Censorship comes in many forms ranging from book banning/burning, to blocking social media platforms and online sources, to physical means such as imprisonment or even execution. In some countries it used to preserve cultural ideals, other places are more concerned with politics and religion. Regardless, censorship is a direct offense of our freedom in accordance with the First Amendment as well as the 19th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Censorship takes away our ability to speak freely and obtain knowledge. McMorris-Santoro’s 2021 report for CNN Students fight back…, states that students in Pennsylvania are challenging a book ban put into motion by their school board. The books were deemed “controversial.” Some of them were educational and included topics like Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography. It is outrageous that a school board is attempting to keep this knowledge from young individuals. A high school senior in the district named Christina Ellis is furious with the school board and says these books are essential in aiding teaching about racism to students.
North Korea is amongst the top three most censored countries according to CPJ 2019 10 Most Censored Countries. North Korea is grounded on censorship and propaganda. There is a plethora of tactics used by the regime to isolate the public of North Korea, physically and digitally. It’s illegal to leave the country without permission from the government. Even if one was permitted to leave, they must be closely monitored and required to attend ideological debriefings upon their return. The transgression that the citizens of North Korea face every day is unethical.
Despite this, some may argue that within certain regulation, censorship is not all bad. One could claim that there is a time and place where censorship is necessary. The saying “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” could be one example.
Another critical issue regarding censorship involves the preservation of our history. Many countries are guilty of ‘bending the truth’. For example, in some countries, events including either many casualties or that could create distrust in authority are completely denied and the knowledge is attempted to be erased from the public. Examples could include the Civil War in the U.S., the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China, and the Nanjing Massacre in Japan (Rape of Nanjing). Reporter Oi Mariko in her 2013 article What Japanese History Lessons Leave Out, claims that there is great controversy on the topic. Some will say there were many thousands killed and countless women raped by the Japanese, others completely deny the account. The divide in knowledge of the same incident being published in books used in teaching is where the problem arises. Why aren’t all students learning the same thing?
The critical race theory (CRT) is a current example of how serious censorship can be. From the words of Assistant Professor of Philosophy, David M. Gray, in essence, “– [CRT] is a field of intellectual inquiry that demonstrates the legal codification of racism in America.” Gray is explaining that the roots of racism are embedded in our history and legislation. Considering this, as previously noted – our history is unequally taught and our legislation unequivocally unjust. According to librarian Elizabeth Brumfield’s 2021 article for PVAMU, “Much of the rhetoric has been about limiting or discontinuing teaching of critical race theory in schools.” This quote refers to recent CRT issues in news and library discussions. Ongoing attempts to limit CRT education is pertinent to the urgency of reforming global censorship. If censorship has come to this extreme when it will end? The answer lies in our persistence.
We are taught history to prevent the same events from occurring. The censorship of history is arguable the most important to prevent. Every person should be taught the same and true political, social, economic, art, and diplomatic history. One cannot change the past, but one can learn from it.
Now that it’s clear how censorship infringes on our basic rights, how can it be prevented? Considering censorship has been in the works for millennia – it’s safe to say it won’t end tomorrow. So here are some steps anyone can take to become proactive against this global issue. According to Gomez’s 2018 5 Things You Can Do to Support the Right to Read:
· Know Your Rights
· Be Prepared: Understand there will be book challenges and bans
· Stay Informed: Stay in the loop when it comes to bans and challenges in your community
· Report Censorship: One can report to organizations such as the ALA, NCAC, etc.
· Speak Out: Write letters to local newspapers or politicians, attend public hearings or school board meetings
Advocating in your own community is the first step in paving the way towards a new idea of freedom.
Taetum DeMoss is a student at Edison State Community College who resides in St. Paris.