Censorship & Comics

gregsmallwood:

I want to talk about Censorship for a moment.  To make sure we’re on the same page, here’s the easiest-to-access definition from Wikipedia:

Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions.

Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one’s own work (blog, book[s], film[s], or other forms of media), out of fear of, or deference to, the sensibilities or preferences (actual or perceived) of others and without overt pressure from any specific party or institution of authority.

Okay, that’s fine, but we all know anyone can update/change Wikipedia.  So how does the American Civil Liberties Union (the foremost source on Censorship in America and the world) define it?  They say the following:

“Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive,’ happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme. Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period. But these private censorship campaigns are best countered by groups and individuals speaking out and organizing in defense of the threatened expression.”

-“What is Censorship?”, www.aclu.org

If you want to pressure artists into removing their art from future publication, fine. If you want to pressure writers into staying away from certain subjects, fine.  If you want to call particular comics dangerous and demand that they be removed from shelves, fine. But PLEASE be honest about what you’re doing. Admit the truth. Admit that you’d rather people’s feelings be spared from hurt than allow artists create art unfettered. Admit that you place more value on social justice than art and free speech.  Admit that you are calling for censorship.

Don’t get me wrong - you have every right to express your beliefs and the First Amendment undoubtedly protects your right to call for censorship. BUT…you absolutely do not get to redefine words.

Censorship is censorship. When you put pressure on an artist in an effort to change what kind of art they produce, you are engaging in censorship.

You may have reasons that seem perfectly just as to why you advocate removing specific words or subjects from fiction. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re calling for censorship. The people who ban books have their reasons, too. Remember, worthwhile causes will stand up to basic scrutiny or an artistic interpretation.

You may call yourself a critic. Fair enough. But keep in mind that critics don’t call for removal. Critics don’t label art dangerous or suggest that art may incite violence. Critics don’t tell artists to stop producing content because it makes someone feel bad. People who do are advocating censorship. They do not support free expression.

I want to remind you that the Comics Code Authority was not instituted by the U.S. Government. No judge ordered EC or William Gaines to cease publishing comics.  The CCA happened because a very small group of people convinced the public that the subject matter in certain comics was inciting violent and sexually deviant behavior in children. In order to survive, comic book publishers turned to self-censorship. Because of that, the growth of a great American storytelling medium was stunted for decades.

This industry has already suffered through one Frederic Wertham. It doesn’t need a bunch of Mini-Werthams taking his place sixty years later.

A reminder the mini-Werthams also exist in poetry circles.
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