, legally, you can censor whatever you feel like censoring. Of course, legality sometimes has little to do with morality, but bear with me here.

Application to Everything? Well, Everything is not public grounds. Everything is private space, owned and operated by a non-governmental organization. The way I see it, we are allowed to play here by the good graces of nate, bones, and the rest of the administration. They can cut off our access to this database any time they wish, and feel good about it. Frankly, I tremble when I walk in their shadows, for they are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and they can rule with a rod of iron, if they ever wanted to.

So, what do you do if you think this is wrong? Grab the source code while it's still pipin' hot and compete. Come on, we're all indoctrinated into capitalism here, so put those market forces to work for you! Spam the web with 'Down with Nate!' advertisements! Build up the coming Slashdot Backlash to terrifying highs! Foment revolution! And televise it, while you're at it!

Update 13 Oct. - Once more - legality sometimes has little to do with morality. The above deals with the difference between legal and illegal censorship. This is not a defense of censorship, but an explanation of what is legally acceptable. An interesting question to ask yourself is, is private censorship protected by the First Amendment? I don't know the answer to that.

Censorship is not limited to the destruction and prohibition of things you don't like, although that is the sense that it is most often used in these days. In the past censorship also referred to disapproval, that is, simply saying that you don't like something. The implication is that this will make the person who did it to be less likely to do it again. The more people who let you know (directly or indirectly) that they are against whatever you are doing, the more likely you are to stop. Gossip would be one of the most fun and effective examples of this type of censorship.

This kind of censorship is probably necessary to make it possible for humans to live together, and is therefore most likely a good thing.

The question is how much and how formalized good old fashioned censorship should be. Does peer pressure really need to be replaced with a dress code? Is an organized protest the same as a letter to your congressman? Is it okay to yell out epithet in the street, or should you limit yourself to dirty looks?

When arguing about censorship people often accuse someone of censorship in this older sense, and then attack as if it were the same as the newfangled 'modern censorship'. Needless to say, this is a fallacy.

In my opinion, only one person has the right to control what you see and hear. You. The only exception to this rule is in the case of young children, in which case it falls upon the parents to protect them until they can do so for themselves. Other than this, there can be no exceptions.

You have the right to decide what is and is not acceptable to you, and to ignore anything that is not acceptable. You do not have the right to make that decision for someone else. If there is something that offends you on television, don't complain to the station, don't whine in newspaper editorials, and definitely don't assume that anyone else feels the same way as you do. Odds are that somebody does, but that’s none of your business. Just change the channel. One push of a button is all it takes, and the problem is gone. If enough people agree with you and do the same, the ratings will nose-dive, and the show will be cancelled. If you are one of a small minority that feels strongly about the program, you'll just have to keep on not watching the show. Doesn't sound that difficult to me.

I just don't get it when people bitch and moan about all of the sex and violence in movies these days. Why do you think Hollywood keeps making movies like this? To personally piss you off? As a way of rebelling against everyone that complains and tells them they can't do stuff like that? No, the obvious reason that they keep making movies like that is because people keep going to them. As long as people go to a certain type of movie, Hollywood will continue to profit from making that type of movie. As long as its making them a profit, they'll keep doing it. It’s just good business sense. And also, if enough people are going to movies with a lot of sex & violence in them, then wouldn't that mean that not everyone agrees with those of you who are offended? What right do you have to try and control what others see?

Back to the lone exception. It is true that children do not yet have the knowledge and the maturity to make proper decisions about what is healthy for them to see, and that some things just aren't suitable for children. Whose job is it to make sure that children are protected from such things? Their parents, and no one else. Parents have a right to decide what their children can and can not see or hear, and no one else. A parent can not watch their children at all times however, so ratings systems for movies and TV shows are the next best thing, but no replacement for proper parental controls. It is acceptable to decide that certain movies can not be seen by children without express permission of their parents, as there are some things that almost all parents would agree are unacceptable. Hence classifications like G, PG-13, R, and the others serve to aid parents in protecting their children. Television doesn't have ushers keeping children from watching certain channels, so it becomes necessary for some shows to only be shown later at night when most children have gone to bed. A better solution is the V-Chip, which allows parents to control what their kids’ watch, even when they are not home. The best solution however is to actually take the time to teach your kids what is and isn't appropriate, so that they can make their own decisions. My younger cousins are able to listen to songs with swear words in them, as they know that swearing is crude vulgar and impolite, not only do they not swear themselves, they think less of a song that resorts to swearing.

And some censorship just doesn't make sense no matter how you look at it. Whenever the local rock radio station plays the song "American Psycho" by Treble Charger, they blank out the words "'cause they don't know" (the original lyric is "Don't wanna listen to the radio/ 'cause they don't know") What on earth is wrong with the words "'cause they don't know"? There’s no swearing in it, it isn't talking about anything dirty or inappropriate, and it isn't really insulting radio stations. Are they really so touchy that the implication that they are not omniscient offends them?

Last Resort by Papa Roach is another good example. Blitzkrieg has already covered the pointlessness of removing the word “resort” as it is in the title, but my problem isn’t with the method of censorship, but the reasons for it. Also removed from the song is the word life, as in “If I took my life tonight” and the word suicide, as in “and I’m contemplating suicide”. Yep, you guessed it they’re trying to remove all references to suicide or killing oneself from the song, presumably because hearing Papa Roach sing about it will make them want to do the same. Whatever. Let’s try a little experiment.

“Cut my life into pieces! This is my last resort. Suffocation, no breathing - Don’t give a fuck if I cut my arm bleeding, do you even care if I die bleeding? would it be wrong would it be right/ if I took my life tonight, chances are that I might, mutilation out of sight, and I’m contemplating suicide”

How many of you suddenly got the urge to end your life as a result of reading that? How many had any negative or violent feelings as a result of this? Other than feelings of sympathy for the person singing it that is. Let’s try something else then.

“I'm a desperado, Underneath your window, I see your silhouette, Are you my Juliet, I feel a mad connection, With your body, Shake your bon-bon, Shake your bon-bon, Shake your bon-bon, I wanna be your lover, Your only Latin lover, We'll go around the world in a day, Don't say no, no, Shake it my way, oh Shake your bon-bon, Shake your bon-bon, Shake your bon-bon”

How was that? How many of you felt like doing something, anything to end the pain? How many of you had negative and/ or violent thoughts as a result of those lyrics? Any effect either of those had is more likely to depend on the musical tastes (or lack thereof) of the reader, not on the content. Hearing about suicide does not make someone want to commit suicide.

The next area of seriously flawed censorship is Web Filters. I personally don’t agree with their existence at all, as a parent who hasn’t taken the time to teach their kids what is and isn’t appropriate should at least be bothered to keep their kids from going online without supervision. All it takes is a password, and the kid needs to ask before he can use the computer. Web Filters aren’t reliable either, and often censor sites whose only crime is to contain words that have a slight resemblance to banned words. These examples were published in a recent computer newspaper:

- A woman named Sheryl Babcock was not allowed to enter one web site because her last name includes an unwelcome word.
- A Navy officer who was studying for an exam wanted to log on to the site aplusexam.com, but wasn’t allowed by the corporation’s filters as the URL included the word sex.
- Merchants from Scunthorpe, England must avoid using the name of their hometown in the URL if they want everyone to have access.
- Anyone using filters who has an interest in literature should keep in mind that a lot of the filters out there consider Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, and e. e. cummings to be inappropriate.
- A reporter's stories were blocked by filters because they contained the words “who reports”. The filter read the word “whore” therein.
- Carroll High School’s filtering software included “questionable material” such as the word “high” in its list of blocked words. This included the school’s own web page.
- A woman named Hillary Anne had trouble getting a hotmail account, as hillaryan@hotmail.com contains the word “aryan

The focus of my rant against censorship comes from a radio DJ in the U.S. who refused to play the new Ricky Martin single “She Bangs” because he didn’t want his kids to hear a song like that. Fine, that’s his call. But how does that give him the right to decide what other people's kids can listen to? He would be fully within his rights to tell his children that they are not allowed to listen to the song, and to make them change the station when it is played, but why is he making the same decision for everybody else? I’ve got a feeling that he’s probably the minority in this case, and that most people have no problem with the song. People in positions of power feel that they have the right to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for others, and that isn’t right.
Censorship is a way in which the general public is protected from possibly offensive language, images or other propaganda. In appropriate circumstances, certain material may be made unavailable by certain means. For example, excessive swearing, nudity, sexism and racism are not broadcast on mainstream, prime time television. In a private conversation, however, swearing and limited forms of discrimination may well be acceptable to the parties involved. Censorship often causes problems, in that it can offend the author or audience of said material. Censorship may also be administered in incorrect circumstances, and its implementation places additional burden on the censors, who must ensure that no objectionable material is available to a sensitive audience.


Censorship often acts as a hindrance to well-intentioned artists and activists. There have been many cases of movies, bands, political figures and organisations being unfairly reviewed. This has been because people have focused simply on their use of a certain word or citing a sensitive issue, as opposed to their overall motives and beliefs.

When the movie Lolita was released, it generated a large amount of discussion on its morality. It was reviewed excessively, with comments ranging from "brilliant" to "unadulterated trash". Unfortunately, these comments were purely opinionated, and the only aspect of the movie discussed was paedophilia; not the light in which the paedophilia was viewed, or even the plot itself. This resulted in the movie receiving a "Restricted Viewing" rating, and a lot of bad press. As a result, a movie which may have originally opened people's minds to help understand a sensitive issue has had its audience reduced to those who are already somewhat open-minded on this issue. Anyone else would have rejected Lolita on the basis that it was considered to be a "perverted" movie which they could not identify with. This example does not involve a direct form of censorship so much as a wilful ignorance on the part of the reviewers.

As rumours circulated about a new US sitcom being released, the general public's ears began to prick up at news of this depiction of females discussing sex. As more details on the new series Sex and the City grew, they became infinitely more focused on one point - a split second of one episode. It contained the word "cunt". Suddenly, no-one was interested in the plot any more, as long as the censors could find somewhere to hide that evil word away from the public (who were now thoroughly interested in witnessing the novelty of hearing "the C word" on television). The novelty value that Sex in the City provides has worn off quickly, and an honest discussion of the series' plot would have helped more to attract the audience most likely to identify with this show (young women whose interests lie in sex), rather than the resulting temporary audience - people who are amused by hearing women discussing sex.

During the South African struggle against Apartheid, Desmond Tutu was one of the most influential voices against the oppression of the indigenous citizenship by the white people in power at the time. Tutu addressed the general public on many occasions, in person and on television. However, his oratory endangered the stranglehold on the racial hierarchy held by the white people, who responded by over-dubbing the majority of Tutu's speeches with a voice-over, leaving in only his conclusions of "... there will be a bloodbath". In this manner, censorship was abused by those in power, as they used Tutu's own words to defame him.

When popular band Limp Bizkit released their video clip for the song N 2 Gether Now, many fans were disappointed at the censorship applied by the applicable record label. The song in question was recorded with a popular rap artist, whose purpose was to say, "shut the fuck up" at regular intervals. This, appended to the existing expletives in the rest of the song's lyrics, meant that most of the song was simply swearing. Although this isn't respectable in itself, Limp Bizkit's lyrics mean a lot to them and their fans. Excessive swearing in contemporary alternative music is also something that fans of Limp Bizkit and other bands exposed in the same manner would be accustomed to. In Australia, the means of exposure for alternative video clips is usually on the ABC's music show, Rage, which usually carries an applicable warning for "mature audiences" when it starts at midnight. In these circumstances, excessive swearing is more than acceptable - it is often anticipated. And in this case, the song N 2 Gether Now consisted mainly of "bleeps", which ruined any enjoyment a music fan may have otherwise derived.


The level of morality displayed by printed media has steadily declined of late. The use of women's bodies to sell just about anything has escalated excessively. Pouting models have graced almost every magazine cover excluding Better Homes and Gardens. Scantily clad females wearing a handkerchief, a gelled hairdo and a shocked expression sell us perfume and hairdressing services. The morning papers are not even safe - people calmly eating their breakfast are confronted by advertisements for plastic surgeons specialising in faces and thighs advertising their services with a token breast enlargement. I personally am not opposed to the exposure of breasts in public, as long as it has a rightful purpose. One example of this is breastfeeding. Another would be a plastic surgeon specialising in breast surgery. Pictures of breasts in random advertisements that they don't belong in holds no rightful purpose as such. It does, however, hold the potential to cause offense to people, lessening the credibility of the related publication. Breasts, in themselves, are not offensive objects. They are made to be so through their censorship in other aspects of the media, a typical example of double standards.


Over the last few years, with the advent of the "World Wide Web", the Internet has emerged as a popular medium for research and entertainment. It is also a brilliant medium for the general public to express their views. Sometimes these views are offensive and portray discrimination against minority groups. This, along with pornography, is one of the main concerns for parents who think that the Internet makes a good babysitting tool. To protect their children, the parents in question have the option of implementing filtering software to block questionable material, or supervising their child's online activities. The latter has the downfall of being time consuming, and lacks the attraction of being able to "tune out" and pretend the child doesn't exist. Filtering software is suddenly quite an attractive option. The concerned parent can now leave their child unsupervised on the Internet, free to look up any objectionable material that the filtering software's AI doesn't recognise. Unfortunately for filtering software programmers, the 'net changes every day, and is incredibly difficult to filter effectively, especially taking into account all the sites that shouldn't be filtered. This means that the program that should have magically stopped a child from ever knowing that pornography exists is suddenly frustrating said child beyond belief when his/her browser is shut down for accessing a web site on the sexual interactions of frogs during their mating cycle, or a Freudian study on psychosexual behaviour.


Censorship does have a purpose. Its purpose is to protect people from objectionable and offensive material. Unfortunately, censorship serves as nothing but a form of diplomacy for many of the biggest broadcasting authorities; in many cases, this inevitably defeats the point.
Interesting that no one's revisited the topic of censorship on E2 since the first wu in this node.

I was prompted to weigh in after I saw a noder called Spuunbenda freak out over a node by Roninspoon, one telling how to blow up a building with a sack of flour and two rounds of ammunition.

Spuunbenda's take on it was that Roninspoon was being blatantly irresponsible for sharing this knowledge. Behind S's argument, I think, is this thought: That those of us who have knowledge that is potentially dangerous should not share that knowledge.

I don't agree.

St. Thomas Aquinas: Nothing is inherently evil, though it's misuse may make it so.

Most folks invoke that little bon mot when talking about booze or guns, but I think it's just as applicable when talking about bomb recipes.

An argument could be made that the greater good would be served by disseminating as much information as possible about as many subjects as possible to as many people as possible. Not to be smarmy, but I call that education.

What if, for example, those of us in the U.S. suddenly found ourselves living under martial law, or in a brutally oppressive police state? Would you not want to know how to blow stuff up if The Man came after you?

"Knowledge is Power," it's often been said. And I'm always skeptical when people talk about denying other people knowledge, whether it's a priggish schoolmarm who's gotten all flustered over the f-words in "Catcher in the Rye," or whether it's some ignoramus in Congress who wants to shut down the Internet.

A review of the public statements of politicians, nosy soccer moms and stick-up-the-butt religious types who advocate these sorts of things almost always reveal that they're afraid of something - usually of having they're own standard of living or position of power compromised.

Granted, no reasonable person wants to see a child take a bomb recipe and blow up his house. But that's why we have parents.

Censorship is clearly and demonstratively dangerous. And I think there's little room for it on E2.

Also, as Spuunbender so eloquently points out with his/her follow-up node, you can fight free speech you don't like with ... your own free speech.

Censorship in Art

When is art unacceptable? The US government claims that it tries to protect the people from being exposed to offensive material, but the main issue is do they have the right? Is censorship allowed? The First Amendment says that people have the freedom of speech and expression. So, does it allow the government to suppress this right? Artists say “No, that art is only a painting, a portrait, a sculpture, a window for expressing feelings.” Officials and many concerned people argue that the first amendment does not give artists to publicly display offensive or “pornographic” art anywhere. It would corrupt their young children and is outright insulting. Concerned parents and religious groups say that art is good but it should not be displayed publicly. Government says it does have a right to protect people from being harmed and seeing provocative art counts as being harmed. The supposed motivation isn't to protect the adult viewer from an adult nude, but to protect the child and the innocent and the religious.

Artists say that Governments and officials and even museums have large P.R. departments that ultimately control what is disseminated in the press and so help to shape the public perception of what contemporary art is. Most often, it is tagged as outrageous and useless to the greater glory of man. And artists are seen as social anarchists rather than cultural analysts.

If Art has never directly offended you, you may immediately take up an artist’s side without thought, just because it’s an issue of rights suppressed between a big force and a small “helpless” force. Naturally, a person would try and defend the underdog, but after hearing about some examples, you may want to change your mind, or perhaps these cases will further strengthen your feelings about freedom of speech.

A famous example is when Michelangelo’s David. Thousands petitioned and protested, trying to ban it from ever entering America, but it did anyway. An agreement was eventually settled and it entered America, showing that the country is not entirely without freedom. Still, artists say its just not enough.

Controversial artist Andres Serrano's photo of a crucifix submerged in urine, would offend many in the community. Attacked by many Christians, Serrano believes nothing he has done is wrong and he feels that people are over-reacting. The Pontiac exhibit, by artist Jef Bourgeau, prompted the obscenity charge, because it contained a collage of nudes from the artwork of Serrano, Sally Mann, Balthus and other artists.

Censorship is not a thing of the past; only a few years ago, Former mayor Giuliani threatened to cut city funding for The Brooklyn Museum of Art, freezing millions of dollars because an exhibit is to include a dung-decorated portrait of the Virgin Mary. The museum's Board of Trustees voted to proceed as planned with the exhibit that opened Oct. 2. They said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had no right to freeze funding just because he didn't like the exhibit's content. "Under the First Amendment, this museum may not be punished for offering to the public an entirely lawful exhibition," said Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer representing the museum. Giuliani had threatened to evict the museum from its city-owned home unless the board agreed to change the exhibition of British art, "Sensation," which he has called "sick" and "disgusting." He also has threatened to freeze at least $7 million in funding, a third of the museum's budget. The museum eventually decided board to post signs warning of the explicit nature of some of the works rather than require visitors under 17 to be accompanied by an adult. Giuliani had said that condition violated the museum's lease with the city, which calls for open admission. The leaders of two dozen city museums and cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Bronx Zoo, warned Giuliani in a letter that his actions set "a dangerous precedent. Glenn Scott Wright, the London representative for artist Chris Ofili who created "The Holy Virgin Mary" painting, which is adorned with pornographic cutouts and a clump of elephant dung, called Giuliani's measures an infringement on free expression.

In the end, it’s majority rules. Because the majority feel that censoring is necessary to preserve the innocence of others, the government feels that it is their duty to censor. Until that changes, we can expect censorship for years to come.

For more information on censorship, visit http://www.ncac.org/

Also see for a lighthearted and less serious site but it does make good points for censorship. http://www.righttocensor.com/mission.html*

Hey, while you’re at it, visit the Anthony Comstock node, which features one of the most famous censors in the history of America. Many today still call him The Great American Bluenose.

Right to Censor is now defunct, but I chose to keep the link up anyway...

This was written as the final part of a series of three papers, the other two do not need to be read for this essay, but if you want to read them, I can email them to you; just /msg me. The Sources used list is as long as it is because of the other two papers. On note about the sources - EBSCOhost is a database with almost any newspaper or magazine article published in the United States. I obtained access to this data base through my University and I do not know if it is possible to access it outside of this University or others that utilize the same data base.


Censorship (in Libraries) and an Argument for a Solution

For many years two opposing and bitter rivals have fought a pointless battle over books and the Internet. The materials that are being fought over are highly controversial for many reasons, those being of violence, sexual content, use of offensive language, promotion of homosexuality, and blasphemous ideologies. One group, represented by the national organization called Family Friendly Libraries, or the FFL, consists of two factions; one faction is calling for the banishment of these books, that is, removing them from public library shelves. And the other faction is calling for drastic reforms within the library system. And then there is the ALA, or the American Library Association, which runs the libraries, more or less, and believes that no books should be banished, and that no reforms are needed within the library system. Even though the two sides strongly disagree on many issues, it is essential they work together to find an answer to the plaguing question of how to take care of children, even in the case of the global phenomenon of the Internet. Censorship is not the answer, but it is inarguable that what children see and read has a profound affect on them, since the FFL and the ALA cannot agree on any terms, it is only sensible to continue granting free access to contested books and use of the Internet, but only with parental permission unless the child is past a certain age.

Censorship of books began when books were first published. The censorship was enacted out by the Catholic Church, usually by burning, the books of questionable nature, i.e. those that did not follow the teachings of the Church. In the American library system, free speech prevails, and no book can technically and lawfully be banished from public libraries. School libraries, however, have a sort of independence within this, and can pull books from shelves if the School Board agrees on it. This is often done within Public Schools, since Catholic and other private institutions can pick and choose based on their own ideologies. Parents of public school students have often grumbled and complained about the course material and beginning in the early 1980’s there has been an increased amount of contested books in an increased amount of public schools. These books range from the classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the psychological thriller, and popular film, A Clockwork Orange, to the wildly popular children’s books of the Harry Potter series, one of this era’s most controversial books. This book series is about a young boy named Harry Potter who goes to a special school for wizards and battles evil. Nothing seems wrong with that, but many parents and Catholic organizations have called for the Harry Potter books to be pulled from library shelves and withdrawn from school teachings for its promotion of witchcraft and the dark arts. While there have been literally no reported cases of any of the millions of children who have read this book going off and practicing witchcraft, the parents and Catholic groups who have contested this book are relentless in their persecution of it. In 2000 alone, the ALA received 646 formal complaints about the series (“Harry Potter Series Again Tops List of Most Challenged Books.”). Since there are at least three more books in the series waiting to be written and published, this controversy will not die down any time soon, and will more than likely increase due to the recent releases of the movie versions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. While it seems foolish and old fashioned to believe in witchcraft, the controversy this book has created will not easily be solved. Censoring or banishing this book will only result in a wide spread Pro-Potter movement, so the simplest answer is to require parental permission to borrow these books from public school libraries or to use them for school reports, which is happening more and more often with many books.

The method of parental permissions is even being used in the World Wide Web, especially within the homes of concerned parents. But libraries and school systems seem to be a bit slow on the upkeep of filtering, as it is called, public computers; public libraries more so than public schools. The reason for this is because adults also use these public computers, and should be allowed to access any information they desire. Internet Filter tools and programs seem to be the logical choice, and in many ways are. But there is a problem with such programs, as that they limit the use of useful internet sites, such as search engines, if the security is set to high. And if the security is too low, they allow “blocked” information to easily be accessed using links (“Mandating the Wrong Filters”). Constant supervision of internet usage seems to be the only way to prevent children from accessing web sites that are unsuited for them, but this is a timely and costly way of solving the problem. PC Magazine published an article in 1999 that shows a Pro/Con format and comparison of different filtering programs, and rated Cybersitter 2001 as the best in-home filtering software, but the choice of filters is really a question of what lies in the parents’ general interest for their child.

Filters in public libraries are also a source of controversy. Recently Congress passed the CIPA, or the Children’s Internet Protection Act. The filters restrict what websites are accessible from certain computers in the libraries, and thus restrict the freedom of speech. Many state governments are requiring libraries to comply with CIPA or risk loss of funding. Currently the law is being fought in courts by the ALA, but this isn’t going to protect children. One little known solution is to implement a sort of permit system for use of the libraries’ computers. Using a new library card, the card holder would be able to swipe the card to allow for different and appropriate security settings for use on the computer. Since many states require parental permission for a child to receive a library card, it would be a simple way to insure the protection of children at the consent of the parent.

Another controversy spawning from a child’s access to the library is inappropriate books. The most contested of these books, other than the Harry Potter series, are usually is contested due to sexual explicitness and content. More specifically are sex education books. Sex education is offered in public schools, I personally received my formal sexual education in the 5th grade. But like many, I was still clueless about the subject until well into High School, by then I was fully sexually developed and had plenty of hormonal male friends. Lucky for me, I decided not to heed their advice on the myths of sex. But many children simply do not have friends as well educated as mine were, and usually children are too embarrassed to talk about sex with their parents, and even if the child did, what would the parent say? “Well, it’s like this screwdriver is the guy, and this sock is the girl, and the screwdriver goes into the sock, I mean girl, and that is how you make babies….” Books are a healthy alternative to a child learning about sex, especially when compared with learning through unguided experience, possibly with the help of peers. But sometimes enough is enough. Books that encourage children to experiment sexually with pets are morally wrong, but the sex education book, Boys and Sex (which allegedly does encourage sexual experimenting with pets), is commonly placed in the children’s section of the library (“Parent Alert: Beware the Public Libraries”). In the very least it should be moved to the young adult section, but under no circumstances should it be banished from the library. Another sex education book, It’s Perfectly Normal, has come under attack, especially in recent months (“Censorship Watch” 32). The book uses illustrations, as so many others do, to teach children about their reproductive organs, birth control, and even homosexuality, which is a whole different controversy in itself (“Laughing in the Face of Puberty”). The difference between the acceptance of sex ed books is their approach to the subject. Those books that use humor and illustrations are more often attacked than no-nonsense text books, but a curious child is more likely to read a funny book than a text book. Sexual education books should require a parent’s permission to be checked out of the public library system, the same as my sex education in the 5th grade required my parents’ permission.

Homosexuality and homosexual rights have been a fierce controversy ever since gays and lesbians really became known in the eye of the general public in the early 70’s. The ALA is officially Pro-Gay Rights, and the content of their libraries reflects it. A self adopted Gay History Month is celebrated every June, where the libraries make large displays showcasing books that are about homosexuals and their experiences, or about educating people about the lifestyle. Conservative ‘counter attacks’ to the pro-gay publishing industry are slow and ill judged (“Homosexual Ideologies Within the Library System”). The main concern with groups opposing the ALA’s attitude is that these conservative therapy, cure-the-"disease" books are not as well promoted as pro-gay books, which has a profound impact upon children. Books that educate children about homosexuality and how to deal with it are also constantly under attack. Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies are two such books. As with the other controversies, parental permissions seems key, if a parent wishes their child to be shielded and protected from gays, which would promote intolerance, then that parent has every right to do so simply because it is their child.

Some contested books are contested for a simple reason, explicit language. The language could be a mild use of the word ‘nigger’ or grossly obscene language commonly found on today’s streets or in rap music. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been contested many times because its use of the sacred ‘N’ word. Many agree, however, that the use of the word was reflective of the time period of which the book was set, and written in, and should not be taken in the light of which it is sometimes used today, even if today’s meaning of the ‘N’ word is up to debate (“PC Crowd Bans Huckleberry Finn Because Mark Twain Used the ‘N’ Word”). Other books contested for language are not as well known or praised as Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, but nevertheless are good books. In the Sep. 1998 American Libraries magazine, the article, The Dangerous Modern Library List lists the 100 best English language novels, and why many are contested. Amongst those contested for language are The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Slaughter House-Five, Invisible Man, Native Son, Lord Of the Flies, Deliverance, The Catcher in the Rye, and A Clockwork Orange, almost all these books have been read by personal friends of mine below the High School level, and all seem to be morally good young adults, or adults as time should have it. The teenagers I know who have not read any of these books are the ones that have a gutter mouth and would easily fit the stereotype of a ‘menace to society’ in the eyes of a christian conservative. Again, as in the case with books contested over sexual content, parental permission to read books that have been banned for obscene language should be required.

While many books have legitimate reasons to be contested, there are many that do not have such an honor. A few of these books are The Chocolate War, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. The Chocolate War was banned because it encouraged children to “Make their own decisions;” Anne Frank was banned because of the sentence “What a silly ass I am!” And Alice In Wonderland was contested because of the talking animals within the book. My personal favorite reason to ban a book comes from a 1998 contentment in Michigan over the book The Stupids Die; “Once you allow ‘stupid’ as a word to call people, who knows what they’ll come up with?” (“New Silly Reasons to Ban Books”) Many will agree that even parental permission should not have to be used to ban these books as long as they are kept in an age-appropriate place within the library, but parental permission based library cards will certainly ease the tension created by such ‘stupid’ reasons to ban books. “Who knows what they’ll come up with next?”

Censorship is not the answer to raising children using the public libraries. Totalitarian governments censor books. The ideal solution to the problem of raising children would be to have at least one parent with the child at all times, yet this is near impossible. Therefore, using a system of parental permissions on the Internet and in the library would be second best. All that would be required to implement the system is a few simple policy and law changes along with some inexpensive software installation in some cases. To think, there are law suits going on right now about what to do about indecency in the library system, and there are law suits that needlessly attack the ALA’s judgment on how to run the libraries, which it has done for 135 years now. Bitterness between the library and the citizens won’t result in anything, they must work together to find a common solution. And the best solution is parental permissions.





Sources:

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Cen"sor*ship (?), n.

The office or power of a censor; as, to stand for a censorship. Holland.

The press was not indeed at that moment under a general censorship.
Macaulay.

 

© Webster 1913

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