Censorship in Literature
As a former Journalism Major, the subject of censorship has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I mean, just say the word ‘censorship’, whisper it softly, in any crowd of reporters and watch hackles rise, faces become flush, and nostrils flare. Them’s fightin’ words, pardner.
Censorship for the press should be, and is, handled by each individual owner’s guidelines of taste and ethics. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to work for them. Simple. But that is not the true topic of discussion here, is it? No, the true topic is censorship on the writer or the writer’s self-imposed censorship and here is where the waters become slightly muddied. For us writers wanting to earn a living with Microsoft Word, it boils down to Commercial Speech.
Commercial speech is speech done on behalf of a company or individual for the purpose of making a profit. Unlike political speech, the Supreme Court does not afford commercial speech full protection under the First Amendment. This is why a publisher or owner of a magazine (of the entertainment variety) may impose a modicum of censorship to writer’s work. And like I said above, if you don’t like it, don’t work for those publications.
Books are a slightly different matter, where magazines are tend to be merely weekly or monthly affairs, books have a tendency to hang about for years, like annoying relatives. Once you impose restrictions on what basically (for fiction) is a work of art, or non-fiction (more information/press release combined with art), where does the meddling end? I can think of one end, an end we have seen and heard about all too often when the intolerant wish to govern our right to write…the book burning.
There. I said it. You knew it would come to that eventually, didn’t you? Hell, we burn Old Glory in the U.S. of A., what are a few books compared to that?
Book burning, censorship by a minority group protesting an idea or ideals expressed between the covers of a volume of work. Simple. The burners would say they have a right to do so (they do) to express their distaste and forcibly attempt the censorship of an idea. Is it rational? No, but that doesn’t stop some people. Once we buckle under the pressure of others to contain our art (who ever told Rembrandt he could only use primary colors?), the discarding of past works becomes a foregone conclusion. Personally, I find it repugnant that others would try to exercise that kind of control over my mad scribblings. If they don’t like it, don’t fucking read it.
And with that fine expletive, I segue into censorship by the author (cool little transition, huh?). Self-imposed censorship is merely the author’s way of hampering his/her own self while writing. I am a huge believer in writing for logic, for realistic motivation, and realistic dialogue. Swearing, violence, hate…they all are part of our real world and if the writer feels they should be part of his/her art, then so be it and more power to them.
As I am a fairly simple man, I wear my heart on my sleeve and this is the most succinct article I’ve ever written about this subject because it is, I feel, the simplest and most emotional. Thus my conclusion will be simple as well: Do not, ever, by no means, and I mean NEVER, let anything, anyone, compromise your art. It’s yours, don’t soil it by compromise.