The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees every American citizen the freedom of speech, which means a right to freely express one’s thoughts and ideas. The freedom of speech is an integral American value—one of the pillars on which American society was built. However, the right to express one’s thoughts without constraint can be controversial; expressing hatred, for example, is also allowed. The main issue here is to guarantee others’ safety and make sure a person expressing hatred would not go further than expressing his or her position without committing illegal acts. Censorship is meant to regulate such controversies; on the other hand, censorship can be compared to a poisonous gas: it can turn against the attacker if the wind changes (ACLU).
The first recorded case of censorship in the United States occurred in 1734-1735, when a New York-based newspaper printer John Peter Zenger, who was accused of slandering the governor of New York (Zenger published a seditious libel criticizing the authorities) and was taken into custody. Zenger was defended in court by Andrew Hamilton, who proclaimed in his famous speech “Truth cannot be Libel.” This court case was historic in terms of empowering the freedom of press by the Constitution, even though there were numerous attempts to limit it—such as John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts adopted in 1798, or the Sedition Act of 1917 (Censorship in America).
Today, the U.S. media finds itself in an ambivalent situation. It is shielded from revealing their sources, as it is protected by the First Amendment, and Obama’s administration even offered a federal shielding law for journalists. Besides, digital media sources and the Internet are more difficult to control, monitor, and censor. On the other hand, media ownership, combined with financial issues, traditional institutions trying to stay afloat and prevent the appearance of undesired information and political partisanship, as well as the government’s attempt to reveal whistleblowers, negatively affect the freedom of speech (Index on Censorship).
As for the quality of content being published online and in printed media, censorship is mostly applied to materials that match such criteria as obscenity, provocations, pornography, religiously or culturally sensitive issues, calls for violence, and certain other problematic topics, such as racial discrimination.
At the same time, it seems censorship is not limited only by these fields. Copyright legislature and surveillance pose one of the biggest threats for a free distribution of information over the Internet. As for surveillance in general, Google Transparency reports testify the United States takes first place in the world for the numbers of requests for users’ personal data; the number of court orders for content removal is also among the highest in the world (after Brazil). Considering that media companies in the United States tend to comply with governmental requests regarding users’ personal data, Americans tend to self-censor their electronic communications to avoid possible legislative issues (Index on Censorship).
The situation with the freedom of speech in the United States is controversial. Though it is guaranteed by the First Amendment as a right to freely express one’s thoughts and ideas, there are topics that are being monitored and censored, such as pornography, obscenity, religiously and culturally sensitive problems, calls for violence, and several others. American journalists are usually protected by state laws, which guarantee them their ability to work. At the same time, the American government is known to request telecommunication companies for users’ personal data, which results into Americans self-censoring their electronic communications. Copyright legislation is also considered to be a threat to the free distribution of information in media.
“United States: Free Expression Constrained by Cultural and Political Factors.” Index on Censorship. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2014. <http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/08/united-states-free-expression-constrained-by-cultural-and-political-factors/>.
“Censorship.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. <https://www.aclu.org/free-speech/censorship>.
“History of Censorship in The U.S.A.” Censorship in America. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <http://www.censorshipinamerica.com/p/history-of-censorship-in-usa.html>.
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Writing an Expository Essay
Censor means to examine in order to suppress or delete any object that may seem objectionable. I believe censorship is wrong because certain materials may not be objectionable to some people. Censorship is used in radio and television to prevent the corruption of people’s minds. Censorship is wrong because individuals should have the freedom to listen or watch what they want, whether or not it offends some, without interference.
The television is one place where censorship is strongly used in many different ways. One of the oldest and most common ways used to censor inappropriate words is to use a “bleep.” I disagree with this method because whatever these people are saying is just words. Remember the saying “sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” These words will not harm anyone and if people are offended they don’t have to listen. Another popular method of censoring television is to cit out scenes. TV stations will cut out a certain scene or scenes from a movie or television. I disagree with this method because it changes the way that the producer of these shows or movies intended them to be. If TV stations plan on cutting out scenes they should not air the show or movie at all. One last method of censorship commonly used in television is rating labels. Again, this is a method of censorship I disagree with. Although these ratings allow parents to protect their children from bad things, if a show is on TV it should be viewable by all audiences. Also most things being censored will be seen by most people in their lives anyway. Censorship in TV is a bad thing and should be reconsidered.
The music industry is a place where people experience censorship. One form of censorship in music is to play and edited version of a song. While this method filters out some harmful words, I think this is bad because it changes the musicians original song.
This censoring takes out parts of the song he intended to be there. I think the radio shouldn’t play these edited version, but play unedited version. Another popular method of censorship is to put parent advisory labels on CD’s. These labels are bad because they don’t allow underage people to buy certain CD’s. Why should these underage people not be able to listen to bad words or inappropriate themes if it is part of real life. The government is trying to put a blanket over children’s eyes until they get older.
They want to brainwash the children so they will stop corruption in the world . One last way music is censored, just like television, is using “bleeps”. These bleeps are terrible, annoying, and useless. They ruin songs that you are listening to. Who wants to sit and listen to a song littered with “bleeps”, because I sure don’t! If people don’t want to hear “bad” words they should buy country music, and leave the rest of the world alone.
Censorship is a terrible thing and it should be outlawed at some point. The government should stop trying to control the way the U.S. citizens live and focus on more important issues like the war in Afghanistan. Citizens should be left alone to live and not be constantly bothered by the annoyances of censorship.
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