In the Blog

The Other Side Of Censorship

September 19th, 2008     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

QuillBlog has an interesting piece up titled “Two takes on censorship,” which briefly explores how the media interprets the censoring of books based on context. They look at two recent cases of “a small group of people imposing their values on a much larger group” that speak for themselves:

Responding to complaints by a Muslim creationist that “its contents were defamatory and blasphemous,” a Turkish court has banned Internet users from viewing Richard Dawkins’ website. Meanwhile, here in North America, Scholastic has pulled all Bratz books from its lineup, the culmination of a campaign by a Boston-based group charging that the series, designed for reluctant readers and based on a popular line of dolls, encouraged “precocious sexuality.”

What is interesting about these two news items is how they’ve been interpreted by the media:

…one case is portrayed as the victory of a small-minded zealot over freedom of speech (in The Guardian), while the other is the triumph of grassroots activism over crass commercialism (as reported by the National Post).

The most noteworthy thing about the National Post piece is that I could have easily written a post and linked to it as a victory for feminist values. The “triumph of grassroots activism” in question is exactly the kind of thing we support at Shameless:

“We’re just really thrilled and it really attests to the power of people working together to try and make change,” said campaign co-ordinator Susan Linn. “The Bratz are a highly sexualized brand and when a brand is marketed in a school, it has that school’s endorsement. Essentially, schools were saying to their students, ‘This is a good way to portray girls, these are models that you should strive for.’ “

But who gets to decide what books get pulled and what websites get banned? Only the people I agree with? The problem with the politics of censorship is this; it’s difficult to argue against the censorship of a thing you strive to eliminate every day.

While the elimination of Bratz books is a victory for many (including myself, if I’m completely honest,) it still represents the needs of a few superceding the many. And oh how it pains me to say that.

While there is a very large part of me that is more than happy to see Bratz books go, I understand that giving the power of a few to decide what we read opens a door that I just don’t want to open. Who gets to decide what is bad for who? What happens when they decide Shameless is “inappropriate?” We’ve seen multiple cases of that judgment working against our beliefs here and here and here.

The problem with being anti-censorship is that you can’t turn it on or off when it’s convenient for your politics - you have to stand by everyone’s right to be heard, even if it’s the Bratz Dolls.

Tags: media savvy

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