Not many people would find themselves in support of censorship. Even more so on the internet, where freedom of speech is one of the many tenets held dear by those who use it, it’s hard to find any support of censorship. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any reason to support it, at least in part. “Censorship” doesn’t have to mean book burning; there are many different ways in which censorship could actually be more of a positive than a negative. Some include:
The idiom “loose lips sink ships” that came about in World War II still holds true today – only much more so.
In Elisabeth Bumiller’s article, “The New Slogan in Washington: Start Watching What You Say,” she talks about the view in Washington around the time of the Iraq war about secrecy, and specifically about senators watching what confidential information they let slip. In text she cites the then Secretary of State Colin Powell in saying that, “It isn’t like World War II, when George Patton would sit around in his tent with six or seven reporters and muse. If a commander in Desert Shield sat around in his tent and mused with a few CNN guys and pool guys and other guys, it’s in 105 capitals a minute later.” (par. 14) In other words, nowadays, it is important for people to be mindful of what they say: “loose lips sink ships,” now more than ever, when it’s possible for news to be halfway around the world in minutes.
trigger warning (n.) – A statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)
-The Oxford Dictionary
It might be hard to understand what exactly should be warned for – trauma differs from person to person, and what traumas are common enough that we should try to warn for it? It’s difficult to mandate, but there are reasons to stick with it as a legitimate tool to help students who otherwise would have to struggle to deal with their traumas alone, without any forewarning. In her article “Let’s All Calm Down: Trigger Warnings For Books Are Not Like Censorship,” Claire Fallon talks about how trigger warnings are not simply a way to make things easier for a generation that is, according to many sources, already coddled enough already. As she points out, “by brushing [trigger warnings] off as coddling…we’re insinuating that the very real mental health needs of students suffering from PTSD are petty or childish,” and that’s being unfair to the students (par. 9). Trigger warnings aren’t an attempt to make things easier for people — it’s an effort to make things bearable for people who have dealt with trauma.
In this comic, artist Suzy X addresses the effects of triggers on survivors:
On the internet it’s so easy to stumble upon hate speech – the sense that everything you say is anonymous gives people this idea that it’s okay to say whatever they please, without regards to the people who can and will be hurt by it. The issue over what qualifies as hate speech goes hand in hand with whether something should be removed for that reason, as in the the following image – rape trigger warning on the image below, too.
In his article “The Case for Censoring Hate Speech,” Sean McElwee debates the reasons why it is important to place a censor for hate speech on the internet. As he points out, many who disagree with censorship say that the internet “cleans itself up” by having other people go after those who originally perpetrated the hate speech in the first place. His comment on that is that, “…the speech has already done the harm, and no amount of support will defray the victim’s impression that they are not truly secure in this society,” and therefore the assumption that this “self regulation” is enough to make up for the hate speech is a false comfort (par. 7).
(Racism tw on this image – this is probably one of the tamer examples out here)
Furthermore, he goes on to say that, “free speech isn’t an absolute right; no right is weighed in a vacuum,” saying that all arguments about free speech must take into account the idea that no right exists completely separate from other rights (par. 8). Rights only exist so far as they do not trample on another person’s rights — the moment that it threatens another person, a person’s right to say whatever they want stops.
Violence and pornography are some of the things that we, as a society, already censor. In Susan Brady Konig’s article, “Censorship Done All the Time and It’s Good,” she talks about how common it is for censorship to come into play in the media. She’s not allowed to write pornographic material or use profanity in her column; “there is a limit to the freedom of expression [she] can exercise in this newspaper. Is that censorship? Sure it is,” she says, insisting that in this case, censorship isn’t something to fear (par. 2). Censorship comes up all the time — television is censored, at least in that there are lines that the shows aren’t supposed to cross. That isn’t to say that they’re never crossed, but rather that they are in place as a form of censorship, to keep us from seeing certain things.
And those are just some of the reasons that censorship could maybe, just possibly, be a good thing. Granted it’s used in the right way, censorship could actually be a pretty useful tool.