Social Issues / Censorship


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Autor:  anton  06 May 2011
Tags:  Censorship
Words: 2168   |   Pages: 9
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In 1799 our founding fathers wrote the first amendment of the United States Constitution. This stated, “Congress shall make to law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or press…” (Dibacco A-45) The amendment gave American citizens the right to express themselves through speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition.

Since then, the government has created the Federal Communications Commission, which we know better as the FCC. The FCC is an independent United States government agency that was established in 1934 by the communications act. (FCC 1) They are currently in charge of regulations and censoring communications by radio, television, satellite, and cable in the fifty United States, District of Columbia, and all other United States possessions.

Most Americans that watch television or listen to the radio have heard about the FCC and its lawsuits involving major names like Howard stern, or Janet Jackson. In 2004 Miss. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed during the super bowl halftime show, giving a new name to exposure. Janet’s bare breast was shown on live television, uncensored, during one of ABC’s most viewed shows of the year. The event was talked about for months and the FCC had conclusively fined Janet Jackson for her indecent exposure. (Kinston 1)

This incident had given the FCC a chance to be stricter with what can be shown and said on TV and radio, fining radio personals like Howard Stern and the Opie and Anthony show for the crude jokes on drugs and adolescent sex. Trying to change the way these individuals talk has been the FCC job for over 75 years, but this was certainly not the beginning of censorship.

The word “Censorship originally came from the roman official, the censor. (Steffens 14) The censor was appointed by a group of roman leaders who called themselves “Comitia Centuriata”. (15) The Censor’s first job was to keep a count of the citizens in Rome; this was called the census and was often used by the government to collect taxes. (16) Over the years, the Censor became more powerful and began to set standards for behavior and manners in public, therefore establishing censors on what citizens did, wrote and said.

These censors have carried on through the ages and reappeared in the 1500’s when the first newspapers were printed. (Zeinert 13) These papers were written and distributed secretly throughout the city for years before the rulers had come across them. Publishers that were caught writing bad publicity in there newspapers were to be punished by the government. City rulers would whip the publishers or imprison them, and many often lost an ear r hand for angering or embarrassing royalty, but this didn’t stop the journalists.

The Idea of newspapers continued to be accepted around the world and in 1918 the United States congress had had enough. They soon passed the Sedition Act, which made is illegal for journalists to criticize the government in inappropriate ways. (21) Many citizens supported the Sedition act because the country was at war and they believed that we needed to be united, but the law was repelled in 1921, just three years after the war had ended. (22) Although these newspapers became a problem, then were the only ones causing chaos.

In 1988, the Supreme Court passed a new law, giving school teachers the right to censor articles written by students for school papers. (11) Articles concerning AIDS, abortion, drugs and sex were considered controversial. This new law brought on many protests from professional journalists. These journalists believed that students should be able to express themselves the way professional writers do. The protests soon got out of hand, especially at East Hazelwood High School, in East Hazelwood Missouri, when the school newspapers released an article concerning teenage pregnancy and the effects of divorce on children. The newspapers staff had been interviewing students when the principal had come across the story. Their principal was afraid that the students in the article would be identified and he ordered them to stop print of the issue, but the staff claimed censorship and refused to listen.

Five Years later, the case had reached the Supreme Court and was famously known as “Hazelwood School District versus Kuhmeier”. The School’s staff had lost the case, but one justice Brennan had agreed with them. Justice Brennan said that “the majority had violated the first amendments prohibitions against censorship of any student’s expression that neither disrupts class work, nor invades the rights of others”. (12) Justice Brennan’s comment had clamed the students, but he had also suggested that the teachers set guidelines to be followed by the students to avoid future episodes.

The idea of setting guidelines had begun in the early 1900’s when magazine editors realized something needed to be done. In religious magazines for example, women were not allowed to wear unnatural makeup, and superheroes were not allowed to be disrespectful towards their elders, swear, or do drugs. Although many magazines and their standards were made to attract the “average” citizen, new publications were being established, one of which was the “Girlie Magazine.”

Girlie magazines usually contained women wearing nearly nothing, and these pictures were shocking to the public. Many religious organizations and women’s groups were concerned about the morals of these magazines and were afraid they would be seen by young children, leaving many screaming for these to be censored; this was the beginning of what would later be pornography. These “girlie Magazines” soon became an issue in most cities, often showing women being beaten, raped and usually humiliated. The magazines became such a problem that in 1973 the Supreme Court had given communities the option to regulate obscene material and take it off of the shelves. (49) Most communities often chose not to regulate the material because they didn’t want to limit what their citizens could read. What the Supreme Court had not realized yet, was that giving communities the right to ban these magazines would not stop citizens from reading the same material in American books.

Over two hundred years ago, religious leaders, who were powerful then, thought that any books that promoted beliefs of a different culture were dangerous, so the king would eliminate these from public view. The books that the king had eliminated were posted on a “Forbidden Books List”, and anyone who was caught printing, or selling these books were to be punished. However, soon after the constitution was written, it was said that congress could not pass any laws to censor the press, leaving religious leaders with no power over these books anymore.

Nevertheless the first amendment of the constitution protected many kinds of books, although, any that contained obscenity of any kind, were out of its control. This was because the government believed that these books could possibly put down the morals of some Americans. The first amendment also did not protect books that could potentially endanger our National Security; this was because the government was afraid their secrets, if written about, could fall into the wrong hands of another county. Determining which of the hundreds of books in America were to be considered obscene, and which contained potentially dangerous information, was left up to the Supreme Court to decide.

In 1973, the Supreme Court had passed ordinances allowing cities to regulate and outlaw obscene and vulgar material heard and seen on the television and radio. (61) The Courts reason for the ordinances had begun with the upcoming of Elvis Presley, who’s swiveling hips and fancy dance moves caused teenage girls to scream and even faint. Elvis’s performances were considered so controversial that the government would only allow television stations to play them if he was shown from only the waist up. (53)

Some Parents had become so alarmed by what their children were watching that they began setting limits on what they were allowed to listen to inside of their house. Parents began doing this because they believed that the new music was to blame for the recent violent acts during and after concerts and television show recordings.

One of the first destructive happenings took place in the summer of 1956 when a movie called “rock Around the Clock” was introduced. (58) The movie featured a rather large soundtrack, and when the music was the loudest, the teenage viewers would get up and dance. The dancing of the kids had soon turned into the destruction of the theaters and when asked about the damages, teens parents still blamed the new music for the incident, and their theories had seemed to be accurate when almost thirty-five years later, four teens were wounded at an Ice Cube concert. Five Concert-goers had deliberately brought guns into the arena and fired nearly forty shots, hitting 4 teens and severely injuring them. (59)

The music was once again to blame for the episode, but this time it was more detailed. The government had assumed that the rapper’s lyrics, which spoke of police violence and sexual intercourse, had great part in the reason behind the sadistic shootings of innocent people. The album was pulled off the shelves nearly six months later in hopes that another occurrence of this kind would be prevented.

Soon after the record was pulled, a friend of Ice cube, Performer MC. Ren said in his defense,” A record can’t make anybody do anything. Sometimes doing a record is just my way of getting back…I can speak out and when people listen to my album, that’s their way of speaking back to me.” (62) The court had taken his statement into consideration about the recently pulled album but decided it wasn’t worth putting innocent people in danger again.

In 1990, Florida had spoken back to MC. Ren’s statement when they labeled the song “Nasty as I want to be”, by Two Live Crew, explicit. The record was taken out of circulation in Florida, but the case was heard across the county, and teens wanted to hear for themselves what was so obscene about the album.

Over two millions copies of the record were sold through out the county, and in 1992, the Supreme Court had allowed Two Live Crew to sing the song once again. (62) The Court had finally agreed with the fans that censoring the album had proven nothing to the nation because the case had attracted more listeners than ever before. This alone had reversed the Courts decision of the album, and suggested that Florida sell it in stores again.

Currently, the music industry has new ways of avoiding censorship cases, which allows everyone to listen to what they please. Stickers labeled “Parential Advisory-Explicit Content” are placed on albums that have been reviewed and are considered to contain offensive lyrics. (D’Imperio 2) These albums are not to be sold to children under the age of thirteen, although this is not a law, it is clearly a warning to let parents know whether their child should listen to the record.

The question of censorship has been going on for a great period of time and thus, seems as if it will continue for years to come. Citizens believe that we should have the right to express ourselves however we desire, yet the government disagrees. The question of weather censorship is right has been going around for what could be hundreds of years and it looks like as if we could be fighting it for years ahead. In an article for Page wise Incorporated, Kate D’Imperio said, “Censorship is not only a matter of legality and constitutionality, but censorship is also a matter of morality and personal preference.” This means that each person will chose a position based on their beliefs of the topic, but it’s whom the audience will be that makes it controversial.

Thus, the government, organizations, and citizens that are both in favor of and against censorship will continue to feud with each other for what could be forever. This is because both of these sides have the right to defend their views and will do so until an agreement is made.

Works Cited

DiBacco, Thomas V. History of the United States. Princeton, NJ:

Houghton Mifflin CO: 1993.

D’Lmperio, Kate. Music Censorship.

http// 6 Nov 04.

Gusterfson, Rod. Rating vs. Censorship. Parenting and the media column

by Rod Gusterfson 16 November 2004

Haborski, Raymonds. “Reel Life, real censorship” Chicago History

Magazine. Fall 2000 pp. 4-25.

Martinez, Shayly. Book Censorship, 17 November 2004

Mish, Fredrick C. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 10th edition

Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Inc., 2001.

Steffens, Bradley. Censorship. Sandiego, Ca: Lucent Books, 1996.

Shister, Gail. “ABC: Sorry, that towel was a foul: NFL, Eagles weigh

in. Fcc taking a look.” The Philadelphia Inguirer. 17 Nov 04

south Jersey ed. Sec A: 1,16.

Zeinert, Karen. Free Speech: from Newspapers to music lyrics.

Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers Inc, 1995.

Kinston free press, FCC Beating its beast to wake of Janet’s mishap.

About the FCC

“Censorship”, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2004.

http://encarta.msn.1997-2004 14 Nov 04.

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