Censorship Gone Too Far
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Censorship Gone Too Far
Seven Works Cited Have you ever walked into a music store and seen those parental advisory stickers on most of todays' popular music? Or have you seen those TV ratings on the top left corner of your favorite shows? How about the ratings on your favorite video games? I'm sure you have, but do you really know what those so-called harmless stickers, and images do to the world of entertainment and your freedom of expression for that matter? A recent craze to promote "family values" in the U.S. has caused censorship panels to go entirely too far with the censorship of the entertainment industry including television, radio, the Internet, and even authors.
Not only do the customers suffer by having parental bans on their favorite music, but the musicians suffer as well. The musicians are betrayed by their own labels, who are there to support them, not hurt them! The world of music is basically a collage of the artist's thoughts, so banning what they write is a violation of their freedom of speech. (Crowley, 1) One of those artists is three time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow. In 1996, Crow released her self-titled album to her many awaiting fans. When most went to their local Wal*Mart to pick it up, they were turned down because of the contents in the lyrics. (Family-Friendly..., 76) Wal*Mart said the lyrics were offensive and argued that Crow, and her record label change the offensive lyrics. (Family-Friendly..., 76) When Crow and her label refused to change the lyrics, Wal*Mart and many other large-retail stores refused to sell her album. (Family-Friendly, 76)
That was not the only time a large retail store refused the sale of an item! In 1986, Wal*Mart stopped the sale of certain rock magazine, including Creem and Rolling Stone. (Family-Friendly..., 76) The company argued that the magazines conflicted with the family oriented atmosphere they tried to maintain. (Family Friendly..., 76) The same goes for the CDs with Parental Advisories. Wal*Mart and most large retail stores like it, will not sell any Parental Advisories CDs. Therefore, they have decided to clean up those CDs before putting them on the shelves, altering them in many ways to get rid of the so-called explicit lyrics.
(Crowley, 1) So both the consumer and musician's freedom of speech and expression are being violated and the government will do nothing about it because it's their strict laws on music that lead to such discriminatory actions!
Music is not the only thing in this world that gets censored, Television too has harsh laws to restrict what the public sees on their favorite shows. In January of 1997, the television industry began rating TV to designate what programs were suitable for different age groups. (Television Rating Codes, 73) Many television executives promised to challenge any government changes to the system, saying that government involvement would be unconstitutional but on TV today you can definitely see government involvement. (Television Rating Codes, 73) Ever watch one of your favorite shows and just as they start to say something "offensive" a loud and annoying beep is filled in it's place? Sure you have! Now if that isn't government involvement trying to paint fantasy over a world of reality, what is?
Another part of television censorship is the V-Chip. In February of 1996, the government passed a law that TV makers could place V-chips, or violence chips in Television sets to block out certain TV situations. (Television Rating Codes, 73) Martin Franks from CBS challenges the chip, saying that it's the parents job to regulate what kids watch on TV, not technology's and even when the chip comes out, parents will already know how to regulate their children's TV time. (Television Ratings Codes, 78) He also goes on to say the system of TV rating was based on content and it had many kinks including harsher rating for something as simple as a kiss on a show in the "family hour" of television. (Television Ratings Codes, 78) Yet in that same show a life lesson could be taught, and if it has a TV-13 or MA rating most kids would never be able to learn that lesson because parents turn it off, with fear something more provocative would happen!
The next type of censorship is being debated today in the world of cyberspace. The Internet has turned out to be one of the most controversial forms of technology ever made. As of late, many are forgetting the good sides of the Internet, and focusing more of the bad. One of these bad views led to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This Act stated that every school should have Internet access, but in turn it also says the school's computers should have filters on to block inappropriate material. (Eisenberg, 38) Sure this seems all well and great but many people are forgetting that most filters block out the good too!
Systems such as Net Nanny, Cyber Sitter, Surf Watch, and Cyber Patrol have been known to block such sites as the National Organization Of Women, certain AIDS research pages, eating disorder web-pages and even a planned pregnancy web-page. (Eisenberg, 40) How can the youth of America learn from other people's mistakes if the knowledge made available to them is blocked? The Internet is not a demon like most experts would say, it holds the key to various information that is usually hard for most to find or even talk about for that matter.
Filters cannot always get rid of everything that could harm it's viewers. Filters will not block out chatting systems like America Online's Instant Messenger, or I seek You, ICQ. (Eisenberg, 41) So why block out precious information when a child could easily be influenced by someone in a chat area. That is why most against Internet filters would say it's best for parents to surf along with their kids, and not let them alone! Why let the government regulate what your own child is doing? Think, are those filters really going to keep your child from starting an eating disorder, or having unprotected sex? NO, It's going to stray them away from those crucial pages, that could help them learn the consequences of an eating disorders, or unprotected sex, and many other issues! Barry and Michele Fagin sum it up in one quote saying "Parents, not the government, should regulate what their children see and do online!" (Parents Against Censorship, 18)
As you can see censorship goes to almost everything, even most of today's authors, and video game makers. Such books like "What You Can Do About AIDS" by Magic Johnson, and "Go Ask Alice" have fallen through the crack of censorship.
The book "What You Can Do About AIDS" was taken off the shelves by K-Mart in 1992 because of it's content. It's content was to teach other how to prevent the spread of HIV, but since it was in a very detailed manner the K-Mart corporation ruled it as explicit therefore they stopped the sale. (Family-Friendly, 76) The same would go for the book "Go Ask Alice". This book is used by many teachers as an aid to teach the struggles of a drug addict, and the tragic consequences drugs bring into someone's life. (NCAC, 1) But in Rhode Island, the book was taken from students because one mother objected to the language portrayed in the story. (NCAC, 1) That made the principle collect the book immediately, shocking both the students and the teacher. (NCAC, 1) Rebecca L. Eisenberg a writer for San Francisco's "Examiner" sums it up the best saying "We need to slow down and think everything through. At what point do you take away too much information and end up hurting people?" (41)
Lastly another case of censorship is in the video game industry. In 1994, Congress held hearings on whether to enforce makers of video games to rate their games for levels of violence and sexual acts. (Industry Split..., 78) They agreed to let the video-game industry handle the rating system but in turn the industry hurt many video gamers. (Industry...,78) Some games like Mortal Combat, and Doom have been given harsh ratings of Mature Audience, or Teen letting only those above the age of 17 or 18 purchase them. (Industry, 78) Even some large retailers, including Toys 'R' Us Inc. and Wal*Mart decided to keep games without rating or high level rating like MA, Teen, or adult off the shelves. (Industry..., 78) That put a damper on most gamers under the age of 17.
So is this what we want for our future, or for the next generation to come? Don't you think if your old enough to have the responsibility to drive, make your own decisions, and think for yourself, you should have to right to pick out what you want to see on TV, on your PC screen, in your favorite novel, on your video systems and even your what your hear on your stereo? If the government and organizations like the Parents Television Council get away with the harsh rules put on our favorite things the world of reality as we know won't exist, and world of fantasy will take it's place. The strict laws of censorship are not only taking away our First Amendment, they are also taking away the vital information that keeps us, the public, informed! You decide....
Crowley, Nina. "Beware of Larger Risk. "USA TODAY 19 Nov. 1996: 18.
Eisenberg, Rebecca L. "The Trouble With Censorware." Ms. Sept/Oct. 1998: 38-41.
National Coalition Against Censorship. "Go Ask Alice Snatched from Students." Summer. 1998 (12 November 1999).
"Parents Against Censorship." School Library Journal Nov. 1996: 18.
"Family-Friendly Editing or Censorship?" Issues and Controversies on File Feb. 21, 1997: 76.
"Television Ratings Codes." Issues and Controversies on File Feb. 21, 1997: 73-80.
"Industry Split Over Video Game Ratings." Issues and Controversies on File. Feb. 21, 1997: 73-80