An uncensored view of censorship

That which can’t be said often holds the most weight


Luna Stinson, Features Editor

There is power in language.

As a species, language is one of humanity’s greatest strengths; through language, humanity can question the world, its intricacies, its mysteries, and the people walking on it who — ironically and yet understandably — make it so much more complicated and questionable.

It’s a simple concept, really: with great ideas comes the necessity for a way to express them. That’s it. That’s all that language is: a way to express ideas.

It just so happens that sometimes the idea expressed is “I’d rather like an apple,” and sometimes it’s “I’d rather like to overthrow our current form of government and institute a democratic republic.”

It is not without language that nations are created, nor is it without language that any changes within those nations occur. It is not without language that one can express the ever-changing mess of feelings within them– love, anger, happiness, or any other series of electrical impulses that, miraculously, sparks the language that sparks the revolution.

Sometimes words don’t quite do the trick; luckily, humans are great at switching the language they use for their idea-expressing to suit their needs. Art, after all, is a language, as is music, graphic design, photography, and dance.

Unfortunately for humanity, those who desire power know about the power of this expression of ideas — and they fear it. That’s why they invented censorship. Censorship is a simple concept. It is the act of preventing people from expressing specific ideas.

Censorship comes in many flavors. “Soft” censorship isn’t intrinsically bad — in fact, it’s often good — and is often based on social courtesy or safety. Preventing oneself from saying something insulting in the wrong situation is a tiny act of self-censorship.

Explicit content is often censored from being seen by children. Preventing a hate group from spreading propaganda that might legitimately get someone hurt is also a form of soft censorship, but a necessary one. Members of said hate groups will often call upon the rules of “free speech” to protect themselves, but it is generally agreed that it is more important to ensure the safety of marginalized groups than to ensure that those who seek to hurt them can speak freely.

The true danger of censorship is revealed when it is used by the powerful against those less fortunate to keep them in check. When Socrates’ philosophies spread ideas that challenged Greek life, he was forced to drink hemlock to stop the discussion at the source.

When the evil practice of slavery was prevalent in the United States, Congress placed a gag rule on itself to prevent all discussion of it. When Germany was taken over by Nazis, they threw books in burning pyres upon which the ideas that rebelled against their imperial regime were martyred.

The loss of net neutrality, which would allow for cable companies to block or charge a higher fee for access to material with which their CEOs do not agree, is modern censorship sparked by governmental interest to appease corporations with little regard to public interest.

Even the free press, meant to be unburdened by fear of backlash from those the press criticizes, is too often self-censored.

It is so extremely important that the people use their voices, regardless of those who seek to silence them. Where the powerful censor the weak is where injustice exists, and it is through language, humanity’s greatest strength, that it can be fought against.