Censorship is a double-edged sword by FayV

Copied from my FA journal.
So the word of the day is Maus is being pulled from shelves in Russia before the 70th anniversary of the WWII victory.
Here's a source: http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-spiegelman-maus-nazis/26981427.html

But really the gist of the issue is there is a law banning nazi propaganda and there is a swastika on the cover of Maus and Maus II, so bookstores are pulling the content in expectation of police action.

For those that do not know Maus, first, go get that book right now. It's the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer. It tells the story of the artist's father surviving a German concentration camp. Needless to say it holds a substantial anti-nazi message.

This is a fairly cut and dry case where attempting to ban a harmful message has also banned a helpful message. And a good example for why I rather despise censorship.

"But Fay, are you saying that nazi's should be able to show their propoganda?" tbh yes hypothetical talking point reader, I think I named you Timmy before, It's the extreme outcome of my position. By opposing censorship that means that I oppose censorship on subjects that I deeply disagree with.

"But those positions cause harm" yes, yes they do. But to be honest the ability to speak on a subject and oppose it openly does more good overall than casting the subject into silence. If we cannot talk about nazis, then we cannot oppose nazis either. you can't have light without dark sort of thing.

"But if we do not talk about the bad we don't need to oppose it. If no one can take a pro-nazi position we don't need an anti-nazi position." I've heard this before, and it makes me sad. There is a genuine idea of shutting out discussion entirely, because part of the discussion is distasteful, the "right" side of the discussion should just be assumed. We don't need to let Nazi's discuss their view, they're wrong and most people aren't nazis. But that creates two problems. The first is a stagnation of thought, and sometimes harmful ideas creep in and grow. It subverts discussion and spreads like a cancer until it can rise up again and do more harm. When we try to forget the bad things tht have occurred in the name of not letting them happen again, history repeats itself all too easily.

The other issue is it assumes what is right. There's an apocryphal story about scholars dealing with Artistotle's works. Aristotle was a brilliant scholar and made a lot of metaphysical claims and blah blah blah. The medieval scholars argued often about the works, and a powerful Bishop made it illegal to read Aristotle's works. With it being illegal it was illegal to argue against it obviously....and because discussion basically stopped, the logical pillars all fell apart and that's how we got to Descartes having to find some fundamental truth in which to build up our entire foundation of knowledge, yay.

Point is not discussing means that we stagnate, and stagnation is never good, in science, social issues, or anything. Human beings change and we must allow discussion of topics to adapt our knowledge along with us.

Now nazism is a bit of a gimme topic, it's hard to really make a point about the value of non-censorship when talking about nazi propaganda, so here is another example.

A few months ago there was a big stir in the world of comics over a Batgirl cover featuring batgirl tied up by the Joker, with strong implications that Batgirl was/would be a victim of sexual abuse by the Joker.
Here is the cover, warning for anyone that may feel uncomfortable with the topic or depiction of implied sexual violence. http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=o06pg4&s=8#.VT8Z3ZPSAoU

I won't talk about if people are seeing things or being sensitive, because while it is implied, that is what the implication is about. It's a reference to an event that did occur in the comics during the killing joke Spoilers!. There is a storyline in which Joker attempts to "break" Commissioner Gordon, and he forces the man to view images which depict himself (the joker) attacking Barbara Gordon (batgirl) which paralyzes her, and forces Gordon to view images of his wounded daughter in various states of undress. Even if any further action isn't explicit, at the very least in canon, Joker paralyzed Batgirl then undressed her and took pictures end spoilers
So yes, it is a call back to sexual violence in the comic, the cover is meant to make you feel that implication between the two.

There was a big fervor over the cover on twitter and around the internet. On one side people claiming that DC couldn't publish such an image, on the other people saying they could.

The image was pulled and not used, not because death threats, internet outrage, or anything like that, but because internal decisions. The artist didn't like the picture, Batgirl has grown as a character from that point in the story and the cover ignores that growth.

My opinion on the matter is that I think those claiming that DC can't or shouldn't be allowed to publish such images are wrong.
Now this does not mean that had they published the comic it would have to be purchased, if the public is indeed outraged by the matter then the public can refuse to purchase the comic and put DC into a position of deciding it it is worth the cost to make such a statement. You don't have to agree or like the content, but they get to put the content out there, and the only one to truly have the right to pull the content is DC themselves (this doesn't apply to issues like literally posting how to make nukes or the process of mutating deadly viruses. public safety censorship is another kettle of fish)

There are those that believe the matter is cut and dry. Rape is bad and depicting it in comics just turns it into some joke. The comic was literally called the killing joke after all.

The thing though is sexual violence is not something that people are used to, and such a depiction brings it into the life of someone that never experienced such a thing beyond understanding "rape is bad".
Now how such a thing is depicted, if there are better ways to convey the message, etc are all up for discussion. Personally I'm glad in part that the killing joke exists. It's sad and I would rather there is no sexual violence in the world, but I don't think it makes light of the subject.

Spoilers again
Violence is the standard fair in comics. It's a world where the complex issues of right and wrong are solved by punching people, and in the more modern venue permanent damage is not so far out of the realm of possibility that it's shocking, but this was something new, and this was something thought provoking. Sexual violence took a villain beyond the standard of violent evil behavior and placed him squarely as a force of destruction, chaos, and absolute depravity.
Beyond that it showed that such depravity can make a victim out of anyone. Batgirl is a strong character, she beats up Gotham's big villains all the time, but such an act rendered her a victim.
For someone that has not dealt with sexual violence before that is a powerful message and brings a level of understanding that "sexual violence is bad" does not. It's not just people that are weak, or victims to start, it's not about how someone dresses or how they make themselves vulnerable. It is a powerful depraved act.

This also set things up so that Barbara Gordon survived, not just survived bu continued to be a powerful character in the comic. She continued to be invaluable to Batman even after being wounded physically and psychologically.
End spoilers

Again, if you disagree, such a thing can be discussed. Even if the comic had been making light of the subject a discussion shows why, which grants some understanding to the topic. The world is not black and white, it's not just the evil ignorant and the good and informed. Discussion grants a depth of understanding, context, and for those that have not had the chance to ever be informed on the topic a point to learn more about it.

So. blah blah blah. I don't like censorship, I think it's up to the content creator what they create, even if they create something really shitty.

Censorship is a double-edged sword


27 April 2015 at 23:27:02 MDT

Journal Information


Tags Modify

Edit Tags


  • Link

    I agree completely though I'm guilty of wanting things censored out of dislike but then i remind myself that it still gives me room to learn (At least in regard to ideologies). What i hate is how hypocritical and selective censorship is in general. Some words or phrases would be censored or removed in some songs but other songs would have "okay" words but a godawful message. I guess opposite of your example with Maus (which i have been meaning to read).

    • Link

      Yeah I don't want to be so harsh as to say that you can't even want to get rid or something or wish it wasn't around. There's so many things where I kinda wish it would just go away, I just can't commit to making some form of speech or expression illegal without a good objective reason (like if your message involves stabbing someone in the face, that can be censored)

  • Link

    I honestly had a bit of an engagement regarding controversial artwork recently, and while I was rather disgusted with the initial post and what it implied I decided to engage the artist instead of cry censorship. This led to a discussion about why he posted it and his feelings behind it, and honestly I agreed with him. However, had I tried to censor him that discussion wouldn't have happened, and a lot of good points would've been lost.

    Really it isn't the media that causes the bad behavior of man--only man can be blamed for that. There will always be tasteless art and depictions in media, but it's how we choose to act upon it as humans that will make all the difference.

    • Link

      Glad you got a good discussion out of it. Yeah I think media has some effect on behavior, maybe not so strong as people want to claim but we do find our societal values in media, but the only way to counteract that is other media and shifting the values, which requires discussion not silence.

  • Link

    While I firmly agree with your message, I think the people it needs to reach are going to be deaf to it. Making an argument, even a very solid one, isn't enough to change the opinions of people who have already made up their minds. In most cases I'd wager that the people who have the intellectual interest to read this journal all the way through probably already agree with you. So really, even if we don't censor the media, people will still censor their minds.

    That doesn't mean it's not worth the effort to present the information. If information is out there, people will absorb it, and perhaps very slowly be persuaded by it. In the mean time, just vote against censorship and for moderate representatives who understand the importance of freedom of speech.

    It's a slow process, and I can't say for certain that a peaceful future will also be a future of free speech, but humanity has a way of slowly changing for the good of itself, and I choose to put my faith in that.

    • Link

      Oh yeah I agree, tbh most of my journals I figure I'm just preaching to the choir. It's mostly me just getting particular thoughts out of my head. You are right if I actually want to change something then there is more that must be done though to be honest I actually don't mind the current censor policies in the US as a whole. There's some things I deeply disagree with like rating systems and such but by and large we have pretty open expression.

      • Link

        Eh, I kinda want to hear the word 'fuck' on FM radio, but I have a feeling they're going to stop broadcasting it before that happens.

  • Link

    This is interesting, Censorship is definitely a double edged sword in my opinion and I know what Maus is as well. I don't agree with the banning of it either.

  • Link

    I know a lot of countries in Europe (France and England, to name two) have policies that we would call 'censorship' here in the US, regarding what can and cannot be said in public media (particularly regarding religion). The recent attack on Charlie Hebdo brought that whole discussion up again; whether it's okay to allow people to say or print things that have, in the past, been known to cause outbursts of violence in retribution. I know the argument is that you censor in order to prevent said violence, and the counter-argument is typically that the onus should be on the ones committing the violence, not the ones who chose to simply speak their minds, forcefully, on a sensitive topic. The ones committing the violence always have to option to respond in words as well, hence provoking discussion (as you said).

    I know this falls along the same sort of line as what you're discussing here, regarding e.g. the Batman cover art. I tend to agree with you on all this, but I'm wondering (since it's a shadier subject) what you think about 'trigger warnings'? Not censoring works, but giving people advance warning so that they might choose to keep it from themselves.

    • Link

      I think triggers exist, I know quite well that viewing or reading certain material can trigger a psychological event (ex: I have a friend that had an abusive ex and I can't watch walking dead with them because the governor is exactly like said ex)

      I think triggers have been appropriated by some perhaps well meaning but naive individuals who try to use it to stop people from using material that just makes them uncomfortable or they just don't like viewing something. Let's ignore this, because this muddles the issue.

      So really real triggers, I think that it is at least fair to give some form of warning, and with certain materials I think it is the morally appropriate thing to do. That doesn't mean the material can't be shared but that with material that can cause genuine psychological issues allowing someone to do what they can to prepare for that is important.

      For example, when I teach bioethics, we deal with things like euthanasia, abortion and have to talk about these issues in depth. I've had students that have personally dealt with these things, so I consider it a responsibility to make students aware of what will be discussed because sometimes even if someone is attempting to recover there are times in which it is too hard to deal with at the time (it's happened. I've had students in tears in my office telling me they couldn't attend further classes for the week because recent events made it impossible to discuss)

      • Link

        Again it's not censoring, it's just warning, but you can't police it too much. You can't note eeeeverything someone will have a problem with. Especially when people appropriate warnings to mean "anything I slightly dislike needs to go away forever"