Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An unpopular subject

**rather long post ahead...forgive me in advance**

Censorship and book banning is not the most popular subject one can discuss. There are audiences more receptive to it than others. I'm pretty confident of who I can talk to about it and who I should leave alone concerning it. Some people like being challenged in how they think; others, and I'm sad to say I know many, would rather cling to a preconditioned set of ideals and never once consider something different.

I don't speak out against censorship to tell someone they're wrong. EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. And THAT'S the key argument against censorship: whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, EVERYONE should be allowed their own opinion: the person writing/saying the challenged material AND the person challenging it.

Oftentimes, however, the person doing the challenging fails to see that what they are failing to do is grant the other part the same respect that they are demanding. "I don't like it!", "Stop saying that!", "That offends me!" are just other ways of saying, "Do it my way", "I don't care what you think", and "I'm right and you're wrong". It's simply not the case with books.

A book is written because the author had something to say. Many times, writers confront hard issues and deep truths through fiction. These issues and truths are rarely popular. I've never been a fan of fiction that left me feeling as if someone stuck a pacifier in my brain and left me to suck on it until I atrophied. I want fiction that challenges the way I think, challenges what I believe. Why? Simple: if you're never challenged at your core, you never really understand why you believe what you believe. It's one thing to say, "I believe the sky is blue because the weather man says it is"; it's quite another to say, "I believe the sky is blue because I've seen it with my own eyes!"

Call it serendipity or rather a subconscious act on my part, but I am busy writing a term paper this week on one of the world's most challenged books: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury said that his book was not about censorship but it was about the atrophy of human intelligence due to an increasing amount of technology. This I believe. But I also have to hand it to Bradbury: if he wasn't writing a book about the dangers of censorship, his subconscious did one heck of a job of getting that theme past him!

In doing my research, I found a wonderful article by Rodney A. Smolla from the Michigan Law Review, April 2009, entitled "The Life of the Mind and the Life of Meaning: Reflections on Fahrenheit 451".There's a link to the pdf HERE if you're interested. Though this article is reflecting on Bradbury's masterpiece, Smolla also writes compellingly about censorship and the danger of getting too caught up in the constant noise and distraction that technology offers us.

Frighteningly enough, Smolla reiterates the fact that, according to F451, censorship is rarely instigated by the government. It is often initiated by the people and the government follows suit. In F451, the people began to edit out of books anything that may offend anyone. Pretty soon, they were left with nothing but footnotes and it was then that books began being burned. People stopped reading, stopped challenging convention.

The scariest thing about censorship is this: even if someone wishes to ban a book that offends everyone, the banning of that book can cause nothing but harm. Who's to say that the next person who emerges with a challenge isn't challenging something less harsh? They win and the next person, a lesser issue, and so on and so forth and then suddenly anything printed is forbidden?

Do you see the frightening pattern? It is not because I don't take issue with some of what's being printed and published that I'm against censorship; it is the simple fact that I do not want someone telling me what I can and cannot write, can or cannot read.

Writing and reading is an intimate act. The person doing the writing or reading should be allowed the freedom to choose what words they want.

It's that simple.

(Thanks for indulging me in a rather long post this morning. Any thoughts you have on the censorship issue are welcome! I don't usually blog from a soapbox, but there are a couple of issues I feel quite passionate about. Censorship is one of them.)


  1. Loved Ray Bradbury, my brother introduced me to him when I was very young.
    No book should be banned, no censorship should be allowed. But the more things change, the more they stay the same or get worse!
    Great post!
    Personal choice, it's everyone's right!

  2. Fantastic post. I also think that no writer should have to fear about what they are passionate about. If they have a story to tell they should be free to tell it. If people have a problem about the content then they don't have to read it and they can stop their children from reading it too, but they shouldn't force their opinions on others.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I agree. Content should be free and open--controversy isn't a bad thing especially if it's an important subject, and writers and other creators should be able to say what they think.

  4. I completely agree. I don't push the issue with people I know won't be responsive, but censorship frightens me. I believe in an open society, where open debates should be encouraged.

  5. I think censorship is another way that people try to control other people. It gets a little trickier for me when I look at what my kids are choosing to read. But, that's a different issue. Not every book is for every reader.
    (Good to check in with you again. Missed you!)

  6. Censorship is unhealthy. It opposes open-minded thinking. Controversy is a good thing. We need it to get us questioning... thinking about issues and forming opinions... or else we just become mindless...

  7. My grandmother was offended when I read "Gone with the Wind" for h.s. english. "It has swearing!"

  8. These are very interesting posts, Jen. You really got me thinking about a lot of stuff. Thanks!

    Kathy M.

  9. I know many people who think they know what's best for the rest of us. I can't understand how being so closed-minded serves anyone well. Censorship is frightening and dangerous. Thank you for shining a light on it. I will check out Fahrenheit 451.

  10. Hi Yolanda!
    Thanks for commenting. Bradbury and I have only recently met and I was really saddened to learn he died in June of this year! Glad you liked the post :)

    Hi Cheree,
    Thanks so much! Yes, everyone has a right to read or not to read. They also have the right to allow THEIR children to read or not to read. It's a personal choice and when something is challenged or banned, that choice is taken away! Thanks for commenting.

    Hi Golden,
    I agree! Controversy isn't a negative thing. If a writer is passionate about something, he/she should be able to speak out. The controversy will just allow them to get in front of a larger audience and get their issue out in the open.

    Hi Meredith,
    Yes, I do the same. If I know someone isn't open to it, I don't touch the issue (and I know quite a few people who aren't open to it). It is frightening! Thanks :)

    Hi Mary,
    I've missed you too! I'll stop by this week :) Yes, I'm sure it's a different issue when you are looking at what you're children are reading. But that's your gift as a parent! Great to hear from you!

    Hi Michelle,
    Great comment! I agree; we need to be open minded and be able to debate like adults, get our cases and ideas out there, listen to others, debate together, and then walk away without any hard feelings!

    Hi Susan,
    I understand. My grandmother has questioned some of what I read. She comes from a different generation, of course, so I don't let it bother me! Great to hear from you!

    Hi Kathy M.,
    You're most welcome! Thanks for the comment. Ever since I heard about Banned Books and the Banned Books Week, I've turned the issue into a personal war; I'm glad people have been receptive here of the topic.

    Hi Kathy,
    So true! Censorship IS frightening and dangerous. This cause is very dear to my heart, being a writer, but I believe that the danger of censorship affects everyone! See you soon!


Well, hello! I'm so glad you made it. Come inside and sit by the hearth. I'll take your coat and hat. The kettle is singing and there's cake and candles and good conversation. Settle in and make yourself at home. Don't mind the wolfhounds; they're friendly if you give them a bit of lemon curd.