Depression and Censoring the American Essay

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The very crux of the argument comes to the central point of censorship -- who must be protected and why must they be protected? Ideas, political, social, or otherwise, may be the most dangerous form of literature ever. For instance, in 19th century autocratic regimes, the ideas of Karl Marx, even Voltaire, Locke, and Jefferson were seen to be subversive because they challenged the order of things, the idea that the monarchy should rule by divine right, and that certain people had, by manifest destiny, the right to be more equal than others. So, too, do images and verbiage change over time regarding public acceptance. At the turn of the century bathing suits covered almost 90% of the human body, and a day at the beach would've been far different had some of today's skimpy G-strings or bikinis shown up. Similarly, sexual activity was hinted at from the early days of film, usually with a door closing, a fade to darkness, or a blur; audiences of the 1940s would be shocked to see nudity and depiction of sex on television.

In World War II, the media had less technology to instantly beam images into the homes of most Americans. While they could have taken pictures of carnage, there was an unwritten rule that Americans wanted to see heroic events and understand warfare from a more positive approach. Censors ensured that a public relations campaign would allow Americans to support the war through donations, metal drives, purchasing of war bonds, etc. While censorship was not blatant, during these years there was a more congenial approach to what the government wanted/needed from the media. Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects of the war years and censorship was the implied agreement that the media not show President Roosevelt in his braces, or having trouble walking. This was a courtesy that would most certainly not happen in today's media market, but it was believed that the public would not handle Roosevelt's handicap, especially during the war years.

By censoring images and information from the public, someone has to decide that the public can either not handle the material or is not intellectually savvy enough to filter it. Too much information can have a deleterious effect as well; but modern censorship occurs too, in placement of stories, in showing certain events and ignoring others, and most notably in trying to find the most vivid and controversial pictures that may or may not reflect the accurate event (e.g. A street gang fight in Los Angeles out of context).

Yet, in order to have a free society, we must decide if adults over a certain age have the right, in a free society, to read, view, and discuss anything they choose, as long as they are able to protect that material from minors or to use that material to harm someone or something. Ideas should not be censored just because they are uncomfortable -- we would see no real progress over time if we allowed a bureaucrat to pick and choose what might be considered appropriate for our reading. One censor might view The Catcher in the Rye as objectionable because it references homo-eroticism in a coming of age drama; another might see critiques of the War on Terror subversive, while still another might find literary value in the works of art by someone like Robert Mapplethorpe. Thus, in order to maintain a free and just society in which ideas are strong commodities we must take the notion that an educated populace is an informed populace. Our focus should be on educating children and youth so that, when appropriate, they can make decisions about what is right, wrong -- how to vet source material, and above all, what ideas they might want to accept and which to reject. This documentary should be shown in the classroom for, much like the movie Saving Private Ryan, it brings the real story of history into the lives of people without over glorifying the issue. War and conflict are not pretty, not neat, and people do not die as they do in a John Wayne western. Of course, certain material is age dependent, but it is important to note that in Middle and High school, students appreciate the truth more than half-truths and old adages about history that…[continue]

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