Wednesday, March 22, 2006

At the Kitchen Table Tonight...Censorship

Tonight after supper, the three of us started a discussion on censorship. It was very enlightening to all three of us. My son sided with me immediately. My husband took what normally is my role. I took what normally is his role. He is a conservative. I grew up in a liberal family.

I brought the boycott topic up. I asked my husband if he would join me in my boycott. His answer? No.

Of course my jaw dropped to the table.


Because it's censorship. "As much as I hate it, as much as I hate what they are advocating, it is censorship."

We had a big, long discussion on censorship. My son decided the book should be banned off the face of the earth and then burned. Then we brought up how the conservative right try to and succeed sometimes to ban such books as Harry Potter, Narnia, Heather Has Two Mommies, My Brother Sam is Dead, The Stupids, The Color Purple which was turned into one of mom's all-time favorite movies, to name a few.

I told my son of stories where people have imitated crimes in novels. He thought the novels should be banned.

I told my son that some people hate Disney. He wanted to know why and I said because they are magical, and magic is against the bible's teachings. Maybe those should be banned, too.

We went through a long list of all the types of books out there: How to commit suicide and Kevorkian's books on assisted suicide. Had to get a little off topic with that to explain what that was.

We should ban those.

We kept bringing up other books and topics that might be offensive to some.

All should be banned.

Then I said to my son: Guess what? There are no books left. All books have been banned. Every book out there is going to be offensive to someone.

His eyes got huge. I could almost see that light bulb above his head going on.

At this point my husband got into a little bit of a "discussion" about children's rights. We bantered back and forth. We even brought up the cult that is demonstrating at the American soldiers' funerals. My husband, although he hated what they did, thought they should have freedom of speech. Then he jokingly added that he wants the right to protest the protesters. The protesters infuriate me and I don't know if I'm big enough to support their right of freedom of speech in that forum. Gulp.

My husband asked me how I could believe in censorship.

I couldn't come up with an answer right off the bat. How can I? It goes against everything I believe in: Freedom of choice, freedom of speech, live and let life. How can I believe in censorship?

After sitting there for a few very awkward moments, I turned to my son and said this: I am against censorship. Vehemently against it. However, sometimes we have to stand up for our principles. My view on the safety of children is stronger than my view on censorship. In my perspective, the greater good is to protect children and stop the production of child-abuse manuals and devices that are produced for the sole intent of inflicting pain. It may be wrong in the realm of censorship, but it is right in my heart and for children. I believe in it and therefore I will continue with my boycott.

My husband and I agreed to respect each other's choice. I do admire him for taking a stand on such a painful subject. I will add that he thinks the author was probably the child who mutilated bugs, pulled the wings off flies, killed baby birds, etc., because he was so cruel.


h said...

My take on the Pearls' books is:

The Constitution provides the right to free speech, including freedom to publish (whether newspapers or books). However, it does not extend this as far as incitement to violence. Inciting violence is against the law.

Ergo, I don't actually think the Pearls fall under the umbrella of censorship issues. They're more in the category of harassment, stalking, inciting riots, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, etc. These things can masquerade as free speech but they are, in fact, forms of violence or threats of violence.

I've struggled with these gray areas myself. In the nearby college town the city spends $100,000 per year to protect the Ku Klux Klan when they come to town to demonstrate. The police have to erect a 12-foot cyclone fence and bring in cops from the state and surrounding areas. And in the end, it's stupid because you can't even see or hear the KKK people and everyone else winds up getting tear-gassed. Do I think that $100,000 in taxpayer money should be wasted on this? Well... hmmm.

The Pearls' books though, that's just plain illegal.

h said...

Oh-- I would also say that boycotts are themselves an expression of free speech. Censorship is when the government steps in a truly bans a book, as your son was probably talking about. But boycotts are one of the best expressions of free speech we've got!


BridgetJ said...

This is for your hubby....

Freedom of speech comes with responsibilities.

Television networks are not permitted to show nudity (think wardrobe malfunction), and libraries aren't permitted to stock kiddie porn. Is this censorship? I don't think so.

It is illegal to produce kiddie porn because it hurts children. The Pearls' books promote hurting children and that is why they should be banned.

contemplator said...

h, that is a brilliant discussion of censorship versus act of protest.

I, too, struggle normally with censorship issues. But your responses have put into words what was at the back of my head about this particular issue.

I also think that a boycott is an excercise of free speech that hits people where it hurts--the pocketbook. We're choosing not to support certain sites/businesses that don't take any civil responsibility as to what they support. I'm sure that no where in the constitution it says we HAVE to support things we disagree with. That's *our* freedom of choice. Great posts.

Meg L. said...

To me there is a big difference between a boycott and censorship. There is also a big difference between carrying something and endorsing it. TOS sets themselves up as experts and endorses the Pearls. A magazine disclaimer on content protects between the pages, but not outside of it.

wisteria said...

I am boycotting the books and sights promoting the books and the Pearls, but I don't see it as censorship, either. I do believe I am exercising my right to choose. I am, of course, hoping to sway others to see my way. I agree with nothing in the books, but they do have the right to print those things. Just as I have the right to do everything in my power to prevent anyone from wanting to use their methods.