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Vol 38  No 10
February 23, 2006


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Student View

By Megan Jackman



Censoring good sense?

Censorship is everywhere. When you really start to consider the far-extending reaches of censorship (whether it be rooted in the media, workplace, or elsewhere) you realize how great a role it must be playing in shaping your thoughts and ideas.

If you are only allowed to know bits and pieces of the truth, you can only ever compile an opinion which fits the frame of the information you have been given, information which does not always reflect actual, existing circumstances. When your opinions meet those of people who know the truth behind the censorship it can make for a tense situation.

That is a part of censorship at work.

Furthermore, when censorship is embellished with falsehoods not only do we receive a mere portion of the truth but we are also receiving inaccurate, made-up information on top of that.

Of course, life is busy. As it is, we can scarcely take the time to re-check second-hand news we hear in casual conversations with friends and colleagues.

Would we prefer nothing but the truth? And what about the ideas and opinions of others. Even if it is for the sake of freedom of speech, can we deal with all publicly displayed thoughts, no holds barred?

On Sept. 30, 2005, a well-circulated Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten, published cartoons which quickly became a source of scandal and hurt for many. The cartoons, in fact, included drawings of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb, while another suggesting paradise was running short of virgins for suicide bombers.

Would a little censorship have been good sense on behalf of the Jyllands-Posten’s editor?

With regard to those cartoons, I feel that it is important to note several issues surrounding the publication. Firstly, people, including writers of leading media sources, have a right to the freedom of speech. Secondly, it is against the Islamic tradition to depict the Prophet Muhammad. And thirdly, the context of the caricatures did imply terrorism as being linked to the Islamic faith (this, I am sure, has not been denied).

So first off, if freedom of speech is to be absolute, the Danish paper has no reason to apologize for the content of their print (don’t throw this down yet, my thought is not finished!) Although the cartoonist was not of the Islamic faith, it would be against the freedom of speech right to say that he was completely out of line because he cannot understand the hurt that the drawings cause Muslims. Remember, his job is not to monitor the number of people he can avoid offending.

I’ve seen many media publications that poke fun at and criticize my own faith. But their writers obviously do not share my beliefs; they do not have to. I would never suggest they monitor their work according my faith.

However (see I told you my thought was not finished), the cartoon did attach a certain group to terrorism, though I’m sure they aren’t the first to do this. It cannot be denied that such an implication is truly hurtful and offensive.

I guess it would be nice to live in a perfect world where the media could exercise freedom of speech while harming no one. That’s not possible and, truth be told, we’d probably get sick of the media real quick in such a world.

Now I ask, should this particular piece of media have been censored? Was the editor forgetting his good sense by failing to censor the explicit message of the cartoons?

It is being reported that the editor of the Danish newspaper wanted to deliberately make the cartoons provocative in order to make a point “that Europe was becoming too politically correct.”

And it appears that many newspaper editors throughout Europe are of the opinion that censorship was not called for, as they too reprinted the cartoons in their own papers.

Looking back, there have been many instances where censorship was not used (not even as a measure of caution) and, literally, sparked deadly conflict. At the same time we cannot overlook the very well known, devastating historical accounts of mass death which were a direct result of the use of censorship.

Shortly after the Danish cartoons reached the Middle East (after peaceful requests had been made for a retraction in the paper, a fact that was until recently censored from the public), pictures were printed of a Danish flag being burnt by Palestinians. These picture were not censored either and you know someone somewhere was sure to be offended by that.

I hope that I have not offended anyone by mentioning the “Danish newspaper scandal” in my article. I would also hope that readers can be open enough to appreciate that circulating news is a good practice of keeping people informed; personal perceptions change the messages contained in media clips as many times as the number of people that view them.

In any case if, after taking the time to read this article, you really want to know my view on the whole censorship bit I will give you a very condensed version. Censoring your child’s internet intake is fine-and-dandy; censoring pornography in the public press is wise. Censoring awareness is wrong and while it stings me to read personally offensive media, I do not think freedom of speech is cause for apology.

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