This Censored World

Monday, November 21, 2005

When is Censorship Appropritate?

I recently wrote a post about two blogger’s in France being arrested. I thought their arrest was unwarranted. Keith and Cormac, however, held a slightly different opinion. Keith believes that the blog content is the key question when considering the legality of the blog and whether or not the blogger’s should be arrested; while Cormac says it depends on how prominent the blogger’s are.

The most difficult part of censorship is deciding what deserves to be censored. The criterion is also the cause of the controversy that surrounds so many censored things. Often times there are no solid law set by the government but only raised voices by a minority of people. In certain places such as the Bible belt the popular view is not a secular one and when that non-secular view encroaches upon a classroom that is where some problems come from. Other problems arise when people get in legal trouble for unclear laws. For example read my post about Chinese Censorship.

If there is to be government supported censorship there should be set solid laws. They should be as strenuously debated as other laws. However, can a set of laws cover all types of censorship in all its forms? I find that very unlikely


  • It's unfortunate that common sense cannot be made into law. I suppose the best measure of when censorship is appropriate would be to consider if a give act of expression infringes on the civil rights of another. If expressing my dislike for a crowded theatre leads me to shout fire, I should be liable for any deaths caused in the stampede. The bloggers, however, did not cause a panic. It would be difficult to prove that they caused the riots. Threats, or other forms of expression which are meant to intimadte infringe on the rights of a person not to be intimidated. Telling someone you are going to stab them is one step away from lifting the knife. The right to feel unafraid is a valuable right. When speech crosses the line from expressing ideas and feelings, and expresses an intent to harm, it must be veiwed outside of the realm of freedom of expression. If I walk into a bank and claim to have a gun- I have committed a crime whether I have a gun or not. Still, the bloggers did not threaten anyone, they only encouraged an illegal activity, and I don't beleive that is a crime. Charles Manson, however, encouraged a crime and is serving time for it. Censorship should never have a role in the sharing and expressing of ideas, so I while I beleive that there are certain things which cannot be legally said, I am wary of the slipper slope.

    By Blogger keithb, at 7:07 PM  

  • To answer your title question: Never.

    I think that by allowing some censorship, you allow all censorship. It is painful to see that we cannot give the gov't much freedom to make commonsense type laws when they flaunt that power and pass things like the Patriot Act. This censors our livelyhood in a very deep and untrusting way. Not only do they want to actively prohibit certain activities (social censoring), but they also want to drill deep into our own lives to determine what we do without telling us that they are looking. With that fear in us, they have effectively censored us from having freedom of speech or ability to live free for the sake of "safety."

    It is a very slippery slope that we travel when we start trying to make exclusions for freedom for the sake of other alternatives.

    "People who are willing to give up freedom for the sake of short term security, deserve neither freedom nor security." -Benjamin Franklin

    By Blogger Ben, at 8:31 PM  

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